Brave Ranua – Travel destination in Southern Lapland

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There has been such a small mistake on the side of our blog that in the fragrance of everything, we haven’t really had time to introduce our town itself at all. Well, this error is corrected in this blog post where we introduce Ranua in more detail specifically as a locality.
A beautiful nature landscape in Ranua

General information about Ranua

Ranua is a municipality located in southern Lapland of Finland, on the upper and middle reaches of the Simojoki River, south of Rovaniemi. The area of our locality is relatively large, as the total size of our town is almost 3,700 square kilometers.

Our neighboring municipalities are Ii and Pudasjärvi to the south, Simo and Tervola to the west, Rovaniemi to the north, and Posio to the east. Our southern municipal boundary separates Lapland from Northern Ostrobothnia, which is why our locality is often referred to as the “Gateway to Lapland”.

Vivid travel destination

Ranuan Eläinpuiston sisäänkäynti syksyllä 2021

Our municipality has become known above all as a brave tourist and travel destination, whose municipal slogan has been the saying “Brave Ranua” for decades.

Many different attractions have been seen in the travel industry of our locality over the decades. In many ways, the 1980s was the golden decade in this field, as the Ranua Zoo was established at the beginning of the decade, and at the end of the decade, as many as three submarines designed for tourist use operated in Simojärvi.

The zoo has been such a great success story for Ranua that it can still be said today as by far the biggest single attraction of tourism in our place. During the summer, tourists are attracted by both the cloudberry and the largest single event in our locality, the Cloudberry Festival.

During the summer, our Cloudberry Market, especially in the center of the village, also hosts weekly Market days and other events, in addition to which there are numerous sights and monuments in our locality, which also attract tourists to at least stop here.

In winter-time Ranua is attracting mainly foreign tourists to see the beautiful nature of Finnish Lapland as well as with the option to stay in a fully movable glass igloo.

History of Ranua

The first people reportedly arrived in the Ranua region as early as the Stone Age. The first inhabitants of the area were the natives of Lapland, the Sámi, who, however, by the 17th century, had to retreat further in the way of Finnish wilderness visitors from the south. The southern parts of our municipality, the wilderness found in connection with the Siuruanjoki watershed, were in turn occupied by the people from Ii at that time, while the Kemi and Simo habitants ruled the Simojoki area. For a long time, the borders of the regions were the venues for the mutual settlements of the people living in the wilderness.

The wilderness of ancient times also provided the impetus for the emergence of permanent settlement. In this respect, however, progress was slow and as early as the 17th century, the only inhabited area of our locality was reportedly the village of Kuha, located just over ten kilometers from the village towards Posio.

It was not until the 19th century that the population of Ranua began to grow faster, and by 1910 there were already about 1,700 inhabitants. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the livelihoods of the people who inhabited the area were based on agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as hunting and fishing.

The area of our municipality was initially divided parishly into three municipalities: Pudasjärvi, Simo and Rovaniemi. However, the long church journeys made the residents of the area fully support the establishment of their own congregation. This project progressed sluggishly at first, as this idea sparked disagreements over, for example, the location of the church and the territorial scope of the congregation. Ranua Parish was finally founded in 1899, while Ranua Church was built between 1911 and 1914.

The municipality of Ranua was officially founded in the year of Finland’s independence in 1917. At that time, areas from Pudasjärvi were included in our place, but also from Simo and Rovaniemi. In the first years after the municipality’s independence, deforestation and floating work provided a lot of work for the area, which also led to a rapid increase in the population of our locality. By 1920, our population had already grown to almost 2,900.

The development of educational institutions in the region was slow due to economic reasons. The first elementary school was founded in the village of Saukkojärvi by the Simolans in 1984. Two years later, the people of Pudasjärvi established their own school near the center of the church village. The first primary school, self-founded by the municipality of Ranua, began operations in the village of Ylimaa in 1930.

Between 1944 and 1945, the Lapland War caused extensive damage as the Germans and Finns fought in the municipality of Ranua. The population also had to be evacuated. With the destruction caused by the war, we had to carry out extensive reconstruction.

The population of our locality continued to grow steadily even after the wars. In 1947 the population approached 4,800 inhabitants and 20 years later, in 1967 the limit of seven thousand inhabitants was already exceeded. The population of 1967 is the peak we have so far, after which the population has started to decline. The main reason for this has been the urbanization caused by the economic structure. In recent years, the population has been negatively affected by e.g. lack of housing and jobs.

