Pre- and Post-race Itineraries for RacingThePlanet: Lapland!
If you haven’t experienced the Nordic summer, it’s a good idea to extend your travels in Finland to enjoy the greenest and freshest summer there is, our vast outdoors and the purest air, some of our 200,000 lakes, fun festivals and events, and perhaps some relaxation in your own summer cottage after the race! You can also stop by in the neighbouring countries while you are in this part of the world. I have put together some itineraries and ideas for your travel planning.
To get around, take a look at the race itinerary page for information on flights, trains, buses and car rentals. The train is a handy way to explore the country but if you really want the freedom to see places, renting a car is a great option. If you don’t have a drivers licence you can leave a message on the RacingThePlanet Community site for other racers – there may well be people who want to travel together.
Accommodation in Finland ranges from hotels to cottages - I recommend staying in some of the smaller boutique hotels, countryside bed and breakfasts, or even book your own summer cottage with a lake side sauna on Airbnb or at Go Finland website. There are thousands all around the country. There are also hundreds of full service camping sites around the country where you can stay in a cabin or tent. These can be great options when you are on the move.
The Capital of Helsinki: 1-2 days (or as long as you like).
Helsinki is one of the greenest capitals in the world. It holds some of the world's highest standards of urban living but provides a great combo of modern design, history, urban and outdoors, lively and laid-back lifestyle. Bike rentals are available everywhere in the city and the seaside is right there for you to explore. You can take a ferry to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of ‘Suomenlinna’ (meaning ‘fortress of Finland’), stroll in many of the beautiful parks, and have an afternoon or evening sauna by the sea at Löyly or Allas Seapool sauna centres, for example.
Below are some easy trips to combine with a yisit to Helsinki.
Old Porvoo & Fiskars – 1 day (or half a day each)
The charming old wooden town of Porvoo and the artsy Fiskars make a nice stroll for a day. Worth a visit if you want to take a quick look outside Helsinki. Read more here.
Moomin World – 1 day
Just one of the many theme parks in Finland, some of you may be attracted to visit Moomin World in Naantali 😊
Tallinn Old Town (Estonia): 1 day or more
The ferry to Tallinn takes just over 2 hours. The ferry ride itself on a summer day is a treat, not to mention visiting the historical old trading town of Tallinn (in the capital of Estonia). Remember to check if you need a tourist visa to visit Estonia. You can easily spend more time on this trip but you can explore much of the old town in one day.
Stockholm by Ferry: 2 days
Alternatively, you can visit the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, by ferry. For this trip, it’s good to reserve at least a couple of days.
Visit the Archipelago of the Baltic Sea: 3-4 days
The old capital of Finland, Turku, is a gateway to the archipelago with its 20,000 islands. It’s only an hour’s train ride or drive from Helsinki. Cycling or driving around the archipelago and its idyllic countryside is one of the best experiences! You can complete the entire Archipelago Trail by bike in 3-4 days. You can rent bikes in Turku as well as on some of the islands. The islands are connected by ferries and you can also hop on a sailing boat or cruise boat while exploring. An easier way to visit the islands is by car but if you do this, note to book the ferries in advance. The archipelago route goes through the islands of Parainen, Nauvo, Korppoo, Houtskär, Iniö and Kustavi but you can also shorten the route. If you have more time, you can also include Åland, the largest of the islands between Finland and Sweden.
CENTRAL - EAST
Visit the Lakeland
The Lakeland of Finland extends from the southern central to southeast of the country. You can’t go wrong by visiting the Lake Saimaa area and medieval castle of Olavinlinna, located in the town of Savonlinna. If you head there, make sure you visit Punkaharju, and take a steam boat cruise on Lake Saimaa. You can stay at boutique-style hotels like Saima or Lossinranta next to the castle. When you cycle or drive around the stunning, sandy lakeside of Punkaharju, Hotel Punkaharju is worth a stay or at least a lunch stop.
You can also explore the area further by bike. Cycling anywhere is easy and beautiful but the Puumala Archipelago Trail by bike is a treat! The lovely ferry crossings and quint farm side B&B stays make it a lovely trip. I recommend taking 2-3 days so you have time to explore and enjoy the scenery on the way. You can also review these tour options for Savonlinna and Puumala.
Alvar Aalto’s Jyväskylä, the town of Tampere and Kuopio
Also located in Lakeland, these are lovely towns to visit even for a couple of hours. Located by the biggest lakes in Finland, they don’t lack in scenery. Jyväskylä and Tampere are known for the industrial red brick buildings that have been transformed into modern use, and in Jyväskylä you can see the work of the world-famous architect Alvar Aalto and visit his home. Kuopio is known for its summer market, old town quarters and some of the most beautiful modern lake-side houses. You can also take refreshing boat trips, rent kayaks or bikes in all of these towns.
LAPLAND & NORTH
RacingThePlanet: Lapland takes place in western Lapland near the Swedish border but Lapland is a vast area that you can explore much more. The best way to do this is by renting a car but you can also inquire about tailor-made tours where transport is included. You can head to Kilpisjärvi, surrounded by the wilderness on the west border with Norway, or similarly to Utsjoki, the northernmost county of Finland, by driving the scenic route through the sports resort town of Saariselkä and then on through Ivalo and the Sámi town of Inari. If you keep going, you will reach the border with Norway and you can drive all the way to Nordkapp! All the above areas are the homelands of the indigenous Sámi people.
If you are into more real stuff than the Moomin, then consider signing up for a wildlife safari where you learn more about bears, wolves and the Nordic wildlife or visit the famous Predator Centre in Kuusamo. Kuusamo has some of the iconic landscape, a number of National Parks with gorgeous hiking trails and relaxing spas so it's a worthy visit on its own.
HEAD WEST > Norway & Lofoten: 1-2 weeks (driving time from Levi: 9 hours)
If you would like to see more mountains, why not head west? Lofoten in Norway is a bucket list item itself and the Tromso area and Senja island is actually just as stunning! From Levi, where the event ends, it’s less than an hour to the Swedish border. Keep driving west across Swedish Lapland and the historical mining town of Kiruna, and in four hours you are in Abisko, a chilled, tiny hiking town known for the Kungsleden trail. This is also a great area to hike a bit more. From Abisko, it’s only an hour to Narvik, the coastal town in northern Norway which is a gateway to the Lofoten islands. If you prefer to head to the Tromso area, you can access it this way, or via Kilpisjärvi.
Finland has 41 stunning national parks where you can camp, hike, kayak and mountain bike, and the trails are generally well-marked. There are also a number of wilderness areas that are accessible to tourists (but get local advice and make sure you can orienteer before you go). Our well-maintained trail network with regular access to refuge shelters and huts guarantees you can go on for days! Mountain biking is best to do with a full suspension bike and those can be rented in many locations, also in Lapland.
Don’t forget that you are visiting Finland during the harvest season. This is the best time to enjoy cloudberries, blueberries and raspberries, and if you stay for a bit longer, also lingonberries, cranberries and many mushrooms. In Finland, we love our forests and anyone can pick mushrooms and berries anywhere. All land is free to access based on the “everyman’s rights” system we have in place here. August is generally still warm and with our many lakes and vast coast line it’s easy to dip in to cool down.
SUMMARY: Remember that Finland is more about experiences than the largest or highest infrastructure. Here’s a short list of our recommendations:
- Sauna! – Make sure you experience it one way or another, it’s such a major part of our culture that it was recently added to UNESCO’s list.
- Cycle – A great way to explore while breathing the purest air. If you have more time then the archipelago trails in the Baltic Sea area and Saimaa are much recommended.
- Terrace – In any town you visit, stop for an ice cream or beer at one of the many cafes with terraces. This is your holiday after all.
- Get by the lake – Bout tour, stand up paddle board, kayak, summer cottage or sauna. Whichever you choose, make sure you enjoy our 200,000+ lakes.
- The berry experience – Visit a local market to buy fresh berries or, even better, head to a nearby forest to get some yourself.
- Heritage – The medical castle of Olavinlinna, old towns of Porvoo or Rauma, or simply an old church in a town you visit.
Enjoy your travel planning!