A 16-hour-drive from tip to tip, 10 official tourist routes, varying landscapes and white nights. Every car tour of Finland is a unique, self-made adventure. Join us on the Bothnian Coast Road from southern Finland all the way up to the Swedish border.
The 900-kilometre-long Bothnian Coast Road used to be a post road in the Middle Ages. Not the fastest way from north to south, but definitely the most scenic, the route combines sea, nature and culture in the form of charming coastal towns, lively cities, old wooden parish villages, maritime national parks and several Unesco World Heritage sites.
Coastal Areas and Archipelago
Coastal Finland with its stunningly beautiful archipelago offers a variety of fascinating destinations that are easy to reach.
Rauma is the southernmost city on the Bothnian Coast Road, and Bronze Age burial site Sammallahdenmäki and the wooden buildings of Old Rauma – both Unesco sites – are the main attractions. Just 20 minutes north lies Eurajoki and its cultural centre Vuojoki Manor, with the old village of Irjanne just a stone’s throw away.
The next stop, Pori, has a National Urban Park within the city and the Bothnian Sea National Park stretching off its coast. A short drive north, Noormarkku with the old Ahlström iron works milieu, is worth a visit, as is the wooden village of Ahlainen.
Entering the Swedish-speaking Region
In Ostrobothnia, the vintage atmosphere of Kristiinankaupunki with its beautiful gardens should not be missed. Nearby Kaskinen, an old wooden town, is Finland’s smallest city. An hour north, Vaasa is known as the sunniest city in Finland, and the Kvarken archipelago off the coast is another Unesco site. Less than two hours up the road lies Kokkola, a city strong in maritime heritage.
Old wooden towns and villages are a key part of cultural and architectural heritage in Finland, and they are vigorously protected. In the village of Ahlainen, the church and tower represent different eras of craftsmanship.
The Neristan wooden town of Kokkola is full of charming houses, cute shops and friendly people. A couple of hours’ walk through its streets makes a refreshing break.
The Kylmäpihlaja lighthouse island in the Bothnian Sea National Park off the coast of Rauma is an excellent day trip destination. The restaurant alone is worth the trip, and the boat ride through the rugged archipelago is one you may prefer taking on-deck.
Numerous coastal towns large and small lie along the Baltic Coast Road. The Laitakari harbour in Luvia specialises in vintage boats. This one, Kaljaasi Ihana, was built by a group of local enthusiasts.
Old iron works across Finland remind us of industrial empires and a different working culture. Luckily, many have been kept in great shape or restored, and now serve as retreats, cultural centres and accommodation providers like the Ahlström iron works in Noormarkku.
A pile of rocks might not impress you, but imagine 36 of these next to each other and you’ll realize what all the fuss is about. The Bronze Age burial site of Sammallahdenmäki, a Unesco World Heritage site, is more than 3 000 years old.
Cruising through summertime Finland is the best thing one can do in a car, but everything gets monotonous after a while. Hit the brakes and lie in a field of flowers; see things from a grassroots perspective for a change.
The spruce alley on the grounds of Vuojoki Manor in Eurajoki is a thing to behold. Planted in the 1850’s, this majestic piece of road is said to be haunted. According to a psychic, a rebel tenant farmer often stands in the alley, looking menacing. Power to the people!
Locals flock to Vuojoki Manor for a dig into their lunch buffet. Take a break from driving, have a good meal and explore the manor grounds’ beautiful gardens and several buildings designed by revered Finnish architect C. L. Engel.
The six-kilometre-long Yyteri beach in Pori is a great place to take a break. Take a dip, nap in the sun and hit the Baltic Coast Road a totally new person. If you hit Pori in mid-July, a visit to Pori Jazz Festival is more or less obligatory.
The Gateway to Lapland
On the way up to Oulu, the sand dunes in Kalajoki offer a refreshing beach break from driving. Formerly a centre for tar trade, and now a technology hub, Oulu is the biggest city within a 500 kilometre radius and is considered the unofficial capital of northern Finland.
At the northern end of the Bothnian Coast Road, the city of Tornio lies on the border with Sweden, forming a unique twin town with its Swedish counterpart Haparanda. Nestled on the shores of both the Torne River and the Bothnian Bay, Tornio is often referred to as the Gateway to Lapland.
Where to next? All the way up to the Norwegian border along the Northern Lights Route, perhaps?
Take a look at the geographical shape of Finland and you’ll see why people call her “The Finnish Maiden”. At the tip of her thumb is the only part of the country where peaks rise 1,000 metres above sea level. Nestled in those peaks you will find a tiny village called Kilpisjärvi, home to roughly a hundred year-round residents.