The easiest way to get to Finland is to fly to Helsinki, the capital. For the rest of your journey, you might want to rent a car at the airport. This way, you’ll be able to explore the countryside at your own pace, and you won’t have to rely on public transport to tour the vastness of the country.
Your first destination is in the southwest of the country, about four hours away from Helsinki. Lake Saimaa is the largest lake in Finland and the fourth-largest freshwater lake in Europe, and will show you that Finland really is all about nature. The biggest cities nearby are Lappeenranta, Savonlinna and Mikkeli. There isn’t much to see here, so let’s just skip ahead to the lake. There, you’ll have endless possibilities for outdoor activities – how about a canoe trip or a trip on a fishing boat? If you decide to go on a hike, you can visit the castle Olavinlinna, which is one of the last three remaining castles in the country.
To spend the night, you can visit one of the small towns along the lake. You can get a bed in a dorm for €22 a night at one of the local hostels.
Koli National Park
You’ll reach Koli National Park after a four-hour drive north of Saimaa. The national park is located by Lake Pielinen and is one of the most popular destinations in the country. The park was established in 1991 to ensure that the incredible local flora and fauna remain as untouched as possible. Countless hiking routes lead through the park, and there's one for every skill level. The highlight is the highest point of the park, called Ukko-Koli. From here you have a breathtaking view over the lush green landscape and the foothills of Lake Pielinen. The trail takes you past waterfalls, sand beaches, and rugged caves. You will never be bored! In spring and summer, you can also explore the park on horseback, which is the perfect option if your feet start to hurt.
You’ll have the opportunity to stay at one of the hostels located in the national park. A bed in a dorm costs €33 a night.
What would a trip to Finland be without visiting Santa's official home? Exactly... That's why we're going on a six-hour drive north to Rovaniemi, Santa’s house.
Rovaniemi is located directly on the Arctic Circle. During summer, there’s one day when the sun doesn’t set at all, and in winter, it stays dark for a few days straight!
You can meet Santa Claus all year round. After all, he’s busy preparing to hand out presents! This will be the perfect opportunity for you to personally give him your wish list. The official Santa Claus Village is only about 10 kilometers from Rovaniemi. The town naturally lives from tourism, so you’ll find reindeer and dog sleds. Talk about exploring the area Christmas style!
Accommodation is unfortunately pretty expensive. You can get a bed in a 10-person dorm in one of the local hostels for €29 a night.
Next, we’re going all the way up to the north of the country. It takes about two hours by car to get to Levi, the largest ski resort in the country. There’s little traffic and the landscape is stunning, which will make for an interesting drive.
Levi is perfect for winter tourism. There are countless restaurants, bars, and accommodation facilities. You’ll have a great time, even if you don’t like skiing or need a day off. Alternatively, you can climb the mountains with snowshoes or on a ski tour.
Levi has hosted a World Cup slalom race every year since 2004. With a bit of planning, it might coincide with your trip, so you can watch the pros whizz down the slopes. Make sure to dress well, because Levi has the lowest temperatures in Finland with -51 °C.
You can stay the night at one of the several apartments on site. You’ll get your own place for €59 a night.
You thought we couldn’t go any further north? Think again. If you go north for another three hours, you’ll reach Lapland.
The municipality of Inari is located at the center of Lapland, and you could not be deeper in the wilderness than here. There’s a wide range of sports activities where you can experience the unique nature up close. You can canoe and fish at Lake Inarijärvi, and if you want to go hiking in the region, make sure to go in groups, as there are bears, wolves, and moose living in the woods. But the definite highlight is of course the northern lights, which you can often see in winter.
If you want to take it easy, you can get familiar with Sami culture here. There’s a museum about the Sami people in the town center, where you can buy typical Sami handicrafts and get to know the traditional cuisine in the restaurants.
You can stay overnight in one of the hotels on-site. You can get a double room for €36 a night.
You’ll have to go on a long drive again to get out of Lapland. It is best to stop in Rovaniemi on the way south. From Rovaniemi, it takes about 8 hours to reach Tampere in the southern part of Finland.
The former workers' town has developed into a charming student town. After a few days in nature, the small streets of the town with their brick houses are a welcome change. The colorful mixture of friendly restaurants, small shops, cultural spots, and friendly locals will make you want to stay for a few days. In the Museum of Natural History, you can find out about the Finnish Civil War, and the Tampere Cathedral and its bloody frescoes will tell you all about Finland’s harsh times.
Staying in one of the hostels in the city center will be a great opportunity to explore Tampere on your own. You can get a bed in a 10-person dorm for about €28 a night.
The last stop on your journey is relatively close-by. After 2 hours of driving south, you’ll finally reach Turku.
Turku is a very special sight, as it’s the only medieval city in Finland. You’ll feel like you’re walking in a western European city when exploring the city center! The cobblestone streets lead to a large marketplace with a cathedral. You’ll get a fantastic view from the castle above the city.
The river Aurajoki, which flows through the middle of the city, is also its lifeline. On warm days, everyone is drawn to the banks of the river to enjoy a coffee in the sun. The perfect end to an eventful trip.
You can stay in one of Turku’s hostels for the night. You’ll get a double room for €41 a night. It’s a two-hour drive to go back to Helsinki’s airport.