In northern Sweden, right next to the Torne River and the border with Finland, is the locality of Övertorneå. It is located in what is known as the Torne Valley and its name is Matarengi in the local language Meänkieli. This was also its former name in Swedish. Övertorneå has a population of around 1700 inhabitants and its name comes from the former local parish. The parish was named as the upper part of Toreå. Nedertorneå, or the lower part, is further downstream towards the coast of the Baltic Sea in the area around Haparanda.
The municipality is a part of the area along the border with Finland with a special status for two of Sweden’s five minority languages. The use of Finnish and Meänkieli within this area is protected and the inhabitants have the right to education in their language and to use it when in contact with local and national government agencies. The other three minority languages in Sweden are Sami, Romani, and Yiddish.
A Short History of Övertorneå
Övertorneå Parish was established in 1482, then with the name Särkilax Parish. The parish church was at the time located in Kuivakangas. In the 16th century, Särkilax Parish began to be known as Övertorneå Parish. The parish church was, however, destroyed in a flood in 1617. When it was rebuilt it was rebuilt in a different part of the parish. Its location was moved to the village that at the time was known as Matarengi.
Matarengi had during centuries a very small population. In the beginning of the 19th century, less than 100 people lived there. The railway was completed about a century later and turned out to be the start of further development of the area. It was the railway that finally changed the name of the village from Matarengi to Övertorneå when the station was named after the local congregation and municipality.
Things to Do and See
Welcome to the northern part of Sweden, with large forests, long rivers, and tranquility around the corner. Exploring nature, either by going on a hike, riding a snowmobile or skiing, is something you can do here. There is also the possibility to cross the border to Finland and the ski resort found along the slopes of the mountain Aavasaksa. This mountain is one of the highest peaks in the area and is believed to be the southernmost point in Finland where it is possible to see the midnight sun.
Aunesgården, or Övertorneå hembygdsmuseum, is the local heritage museum. This is an open-air museum that includes historical buildings from the area. These include the main building from 1820 and a few more buildings from the 19th century.
Torne River marks the border between Sweden and Finland for about 190 kilometers out of the 555 kilometers that is the border’s total length. It has its origins in Lake Torneträsk close to the Norwegian border and empties into the Gulf of Bothnia in Haparanda 522 kilometers downstream.
The river is well known for its fishing possibilities. Especially salmon has been a common catch, but also whitefish, trout, pike, perch, and grayling. Fishing in the river requires a fishing license.
Ekobadet is an outdoor swimming pool that is open during the summer months. In addition to the swimming pool, there is also a waterslide and a smaller pool for kids.
Röda Kvarn is a red building along the main street in the center. It dates back to 1915 and has been an important part of the cultural life of the locality. The building has been used as a cinema, theater, and for many local events. It was built with leftover materials from the construction of the railway, which has made it a quite unique building.
Övertorneå HF & Tornedalium
Övertorneå HF is the local ice hockey team and it is currently playing in Hockeytrean, the 4th tier league in Sweden. The team plays its home games at Tornedalium Ice Rink.
Two former NHL players did once call this rink their home. Johan Harju played 10 games for Tampa Bay Lightning and has also played for Dynamo Moskva in the KHL as well as for Brynäs, Luleå, and Modo in Sweden. The second player is Linus Omark that has played 79 games in the NHL for Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres. He has also played for Dynamo Moskva and Salavut Yulaev Ufa in the KHL and for Luleå in Sweden. Both players have represented Sweden in the World Championships and Linus Omark was on the gold-winning team in 2017.
Övertorneå Church was inaugurated in 1737 and replaced the earlier Särkilax Chapel which had been destroyed more than a century earlier. This is a red wooden church with a freestanding clock tower. The clock tower was built in 1763.
How to Get to Övertorneå
- Flights: The closest airport is Kemi-Tornio Airport (KEM), 95 kilometers across the border on the Finnish side, which offers a few domestic flights within Finland. Other options close by are Luleå Airport (LLA) 161 kilometers away and Rovaniemi Airport (RVN) 117 kilometers away.
- Car: Övertornio is at the intersection between Road 98 and Road 99. Road 98 comes from the nearby border with Finland where it connects with the E8 in Aavasaksa. It continues to Överkalix in the west. Road 88 connects the locality with Haparanda in the south and Pajala in the north.
- Bus: Regional buses from Länstrafiken Norrbotten connect Övertorneå with the rest of the Norrbotten region in Sweden.
The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
Stockholm – 1046 kilometers (11 h 29 min) Gothenburg – 1391 kilometers (15 h 43 min) Malmö – 1653 kilometers (17 h 18 min) Linköping – 1241 kilometers (13 h 23 min) Kiruna – 288 kilometers (3 h 23 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden