What a treat! Touring the Nordic area above the arctic circle is a treat indeed, a world of its own.
Covid-19 this year dictated the direction (i.e. north). Besides, I really enjoy the vast open areas, free roaming reindeer and friendly people in the Finnish Lapland and the equally friendly Norwegians, and their mountainous coastline with bare fell areas.
Must also mention the great food, which you have available everywhere. Reindeer stew prepared the traditional way plus reindeer in many forms, salmon and the latest addition, king crab. Nowhere has king crab tasted better than in Honninsvåg at Nordkapp.
On your way north, a must is the white wish captured from the Kukkolankoski rapids of Tornio river, the largest free flowing river in Europe. This is just north of Tornio. There are several places for this white fish flamed on open fire but if you get off the main road and do not stop at the first tourist trap but continue a few hundred meters, you come to the traditional trap(?) with a statue of a river logger just outside.
How to get there
When heading north, Oulu is a good starting place. A lively university town a long day’s ride from Helsinki. But first you need to get there! My recommended route from Helsinki would be Helsinki – Tampere – Virrat – Kuortane – Vimpeli – Kaustinen – Ylivieska – Oulu. This avoids many of the bigger arteries, crossing the scenic country side and has no fixed speed traps either.
If you have more time to explore, particularly if you come through Turku, the coastal route is also a nice alternative but more heavy with traffic.
When going up on the western route, it is worth exploring the lake district of the eastern Finland as well on your way down. You can choose between the tranquility of the lake area or party at a harbour market of any town. Lappeenranta, Kuopio, Savonlinna to name a few… Plenty of culture, lake cruises, etc available as well.
Very North in under Nine Minutes
The video below takes you along our route. You will see what the roads are like and the scenery along the way. It answers many question regarding riding in the very north.
Nordkapp aka North Cape
On most rider’s bucket list. Fantastic scenery on the way getting there, does not matter which way you come. Often covered in thick fog but if you are lucky, the scene takes your breath away. I have been lucky enough to be there in the thickest fog and in complete clear and calm weather at midnight with the sun shining high!
A fishing town at Nordkapp where we stayed for a night. Great place, great King Crab, great pubs!
Teno runs along the northern border between Finland and Norway. It is a legendary river for salmon fishing.
Nuorgam is the northernmost point in the EU.
To book or not?
It is a good idea to do a bit of pre-ride planning and to book your accommodation beforehand for the busiest time/places.
Kilpisjärvi can be busy (limited number of beds) unless you carry a tent. Saana at Kilpisjärvi is a fell in the Finnish lapland with a distinctive shape that all Finns know.
Ski resorts have a lot of room in the summer, reasonable prices and quality accommodation.
Also try to find reindeer farms or other similar accommodations. For one, I can recommend Toni Sanila reindeer farm at Näätämö in eastern Lapland.
The places we stayed at
- Lapland hotel Oulu
- Lapland hotel Sirkantähti Levi Ski Resort
- Kilpisjärven retkeilykeskus – Holiday village and camping
- Altafjord Gjestegaard Alta
- Scandic Bryggen at Honningsvåg
- Kalastajamajatalo Guossi (Karigasniemi)
- Reindeer farm Sanila (Näätämö)
- Santa’s hotel Tunturi (Saariselkä)
- Scandic Rukahovi (Ruka-Kuusamo)
- Lapland hotel Kuopio
Deer roam free in Lapland and often walk to roads and villages. You WILL see many! Be careful, they do not really avoid anyone. Loud pipes do not really make a difference.
Heading to Vesisaari, riding the norther coast of Varanger in clear sunshine the green fields were really bright green and the fjord clear blue. Later on the southern side the scenery was very different and almost bare rock.
At Hossa, near Suomussalmi you can not pass this artwork without noticing. Great place for a break and have real unfiltered coffee made on an open fire and some pancakes freshly made to order.
Lake area in the south
From here south, you will be entering eastern lake area. Great for a tour of its own! Kuopio, Savonlinna, Lappeenranta and numerous smaller towns on lakes. Enjoy your ride!