Are you heading to Finland and wondering what the best way to travel from Helsinki to Lapland? Did you know that for most visitors to Finland, these are the two most visited areas? It makes sense as most visitors fly into Helsinki, spend a day or two and then head off into the vast wilderness of Finnish Lapland.
In this guide I will help you in your travel research by providing up to date information on how to travel to/from these regions of Finland, whether its by plane, train or even car.
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Guide on How to Travel from Helsinki to Lapland
One of the biggest factors in your decision about how to get from Helsinki to Lapland will be the amount of time you have and your budget. Below I go through the practical details on the three main transport options, providing the positives and negatives for each so you can make the most informed decision. Let get into it!
What are the airports in Lapland?
As I mentioned there are currently 5 airports in Lapland. Below are the airports with the main locations serviced from them.
Rovaniemi Airport (RVN)
Rovaniemi is the third busiest airport in Finland and is the most popular of the ones in Lapland. Located in the south of Lapland, just near the Arctic Circle, this airport is seen as the gateway to Santa Claus Village. Given the towns popularity, there are several flights a day between Helsinki and Rovaniemi. This is one of the few that also is international airport accepting flights from several major European cities.
In general, Rovaniemi can feel a quite commercial and crowded, especially during the peak winter season. This airport also serves as the hub for Pyhä and Salla which are popular for their natural beauty and skiing, both downhill and cross country.
Ivalo Airport (IVL)
Two popular destinations with skiers and snowboarders include Inari and Saariselka, which are both serviced by the Ivalo airport. The airport is within 30 minutes of both destinations and is the northernmost airport in Finland.
Kittilä Airport (KTT)
Kittila is one of the main airports in the northernmost region of Finland, and the only other accepting international flights. This airport services the popular ski area of Levi. Levi is a popular spot for families during the festive season, but is smaller and quieter than Rovaniemi. Additionally, the popular Snow Village can be found here.
Our favorite destination serviced by this airport is Muonio which is a laid back destination offering all the popular touristy activities found in Rovaniemi but without the crowds and is excellent for spotting the Northern Lights.
Kemi Airport (KEM)
Kemi-Tornio Airport is located on the coast of the Bay of Bothnia, serving travelers heading to Southern Lapland. Kemi has slowly become more popular in the tourist circuits for their magnificent Snow Castle that is built there every winter and for the famous Sampo icebreaker cruise.
Kuusamo Airport (KAO)
Lastly, the Kuusamo Airport serves one of Finland’s major holiday destinations Kuusamo, attracting almost a million tourists annually. Many of these arrive for skiing at nearby ski resorts, especially Ruka Ski Resort, one of the largest in Finland.
Flying from Helsinki to Lapland
The quickest and probably one of the most popular ways to travel from Helsinki to Lapland is to fly. Right now there are 5 airports in Lapland connecting to Helsinki and two even internationally. Most flights between these airports have a maximum flight time of 1.5 hours.
Domestic flights from the capital Helsinki to Lapland airports are operated by Finnair. While the flights can be reasonably priced if booked well in advance, domestic flights on Finnair do impose an extra fee for checked luggage. Additionally, the new Finnair carry on limits are quite strict with a maximum of 8 kg for all carry on items combined. This means, that for most travelers, it makes most sense to upgrade to the main fare price which includes both carry on and checked baggage. Once you upgrade your flight, a round-trip flight will cost a minimum of €200. Note, if you are looking for cheap flights, sign up for Finnair’s email blast and keep an eye out for flash sales.
That said, this is still the quickest way to travel between Helsinki and Lapland. It can be cost effective if you are a solo traveler and/or traveling with extremely light luggage. However, it can be get expensive if you need to check a bag or are traveling in high season with several people
Traveling by Train from Helsinki to Lapland
Next we will move on to traveling by train from Helsinki to Lapland, which is the second most popular option.
I personally find travelling by train in Finland to be a wonderful experience and the most convenient way to get around the country. The trains are clean and reasonably reliable depending on weather conditions of course. Additionally, it is better for the environment and saves you money on accommodation if you can take an overnight train to travel while you sleep. All long-distance trains in Finland are operated by VR Train.
Day vs. Night Trains
For many of the Lapland destinations, the trains take between 8-14 hours, which makes booking an overnight journey ideal. However the sleeper cabins do sell out, so it is best to book in advance as much as possible.
The most popular train that visitors take to Lapland from Helsinki is the Santa Claus Express train which ends in Rovaniemi. It leaves close to midnight and arrives around 11 a.m. the next morning. If you are traveling with children, this train is great as the sleeper cabins are essentially sold as a two person cabin. Prices for an upstairs private compartment sleeper cabin which includes a private toilet run around 300 Euro one way. The train also has a restaurant car for snacks and meals while on the train. Note, Rovaniemi train tickets for the sleeper cars can sell out quickly, so book well in advance to ensure you have a cabin.
