Finnoy Travel - Travel Stories and Reviews
We at a white beach near Sommaray
We visited also white beaches near Sommaray. The Arctic Sea was cold but otherwise, the weather was perfect.

Road Trip from Helsinki to Tromso

  • By Finnoy Travel
  • December 15, 2020

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Finland to Norway by Car

The year 2020 was exceptional for all avid travellers including us. Speaking of our summer vacation, we hadn't many options where to travel. The pandemic situation in Europe was getting better after the spring but the infection rate in many countries was still too high preventing almost everyone from travelling to sunny European beach destinations. Flying to South Europe wasn't a real option.

A view in Norway
One of the safest idea was to drive to Norway via Finnish Lapland.

We got an idea to travel domestically in Finland and visit Lapland. Also, our Nordic neighbour Norway is easily accessible from northern Finland so we finally decided to combine a visit to Finnish Lapland and Norway. Driving in our car was a very practical solution to implement this plan.

Roadtrip from Helsinki to Tromso

Finland's map is stretched to 1,160 km from South to North. Therefore, driving from Helsinki to Finnish Lapland takes more than 1000 kilometres and from the Finnish border, an additional few hundred kilometres before reaching the city of Tromso in Norway. Luckily in the summer, there was plenty of daylight which made the driving a lot easier.

Driving Route

Google Maps helped us in planning the driving route. We needed also places to rest on the way so we compared accommodation prices on a few hotel booking sites. For example, Booking.com has good a selection and affordable rates. Our goal was to drive as straight as possible but based on the hotel prices, we made minor route adjustments to save some money. Our final driving route was Helsinki - Jyväskylä - Kemi - Kilpisjärvi - Tromso. On the outbound journey, we kept an overnight stop in Kemi, which was practically halfway to Kilpisjärvi.

First Driving Day

It was necessary to stop now and then. Driving a long distance isn't safe without enough rest. Having two shifting drivers made it also safe to travel on the road.

Refuelling Stops: First One near Lahti

Our first refueling stop was just after Lahti, only about 150 kilometres from Helsinki. Teboil sold affordable fuel and with their membership card, we got also extra discount.

During the whole trip, we consumed about 200 litres of fuel. The fuel price in Finland varies from one petrol station to another so it is possible to save from 5 to 10 per cent by refuelling only less expensive fuel. That is why we continuously monitored fuel prices and stopped along the way to refuel at a gas station with the cheapest price.

Peugeot_at_Teboil
Finland is full of petrol stations. However, the fuel price varies between the stations. It is always wise to compare fuel prices before stopping to refuel. We had our first refuelling stop near Lahti where Teboil sold affordable fuel.

Lunch at Jyväskylä

After 4 hours of driving, we had our first lunch break in Jyväskylä, the city of world-famous architect Alvar Aalto. Jyväskylä is a medium-sized city so we had many choices of where to eat. We ended up eating street food in Restaurant Taikuri. The food was tasty but served portions were quite small. Since we were a little late from our driving schedule, we continued driving immediately after lunch.

Restaurant Taikuri
We decided to enjoy lunch in Jyväskylä. Restaurant Taikuri served tasty street food.

Coffee at ABC Pulkkila

Our next stop was at ABC Pulkkila to buy snacks and ice cream. ABC is a gas station chain in Finland which usually has a supermarket and restaurant. We do not recommend refuelling at ABC because the fuel is always pricey. Otherwise, the ABC chain is a nice option to have a lunch or coffee break.

Overnight in Kemi

We arrived at our first overnight stop in Kemi late at 10 PM. The weather was rainy and foggy slowing down our arrival to Kemi. Also, at times, reindeer were walking from one side of the forest across the road which prompted drivers including us to slow down or stop times. Kemi is a small coastal town in the middle of Finland. Finding our hotel was easy with the help of a navigator.

Route E8
On the second driving day, we joined the road E8 from Tornio to Tromso. The road has the nickname Northern Lights Route.

Hotel Toivola was a great choice to stay. The room on the hostel side cost only 49 euros but it was cosy. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and the hotel had a free parking area. The hotel had also a restaurant but unfortunately, it was just closing when we arrived. We can recommend Hotel Toivola to anyone who needs a clean, cosy and affordable hotel or hostel to relax. In addition, they have a sauna free of charge.

