The route to Finland begins from the North. Why? Easy. Because you cannot talk about Finland without putting it into Scandinavia so inside a complete route.
Of course, as we have already explained, it’s not a short route and it’s not even a cheap route. But it’s a complete route so you can fit it according your needs and the period. Of course, you can follow it backwards.
If you are planning the journey following my tips, you are going to arrive from Norway, you got off the Hurtigruten and you are at Kirkenes, a town in the northernmost of Norway overlooking the Barents Sea (once it belonged to Russia).
Do you know Finland in the North has no access to the sea, don’t you? Not everybody thinks about this, but Norway and Russia border each other preventing Finland to access the sea.
Now you have two possibilities: you can hire a car or you can use the public means.
If you choose the car, you can also go back a bit towards Cape North: I made skip you this stage before onboard Hurtigruten since the excursion is really expensive. So you can discover it calmly and alone.
Anyway my tip is to really skip it. In Summer it’s a place full of tourists and admittance is very expensive. Instead in Winter is a deserted place, so free, but the visitors centre is closed. To me it’s most charming in Winter.
If you opt for the public means it exists a very good bus line linking Kirkenes to Rovaniemi. From there on, a full and efficient railway line will allow you to reach Helsinki and from here or from other southern places, you can leave again towards Italy.
It’s useless to say the best way is the car because it allows you to move alone freely even if it’s not cheap.
In this case you can save moving by public means and once reached the destination you are interested in, you can go around there by the hiring car to avoid hiring the car in a place and then leave it in another one, since it will cost you more.
The Finnish Lapland is charming in all seasons but I prefer it in Winter. Don’t worry about the roads conditions.
Services are very efficient and it will be enough to adjust the speed for not having troubles (in Winter is advisable to hire a 4×4 car).
Also Autumn is charming for the thousands colours of the Finnish woods: they are made of all sorts of plants so in this season they take all shades of red and yellow.
The foliage is really magic. But remember it starts very early compared to our season.
Explore calmly the Lapland, do trekking, sail the lakes, try to drive a sleight drawn by dogs (it’s very easy), and go and have a safari by snow mobile by night, on the frontier with Russia, trying to take some pictures of the bear. You can’t miss it!
Only this emotion it worth the journey. Did I already tell you about when I sighted the bear in Florida, didn’t I?
Levi is practically the capital of winter sports. It will be very beautiful trying to go down the tracks at -30 degrees while a lot of people are snowploughing on those “panettoni” which have nothing in common with our Alps.
Even I seemed a good skier!
Rovaniemi and the Santa Claus Village deserves a quite different story.
It’s the most tourist (and the most expensive) place in the world but you have to pass by here maybe without stopping too much.
A walking in the depths of Winter by night is a spectacle to enjoy the atmosphere without tourists. Choose Levi or other places to do any Winter activity: you will find them more real and cheaper.
Then go down through the area of the great lakes, which you can admire from the top by the Kuopio Tower, going up in a beautiful sunny day.
But here the best is Summer when the look sweeps the blue of the sky reflecting on the waters.
In Winter it’s very distinctive since lakes are white expanses melt with the sky.
Of course, you can’t miss the sauna with the consequently dive into the snow.
The best is the smoke sauna near there, always in Kuopio and the dive into the frozen lake. Have a look on the website for days and times.
Whether you decide to do cross-country skis, trekking, to walk on the frozen lakes, to try fishing, to visit the Ice Hotels or to try the icebreaker Sampo (very beautiful experience but with a crazy amount), you will fall in love with Finland.
Do you want to go onboard an icebreaker? The Viking Line linking Stockholm to Turku or Helsinki is what you need.
Go to the boarding, pay and go onboard (with the car, too) to get the best price.
The creaking of ice breaking when the icebreaker passes in the arctic night, to form again immediately after due to the very rigorous temperatures, it’s as exciting as watching the Northern Lights.
Helsinki needs no presentations. Perhaps it’s the capital with the northernmost flavour in the whole Scandinavia.
Admire its white gothic cathedral or the orthodox cathedral, but above all don’t miss the fish market in any season.
It’s not as tourist as that one in Bergen and prices here in Finland are definitely more affordable than in the whole Scandinavia, even thanks to Euro.
Eating at the fish market is a riot of senses. You will find cooked and raw fish, fish to cook and also already seasoned fish, and really many in a vacuum versions. Bring it at your home and freeze it to taste the North for really many time!
From Helsinki you can come back to Italy by plane or go on towards Stockholm by the Viking Line.
By the way, see you on the next route for this!