LOCATED IN REINDEER HERDING LAND
The Santa's Western Gravel Loop is a collection of some of the best gravel and forest roads of southwestern Lapland, starting at the Santa Claus' Village at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi and visiting the Ylläs fell via the villages and wilderness shelters. The 493km and 6-8 day route also connect the railway stations of Rovaniemi, Pello, and Kolari, making the route one of the easiest to get on and off in the Arctic. Overall, it offers a versatile selection of surfaces and types of nature, from crystal clear lakes, river banks, endless arctic taiga, vast moorlands, and views to some of the highest fells in the country on the north part of the route. Like many other Arctic by Cycle bikepacking routes, it's a great stand-alone tour but equally serves as a segment on a longer arctic bikepacking trip.
The 493km and 6-8 day Santa’s Western Gravel Loop bikepacking route starts at Rovaniemi, where the Official Santa Claus Village is located. The village is built precisely at the Arctic Circle, making it a geographically exciting and symbolic entry or exit point to the route. The Santa itself can be visited full year-round as well and his elves are more than happy to take care of your rig, while you're queuing for high-fives to his office.
Riding wise the route is composed of hundreds of kilometers of mostly fast, flowy gravel roads, spiced up with a couple of more technical sections linking forest roads deep in the arctic taiga. There are 19 open wilderness huts, day huts, lean-tos, and cooking shelters along the way with firewood provided, giving shelter from the elements and great, often historical, spots for the night. The route also connects many of the guest houses and cabin rentals in the area as well, so there is a lodging option, as an alternative to camping, available for nearly every night, too. Food-wise, bikepacking the route, is really simple as well, as the villages with a grocery store as usually a day's ride apart, keeping the load light. You also get away with carrying just a liter or two of water, as there is water everywhere.
Overall, the Santa’s Western Gravel Loop is one of the most versatile, surprisingly easy gravel rig-friendly routes on the Arctic by Cycle Bikepacking Route Network making it possible to shape the tour according to your personal preference of daily distances and sleeping arrangements. See more info about the route and our take on the tour pacing in the Trail notes below…
REINDEER HERDING & ROUTE OPENING TIME
1st of June - 30th of September or till first snow with some changes
No limitations to the start of the bikepacking season have been requested by the local reindeer herding community. However, as the route passes multiple reindeer fences for autumn reindeer round-ups in the area between the villages of Kallo and Lohiniva, it has been requested to close the route between Kallo and Lohiniva for cycling from the 1st of October onwards. Luckily there is a way around the reindeer work area, check it out here.
Additionally, it has been requested to avoid the off-road section at arrival to the village of Äkäslompolo and take the main road instead, the two last weeks of September, 15th of September onwards. The spot is marked on the route map with additional info as well. If
What are reindeer round-ups?
The autumn reindeer herding work consists of reindeer round-ups when the rutting season starts. The reindeer are gathered into herds of up to thousands, and then to fences by foot, motorcycles, ATVs, and helicopters, for the selection of individuals to meet. Read more about the autumn round-ups here.
For general guidelines for trekking and camping in the reindeer herding area, check here.
Photos: Taneli Roininen
Ever continuing, remote but easy gravel roads in the arctic taiga connecting the village of Southwest Lapland.
19 wilderness shelters, most with firewood provided, offering great historical spots for the night.
Spot-on frequency of grocery stores, restaurants, and cafés, making touring light and easy food-wise. Water everywhere too.
Numerous lodging alternatives in the villages, and occasionally between them as well.
Easy access to the route by train to Rovaniemi, Pello, or Kolari. Airports at Rovaniemi and Kittilä, as well.
Long sand beaches at the crystal clear Miekojärvi and spending at one of the shelters there.
Views of the southern fells of the Ylläs-Pallas National Park, from the northernmost point of the route at Ylläs villages.
Visiting the Santa Claus Village precisely at the Arctic Circle, with a change of meeting the Mr. S.C himself too.
Northern lights can be seen multiple times a week in autumn, if the sky is clear at night.