Migration and population

The population has been decreasing in Ranua for decades now. The amount of inhabitants in our locality peaked in the late 1960s, after which the 1970s ushered in population decline, which, however, turned upward again during the 1980s and 1990s. At the beginning of the 21st century, the population has clearly started to decline again.

Ranua has seen some migration and people moving back to the town throughout its history, but has failed to compensate for the population decline caused by outbound migration. The population of our municipality has decreased by about 25% over the last 20 years. In recent years, however, emigration has turned into a slight decline again.

The high birth rate of the municipality has long managed to slightly offset the emigration to the municipality. The birth rate has been considerably higher in us than in most other municipalities in Lapland. In recent years, however, the birth rate has turned downwards and the mortality rate in our locality has risen higher than the birth rate.

If migration and demographic change remain unchanged in the coming years and decades, it is predicted that in 2040 our municipality will have a population of about 3,300 people.


Northern lights photo from Multilahti in Ranua
Northern lights painting the night sky in Multilahti © Anna-Liisa Sarajärvi

In addition to travel and tourism, Ranua has become known as a strongly natural municipality, with a large part of its area consisting of swamps, forests and various water bodies. In this section, we present the nature of our locality and related facts in a little more detail.


Ranua is located in the northern coniferous forest zone, also known as taiga. Our forests are medium-boreal in the southern and western parts of the municipality, and north-boreal in the northern and eastern parts, ie mostly low-nutrient dry hardwood forests, whose trees include both spruce and pine. We have very few deciduous forests.

Most of the fresh canvas forests can be found in the western parts of the municipality, in the Simojoki region and in the highlands of Piittisjärvi and Teerivaara in the northeast. The most rugged forests are found in the southwestern and central parts of the municipality, which are favorable for their soil.

Of the tree species, pine is the predominant of the individual species; about 83% of our forests are pine-dominated. The second most common tree in our locality is spruce, which accounts for about 12% of the forest area. Spruce forests are most abundant in our locality in the northern vicinity of Portimojärvi and Piittisjärvi and in the west in the vicinity of Simojoki. In the case of spruces, we find both the bushy European spruce, which is familiar from the more southern forests, and the northern narrow-leaved Siberian spruce. The share of deciduous forests in the forests of our locality is relatively small, only about 4.5%.

Forest growth at Ranua altitudes is also slow due to climate and soil. The largest forest areas in our locality are located in the eastern and northern parts of the municipality. Simojärvi, located in the eastern part of the municipality, also has old forest areas, which are also part of old forest conservation areas.

The share of arable land in the area of ​​our locality is quite small, most of the arable land has been cleared in Simojoki district, where agriculture and dairy farming can be found.


Swamp landscape in Ranua

The importance of swamps in Ranua is great, as more than 60 percent of the land area of ​​our locality consists of wetlands. Such a large share has been influenced by e.g. higher rainfall than moisture evaporation, coolness of the climate and evenness of the area.

The marshes generally belong to the swamp type of Ostrobothnia; they are mainly marshy or watery bogs growing from shaggy pine. The largest wetlands are located in the southwestern parts of our municipality.

Due to the swamps, the local water bodies are often rich in humus. Most of the bogs have been drained to improve forest growth and a small part of the bogs have also been utilized in peat production. In addition, bog areas of significant natural value have been designated as nature reserves, for example in Litokaira, which in its southern parts also extends to the municipalities of Ii and Pudasjärvi.

The large number of bogs is also reflected in the amount of jam in the locality, and Ranua has succeeded in creating a strong brand at the municipal level as the official keeper of the whole of Finland. Cloudberry is of great importance not only for the tourism of our locality but also as a good way to earn extra money for local berry pickers.


Swans taking off from a lake in Finnish Lapland
Swans taking off from a lake © Petri Saravuoma

In our forests and bogs, many large predators familiar from Finnish nature are found, such as bears, lynxes and wolverines, and sometimes also individual wolves. These predators also have their own effect on reindeer husbandry.

Ranua’s moose population is also abundant and there are still many moose hunting clubs in our locality. The swamps and lakes of our locality, in turn, are very valuable habitats for a diverse bird and fish species. The Simojoki River, which runs through our municipality, is one of the few salmon still flowing completely free.

