Five extraordinary road trips in Finland

6 minute read

Credits: Juho Kuva

Five unique road trips from North to South

Summer is the best time to explore Finland on the road whether you're travelling by bike, car, or in a caravan. The white summer nights are endless, the weather is warm but typically not too hot, and there are over 450,000 kilometres of roads to traverse. The only thing to decide is where to go.

In this article, you’ll find five unique road trips from arctic Lapland to the South Coast of Finland.

Wander off into the arctic wilderness of North Lapland

Road trip 1: North Lapland – history of gold, Finland’s most scenic road, and Sámi culture (3 days)

INTRODUCTION

In summer, the Arctic nature in the very northern tip of Finnish Lapland undergoes a breath-taking transformation, revealing a vibrant and lively landscape. As the long days unfold, the region is bathed in the soft glow of the midnight sun, casting a warm and ethereal light over the tundra. This is the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable summer road trip.

DAY 1

Start your journey from the village of Tankavaara by visiting the Gold Museum and getting an introduction into the history of gold panning in Lapland. Continue to north to nearby Saariselkä, the northernmost outdoor resort in Europe. There you’ll find unique accommodation, like the Northern Lights Village Saariselkä or the Star Arctic Hotel, one of Finland’s most popular national parks, the Urho Kekkonen National Park, and great restaurants with Lappish delights.

DAY 2

Next stop on this road trip is Lake Inari, declared as one of the most beautiful places in Europe. While in Inari, don’t miss a visit to the Sámi Museum and Nature Centre Siida. After Inari, continue the road trip west towards the village of Karigasniemi. Nearby you’ll find the Kevo Nature Reserve. Kevo is home to Finland’s most famous canyon, a unique hiking spot out in the wilderness.

DAY 3

From Karigasniemi, head north towards Utsjoki. One of Finland’s most beautiful roads connects these two Lappish villages. Utsjoki is the northernmost municipality of Finland and the country’s only municipality with the Sámi population as a majority. Here you can experience modern, everyday Sámi culture. The last stop on this arctic road trip is Nuorgam, the northernmost village of Finland. The drive from Utsjoki to Nuorgam along the iconic River Teno is one for the books.

Read more about this road trip at laplandnorth.fi.

Gold panning is an essential part of the history of Lapland.
One of the most scenic roads in Finland connects Karigasniemi and Utsjoki on the Finnish-Norwegian border.
Credits: Harri Tarvainen

Steer to the heart of Finland in Savo-Karelia

Road trip 2: Savo-Karelia – charming towns, iconic Lakeland sights, and essentials of Finnish culture (7 days)

INTRODUCTION

Eastern Finland, the heart of Finland, in the summer is a paradise of natural beauty and tranquillity. Lush green forests, shimmering lakes, and rolling hills create a picturesque backdrop for road trips – both long and short.

DAY 1

We recommended starting your tour of Eastern Finland in Savonlinna, the Karelian city known for its annual Opera Festival. While in the area, don’t forget to visit nearby Punkaharju and its famous ancient ridges. Shaped by the retreat of glaciers, these ridges form one of Finland’s most famous natural wonders. For nature lovers, a visit to Finnish Forest Museum Lusto is also a must.

DAY 2

From Punkaharju, continue the road trip south on Highway 6 towards Imatra. Stop by at the Parikkala Sculpture Park – a one-of-a-kind outdoor art gallery featuring an extensive collection of whimsical sculptures created by Finnish artist Veijo Rönkkönen. When in Imatra, visit one of Europe’s biggest rapids, Imatrankoski, or go for a cruise in Lake Saimaa. Stay the night in Scandic Imatran Valtionhotelli, a renowned, castle-like hotel near the rapids.

DAY 3

The next day, continue towards nearby town of Lappeenranta, where you can visit the Lappeenranta Fortress, an integral part of Finnish, Russian, and Swedish cultural heritage. Finland’s oldest Orthodox church is also located on the Fortress premises. When in Karelia, don’t forget to try the famous, savoury Karelian pies!

DAY 4

From the southern Karelia region, the road trip proceeds to southern Savo region and Mikkeli. When leaving Lappeenranta, stop by at the historical war-themed Salpa Line Museum and bunkers in Miehikkälä. In addition to historical sights, like the Headquarters Museum in Mikkeli, this region is home to many lovely manor houses. Visit places like Kyyhkylä Manor and Hotel and Tertti Manor to experience traditional manor house living in Lakeland.

DAY 5

From Mikkeli, continue on to Puumala along one of the most scenic roads in Finland, road 62. The road, selected as one the five most beautiful routes in the Nordic countries, follows the shores of Lake Saimaa. If you’re feeling tired, stay overnight at Sahanlahti Resort or Okkola Holiday Cottages.

DAY 6

The next day carry on towards Rantasalmi where you’ll find the unique lake spa Järvisydän and the luxurious Kuru Resort. In nearby Linnansaari National Park, you can go on a guided lake safari to spot the rare Saimaa Ringed Seal.

