Perhaps NOW is the time to plan for your trip to Finland. World Economic Forum study found Finland the safest country in the world for travellers. And it is great for motorcycling with all sorts of events taking place across the country. Sports, Music and RR Championships at Imatra!
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.
A few years ago we left home for a short overnight ride (hence the open face helmet and sunglasses in the picture) with my wife and a few friends. Only to end up leaving our friends behind and touring Lapland and visiting Nordkapp in Norway by the Barents see, altogether some 4500km. The picture has a glue of where it was taken😀.
Now that covid-19 has seriously fu**ed up everyone’s riding plans for the summer, it is time to visit Lapland and the north again.
Well, Lapland is no second prize, it is a great destination on its own and well worth visiting even several times.
Some of the roads leading to the nordic countries from central Europe may not be a rider’s dream but they are efficient in taking you from A to B. As always with a new destination, you enjoy the new scenery, but after once or twice, these arteries are rather dull. This goes with Via Baltica and riding through Denmark and southern Sweden. All nice destinations on their own, though.
To add interest to my ride, I took a slight detour and stayed in Kaunas in Lithuania – a very nice town with a beautiful old town and some fantastic food and trendy people. Recommended stop en route.
I also set my camp in Gdansk in Poland for a few days to explore the surroundings a bit more. Gdansk, Sopot, Gdynia, Hel. This corner is really not on any route unless you go there specifically or go for a ferry from Gdansk to Sweden – Which is exactly what I did.
A few words about Gdansk and its close neighbours. Gdansk really is a nice town and worth visiting. A large Prague-like old town. I like Prague but I liked Gdansk even more, nice small restaurants – Berlin-meet-Praque – and really excellent food and drink. It is very touristy but has a local feel as well. And very good street performers!
If you want some more space for yourself and like it quieter, close by is the town of Sopot. Made famous by its music festival during the Soviet era. A lovely town with fantastic beaches. And it is really close to Gdansk to enjoy both towns
Next west is the port town of Gdynia and north-west the peninsula in the sea with Hel at the end. Although the road to Hel looks like a scenic one, the road really just runs between bushes. Traffic may also be hellish and you are better off on a motorbike. Not much to see. Unless you count the local public transport bus.
Not often do you see a bus to Hel numbered 666!
But this was suppose to be about the ferries…
Polferries sail from Gdansk to Nynäshamn just some 100 km south of Stockholm. This is a roro ferry for trucks but also takes passengers with their vehicles. Check the timetable but my ferry sailed from Gdansk at 6PM and arrived in Nynäshamn 12 noon the following day. I assume it does about the same to the opposite direction.
The ferry is clean and comfortable to travel. It has options from airline seats to shared and private cabins for your night sleep. Several restaurants and also outside seating to enjoy the sea.
Food onboard is not quite what you could expect after the fantastic food in Gdansk. I even opted for some prepaid meals in the a la carte restaurant for dinner but assume the canteen would have been better. For breakfast, a la carte was decent.
A small detail is that my pre-purchased dinner included a drink. Turned out it was coffee or soft drink. On the other hand, if you pre-purchase just a drink coupon, it is for beer and wine as well. But they are all drinks, I guess. With the coupons, service was quick and efficient.
Make sure you check which terminal the ferry departs from. You may see some conflicting information from different sources, so be careful. The terminal seems to change at times. This time (Summer 2019) we sailed from Westerplatte port.
Kapellskär – Naantali
Another roro route, this time with Finnlines. Note that all meals are included in your ferry ticket as standard. Plenty to eat and good quality, much better than Polferries anyway. The restaurant is large and there is enough seating for all.
The ferry is clean and has the usual seat and cabin choices and it even has a sauna with a jacuzzi bath. Also a nice bar area with a view and outside seating also from the sauna.
My ferry sailed around 8PM and arrived to Naantali 7AM.
Most ferries from the Stockholm region also make a stop in Åland and you may want to take the option to explore the island as well.
Well, now you are in Naantali, ready to explore the south-wester corner of Finland or to head north or east. Both good choices with very different things to offer. Enjoy your trip!
PS. The Costs
Both ferries about the same – under €150 each. Thats one person, motorbike and a bed. Shared cabin on Polferries, private cabin on Finnlines. On Finnlines also all meals. Check offers available.
Finland perhaps? Continuing to St Petersburg or Nordkap? Other Nordic countries? Need a Ferry? The following is written with a ride to Finland in mind and as such gives you a good idea of the ferries but does not cover all travel options for your Nordic adventure.
To get to Finland, you have a number of choices both on land or opting for a ferry for longer distances.
