Canoeing the Ivalojoki River – COMPLETE GUIDE

The Ivalojoki River located in the finish Lapland is one of the last reaming wild and still relatively untouched rivers of Europe. No roads, no buildings, and no cell phone coverage. The only interruption in the silence is the splash of your paddles cutting through the water. You will find impressive rock formations and a never-ending presence of birch and pine trees on the side of the river, creating a beautiful and wild landscape. We barely encountered anyone adding to the feeling of isolation and the unspoiled beauty of the natural surroundings.

The canoe trip

Having explored the Swedish wilderness and the Ardennes on numerous trekking trips, I was in search of something different. While lugging around a 25 kg backpack and feeling completely exhausted at the end has its own charm, this time, I wanted something more relaxed. That’s when my friend and I came up with the idea of going on a canoe trip. While still physically challenging, you don’t have to carry your gear on your backall the time, It simply lays in the canoe. This makes it a lot less stressful for your body.

We researched canoe trips in Sweden and Norway but couldn’t quite find what we were looking for. We wanted a bit more action, not just the flat lakes. That’s when we stumbled upon the Ivalojaki River. It was everything we had hoped for!

Getting there

The trip starts in the village of Ivalo. From here you will likely rent a canoe and have the rental companie bring you to the starting point of your adventure. There are multiple ways to get to Ivalo.

Option 1: You can choose to fly to Ivalo, often having a layover in Helsinki. We found that this was quite expensive, so we opted for option 2.

Check out flight options here.

Option 2: Although this choice will be a lot longer, it definitely adds to the adventure. Our journey began with a flight from Amsterdam to Helsinki, followed by a lengthy 14-hour night train to Rovaniemi. From there, we embarked on another 4-hour bus ride to reach Ivalo. The entire trip took approximately 24 hours, but what appealed to me was the opportunity to acclimate to the new environment and slowly get into the wilderness setting. As we headed north, we felt more and more isolated with changing daylight and surroundings. Both the train and bus will drive you through beautiful scenery.

To book the train go here

To book the bus go here

Once you arrive in Ivalo you might want to acclimatize for a night before you head out for your trip, depending on the time you arrive. We arrived there rather late so we had to stay the night before wee started our canoe tirp.

Where to stay in Ivalo?

In an attempt to keep our journey budget-friendly and basic, we opted to walk out of Ivalo for 1.5 hours upon our arrival to set up camp in the forest. We later discovered that there’s a campground right in Ivalo. I’d recommend heading to this campsite, saving you the need to wake up at 6 am the next day for a 1.5-hour walk back to town just to start your canoe trip early.

Check out the camping here

If you are looking for some extra comfort:

Where to rent a canoe in Ivalo

After some googling we came across the company PolarCreek. They have different canoes available, and provide the option to pay extra for transportation to various starting points along the river. The canoes come equipped with a waterproof barrel, life jackets, and helmets. The owners are really friendly, I can really recommend them.

We paid a total of €660,-. 10 days for the canoe (€365,-) & transport from Ivalo to Lisma (€295,-).

The starting point

There are 4 main starting points along the river.

Lisma village, Ivalon-Matti, Kuttura and Tolonen. See the map below. If you really want to start somewhere else, you can always ask the rental company for other options.

Day 1-2

Our scheduled pickup with the rental company was at the local supermarket in Ivalo. We had a 3-hour drive ahead of us, we even saw some reindeer.

Despite a rainy start, our excitement was unstoppable as we started our 10-day adventure. Our journey began by paddling down a narrow and shallow side stream to get to the Ivalojoki river. We somehow managed to nearly flip our canoe by hitting a fallen tree which also almost decapitated my friend within the first 10 minutes. We were off to a great start.

The first section of the main river is relatively calm. There are a lot swamp lands, and things get quite soppy. Honestly, I was a bit let down because the first part didn’t match the wild north I was expecting. There were hardly any currents, not many rock formations, just wet grasslands. I was worried that the entire 10 days would be like this. Luckily, the surroundings changed soon enough. In hindsight, even this area was incredibly beautiful, with its own unique charm.

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