Finland in ten days by car

This article is an itinerary.


Finland in ten days by car is a suggested route showing some of the most important sights in Finland. See the article on Finland for more information.

Understand

Compared to other European countries in general, Finland is quite sparsely populated, especially in the north. There are bus and rail links between major cities, but if you want to see the countryside the best way is definitely driving. The best time to do this journey is in the summer. During the winter many attractions are closed and driving is more uncomfortable due to snow and ice.

Prepare

See also the main article

As always when taking a longer car trip, make sure your car is in a decent condition; an engine breakdown is never a pleasant surprise and definitely not when you're far away from home. Be mentally prepared to sit in the car for some 2500 kilometers in 10 days and do bring a good map.

Get in

The starting point for this itinerary is Helsinki, where most international travelers arrive. There are car ferries from Stockholm and Tallinn and roro-ships from Travemünde, Rostock and Gdynia. Getting from Central Europe to Finland by car takes some 3-4 days/way driving calmly but without any major stops. From Southern Europe, one week/way is a quite good rule of thumb. If arriving from Russia, drive along motorway 7 to Helsinki. If you are from the surrounding countries or Europe it is probable that you have your own car. If arriving by plane there are many possibilities to rent a car at the airport or elsewhere as many of the major car rental agencies such as Europcar and Hertz are present in Finland.

Drive

One useful word to know is keskusta which means downtown or city center and can be found on most road junctions near the city center. In some major cities the Swedish centrum or even the British English centre are occasionally to be seen - these are obviously easier to understand for international visitors.

Day 1 - Up the ridge

Olavinlinna Castle, Savonlinna

Helsinki-Porvoo-Lappeenranta-Imatra-Punkaharju-Kerimäki-Savonlinna 392 km

Start from   Helsinki. in the morning. Drive along 7 E18 towards   Porvoo. , see Porvoo's Old Town and continue east along road 6 towards Kouvola and Lappeenranta. From   Kouvola. the road will follow the Salpausselkä ridge dividing Finland's coastal and inland regions. In   Imatra. there are the Imatra rapids, the very first "tourist attraction" in Finland, visited by the Russian Czar, among others. Continue towards Joensuu until Parikkala,   turn left. and drive along road 14 towards Savonlinna. You will cross the   Punkaharju. ridges that are also known as the "national landscape" of Finland. Before you arrive at Savonlinna you can take a short side trip to   Kerimäki. and see the world's largest wooden church. The main sight of   Savonlinna. is the medieval castle Olavinlinna hosting an opera festival each summer.

Day 2 - Land of a thousand lakes

Savonlinna-Heinävesi-Joensuu-Koli National Park-Lieksa-Nurmes 293 km

On the morning you will drive on smaller roads, don't get lost! From the   eastern edge of Savonlinna. , take road 471 north up to Enonkoski and continue towards Heinävesi. A   sound. is crossed by cable ferry. Continue along 471 until the road ends, and   turn right. towards Joensuu along 476. After 12 kilometers   turn left. towards Sarvikumpu along 477. When you come to road 23,   turn left. towards Varkaus. After 15 kilometers   turn right. towards Uusi Valamo.   New Valamo. is a beautiful orthodox monastery, built in the 1940's after the original Valamo monastery situated on an island in lake Ladoga after Karelia was conquested by the Soviet Union. After the visit to New Valamo, drive back to road 23 and drive to   Joensuu. for lunch. If you are interested in Karelian culture, visit the Carelicum museum. Another point of interest is the bunker museum. Continue towards Kajaani along road 6 and turn right to   Koli. . Drive to Koli and walk up to the top of Mt. Koli for great views. Take the ferry over Lake Pielinen to   Lieksa. and drive to   Nurmes. .

Day 3 - Crossing the true wolf border

Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle just north of Rovaniemi

Nurmes-Kajaani-Ranua-Rovaniemi 448 km

The trip continues further north along road 6 to   Kajaani. , where you can walk around the ruins of Kajaani fortress. Take road 5 E63 northbound towards Kuusamo, and   turn left. along national road 22 towards Oulu and Rovaniemi. At Paltamo,   turn right. along 78 towards Rovaniemi. You will now drive through 300 kilometers of virtually nothing but forest. Do look out for reindeer - while they are not as heavy as elks, you still don't want to crash into them. Moreover they are not wild animals but livestock, therefore if you crash into a reindeer you may have to pay compensation to the owner.   Ranua. , the last village before Rovaniemi has the northernmost zoo in the world where you can see Finnish and arctic wildlife like lynx, wolverines and ice bears. Arrive in   Rovaniemi. in the evening.

