Tankavaaran Kultakylässä

Tankavaara Gold Village - Tankavaara Gold Prospector Museum - Kultamuseo

Useful Information

Location: Tankavaarantie 11C, 99695 Tankavaara.
Tankavaara, Ivalojoki Placer Mining District. National Road 4/E75, 30 km south of Saariselkä, 230 km north of Rovaniemi.
(68.178296, 27.102069)
Open: JUN to SEP daily 9-17.
OCT to MAY Mon-Fri 10-16.
Fee: Adults EUR 12, Children (7-16) EUR 5, Children (0-6) free, Students EUR 10, Seniors EUR 10, Family (2+2) EUR 27.
Groups (10+): Adults EUR 10.
Classification: MineGold Mine ExplainPlacer Mining
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: Various offers, from 1 hour to several days. Online booking.
Kultamuseo: self guided, D=1 h.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Address: Tankavaaran Kultakylä, Tankavaarantie 31, 99695 Tankavaara, Tel: +358-16-626158.
Kultamuseo, Tankavaarantie 11C, 99695 Tankavaara, Tel: +358-16-626171, Fax: +358-16-626271. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1868 discovery of first placer gold by an expedition lead by the Mint’s deputy director Johan Konrad Lihr.
1870 start of alluvial mining (sluicing).
1934 gold discovered in the Hopiaoja creek.
1945 Lemmenjoki Gold Rush.
MAR-1973 Gold Museum founded.
1982 managed by the Gold Museum Association and new museum built.
1983 new museum building opened to the public.
1993 bronze statue of a gold panner, sculpted by Ensio Seppänen, unveiled during the 20th anniversary celebrations.
1995 opening of the international exhibition Golden World.
2009 private Gold Museum Foundation established.


The gold of Finland is mainly placer gold, which means it is deposited in sediments by erosion. The original gold-bearing rock eroded, the gold, which is resistant and heavy, remained behind and was trapped in gullies, while the lighter material was dissolved or transported away. The gold is contained in an alluvial (and eluvial) layer of gravel, sand, and sporadically till. The grade of the ore sediment is around 0.8 g/m³ Au. Since its discovery 464 kg of gold have been mined and there is an estimated reserve of another 500 kg.


The town Tankavaara calls itself Tankavaaran Kultakylässä (Tankavaara Gold Village) and was founded as a result of a (small) gold rush and is still economically based on its gold deposits. But today it's a touristic gold mine, with gold panning for foreign visitors and the Kultamuseo (Gold Museum). The museum is a bit like a theme park, but very Finnish with a lot of wood. There is a huge parking lot, a restaurant, and a hotel. There is the Wilderness Exhibition, a museum about flora and fauna in the north. During summer the main activity is gold panning, during winter its gold panning. They actually offer indoor gold panning. While sauna, living in a kota, a gold digger's hut, and gold washing are offered all year, hiking and frisbee golf are replaced by snowshoeing, snowmobile, reindeer feeding, and northern light hunting.

Kultamuseo (Goldmuseum) is the official name of the museum in Suomi (the Finnish language). They "translate" it a little more baroque for foreigners, some years ago the english name was Tankavaara's Gold Prospector Museum. And lately they changed it to International Placer Goldmining Museum. We actually like it, it shows chutzpe, and they actually have invested a lot of work and money into a really informative museum.

The museum was founded when one of the locals found a shoebox of historic photographs and on the spring meeting of the Lapland Gold Prospectors’ Association in March 1973, it was decided to establish a museum. It was intended to preserve and record the history of gold in Lapland. Of course, they started small, but soon they had their own building, a former Nut Cabin. In 1978, they moved to Härkäselkä building, which could be heated. Both buildings are actually part of the history of the small village, which was built from the wood of the trees by loggers and gold prospectors during the 19th century. They are now part of the museum village. The museum was built in 1983 by a newly founded Gold Museum Association. That's the entrance part with the so-called Basic Exhibition of Lappish gold history. The museum shows the history of gold prospecting in Lapland starting from the rush to the Ivalojoki River in the 1870s, later to the Lemmenjoki River, and until today's gold mining projects.

