Summer in Ruka-Kuusamo through the eyes of artist Meeri Koutaniemi

3 minute read

Credits: Meeri Koutaniemi

Famed artist and Kuusamo native Meeri Koutaniemi shares her favourite summertime nature spots and explains the role that wilderness plays in her artistic expression.

Meeri Koutaniemi is a renowned Finnish artist and journalist best known for her evocative portrait photographs depicting people and humanity. Born and raised in Lapland’s Kuusamo, next to the popular outdoor destination of Ruka, she moved away for her studies at the age of 15. Yet she returns home to her roots frequently. 

“Kuusamo’s forests are the best place for me – the most calming and inspiring of all places possible,” she explains. In the summer, she enjoys swimming in lakes and rivers and going for long walks in the forest, often barefoot, to connect to the place that is central to her identity and fuels her artistic expression. 

In this article, Koutaniemi shares five nature spots that “never lose their glory” and explains how summer in Lapland is “a time that makes one feel like everything is possible.”

The wonders of nature through Koutaniemi's lens. These images are from the book ’Love letters to nature’ (Rakkauskirjeitä luonnolle) which displays the many textures of the wilderness.
Credits : Meeri Koutaniemi
Credits: Meeri Koutaniemi
Credits: Meeri Koutaniemi

Behold Korouoma Nature Reserve

For Koutaniemi, summer in Lapland represents free movement of mind and body, silence, playfulness, and a little wildness.  

She finds the omnipresence of light in Lapland's summer to be most enigmatic. "The summer has always been another reality to me," she says. "The never-ending light in Lapland creates the illusion that time doesn't exist." 

Korouoma, a nature reserve located in Posio, is an excellent place to immerse oneself in the mystery of Lapland's summer. This 30-kilometer-long bedrock valley, which is millions of years old, is accessible by car or bus and offers numerous activities, including hiking, fishing, bird-watching, and swimming. It also has open wilderness huts, fireplaces, and lean-to shelters. The stunning views you’ll find here are well worth the 100-kilometre drive west from Ruka. 

Cast a line and take a dip! Korouoma is a popular destination for fishing, swimming and hiking.
Credits: Harri Tarvainen

Breathe in at Riisitunturi National Park

Koutaniemi describes Riisitunturi National Park as the perfect summertime destination. Located in a mountainous area full of swampland and laden with spruce trees, it’s a national monument in the Koillismaa region that’s home to bears, woodpeckers, hawk owls, and other local species. Riisitunturi is around 35 kilometres from Ruka and is visited by hikers, photographers, trekkers, and bird-watchers from all over the world. 

For Koutaniemi, Riisitunturi is one of the places "where you can feel summer in all your senses," she explains. "You can smell the needles of the conifer trees, and embrace the clean air and its oxygen."

Credits: Jukka Risikko

Glide along the Oulanka River

The abundance of flora and fauna during Lapland's summer emphasizes the "relationship between human and nature" and creates a special feast for the senses that can't be experienced at any other time of the year. 

Canoeing the 135-kilometer-long Oulanka River allows you to see this for yourself as you float through the pristine pine forests of magnificent Oulanka National Park, which are home to creatures including reindeer, eagles, and wild brown trout. In the summer, paddling the river and enjoying the area's superb sandy beaches are two of Koutaniemi's favourite activities. 

Credits: Eeva Mäkinen

Feel the rumble of Kiutäköngas Falls

One of Finland's most well-known falls, Kiutäköngas isn't just a single waterfall but a series of steep rapids. Here, the water erupts from a gorge-like stream bed that glows red due to a mineral called dolomite, making for a uniquely mesmerizing sight. And while the falls feature some of the country's most impressive rapids, they're surprisingly accessible – just a 1-kilometre walk from the Oulanka Visitor Centre. Koutaniemi recommends visiting in early summer for the ideal experience. 

As the snow melts away, Korouama rapids are breathtaking.
Credits: Michael Matti

Rest your eyes on Juhannuskallio

Located right by Ruka Village inside Valtavaara-Pyhävaara Nature Reserve, Juhannuskallio earned its nickname, “Midsummer Cliff,” from the ancient midsummer festivities that used to take place there. This is a fantastic place to take in spectacular views of the midnight sun and the entire Kuusamo region – on a clear day, you can see for miles and miles and truly feel the vastness of the surrounding wilderness. 

Although Koutaniemi now resides in the Helsinki area, she credits her hometown of Kuusamo with being the place where she developed her values, worldview, and artistic sensibility. “As a place,” she says, “Kuusamo provided the peace that is needed for artistic creation, and its relationship with nature gave strength and inspiration to my work and life.”  

It still does.

Credits : Meeri Koutaniemi
"The never-ending light in Lapland creates the illusion that time doesn't exist,” Koutaniemi says.
Credits: Meeri Koutaniemi
Credits: Meeri Koutaniemi

See also

Must-visit nature locations in summer Lapland

Summer in Lapland is truly magical and there are many must-see nature locations to visit from national parks to canyons and fells.