DAY 7

The last stop on this Savo-Karelian tour is Kuopio. This vibrant city offers a blend of cultural attractions, such as the famous Puijo Tower and the versatile Kuopio Museum, along with opportunities for outdoor adventures, including cruising on Lake Kallavesi. If events are more your cup of tea, don’t miss the annual Kuopio Wine Festival or the iconic Kuopio Dance Festival in June and July.

For more information about this road trip and additional places to visit, go to visitkarelia.fi.

Rice-filled karelian pies ("karjalanpiirakka" in Finnish) are a local delicacy originating from the Karelia region.
Credits : Julia Kivelä
Lake and steamboat cruises are a must-try when travelling around eastern Finland in the summer.
Credits: Jaakko Posti

Manoeuvre to the masters near Helsinki

Road trip 3: Lake Tuusula – immerse yourself in Finnish art history (1 day)

INTRODUCTION

This one-day route takes you just north of Helsinki to Lake Tuusula (“Tuusulanjärvi” in Finnish). Lake Tuusula is a picturesque freshwater lake known for its natural beauty and historical significance. The lake has long been a source of inspiration for Finnish artists and writers, including the renowned composer Jean Sibelius.

DAY 1

The distances on this route are short and the best way to explore this area is by bike. Start your exploration at Järvenpää Art Museum. The collection of the museum consists of works by influential Finnish artists Eero Järnefelt and Venny Soldan-Brofeld, who were members of the early 1900’s artists’ community at Lake Tuusula. For more works of Venny Soldan-Brofeld, a pioneering female artist in Finland, visit the nearby Ahola museum. Ahola exhibits the life Soldan-Brofeld and her husband, writer Juhani Aho.

To immerse yourself further into the unique cultural atmosphere of Lake Tuusula, continue south to Ainola. This picturesque house was the long-time residence of Jean Sibelius and his family. Today it serves as a museum dedicated to his life and music, allowing visitors to explore the composer's personal and creative sanctuary. After Ainola, the next stop is Halosenniemi, the former residence of the Finnish painter Pekka Halonen. Halosenniemi, situated on a picturesque cape overlooking Lake Tuusula, showcases his artwork, along with the preserved interiors and personal belongings.

Last stop on this cultural tour is Aleksis Kivi Memorial Cottage. This modest wooden cottage served as the final home of the renowned Finnish author, Aleksis Kivi. The cottage has been preserved as a museum, offering visitors a glimpse into the life and literary contributions of Kivi, who is considered the father of modern Finnish literature.

In addition to the museums and historical point-of-interest, Lake Tuusula is also home to many charming restaurants, cafés, and places to stay. Try Hotel Gustavelund for a Alvar and Aino Aalto inspired stay, or Hotel Krapi, a unique hotel in an old brick barn.

For everything you need to know about Lake Tuusula, go to visittuusulanjarvi.fi.

Ainola, Sibelius' home museum, is one of the most famous destinations to visit in Lake Tuusula.
In the Lake Tuusula area, you can see how many influential Finnish artists, like the painter of the famous Koli landscape Eero Järnefelt, lived and approached art.
Credits: Eero Järnefelt / Ateneum

Hit the historic roads in the South Coast

Road trip 4: South Coast – Ironworks villages, industrial history, and modern design (3 days)

INTRODUCTION

This road trip near the South Coast takes you on a journey to Finnish industrial history and design. Finnish design history is characterized by its emphasis on simplicity and functionality. Influenced by the principles of modernism and Scandinavian design, Finnish designers have made significant contributions to various fields from furniture, textiles, and glassware to architecture. This journey celebrates the history of design and craftsmanship in Finland.

DAY 1

This journey starts in Mathildedal, a charming village located between Helsinki and Turku. Mathildedal is home to an active artisan community, offering visitors a chance to explore modern-day craftsmanship and indulge in delicious local cuisine in a historical ironworks setting. The ironworks villages of Finland are a collection of historically significant communities that emerged around ironworks sites during the 17th to 19th centuries. These villages played a crucial role in Finland's industrial development and shaped the local culture and heritage.

45 minutes west of Mathildedal, you’ll find two other interesting ironworks villages, Fiskars and Billnäs. Fiskars village is known for its picturesque surroundings and a thriving arts and crafts scene, with numerous boutiques, galleries, and workshops showcasing local talent. There are also many delicious restaurants and cafés to visit. If you’d like to spend the night, try the new boutique hotel The Torby, or the charming Fiskars Wärdshus. In the nearby Billnäs village, the historical experience deepens: the oldest buildings in the village are from the 1700s. If you’re visiting in July, don’t miss the annual Billnäs Antique Days. Spending the night at Mustion Linna manor house hotel will top your experience.

DAY 2

From the Fiskars-Billnäs area, continue the journey north to Karkkila and the Högfors ironworks. Here you’ll find Ala-Emali, a recently revived factory area where you’ll find small artisanal boutiques, a tasty restaurant and bar, a quaint public sauna, Uuni, and even a movie theatre, Kino Laika, run by internationally acclaimed movie director Aki Kaurismäki ja author Mika Lätti.