In 1995 a second building was added, a circular room, which has 1000 m² and the world’s largest gold pan as roof. The new exhibition is the Golden World or International Gold History exhibition, which is the explanation why it was renamed. It is also the location of indoor gold panning, and an interesting Stones and Minerals exhibition with rocks, gems, ores, and minerals. The two buildings are connected by a replica mine tunnel. The museum was privatized in 2009, but it is still the main employer in the remote and sparsely populated area. As a cultural institution, it is supported by the Finnish state.

During the 1860s the Grand Duchy of Finland offered rather poor living conditions for many people. The discovery of Tankavaara gold was a possibility for the poor to become wealthy, most were already used to live a modest life in the middle of the wilderness with scarce resources, which required resilience and ingenuity. Manual skills and survival in nature were essential skills for gold prospectors.

The gold rush started with small amounts of gold discovered in Tenojoki river on the Norwegian side in 1867. One year later an expedition was sent to the upper river on the Finnish side which was lead by the Mint’s deputy director Johan Konrad Lihr. They actually discovered placers, at Nulkkamukka in Ivalojoki. In the following summer, the first prospectors found two kilos of gold in only a few weeks.

Numerous mining companies were set up with the goal to discover the mother lode at the beginning of the 20th century. 1902 the gold mining company Pohjola was founded by the Lappish man Henry Kerkelä. Ivalojoki Oy and Oy Lapin Kulta Ab were established for mechanical gold mining in Inari, Lapland. The effort failed, the mother lode was never found and even placer deposits were not sufficient, the companies went corrupt.

The dold mining at Tankavaara started in 1934, when Aslak Peltovuoma, better known as Sauva-Aslak, from neighbour village Purnumukka had a dream about gold in Tankavaara. He went to the place he had seen in his dream and discovered the first gold. There was some placer mining in the area over decades, but only in a low extent. Nevertheless, Tauno and Jouko Virtanen found a 186.5 gr mixed nugget in 1950 in their claim. And 11-year-old Mika Saalanko found a 40 gr nugget at the tourist panning site, when he was panning for gold for the first time in his life in 1978. The gold washing for tourists was started in the early 1970s.

The Lemmenjoki Gold Rush began in 1945, men returning from the war to Lapland were looking for work. The Lemmenjoki River actually had lucrative placers and gold panning was done in Lapland for decades. Nevertheless, the stories of successful gold prospectors in the media were romanticized and exaggerated for the wider public.

The Golden World exhibition explains the gold fields of California and Alaska, the origin of the legend of El Dorado, and has reconstructions of medieval gold panning tools. The Klondike Gold Rush is the best known gold rush in the world, widely publicised and immortalized in the books of Jack London. It began in 1896 in Yukon, Canada, with the accidental discovery of a rich gold deposit. This attracted some 100.000 fortune seekers to make the 900 km journey through the permafrost wilderness.

Another part of the exhibition is about the indigenous peoples of South America, the Aztecs, Incas, Chimu, and others. Gold was found in abundance and was transformed into household items as well as jewelry and religious objects. And of course the gold was found in placers, washed from the Andean mountains into the deep valleys. But this was probably the main reason for their doom in the Age of Discovery. Europeans had an insatiable appetite for gold, it was valuable and easy to use as money, though it had actually no practical use at all. When the new continent was discovered, news of its gold reserves travelled fast and set conquerors in motion. The gold items were melted down into ingots, today only few of those artworks remain. They were transformed into gold coins and bullions. The natives were enslaved to work in the mines and produce even more gold. At the same time the European mining collapsed, laots of people lost their jobs, it was not competitive and therefore no longer profitable.

A last part of the exhibition is about Japanese Gold, which was prospected since 749. Gold is found in hot springs in the volcanic soil, is thus easy to mine. The exhibition shows Japanese craftsmanship in the use of gold.

The outdoor area of the museum is actually the whole miners camp. It has gold prospectors’ huts like the hexagonal Nut Cabin and gold mining machinery like the French Pingon excavator.