Hop in, buckle up, and let’s travel the most relaxing and rewarding stretches of asphalt in the world. These routes in Lapland are guaranteed to make your road trip unforgettable.
There aren’t many roads in Lapland whose scenery won’t take your breath away. With snow-capped mountains, stony fells, running water, sandy beaches and the chances for a reindeer photobomb, road trips in Lapland are beautiful, epic and utterly Instagrammable.
1. The Most Beautiful Road in Finland
For many, Route 970, hugging the Teno River between the villages of Utsjoki and Karigasniemi, holds the title of most beautiful road in the country. This road was built atop the old footpath between the villages of Utsjoki and Karigasniemi, and it alternates between descending to the river level for intimate access and ascending on high to reveal stunning valley vistas.
2. Crossing the Fells
If you stopped at every scenic overlook along Route 957 from Lake Särkijärvi to Hetta, this 100 km drive will take you days. Or maybe even weeks. The route begins in the middle of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, Finland’s most popular national park, and home of the famous Seven Sisters fells. The route cuts across the national park, passing by the off-shoot that leads to the Pallastunturi Nature Center (Road 9571), skirts Lake Pallasjärvi, before bursting out of the national park and continuing north to meet up with the Ounasjoki River at the village of Raattama.
3. Village to village
Maisematie’s name literally means Landscape Road. Road 9401 is a 15 km stretch of beauty that connects the two traditional Lapland villages of Ylläsjärvi—beside the serene waters of Lake Ylläs—and Äkäslompolo. As you drive north, you’ll catch glimpses of the Ylläs fell as it rises above the treeline in the distance. The road runs along the foot of the gentle giant, and if you look out your other window, you’ll see western Lapland stretch away, endless green forest and big blue sky.
4. Welcome to Sámi country
Less than ten minutes from the village of Ivalo, you get your first taste of the Sámi Sea, as the stony shores of Lake Ukonjärvi serve as an appetizer for the grandeur of Lake Inari. Here, Highway E4 hugs the lake, offering glimpses of forested islands and glistening waterways. Large stones and stunted trees pepper the shore, as uniquely Arctic as the Northern Lights. When you reach Inari, the road veers away from the water to show you what special treats the village offers, such as the Inari Sámi Church, the famous PaPaNa pub, the Sajos Cultural Cener and Siida, the the National Museum of the Finnish Sámi. And don’t be surprised—or afraid—if a reindeer decides to wander along the road with you.
5. Your Constant Companions
The drive is only 50 km from Vuostimo to Sodankylä and can easily take less than an hour to traverse, but in those few dozen kilometres, you’ll skirt Finland’s oldest national park, Pyhä-Luosto, with its grand stony canyons and bald Arctic fells, not to mention marshes, rivers and lakes. Even if you’ve made the trip from Lake Kemijärvi a dozen times, you’ll go quiet at the sight of the fells accompanying you. And of course, when you reach the end of the road, you’re only halfway there, because you still need to experience the trip back.
6. Off the Beaten Track
Roads 955 and 9552 connect western Lapland with its fells and grand expanses to Inari, gateway to the tundra vistas of northern Lapland. There’s no better road to experience the epic vastness of Lapland or its intimate solitude. When you reach the village of Pokka, stop and grab a bite from the Tieva-Baari Restaurant, and if you’re in no hurry, visit the holy Sámi Taatsi Seita (about 20 minutes from the village.) From Pokka to Inari, there’s the largest national park in Finland (Lemmenjoki) to your left and the Hammastunturi Wilderness Reserve on your right.
7. Lapland’s Only Ferry
On the way from Kemijärvi to Kuusamo, if you take the road less travelled, (specifically Routes 945 and 9452), you’ll see why Kemijärvi claims the title of the Lakeland of Lapland. Here, it might seem you’re driving on bridges more often than roads, and these bridges are often at water level, bringing you in and out of wooded groves to experience the vast Lake Kemijärvi from every angle. An added bonus on this drive: the Räisälä ferry crosses a southern offshoot of the lake and is the only working ferry in Lapland.
8. The Polar Path
E4 will happily carry you from the city of Oulu to the city of Rovaniemi, but it’s not the most peaceful, scenic route in the world. If you veer off E4 toward Pudasjärvi, however, the stress will melt away with every kilometer. Along Route 20, you’ll go through forest after forest, pine trees waving you on. Pull over anywhere for a berry or mushroom hunt. In Pudasjärvi, go for a dip in the lake. In Ranua, say hello to Finland’s only polar bears.
Bonus: This way to waterfalls
Rovaniemi’s suburbs fade away, and soon you’re coasting along Route 81, Posio bound, the sparkling Kemijoki River on your right. Half an hour later, you come to a crossroads in Vanttauskoski village. You must decide … travel north along Route 9447 or continue on 81. Don’t worry. It’s not a life-altering decision; the drive is about 20 minutes either way. Both routes take you past distant farmhouses, dense thickets of trees, and river inlets that run under the road. Signs point you toward the hiking paths at Auttiköngäs, and the waters of Lake Auttijärvi beckon you for a dip. But hold out just a few minutes longer and you’ll pull into the parking lot for Korouoma, the fabled gorge with endless waterfalls and jaw-dropping lookouts.