Saunatupa at Hotel Toivola
Our room at the hostel was called Saunatupa. It was decorated stylishly with wooden items and led lights.

Check the current prices of Hotel / Hostel Toivola.

Second Driving Day

Lunch at Muonio

On the next morning of our road trip, we continued driving to the North. On the route E8 close to Finland - Sweden border, we were able to see Sweden almost all the time. Normally, it would be allowed to cross the border to Sweden anywhere but during our holiday, Finland had border restrictions lifted because of the pandemic.

The border of Sweden and Finland
The route E8 from Tornio to Tromso is located next to Tornio River. Sweden lies on the other side.

We stopped to eat our first reindeer burgers in Muonio at Restaurant Hyvä Pata. The food was delightful, the restaurant itself was like from 80's making it somehow exotic.

Tuomaan tupa
Tuomaan tupa at the Arctic Circle is another good option to have lunch and to buy souvenirs.

Full Day Stop at Kilpisjärvi

We arrived at our next overnight place, Kilpisjärvi, at half-past 7 in the evening. We had booked a really small cabin called Unna from Tundrea Holiday Resort. Accommodation prices in Kilpisjärvi are always high due to the high demand for travellers to Norway and those visiting Finland. Our mini cabin was one of the most affordable choices. Otherwise, we would have paid more than 200 euros per night which would have been too much. Our mini wooden cabin which was located under tall trees had two single beds and electricity. Linens were not included. Just outside our cabin, there was a camping site and below the reception building, there was a separate structure in-housing with a common kitchen with free to use toilets and shower facilities. The bathing area had also sauna rooms for two genders. Showering costs 2 euros per 4 minutes.

Unna
This was our Unna at Kilpisjärvi. It had electricity but no running water. No lock on the door either.
Kilpisjärvi area
The summer in Kilpisjärvi lasts only a few months but everything turns green. However, trees are small and up on fells, there are no trees anymore.

In Kilpisjärvi, our priority was to conquer Saana Fell, one of the tallest fells in Finland. The only way to visit the summit is to walk up. It took us about 2 hours to climb up and 1 hour more to come down. The path up is steep so good hiking shoes are highly recommended. Remember to carry drinks and snacks with you. There was also a cold breeze so dressing warmly was necessary.

Saana Fell
Saana is 1 kilometre high rocky fell at Kilpisjärvi. You need good shoes and warm clothes to hike up.
Postbox at Saana
On the peak of Saana, there is a postbox containing a pen and a guestbook.

We visited also Lake Kilpisjärvi, Tshahkal Waterfall and Kilpis Center. If we would have had a little more time, we would have visited 3-country Cairn. A short boat ride would have taken us to a point where it is possible to step into Finland, Sweden and Norway at the same time.

Tshahkal waterfall
Tshahkal Waterfall is one of the two waterfalls near Kilpisjärvi. It can be reached easily by walking.
Lake Kilpisjärvi
Lake Kilpisjärvi is at the border of Finland, Sweden and Norway. We recommend taking a cruise to 3-Country Cairn.

After the full day in Kilpisjärvi, we crossed the border from Finland to Norway. There was not any kind of border inspection even though we exited European Union. It took about 2 and half hours more to reach Tromso. Roads on the Norway side were in good condition but they were curvy. Careful driving is needed.

Finally, we arrived in Tromso in the evening. We had booked a room at Comfort Hotel Xpress Tromso in the city center. The hotel is a self-service hotel having only basic services but it is well-located. If the price matches, this hotel is a good choice.

People climbing to Saana
In summers, there is always a continuous flow of local and foreign tourists reaching the top of Saana. The route is safe but it's wiser to have travel insurance because hurting one's ankle can happen at any time.

Use Booking.com to find hotels all over the world.

Tromso

On the third driving day, we arrived in the beautiful Tromso.

What to See in Tromso?

Tromso is a small city but there is still much to see. We visited the following places which can be recommended to every Tromso visitor.

Arctic Cathedral is a parish church in Tromso. The church is small but it has beautiful architecture. There you can unwind and take a few selfies with the beautiful background.

Arctic Cathedral
Arctic Cathedral is a beautiful landmark of Tromso.
Tromso Cathedral
There is another well-known church in Tromso, too. It is the wooden Tromso Cathedral in the city centre.