Our town is also part of the reindeer herding area of Lapland, which means that reindeers are fairly common sights all over the municipality. 

Lakes and rivers

A beautiful lake in Ranua
More and more beautiful lakes are found all over our municipality - © Tiina Saarijärvi

The water bodies cover about 6.5% of our total area, or just over 240 square kilometers.

The two most significant water bodies in Ranua are the Simojoki river, which flows through the municipality, and lake Simojärvi, which is the starting point of the river and is the 20th largest lake in Finland.

Simojoki has become best known for its salmon, but it is also a great destination for fly fishing for grayling, for example. In addition to its submarines and long sandy beaches, Simojärvi has become known in previous decades for its brown trout, whose population has unfortunately collapsed in recent decades.

In addition to the Simojoki River, other river water bodies worth mentioning are the Ranuanjoki, Luiminkajoki and Siuruanjoki rivers in the southern part of the municipality, which are all tributaries of the Iijoki River. The Paattinkijoki and Piittisjoki rivers, which flow in the north, belong to the Kemijoki watershed. Near the center of the municipality, the Kivijoki River flows into large marshes, flowing into the Kuivajoki River, which originates from Kivijärvi in ​​Vilmilä. The small tributaries of the Kivijoki are the Nuupasjoki and the Heinijoki.

In addition to Simojärvi, other lakes worth mentioning are Näskäjärvi, Penämönjärvi, Impiönjärvi and Ranuanjärvi in ​​the center of the village, which flows through Takajärvi all the way to Iijoki.

Lake Näskäjärvi and other lakes in the northernmost parts of the municipality (for example, Paattinkijärvi and Piittisjärvi) discharge their water into the Kemijoki. Penämönjärvi, Impiönjärvi and others found in the eastern parts of our locality, in turn, drain their water through rivers and streams to Simojärvi.

On the middle course of the Simojoki River north of the church village are a number of small lakes, such as Toljanjärvi, Kuopasjärvi, Saukkojärvi and Portimojärvi. To the southeast of Kirkonkylä is a series of elongated small lakes. These include Kuhajärvi, Luiminkajärvi, Petäjäjärvi and Kuukasjärvi. These lakes and other water bodies in the southern parts of the municipality flow through the Siuruan, Luiminka and Ranuanjoki rivers up to the Iijoki.

The largest groundwater areas in our locality can be found on the eastern side of Lake Simojärvi and in the ridge areas in the southeastern parts of the municipality. However, these groundwater resources as a whole are quite modest compared to, for example, the groundwater reserves of the neighboring municipalities of Posio and Pudasjärvi.

Villages of Ranua

In addition to our town center, we also have many interesting and vibrant small villages that are located all over the municipality. You can read more about the villages and their activities in the guest blog written by Tuula Nurmela, which deals with the villages of Ranua from the perspective of village tourism. This blog post is currently only available in Finnish.

Business in Ranua

Entrepreneurship has played an important role in Ranua for decades, and despite the declining population, there are still dozens of vibrant and growing companies in our area that play a significant role not only as taxpayers but also as employers of local people. Indeed, the largest local companies employ dozens of people in our locality alone.

In addition to the zoo, there are many other significant companies in our area, such as the furniture company Veke (formerly Veken kaluste), Ranuan Tarvikekeskus Oy, which specializes in machinery, Pohjoisen Auto Oy, Oy, ASWood Oy, Jarcrac Forest Oy and Konehakkuut Juha Piri Oy.

Business Ranua, which specializes in this field, has helped to start and develop a business in our area, with the help of which numerous new companies have started operations in many different industries. Business Ranua started operations in 2019 and the project is scheduled to continue at least until 2030.

Are you interested in moving to Ranua?

If you are interested in moving to Ranua, I recommend reading at least one blog post I wrote earlier, in which I will discuss our locality in more detail both as a travel destination and a place of residence.

In my opinion, Ranua’s greatest strengths in living are functional basic services, recreational opportunities, especially in the form of group and nature sports, and of course the tranquility, which is easy to find right outside the village center. Although our locality is small in terms of population, it has hardly been necessary to suffer from boring moments while living or visiting there, but there has been a great variety of things to do.

Sources and about the subject elsewhere: | Ranua municipality Visit Ranua | Front page 

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