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As part of our epic 3 month adventure around Scandinavia, we had just less than 3 weeks to spend in Finland.
Famed as the home to Lapland and, more importantly, Santa Claus, we were very excited to visit!
And with so much time to spare, we planned out a truly epic route, driving from Helsinki to Lapland, taking us from the deep south to the northernmost point at the border with Norway.
Well, it was!
And I’m keen to share with you our exact 3 week Finland road trip itinerary, which can hopefully help you in planning your own route here.
First up ...
Before I get stuck in, I just want to make it clear that, though this route is 95% the one we followed, we did have to alter course slightly to head up into Norway and get more propane gas, before returning to complete the rest of our route.
Also, our visit to Ranua Wildlife Park (on day 11) actually happened a couple weeks later when we returned to Finland with friends.
However, if that hadn't been the case, we would have slotted it in perfectly with where it is located on the route below.
So besides these 2 minor tweaks, the route is exactly the one we followed.
Lasting 18 days, so just shy of 3 weeks, you can easily lengthen some of the days and stop at a few other incredible spots in Finland.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in!
Though it’s the capital city, we didn’t actually spend any time in Helsinki.
Our ferry from Tallinn (Estonia) arrived quite late and there were no sites in Helsinki that we were particularly interested in seeing.
So, we decided to start our journey north and spend the night in the Sipoonkorpi National Park.
The drive isn’t very far, in fact many people visiting Helsinki likely take day trips out here.
We spent our night camping here and in the morning took a nice leisurely walk through the forest.
As the 2nd largest lake in Finland, we were excited to head north here and take our first looks at the famous Finnish Lakeland.
We were not disappointed as this day was one of our most scenic drives in Finland.
From Google Maps, Lake Paijanne looks like hundreds of smaller lakes, because it is broken up by pieces of land all over.
This means that the roads and bridges cross over or next to large stretches of open lake, and the drive really is beautiful.
This night we camped at this spot here.
Oh yeah, before heading north, I recommend taking a detour to the small town of Porvoo.
We spent a few hours roaming the town, enjoying a local cafe and taking in the old wooden storehouses on the river there.
There were no particular towns or attractions on the roads across to Mikeli, but the most enjoyable part of the day was just taking in the surroundings.
As one of my top tips below, I recommend taking the longer, less-trafficked roads when making your way through Finland.
Do exactly that here, and enjoy stopping off at the many picture-perfect spots to grab a few Instagram shots.
Our main reason for heading to Savonlinna was to visit Olavinlinna, a well-maintained 15th century castle.
Located in the middle of a lake, it is a really cool site and is the northernmost stone fortress in the world.
The town of Savonlinna is also very charming, well worth a stroll.
I highly recommend taking the longer route between Mikkeli and Savonlinna, heading down route 62.
This is one of the most famous and popular roads in Finnish Lakeland as it takes you right through Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland.
Much of the road is made up of bridges stretching over the lake, and this was perhaps my favourite day of driving in this part of Finland.
One random spot we stopped off at to walk to was Kummakavi.
This is a large boulder, perched precariously upon another rock below, making for one of the strangest yet most intriguing tourist spots in Finland.
Before saying goodbye to the breathtaking Lake Saimaa, take the longer road east from Savonlinna towards Punkaharju Ridge Area.
It’s one of the best driving routes in Lakeland and well worth heading to.
After this, we headed north to Ukko-Koli, which is a scenic viewpoint located high in the Koli National Park.
Though it was only a few hundred metres higher than the lakes below, this is the first time we encountered snow in Finland.
By the time we reached the winding road up to the visitor centre, it seemed we had entered into a winter wonderland.
It makes sense that this is a popular ski resort, and to get to the viewpoint you actually park up and take a lift up to the base of the ski camp.
It’s then only a short walk to the viewpoint and you can take a number of other walking trails when here.
The views were incredible, and one of the highpoints of our Finland road trip.
There are national parks all over Finland, and the one we ended up in on this day was Tiilikkajärvi.
If you’re touring Finland, then I recommend stopping here as well.
There is a big car park area, and even public toilets to use!
They have a fire pit by the lake and it’s even possible to call up and hire out the sauna there.
It’s also the starting point for a circular trail that goes around the lake.
In the summer months, I imagine this is a really great spot for berry picking and wild lake swimming.
It wouldn’t let me mark the exact spot on Google Maps, but the entrance is just to the right of this point here.
This wasn’t a particularly long day of driving, so we enjoyed a late start, and a lengthy stop off in the small town of Kajaani.
Here, you see the remains of Kajaani Castle; which is little more than a few remaining stone walls.
The road into town passes through the castle remains, so it’s not possible to walk in it.
Still, I really liked this little town, in particular Cafe Mokka, which was a great place to get some work done!
After one too many nights spent wild camping, and in desperate need of a good hot shower, we figured it was time to stay at an official campsite for the night.
However, it’s not easy in October when there are no other campervans around and almost all campsites have shut down for the winter!