From Arctic Cathedral, it is only a few steps to Tromso Cable Car, which takes you to Fjellheisen. This mountain is a half kilometre high and a popular hiking spot. Paths are easy to walk and safe for adults. But if you are travelling with small children, they must be supervised well. There are many places where you can fall. The mountain has also a panorama cafe.

Fjellheisen Cable Car
There are two options to reach Fjellheisen: To take the cable car or to walk up the hill. We decided to save time by choosing a ride.
Fjellheisen cable car station
Up at Fjellheisen, there is a cable car station with a souvenir shop and panorama restaurant. However, we recommend hiking around to see even more beautiful sceneries.

On summer days, visiting Tromso Southern Beach is absolutely a must. It is a lively beach and usually crowded with young people. The days in the summer are long and people stay on the beach until midnight. If you are brave enough, dipping into the refreshing cold Arctic Sea water is great. Be aware of greedy seagulls that can steal your ice cream.

Flower lovers can head to Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden. It is not the largest botanical garden you have seen but it still deserves your visit.

Botanical garden in Tromso
Summer nights in Tromso are bright so the botanical garden can be visited late in the evening.

Norway is not a paradise for shopping if you are meticulous about your budget. Souvenirs can be bought from the city centre but for more shopping, you need to head to a shopping mall. We visited Jekta Storsenter. It had free parking, many shops and restaurants.

Things to See near Tromso

We recommend roaming around Tromso, too. With a car, Sommaray is only 1 hour driving away from Tromso. The route is super-scenic and easy to drive. Beautiful fjords will make the driving experience a more enjoyable one. Visiting Sommaray is best during a sunny day.

Landscape around Tromso
The nature around Tromso is scenery during summer days. It is worth just driving around and enjoying the views.
Waterfall in Norway
Norway is full of waterfalls. We stopped to shoot photos of this waterfall at Ersfjordbotn.

You will find many white sandy beaches with crystal clear water of the Arctic Sea. A white beach is a perfect place to dip after exposure to the tormenting sun. Even though the water is extremely cold, you can tolerate it under the sunshine.

Sommaray white beach
Sommaray has multiple white beaches with crystal clear water. Unfortunately, the temperature of seawater is only about 7 centigrades.
Arctic Sea of Sommaray
Arctic Sea at Sommaray is so clean that you can easily see the bottom.

We had a lunch at Anne-Grete Jensen Restaurant, which is an idyllic country side cafe. Do not skip it!

Fjords in Norway
This is what Norway is all about: Beautiful fjords between mountains.

Parking

Parking in Tromso is expensive. Hotels do not have parking areas. It is free to park on the street during the night time but finding a free slot takes a lot of time. During the daytime, only 1 to 2 hours of parking is allowed and you have to pay a high hourly rate.

The easiest way to park is to drive to a parking tunnel. There are two of them in Tromso: Fjellet and Seminaret. Overnight parking in a tunnel costs about 10 to 20 euros but the day rate is much higher. It's better to leave early morning to save some parking budget.

Easypark is a handy app to pay for parking in Tromso. In the tunnels, you need to pay to a machine before driving out.

Food Price

Eating in Norway drains your budget fast. Expect to pay from 15 to 20 euros for a good meal in Burger King. In a normal restaurant, a meal costs double. In the summertime, having a picnic outside is a recommended choice to save money.

Route Back from Tromso to Helsinki

On the 6th day, we started driving our long way back home.

Tromso to Finland's Border

After we had spent almost four days in Tromso, it was time to drive back to the Finnish border. Before reaching Kilpisjärvi, the first town in Finland, we stopped quickly to see Rovijok Waterfall.

Rovijok watefall
Rovijok waterfall is located close to Finland's border on the Norway side.

Overnight Stop at Ranua

Along our driving route back from Kilpisjärvi to Helsinki, we had an overnight stop at a new location. We headed to Ranua, which is famous for its zoo and pandas. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit the zoo but we just slept in the hostel part of Lapland Northern Lights Hotel Ilveslinna.

Hotel Ilveslinna room
Even though we were on the hostel side of Ilveslinna, the room was big and comfortable. Buffet breakfast was included.