Arriving to Finland
Starting with the end in mind, the usual ports for arrival to Finland are Helsinki or Turku region. Ferries to Finland sail from Tallinn in Estonia or from Stockholm area in Sweden. A very popular choice is also a ferry from Travemunde in Germany, saving you the ride through the Baltic states or Denmark and Sweden.
Via Baltica is in Good Shape
If you do come by land to Tallinn and once you are through the roadworks in Poland (soon!?! over and look promising), the Via Baltica -road is mainly single lane but in reasonable condition today. Long lorry lines can be expected but on a motorbike those can usually be passed with relative ease.
There are some very nice stops in the Baltic, should you choose to spend a bit more time on the road. (Cities like Kaunas or beach resorts such as Palanga, Jurmala and Pärnu).
Ferries from Tallinn to Helsinki are frequent throughout the day.
The Western Route via Denmark – Sweden
If you take the western route through Denmark and southern Sweden, you will have one or two shorter ferry cruises. First the ferry from Puttgarden, Germany to Rødby, Denmark. From there you have options to either ride “The Bridge” between Copenhagen and Malmö (Øresund Bridge), as in the popular tv-series, or you can choose another ferry Helsingör (DK) – Helsingborg (S), slightly further north.
Again the E4 road through Sweden is quite quick to ride and mainly dual lanes all the way to Stockholm.
There is also another option, if you wish to ride the Danish mainland to Frederikshavn and cross the sea to Gothenburg in Sweden.
My recent ride took me down through Via Baltica, Poland, Austria and Italy to Lugano in Switzerland. My return ride was the western route through Germany, Denmark and Sweden over the Øresund Bridge. My choice was to use the bridge as it is magnificent, although the road from Malmö to Stockholm takes you near Helsingborg anyway.
Costs and Booking
Sea crossings are not free and the Ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn is around €100 for rider and a bike one way. For the Puttgarden ferry I paid €56 and the bridge crossing set me back €29. Taking land routes you may need accommodation as well. (2017 costs).
Ferry from Stockholm has a number of operators, variations and prices. The most expensive is to sail from Stockholm to Helsinki. Cheapest often Kapellskär north from Stockholm to Naantali near Turku. Loads of options, best to google. As it was peak season and all ferries were full, my only choice was a €100 deck chair or €240 inside cabin from Stockholm to Helsinki.
If you do not fancy the long ride, a popular, sometimes slightly costly option, is to take the Finnlines ferry from Travemunde to Helsinki. This is by far the most relaxing way but then you miss the route in between… When calculating the cost, be mindful about the total costs of the land route, incl. possible accommodation. Even the higher one-off charge may be quite competitive, particularly compared with the western route.
Other Routes and Destinations
If you wish to ride north through Sweden or Norway, there are even more ferry options available from Germany or Denmark. You can also come down through Finland around the north or vice versa, down through Sweden / Norway. There is yet another ferry between Vaasa (FI) and Umeå (S) half way up the gulf of Bothnia.
If your destination is St Petersburg in Russia, good options are ferry from Travemunde to Helsinki and crossing to Russia at Vaalimaa, or Via Baltica and border crossing at Narva, Estonia.
I would come to Finland though…
Costs for a Family Trip
Below my friend Pekka Niinivaara’s cost summary for some of the routes. These apply for a family of four in a car and costs vary based on your selection of cabin, etc:
Welcome to the southwestern part of Finland, the agricultural heart of the country.Our trip starts from the capital and takes us west, through old museum roads past Fagervik and country roads taking weekenders to the archipelago, Tammisaari seaside town for lunch and through Kemiö island, eventually leading us to Turku, the former capital of Finland for the first night.
The Fagervik museum road (1050) is a top tip and should not be missed if you tend to take the winding road instead of the main arteries. The road starts from Inkoo with a four km of gravel which can easily be avoided by following 51 to 186 and joining the 1050 from 186. You can follow the country lanes all the way to Tammisaari if you choose, or join the 25 closer to to Tammisaari (also Raseborg in some maps). If you continue on 25, you end up in Hanko, another seaside summer resort town.
Our ride took us to Kemiö island and towards Turku. Helsinki – Turku trip can be done in under two hours on the motorway but we took all day…
Turku is a lively university city and a city popular among the summer tourists. Located at the mouth of the river Aurajoki, Turku is also a busy seaside town and true to the city’s heritage, we were staying overnight at a former steamship Bore, today operating as a hostel, located right next to the Turku Castle.
In the evening, you can following the river upstream on a leisurely walk for some 2 km towards the Turku Cathedral. On the way there are museums, river front and boat restaurants and bars and many events taking place during the summer.
Turku has also hosted Tall ships races earlier and will be hosting TSR again this summer 2017, 20th to 23rd of July, along with a music festival.
