Finland is a beautiful country for a road trip! Based on my experience and extensive research of Finland, I’ve created a few travel routes for those looking to explore the country via car.
Note: Public transportation in Finland is excellent! The buses are very reliable and can take you to all of these areas with ease. There are also trains and ferries. It is not essential to rent a car if you’re looking to plan a trip on a budget. Car rentals and fuel costs in Finland are high.
Lakeland Route (~7 nights):
- Helsinki: The Lakeland route begins right a flight into Helsinki. I recommend spending at least two days in Helsinki at either the front or back end of this trip, though you could easily spend a week there.
- Porvoo: From Helsinki, rent a car in the morning and head to Porvoo, a cute rustic village with a quaint old town area with historic wooden buildings, a beautiful river cutting through town, cafes, and artisan shops. Porvoo is the perfect stop to enjoy a meal and wander around for a few hours on your way into Lakeland.
- Lappeenranta: From Porvoo, head to Lappeenranta located on Lake Saimaa. This is the largest lake in Finland. I stayed in an AirBnB apartment while I was in Lappeenranta. You may also want to consider renting a cottage on Lake Saimaa in a nearby town. From Lappeenranta, there are steam boat cruises and ferries that will take you to other towns on the lake including Savonlinna and Kuopio. St. Petersburg, Russia is very close and an trip from Lappeenranta. Note: If you choose to explore Lakeland via ferry from Lappeenranta, it may make more sense to take the bus versus renting a car. Plan to spend at least two days here.
- Savonlinna: Savonlinna is a picturesque Finnish town situated on islands between two lakes with a large castle built on its shores. You can travel here via car or steam ferry. This makes a great day trip.
- Mikkeli: I chose to rent a cottage on a very private and quiet lake in Juva near Mikkeli for two nights. This is a great area for relaxation, sauna, swimming, and canoeing. Mikkeli has may beautiful manor houses and design villas to view.
- KUOPIO: A beautiful lakeside town. The big draw is the public smoke sauna, one of the few public smoke saunas in Lakeland.
- HÄMEENLINNA: Hämeenlinna offers two impressive castles to explore, large park including botanical gardens, galleries and museums, including the enchanting Iittala Glass Museum.
- TAMPERE: This is one of Finland’s major cities with a rich industrial history which has been transformed for modern urban purposes with renovated warehouses and beautiful lakes and rivers. A must see is the indoor marketplace and public saunas.
- JOENSUU: This is the capital of the North Carelia region and home to numerous festivals and cultural events including the Ilosaarirock festival.
For more information on Lakeland, see my post on Exploring Finnish Lakeland.
Archipelago Route (~7-9 nights):
- Helsinki: As with the Lakeland route, plan to spend at least two days exploring Helsinki at either the front or back end of your road trip.
- Fiskars: Plan to leave Helsinki in the early morning and head to Fiskars. This is a small artist community with plenty of hand made goods including cast iron and pewter products, artwork, and jewelry. This is a great stop for breakfast and coffee at Cafe Antique.
- Hanko: Hanko is a popular summer destination with its beaches and harbor. There are many shops and boutiques to explore while here. This is a great place to spend the night, or if you’re ambitious, head on to Turku.
- Turku: Turku is the oldest city in Finland and absolutely stunning. Built right a long a river, the city has stunning waterfront architecture, a park, and multiple restaurants with outdoor seating. The Turku Castle and Cathedral are also worth visiting. It’s worth spending a day or two here to explore the city and enjoy the food.
- Rauma: Rauma is an interesting city with a quaint Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage site) with historic wooden buildings. You may here more Swedish here than Finnish. Plan to spend a night here.
- Pori: Pori is another quaint wooden town worth checking out and exploring. It’s also a great stop for lunch while heading to Tampere.
- Tampere: Technically part of the Lakeland region, this makes a great stop en route back to Helsinki. This is one of Finland’s major cities with a rich industrial history which has been transformed for modern urban purposes with renovated warehouses and beautiful lakes and rivers. A must see is the indoor marketplace and public saunas.
- Hameenlinna: Also part of Lakeland, Hämeenlinna offers two impressive castles to explore, large park including botanical gardens, galleries and museums, including the enchanting Iittala Glass Museum.
- ÅLAND ISLANDS: Off the coast of Western Finland, there are 6,500 Swedish islands. Mariehamn is the only city located on the islands and is a cute village-like town with strong maritime ties.
- Kotka and Hamina: Kotka is a great town for outdoor lovers as there is extensive activities such as sailing, white water rafting, and nature excursions. Hamina is home to a star-shaped fortresses and similar to Rauma, has a lovely area of historic, wooden structures.
- Vaasa: Beautiful seaside town, Vaasa is known for the Kvarken Arhipelago Unesco World Heritage Site and Old Vaasa.