Another popular route is to Kolari, which is the northernmost railway station in Finland. Travel here from Helsinki takes approximately 14 hours. Boarding is around 7:45 p.m. in Helsinki with a 10 a.m. arrival. Even though it sounds like a long trip, it goes by quite quickly once you get settled in your sleeper cabin, grab some food from the restaurant car and then hit the sack.
If you are unable to secure a sleeper cabin, you can consider a day train. With free Wifi, power sockets and the ability to walk around, an 8 hour train would actually go quite quickly if you can keep yourself occupied! These tickets run around €75 per ticket during high season.
Take Your Car on the Train
For readers who live in Europe or have a rental car already booked, they can consider putting the vehicle on the train as well! These trains depart from Pasila Station and can be extremely handy if you have brought your car over from mainland Europe, but don’t want to drive all the way to Lapland. This is not cheap, but is a dobale option to ensure you have more access to explore around Lapland.
Train Stations in Lapland
There are many train stations in Lapland that I can’t list them all, but the main ending/starting point for the major lines include Kolari as the furthest north, Rovaniemi and Kemijarvi in the east.
Kolari is in the far north of Finland, northeast of Rovaniemi, and very close to the Swedish border. This station is perfect for those traveling to Levi or Muonio. You can reserve a shared taxi or bus from the station to both locations.
Kemijärvi is located east of Rovaniemi and from here you can easily access Salla and Pyhä.
Overall, I personally feel that if you are traveling with others or even on your own that taking an overnight train to or from Lapland is a great option. Train travel is scenic, cost effective if you have a family or a lot of luggage and you also have the option of taking a vehicle. The negatives are that it does take a long time and there are times that the trains leave late at night making it awkward for families with smaller children.
Driving from Helsinki to Lapland by Car
Lastly, a third option for traveling from Helsinki to Lapland is to drive yourself. This is a great option if you have your own car and want to take your time to really explore more of the country off the beaten path.
For many travelers further afield, this would mean renting a car and needing to return it either in Lapland or back to Helsinki which can be quite an expense.
I am not sure I would recommend this option for many, but if you have your car and you are confident on driving on the right hand side of the road, in snow or inclimate weather, you will most likely be fine.
But you must be aware that this journey is at least 800 kilometers and can take around 10 hours. That said, the journey up to Rovaniemi is along one main road and the views will be stunning for much of the way.
In general, I’d only advise driving to Lapland from Helsinki if you’re touring elsewhere in Finland, have your own vehicle and have at least a couple of weeks here to make it worthwhile and cost-effective.
Important Information for Your Finland Trip
When is the best time to visit Finland?
In reality, you can visit Finland at any time of the year as there are a multitude of activities to suit any weather condition. That said, in my opinion, the best time to visit Finland is definitely during the winter months between December and February. This is when you will see the most beautiful winter wonderland landscapes and you have a great chance to see the aurora borealis. Note, it is also the coldest time of the year, so you will need to prepare for that!
What is the best way to get to Finland?
Finnair offers direct flights to Helsinki Airport from all over the world, including from here in Los Angeles. The international flights are on newer Airbus A350 planes which have ample legroom, flight cameras and more. Subscribe to their newsletter for deals and special offers if this is a trip you are looking to plan far in advance.
If you are in mainland Europe, you can also make your way overland to Tallinn and take the Viking Express over to Helsinki for a very affordable rate. Note, this is also a great day trip idea from Helsinki.
Where do you recommend to stay in Helsinki?
There are so many amazing options to stay in Helsinki. I think where you stay is dependent on what you want out of your visit. During my stay in the city I was leaving on an early morning ferry and arriving late at night from the airport so I chose the Noli Studio Apartments which were cheap, clean and convenient to everywhere I wanted to go. There are several of them located throughout the city, so pay attention to the neighborhood that you wish to be in!
If you want a little more luxury and don’t mind being a little further out, consider the Clarion Hotel which is a favorite for repeat visitors to the city.
What are the best things to do in Finland?
There are so many amazing things to do in Finland that I can’t list them all here. But a start would be to check out our top experiences in Lapland that you can find all over the region. Winter activities are some of the best on offer here in Finland.
What do I need to pack for Finland?
Layers is the short answer. The longer answer will depend on what time of year you are visiting. Assuming you visit during the high season of winter, you will need to pack a lot of warm breathable layers such as merino wool. Overall, I would say to focus on layers, good boots that have room for several pairs of socks, good gloves or mittens and a warm hat.
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