Luckily for us, we found ourselves ending near the Kuusamon Portti Hotel, one of the few resorts still open, and who also offered spots for campervans.
If you find yourself passing by this area, then I highly recommend staying here, it was actually one of the highlights of our day!
The couple running it are so friendly and it really is a lovely place to stay.
The other most noteworthy stop of the day was very unexpected!
At the side of the road, here, there is a giant field covered in hundreds of “Silent People”.
The owner of the land has filled the area with rows and rows of wooden people, all dressed in real clothing.
It’s really quite bizarre, and caused us to double take as we passed it by.
Like us, I recommend returning and checking it out up close.
Though this day wasn’t filled with very much distance to cover, we still ended up spending a good few hours driving.
Wel, we headed WELL off the main road and went high up into the mountains, entering a winter wonderland.
If you take the Route 8694 off the E10, it heads up higher into the mountains, and the winding, narrow roads are a lot of fun and the views are great.
If you visit at a similar time to us, then you might also find it covered in snow.
After heading past Juuma (a small town) we found a secluded camping spot at the side of the road well away from other houses, and it was great!
Sure, we were a little concerned about Russian bears and wolverines coming through the forest to eat us, but what’s life without a little excitement?
Oulanka National Park is another beautiful park, well worth visiting if it falls on your route.
But for us, the highlight of this day was a visit to the Salla Reindeer Park, located just south of Salla.
Once again, we were the only visitors, able to take a long walk through the snowy forests where the reindeer live.
They also offer the chance to meet huskies at certain times of the year and have an on-site nature exhibit that was quite cool.
That is, as long as you’re happy to see a range of stuffed animals, including birds, reindeer and lynx.
Rather than heading straight to Rovaniemi from Salla, it’s worth first heading southwest to the Ranua Wildlife Park.
We visited during our second trip into Finland in November, and it was a really unique experience.
Also a lot cheaper than other wildlife parks we’ve been to around the world, despite being home to a really cool array of animals.
For me, I was most excited to see polar bears, and I was not disappointed.
As well as this, they have dozens of other animals such as moose, wolves, reindeer, owls and beavers.
A visit here takes a couple of hours, just remember to wrap up warm as it can get cold out on the trail!
By this point of your time in Finland, you are nicely inside the zone where you have good chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
That’s why, on our first night in Rovaniemi we decided to wild camp in hopes of seeing them.
We ended up camping on the shores of Lake Rukajarvi, at this spot here.
Here, you’ll find toilets, a large car park, a lake to swim in (if you’re that way inclined) and a hut for having fires and cooking food.
It seemed like the perfect place to see the Northern Lights, as you can chill by the fire, warm and cosy whilst keeping a keen eye on the sky.
It turns out we’re not the first to have this idea and it’s actually one of the most popular spots where tour companies come to help people find the Northern Lights!
So, if you are road tripping Lapland, then it’s definitely a great spot to camp for the night.
We also found out that, in the depths of winter when the lake freezes over, it’s a popular ice fishing spot as well.
On our second visit here in November, just 3 weeks after our first, the lake had completely frozen over and we went for a walk out on it!
Rovaniemi is one of the most popular places to visit in Finland, and this is unsurprising as it’s also the capital of Lapland.
Some refer to it as the “gateway to the Arctic Circle”, as it is situated right on the border.
From here, you can go on all kinds of tours and take part in many of Finland's most famous activities.
Such as husky rides, reindeer visits and northern lights tours.
With so many things to do in Rovaniemi, we ended up needing three full days here.
Here’s what we got up to:
This day was spent doing many of the activities listed above.
We also took some time to visit the city itself, which isn’t particularly big, but still a great place to pick up a few bits we needed for the rest of our trip.
We also got some work done at Coffee House Rovaniemi, which I highly recommend visiting.
You get the idea …
If you plan on heading to Rovaniemi in the winter months, you should check out Cazzy’s complete guide to spending Christmas in Lapland.
After staying at two amazing glass igloo hotels, it was time for us to jump back in the camper and head off on the road again.
But not for long, as that night we stayed at yet another igloo, this time Phyan Asteli.
Located a couple hundred kilometres west, we suddenly re-entered snowy Lapland and instantly fell in love with this area!
It’s a popular ski region and thousands flock here every year from late November onwards when the ski season gets underway.
For us, it was virtually empty so we had an incredible night stay, which you can read more about here.
The drive here is really cool as well.
In our quest to see the elusive Northern Lights, we headed even further north, this time up to the Northern Lights Ranch, located just outside the popular city of Levi.
Which is once again one of the best places to visit in Lapland for skiing and a range of other winter activities.
I would 100% recommend checking out the Northern Lights Ranch, as their accommodation is amazing, located far enough outside of Levi to see the Northern Lights without light pollution.
Which we did, whilst chilling in our own private hot tub!
On the way up, we also stopped off at the Lampivaara Amethyst Mine.
It’s a really quirky thing to do, offering you the chance to dig out your own amethysts, in the traditional way they have been doing it here for generations.