Check current prices of Lapland Northern Lights Hotel Ilveslinna.

The second driving day back home was a long ride. We drove the whole day from Ranua via Oulu to Helsinki. Because the distance was long, we had only short eating and coffee breaks.

Tips for a Road Trip in Finland and Norway

We have collected some driving tips for people planning to drive from South Finland to Lapland and maybe to Norway.

Roads in Finland and Norway

In Southern Finland, the roads are wide and in good condition. Driving is easy. The northern you go, the more narrow the roads get. The surface is not perfect but overall, the roads are well maintained. The speed limit on highways in Finland varies between 80 and 100 km/h. Southern highways have a limit of 120 km/h.

On the Norway side, the roads are well maintained. There are more up and downhills but they are not steep. The speed limit around Tromso varies from 70 to 90 km/h. The roads are quite narrow and curvy.

Tunnel in Norway
There are many tunnels in Norway. It expedites driving a lot.

Traffic

Finnish and Norwegian roads are normally not congested. We drove along the roads E75 and E7 which were the fastest routes. It was possible to drive a long time without seeing any other car. Drivers in Finland follow traffic rules well because fines are extremely high.

Road around Tromso
Roads around Tromso are well-maintained. They are narrow but the surface is good. Traffic is peaceful.
Road in Lappland
In Lapland, roads go through the thick forest. There is not much traffic but many animals. Now and then you will see parking areas meant for resting.

Overtaking slower cars must be done carefully. Never try overtaking when it's forbidden by a traffic sign or by a solid white or yellow line. Enough space must be reserved for overtaking and overspeeding is absolutely a NO. In Southern Finland, major roads have overtaking lanes appearing every 10 kilometres.

Speed Cameras

There are many speed cameras spread along the way when driving between Finland and Norway. Many of these speed cameras can follow your car's speed long time so it is not enough to slow down just before the camera. Respect the speed limits to avoid super expensive speeding fines.

Speed camera
There are speed cameras in Finland and Norway. This kind of modern speed camera can follow your speed long time.

Animals

In Southern Finland, big moose make a realistic risk. We didn't see any moose during our trip. It is unlikely that you will encounter them as well. However, in Lapland, it is common to see a herd of reindeer walking on the road now and then. They are moving quite slowly and in many cases, they are easy to spot early. It is still necessary to be extra careful because you will meet a reindeer at least once per hour. They love to wander around, especially late in the evening.

A car and reindeer
During the whole road trip, we saw more than 20 reindeer. A few of them appeared suddenly.

We meet also a pheasant and a Capricorn. The animals just jump onto the road and it was the driver's responsibility to avoid them.

If you happen to hit an animal, calling the police is recommended. The general emergency number is 112. We recommend installing the Finnish 112 app that delivers automatically coordinates to the police during an emergency call.

Insurances for a Road Trip

It is never wise to travel without travel insurance because healthcare expenses may grow big easily. Finland has a good private healthcare section but prices are high. European Union citizens may also visit cheaper public doctors but the quality does not meet the private healthcare quality.

Why not to check SafetyWing travel insurance which can be bought easily online.

Hire Cars in Finland

If you are planning for a road trip between Finland and Norway or Sweden, make sure that your car is absolutely in good condition. Otherwise, you may hire a car from any car hire company in Helsinki. We advise you to compare prices and insurance terms carefully before signing any agreement.

Read our helpful tips How to Rent a Car.

Bottom Line

Having a road trip to Finland and Norway is a great experience. Considering the different road structures of the roads, the presence of animals lingering around and other people's driving habits, one must always be alert and extremely careful while driving. If possible, a second driver is recommended. It is wise to prepare well and make a good itinerary before your road trip. Booking accommodation early is needed to get the best rates, and to make the trip less stressful.

A white beach at Sommaray
White beaches of Sommaray must be seen yourself. They are the best that the Arctic Sea can offer.

If you rent a car, you need to understand the insurance terms well. The cheapest car may not be always the best choice. Personal travel insurance is always necessary, especially when travelling outside your home country.

Our first road trip from Helsinki to Tromso was successful. Implementing a similar trip in the wintertime would be more challenging. That is why we recommend doing the first road trip when the weather is good.

Have you been driving in Finland or Norway? Comment below!

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Destination: Finland, Norway

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