Where to drive in Finland
From the otherworldly wonder of the Northern Lights to the cutting-edge design of Helsinki to the dreamy islands of the Aland Archipelago, the attractions of Finland will keep you coming back again and again. This Northern European nation, bordered by Sweden, Norway and Russia, is the most sparsely-populated country in Europe which means that, whether you’re exploring on foot or by car, you’re guaranteed space and calm.
Outside its major cities – which include capital Helsinki; Espoo, just west of Helsinki; second city Tampere, and Vantaa – driving is usually the easiest way to get about. Roads tend to be quiet and well-maintained.
With so much to see it’s the ideal country for a road trip. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss…
An historic route dating from the 14th century, the King’s Road runs via coastal areas of southern Finland between Turku, in the southwest of the country, and the village of Vaalimnaa, near the Russian border. A 250-mile route crammed with stunning countryside, castles, manor houses and museums it is widely considered one of the most beautiful journeys in Finland.
This time-capsule village of artists and craftspeople is one of the jewels in Finland’s crown when it comes to design. Located in the town of Raseborg, halfway between Helsinki and Turku on the south coast, the community first developed around an ironworks built in the 16th century. Today its historic workshops and outbuildings house more than 30 Finnish makers and designers and buzz with creative activity. There’s plenty to enjoy whenever you visit, from glass blowing to craft breweries, but keep an eye out for the return of its Art & Design Biennale, when the village plays host to a dazzling display of design, architecture and contemporary art.
The sunny spa town of Hanko sits at the southernmost tip of Finland and is known as the Finnish Riviera for its sandy beaches and holiday atmosphere. A harbour dotted with excellent restaurants is joined by a collection of pretty parks and Bengtskar – the tallest lighthouse in the Nordic countries at 171ft – making Hanko a brilliant spot for a day trip or a few days of sunbathing.
The capital of Lapland, Finland’s northernmost province, Rovaniemi is among the best spots in the country to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights. While there is never any guarantee, there is apparently a 40% chance you’ll see the aurora borealis if you visit Rovaniemi between late-August and mid-April. Light pollution means they are rarely visible from the city itself but there are dozens of ways to get closer to the action from guided tours to snowmobiles Rovanieme is also the ‘official’ home of Santa Claus – who you can meet at the Santa Claus Village. Not just for Christmas, the attraction is open 365 days a year when visitors can meet Santa’s reindeer herd, enjoy ice slides and snow discos and explore the Arctic Circle in a sleigh pulled by huskies.
A collection of 6,500 islands and islets are dotted around the Baltic Sea off Finland’s southwest coast. While you might be hard pressed to pick only one to visit it’s not difficult to island-hop via the bridges and ferries that unite the archipelago. Easily accessed by ferry from both Helsinki and Turku, this dreamy location is the perfect way to experience Finland in the summertime. Kick back and enjoy its impressive cycle route network, hiking through castle ruins and past windmills, kayaking to the tiniest islets or just lazing on the sand.
Book your rental car today for fast-track access to these sights and many others.