From Ala-Emali, drive 40 minutes northeast to Riihimäki to discover the treasures of the Finnish Glass Museum. The museum presents the 4000-year old history of glass and the history of Finland's glass industry dating back 300 years. For glass and design enthusiasts, a visit to the Iittala village and Iittala Glass Factory are also a must. Iittala is 30 minutes north of Riihimäki via highway E12.

DAY 3

Those looking to dive deep into Finnish history can finish the road trip by visiting Hämeen Härkätie, Häme Ox Road. This road that goes from Tammela to Turku – or vice versa – is one of the oldest roads in Finland. Its origins date back to the Viking Ages. The 160-kilometer journey was once travelled on horses or by foot, and it served as a route for transporting weapons, jewellery, metals, and spices inland, as well as transporting fur and medicinal herbs back to the coast.

The ironworks villages, clad with traditional brick buildings, are not only the home of interesting industrial history but also lovely cafés and restaurants.
Credits : Julia Kivelä
Iittala, a famous Finnish glassware brand, is also a city in Finland with a must-visit glass factory.

Get a glimpse of the Baltic Sea in the West Coast

Road trip 5: West Coast from Pori to Oulu – beaches, roaring seas, and wooden towns (4 days)

INTRODUCTION

Finland's West Coast is a captivating region renowned for its picturesque archipelago, rich maritime heritage, charming wooden towns, and a thriving culture of coastal traditions, making it a delightful destination for exploration and relaxation.

DAY 1

Our 5th road trip takes you to the West Coast of Finland where you’ll find one of Finland’s most stunning archipelago roads. Start your trip in Pori and head towards Yyteri. Yyteri is a stunning sandy beach stretching over six kilometres along the Baltic Sea coastline. If beach living is not your cup of tea, follow in the footsteps of world-famous architect Alvar Aalto and visit one of his most famous building, Villa Mairea, in nearby Noormarkku. Continue north from Yyteri towards the small village of Ahlainen on a stunning coastal road. Ahlainen is renowned for its cultural and historical significance, showcased by its meticulously crafted wooden houses and charming traditional picket fences. For unique accommodation in this area, try Sustainable Travel Finland labelled Yyteri Holiday Cottages, or the Ahlström Noormarkku hotel near Villa Mairea.

DAY 2

From the Pori and Ahlainen region, drive one-hour north towards Kristiinankaupunki (“Kristinestad” in Swedish) via Merikarvia for more coastal views. Nearby you'll also find the Bothnian Sea National Park. Swedish-speaking Kristinestad holds a special place as one of the best-preserved wooden towns in the country. Its historic centre, with its wooden buildings and cobblestone streets, offers a glimpse into the past and showcases the town's unique architectural heritage.

Next stop on this West Coast road trip is Vaasa, 1,5 hours north of Kristinestad. Vaasa is one of the most famous coastal cities in Finland with plenty of things to do and see. Don’t miss a visit to the Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, Ostrobothnian Museum, Kyrö Distillery, or the Kvarken Archipelago, one of Finland’s many UNESCO sites. In regards to accommodation, try the sustainable GreenStar Hotel Vaasa, or one of the beautifully decorated rooms at Scandic Vaasa.  

DAY 3

On day three of this journey, the trip continues up along the coast to the popular beaches of Kalajoki. The drive from Vaasa to Kalajoki takes about 2,5 hours. On the way north, don’t miss stops at the traditional wooden towns in Jakobstad (“Pietarsaari” in Finnish) and Kokkola. In addition to the unique wooden architecture, you’ll find many boutique-style shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore. Once you get to Kalajoki, it’s time to stretch your legs and relax on the beach – there is 15 kilometres of soft golden sand and shallow waters to enjoy.

DAY 4

The last stop on this road trip is Oulu. The drive from Kalajoki to Oulu takes less than two hours. On the way north, stop by at Raahe’s Old Town, which is one of the best-preserved 19th-century wooden towns in Finland. Oulu, located 1-hour north of Raahe, is a vibrant and modern city in the northern part of Coast and Archipelago, known for its unique blend of urban amenities, cultural attractions, and beautiful natural surroundings. Some of the best things to do in Oulu include visiting the traditional market square Torinranta, the market hall, Turkansaari Open Air Museum, and the Nallikari beach. Don’t forget to say hi to the iconic “Toripolliisi” – the Bobby at the Market Place statue. If you’re visiting in the end of August, pay a visit to the Air Guitar World Championships! End your visit to Oulu by touring the Hailuoto island, also known as the Pearl of the Bothnian Bay. You can go trekking on the trails, spot birds, and even visit an old lighthouse from the 1800s. If you want the spend the night, there are multiple options from cottage and hotel accommodation to farm and guest houses.

This route will pass via many of Finland's best beaches, like Yyteri and Kalajoki.
Fan of history? You'll find many unique wooden towns along this route, like the one in Kokkola.
Credits: Juho Kuva

See also

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