Day 4 - Here comes Santa Claus

Rovaniemi

Spend the day in Rovaniemi and don't forget the Santa Claus village at the Arctic Circle. Rovaniemi is a good starting point for Finnish Lapland if you want to extend your trip.

Day 5 - Return to the coast

Rovaniemi-Tornio-Hailuoto-Oulu 360 km

Take road 4 E75 southbound towards Kemi. 33 kilometers before Kemi,   take road 927. towards Vojakkala and Arpela. This road will end at   Tornio river. . Drive 5 kilometers north towards Kilpisjärvi and see the   Kukkolankoski rapids. . Not comparable to Niagara Falls, and not steep at all but still quite wide and long. A great place for picnic if it isn't raining. You can eat some salmon soup in a little cafeteria. Drive down to   Tornio. and make a quick visit to Haparanda, Sweden if you want. Arrive at   Oulu. in the early afternoon. You can walk around the city and look at the buildings from the late 19th century. Alternatively you can take a trip to Hailuoto, the largest island of the Gulf of Bothnia. Drive past the city center along 4 E75 to   exit no. 6. and follow the signs to Hailuoto. The   cable ferry. departs each half hour and is free.

Day 6 - Ostrobothnia

Replot Bridge

Oulu-Jakobstad-Kvarken Archipelago-Vaasa 376 km

Continue down along the coast towards Kokkola along 8 E8. If it is summer and you feel like swimming, stop at   Kalajoki. and drive to the sand beach (Hiekkasärkät). Sand beaches a little more than 200 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle! Drive past Kokkola and stop at the bilingual (Swedish/Finnish) city   Jakobstad/Pietarsaari. and see the Old Town and the sail ship Jacobstads Wapen. Continue south to Vasa, but before arriving in the city,   turn off. towards Pori and Tampere, turn towards Replot/Raippaluoto in the roundabout and drive across Finland's largest bridge to the   island. . The island is part of the Kvarken archipelago, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Spend the evening in   Vaasa. .

Day 7 - Plains and mustamakkara

Vaasa-Tampere 242 km

Drive straight down along road 3 E12 to Finland's second most populous town,   Tampere. . In Ostrobothnia the landscape is flat with large fields, and when arriving in the Pirkanmaa region the landscape turns back to the usual forest. Tampere boasts interesting museums, Tammerkoski rapids in the center of the town, Northern Europe's highest observation tower and one of the most popular amusement parks in Finland, Särkänniemi. Don't forget the infamous local delicacy mustamakkara (blood sausage).

Day 8 - Pieces of history

Wooden houses in Old Rauma

Tampere-Rauma-Naantali-Turku 261 km

Continue west along road 12 to Rauma, whose Wooden Old Town is an UNESCO world heritage site. On the way to Rauma you will drive by   Lake Köyliö. where, according to the legend, Bishop Henry who brought Christendom to Finland, was murdered in the year 1156. Then there is another UNESCO site, the bronze age burial site in   Sammallahdenmäki. . From   Rauma. , continue south along 8 E8. At Raisio, just before Turku,   turn off. to   Naantali. (follow the signs) to see the president's summer residence and if there are kids traveling with you, go to Muumimaailma theme park. Spend the night in   Turku. .

Day 9 - Capital to capital

Helsinki cathedral

Turku-Helsinki 166 km

Turku, Finland's oldest city, capital until 1812, and today Finland's third largest city hosts at two of Finland's main sights; Turku Castle and Cathedral. Three fourths of the city burned down in the Great Fire of 1827, so many of the buildings in today's Turku date from the 19th century. Close the circle by heading back to   Helsinki. in the evening. Turku is also a good base if you wish to extend your trip and explore the remarkable archipelago around Turku.

Day 10 - The daughter of the Baltic

Helsinki

Of course the capital shouldn't be forgotten. Take a seaside stroll, choose among the other Helsinki itineraries or just pick some interesting places from the Helsinki article.

Stay safe

Moose warning road sign

Finland is a quite safe country even by European standards and even more so in rural areas, the basic precautions are always good to remember. When driving outside built-up areas look up for wild animals crossing the road. Crashing into a 500 kg heavy moose with highway speed can have fatal consequences!

Go next

From Helsinki one can get out the same ways as one arrived. If returning through Sweden you could take the ferry from Turku instead, saving some money and driving.

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