Turku – Naantali – Louhisaari – Rauma
After a good night’s sleep, the morning ride lead us first to Naantali. Naantali is a picturesque old town and home of the Moomins on the island Kailo, very close to the nation’s president’s summer house Kultaranta. Naantali old town harbour is a great place for an ice-cream!
Just before Naantali, you will be passing the dockyards where some of the world’s biggest cruise ships were built. You’ll be able to see at least the cranes in the distance – the ships may be at the Caribbean although new ones are being built.
After the ice-cream in Naantali, continue along the country lanes towards the Louhisaari castle, completed in 1655. This is thebirthplace of one of Finlands national war-time heroes and former president Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. Mannerheim was born here June 1867 and today the castle operates as a museum.
From Louhisaari, the country lanes lead to Rauma. Make sure to ride the roads along the seaside rather than the main road. Make a stop at Uusikaupunki city harbour for yet another coffee and ice cream before continuing to Rauma via the coastal road through the islands. Some gravel though.
Rauma is famous for its picturesque centre with old wooden houses, a very peculiar accent and their signature lace, which will be available in the town shops. Rauma is one of the seaside towns firmly associated with the sea, sailors and the most famous sea-shanties or sea-songs. There actually is a Donald Duck cartoon on Rauma language – Rauman giälel.
We stayed at the hotel Raumanlinna, which is just at the edge of old town and has new modern rooms, good breakfast and a large parking area in the back yard. Weather and time permitting, you also have an option to go an a sea cruise in the afternoon to Kylmäpihlaja lighthouse or alternatively a walk in the old town is a good choice.
Our dinner was at restaurant Wanhan Rauman Kellari which proved to be a good choice. They also have a popular balcony/patio for pre/after drinks on the balcony. Must say they had the friendliest staff with great sense of humor.
Rauma – Säkylä – Somero – Lohja – Helsinki
After enjoying Rauma, we started to descent back to Helsinki, with first a photo moment at Porosaari camping.
We were riding along winding country lanes past some of the main sugar producing areas in Finland past Säkylä (Rantatie – Beach Road), Somero towards Keppanakellari at Liesjärvi for lunch (www.keppana.com) . Keppanakellari is in the middle of nowhere and worth a visit. Just time it so that you are hungry, the food is tasty and portions substantial! In the summer, the place can be busy particularly at weekends.
Riding towards Helsinki round west, you can stop at Lahnajärvi, recently re-opened restaurant – or at Kasvihuoneilmiö, another peculiar restaurant and shop for odd things (!). Perhaps an ice-cream dessert!
Near and in Helsinki you can treat yourself for a sauna and swim, virtually in the city centre or in many places around the capital. But that is another story…
Perhaps NOW is the time to plan for your trip to Finland. World Economic Forum has carried out an in-depth analysis of the Travel and Tourism competitiveness of 136 economies across the world. The study found Finland the safest country in the world for travellers.
OK, it is safe in Finland. But how about motorcycling? Any good? If you like winding country roads through small villages, lakes and fields, Finland is for you. Plenty of places to stay in small towns and country side. If you prefer accommodation in a Tent at a camping ground, B&B, hostel, hotel, it is all there and easy to find and usually of very high standard.
On the road traffic is very organized and relatively easy paced. Finland has a strict policy on alcohol and riding with the limit set to 0,5 pro mille and is also strictly enforced.
People and Events
People are welcoming and happy to enjoy a drink or two with you, Not just alone in their underwear, called Kalsarikännit (Please google yourself!)
In the summer in particular, the country is littered with events and festivals of all sort – from wife carrying and mobile phone throwing to swamp football to wine festivals, rock festivals, jazz festivals, etc across the country.
If you have your mind set for Lapland and even the North Cape in Norway, consider riding through Finland, enjoy the hospitality and changing scenery on the way up. Visit also the northernmost place in the EU before heading to Norway. You will find my comments about the ride north in my other posts and videos- route to Lofoten for one.
Speeding Fines are Simply Criminal!
Generally laws on speeding are absolutely criminal! Finland is well known for some extremely high fines – Home of the USD 103.000 speeding fine! One way to keep your peace of mind is to keep on the nice bendy roads and stay away from the speed traps on many main arteries.Another thing is that the speed trap cameras take your picture from the front and you may just get away with it!
Arriving in Finland, you will soon notice that virtually every motorcyclist gives you the friendly wave on the road. This is to acknowledge the comradery bikers feel from our shared interest and hobby. Let’s keep it up!
Resources for your planning
I am sure that you will enjoy your memorable ride and to help you make it a reality, I have posted below some resources to get your planning started.