You even get to keep one amethyst to take home, so long as it fits within your fist.
Read more about our experience at the Amethsyt Mine in Finland here.
At this point in our trip, we actually had to make a 2 day detour all the way north to Alta (in Norway) to refill our propane gas tanks.
It turns out you can only refill Finnish LPG tanks in Finland, and we had just run out!
Our route cut back into Finland to Lake Inari, but it’s much easier just to drive straight between the two.
It turns out that Inari is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Northern Lapland as it offers some great opportunities for seeing the Northern Lights.
That night, we camped in a car park and walked to a fire pit (located here), just over a wonderful bridge with rapids flowing below.
With snow falling all around, we roasted sausages and ate them with sinappi mustard, in true Finnish tradition.
This was one of my top 3 wild camping spots, and it turns out this is another of the really popular spots to see the Northern Lights in Finland.
Whilst there, a few tour vans came in the night and parked up next to us, walking down to the fire pit to change their luck at seeing the Auroras.
The final day of our Finland itinerary took us north, along the shores of the massive Lake Inari (the third biggest lake in Finland) all the way across the border and up into Kirkenes.
There are lots of great photos pots to stop off at along the way and if you look at a map, the roads are surrounded on all sides by either lake or different national parks; a great way to end your road trip in Finland.
As it’s such a big country, there are plenty of things to do in Finland, that we never got the chance to experience.
Based on our research, here’s a few added places in Finland we would love to visit, and will hope to do next time we return …
If you’ve visited Finland and have any places to recommend, let us know in the comments below so we can bookmark them for the future.
One issue we never anticipated in Finland was running out of gas.
Typically, you can visit an LPG station in most countries in Europe and they will be able to refill your containers.
Yes, many countries use different taps to fill the tanks so you should have adaptors for yours, however, this is not the case in Finland.
After lots of digging around, it turns out that Finnish gas stations only let you refill propane gas tanks if they are Finnish tanks.
It took a stupidly long amount of time for someone to tell us this, and anyway, the last thing you want is to run out of gas in northern Finland, especially if winter is fast approaching!
With nighttime temperatures of - 25 degrees Celisus, you need gas to warm your caravan.
In order to get some, we had to alter our route and head north from Levi into Alta (Norway) and then cut back down again to continue our Finnish road trip.
So, as a word of warning, have enough gas to last for your expected time in Finland.
Otherwise, the only alternative is to buy a Finnish tank of gas which costs more than 100 Euros.
Without a doubt, one of the best parts of our entire road trip in Finland was the ability to wild camp.
Just like Sweden and Norway, Finland has the Right To Roam in their constitution which permits wild camping, as long as you follow a few key guidelines.
What’s great is all across Finland they have hundreds of purpose built camping spots, most with fires, toilets and chopped, dry wood.
Not only will wild camping save you a lot of money, it means you get to spend your nights sat round a campfire, enjoying the incredible surroundings and, hopefully, the Northern Lights.
Compared to many European countries, Finland doesn’t actually have any major, multi-lane motorways.
Meaning, you are always pretty close to nature and able to enjoy spectacular beauty right at the side of the road.
However, instead of always following the quickest route north (or south), I recommend taking the smaller, more winding roads.
These will oftentimes take you through truly dramatic landscapes where few other cars are.
Or 3 week Finland road trip took place in the middle of October, which is firmly off-peak.
For our entire drive north from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, we only saw perhaps 2 or 3 other campervans on the road, and they were all headed south.
Better yet, not once did we stay in a wild camping spot and have any other campervans there, it was just us.
It was like we had the whole country to ourselves and it was incredible.
It also meant that there was very little traffic anywhere, so we had long leisurely drives everyday without traffic and without the need to feel like we had to reach a destination early.
The only issue you may face is that some attractions will be closed, and also that very few campsites are available.
That being said, we still found a few campsites, and scheduled to stay in one every 3 or 5 nights, depending on whether we needed access to any shower or charging facilities.
Oh yes, and make sure that, if you do plan to visit Finland in winter, that you have proper winter tyres! These are a must, especially when driving in Lapland if the snow comes earlier than expected, which it did in 2019 for us.
One of the most dangerous times to drive in Finland is once the sun starts setting, because this is when moose come out to start feeding.
Most main roads in Finland aren’t lit by lights, so you might not see a moose until the last second when it’s too late.
Besides this, it can get very cold in Finland once the sun goes in, especially if you are up north in late autumn/winter time.
Meaning the roads can get icier and far more dangerous.
Personally, I never really liked driving at this time and always avoided it; much preferring to spend time unwinding by a campfire!
I hope you can tell from this that we really did love Finland.
I particularly love how diverse it is, where in the southwest the landscape is covered in gorgeous lakes and forests and in the north you are greeted by snowy Lapland and Northern Lights.
Of course, much of the latter two points will depend on which time of the year you visit!
If you have any other tips for road tripping Finland or think I missed off any great Finnish destinations or attractions, just leave a comment below.
For more help planning your own Finland road trip itinerary, here are some useful guides we published: