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Helsinki and Kilpisjärvi: Exploring the Lakes and Finnish Lapland

Enjoy an abundance of nature and winter activities in the Lakeland and Lapland regions of Finland


11 Days

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Helsinki and Kilpisjärvi: Exploring the Lakes and Finnish Lapland

Tour Information

One-third of Finland is above the Arctic Circle. Another little-known fact is that Finland has the most bodies of water in the world. In fact, their lakes account for one-tenth of Finland’s surface area. And one more – Lapland (a region, not a country) makes up about one-third of Finland’s total area. All of which makes for a truly unforgettable journey of discovery.

The Finnish Lakeland is where Finnish people go recharge and reconnect with nature. The region offers things to do all year round, from cruises to fishing, paddle boarding, ice swimming and skating.  After all, as Europe’s largest lake district, Lakeland offers plenty of space for all. Kuopio, in Eastern Finland, is known as the capital of the Lakeland region and is almost completely surrounded by Lake Kallavesi, with several parts of it built on islands.

Finnish Lapland, the northern-most region of Finland is an outdoor adventurer’s wonderland. Known for its vast nature, winter activities, and of course, its most famous resident Santa Claus, Lapland is also home to the indigenous Sámi people, and is referred to as Europe’s last great wilderness.

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This journey generates:

Where will this journey take you?

Starting in the cool, stylish capital city of Helsinki, this 11-day Sustainable Journey tour takes you through ancient forest up into Lapland and deep into the Arctic Circle where you’ll stay in the capital of Finland’s lake district, the land of the giants and home of the snow Castle. You’ll continue onwards and upwards into the heart of Lapland’s snowy wilderness for husky sledging, snowshoeing and a sea safari, staying in Sámi accommodation and discovering the myths and magic swirling around Finnish Lapland. By now you’re 4000km into the Arctic Circle and close to where Finland, Sweden and Norway meet and it’s from Kilpisjärvi, the penultimate point on your journey, that you cross into Norway for your final adventure in Tromsø, (Paris of the North).

Journey Overview

Day 1 – Arrive in Helsinki
Day 2 – Helsinki to Kuopio
Day 3 – Kuopio to Paltamo
Day 4 – Paltamo
Day 5 – Paltamo to Kemi
Day 6 – Kemi to Hetta
Day 7 – Hetta
Day 8 – Hetta to Kilpisjärvi
Day 9 – Kilpisjärvi
Day 10 – Kilpisjärvi to Tromsø
Day 11 – Return to the UK


What’s included?
  • 10 nights accommodation including breakfast in locally owned 3-4* hotels in guesthouses
  • Meals: breakfasts throughout, 8x dinners, 4x lunches
  • Transfers: trains and bus, private airport transfer by car in Tromsø
  • Activities: food walk in Kuopio (1.5h), snowshoeing and ice-fishing in Paltamo (2h), entrance to the Snow Castle, campfire night in Kemi, visit to Näkkälä Sámi village in Hetta (4-5h), snowshoeing (2h), photography walk (2-3h), Finnish sauna and winter fishing experience (2h) in Kilpisjärvi, catamaran (4-5h) in Tromsø, Fjellheisen gondola in Tromsø.
What’s not included?
  • Travel to and from Finland by air or rail
  • Pre or Post tour accommodation
  • Meals and drinks not mentioned as ‘included’
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Gratuities
  • Optional activities and tours

How is this a Sustainable Journey?

Visiting lesser-known destinations: This tour encourages you to explore less visited regions of Finland, contributing directly to each of the local communities visited.  All the activities provided are built around promoting and respecting local cultures, inviting you to witness, experience and learn about the local customs in each area. It encourages you to spend more time experiencing the country and to learn about the ancient traditions of the Sámi people through a varied programme of guided walking tours and Lappish activities such as a sea safari, ice fishing, husky sledding and treks on snowmobiles. Each of these experiences allows for stops in beautiful places that would be missed if only visiting the capital city and larger towns.

Accommodations: Wherever possible we use locally owned and run hotels, guesthouses and homesteads. You make an impact by contributing directly to the local economy, meeting the locals and experiencing their hospitality, customs and traditions. Most of the places you stay are recognised for their leading sustainability practices through the Sustainable Travel Finland label, the EcoCompass Certificate and many international awards.

Transport: in this tour we travel by train and bus, thereby reducing your carbon emissions considerably. Travelling on public transport also offers a different type of experience – one where you travel more slowly and see so much more of the landscape. We believe this gives you a far greater awareness of the destination.

Food and drink: During this tour, you’ll be sampling many local specialities. The places you visit offer a chance to experience different flavours and traditional recipes that are localised to their regions and passed down with the traditional wisdom of many generations. The food supply chain is shortened in that their produce is locally sourced, grown or gathered in their surrounding landscape, and is freshly prepared and cooked. Whilst all this gives your hosts the opportunity to impart their local knowledge, it also gives you quite different and even unique experiences, whilst also ensuring there are no unnecessary food miles. The places you visit offer vegetarian and/or vegan options, and most can accommodate different dietary needs.

Local staff: All the hosts and guides are local people living in the destination. They either own, manage, or are employed by each hotel, activity provider, or tour company, meaning the money paid to them goes directly into the local economy.

Detailed Itinerary

  • Day 1 - Arrive in Helsinki

    Helsinki can be reached by air non-stop direct from the UK. Or consider our two-night slow travel journey add-on from the UK to Finland by rail, making for an interesting and lower-carbon option.
    On arrival in Helsinki, check in to the Scandic Grand (or a hotel of your choice). Right in the heart of Helsinki, the Scandic Grand is located in the old Finnish Railways headquarters next to the railway station, making it very easy to reach by the airport train.
    Here you’re perfectly located to explore Helsinki’s cultural attractions, with world-class architecture, a cool, contemporary arts scene, great shopping, museums, and plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants. Helsinki is a seaside city – its archipelago has around 330 islands – and is one of the few capital cities in the world where nature is so easily accessible to its inhabitants. It’s very easy to discover on foot, or time permitting, hire a bike and explore on wheels.
    Have dinner in your choice of restaurant.

  • Day 2 - Helsinki to Kuopio

    Start your day with a hearty Finnish buffet breakfast before heading out on foot for a five-hour guided sightseeing tour of Helsinki, including lunch.

    One of the places you’ll get to visit is the Helsinki Central Library Oodi, opposite the Parliament Building. Described as a living meeting place, Oodi is an impressive example of Finland’s renowned modern architecture, a striking energy efficient building of glass, steel and wood.

    Take the 14.15 train from Helsinki to Kuopio in Eastern Finland, arriving at 18.30.

    Kuopio calls itself the capital of Finland’s lake district. Almost completely surrounded by Lake Kallavesi, several parts of it are built on islands.

    Check-in at the Lapland Hotel Kuopio (or similar) which is very close to the railway station in the centre of Kuopio city centre. Owned by the Lapland Hotels Company, you’ll find plenty of Sámi influences throughout.

    The start of your culinary trip to Lapland will be at dinner in either the hotel or at the revolving Restaurant Puijo Peak, on top of Puijo’s sightseeing tower. Offering 360-degree views of the surrounding lakes and forests, this is Kuopio’s star attraction where you can enjoy classic Finnish dishes such as pike-perch, roe deer fillet, liquorice parfait and, a local speciality, freshwater vendace.

     Rail from Helsinki to Kuopio:  208 miles (427 km), duration 4h

  • Day 3 - Kuopio to Paltamo

    Start the day with a breakfast made from fresh, seasonal ingredients from Lapland, including some local delicacies.

    At 10.30 am you’ll meet your guide at the Siskotyttö statue in front of the bright yellow Kauppahalli market hall, for a walking food tour including plenty of tastings. Kuopio was the European Region of Gastronomy in 2020 so you know you’re in for some culinary treats.

    Finland’s market halls are described as temples for local food and products. Kuopio’s market hall, one of the town’s most precious buildings, houses around 30 market stalls where you’ll find all sorts of local specialities, including Kalakukko – a traditional, regional dish which is essentially a fish baked inside a loaf of bread (think fish in blankets).

    Be ready to take the 12.39 train from Kuopio to Paltamo, arriving at 15.00.

    Paltamo is a sparsely populated municipality in northeastern Finland, in the middle of a large forest and surrounded by lakes.

    Check in to the Arctic Giant Hotel (or similar), located on the high Kivesvaara hill in Paltamo, in a mystical world of forest spirits and magical creatures. You’ll be staying in a bird nest cabin with magnificent views of the landscape and, at the right time of year, the aurora borealis. Dinner will be taken in the hotel.

    Rail from Kuopio to Paltamo: 105 miles (168.6 km), duration 2h 21m

  • Day 4 - Paltamo

    Prepare for the day with a sumptuous giant breakfast including local berry juice and jams. All delivered to your cabin.

    The Arctic Giant is a family-owned hotel built in what was an abandoned skiing centre. Its name is based on stories of the area’s strong, tall men. At the hotel, nature and all its flavours take centre stage. They collect the mushrooms, berries and herbs growing around them and use other local produce such as fish, meat and root vegetables.

    In the morning you’ll have a couple of hours of guided snowshoeing – a technique of walking in the snow that dates back to around 6,000 years ago. It’s like hiking but with the assistance of snowshoes to achieve “flotation, distributing the weight of a person over a larger area to prevent the foot from sinking into the snow”.

    You’ll have a picnic lunch before joining in the favourite hobby of the locals – ice-fishing on the lake.

    Dinner can be taken in the hotel before returning to your cabin.

  • Day 5 - Paltamo to Kemi

    After your final Giant breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the railway station for the train from Paltamo to Kemi, a port to the last great wilderness of Europe and close to the border with Sweden in Finland’s Lapland.

    On arrival at Kemi, you can check into your hotel and have lunch. You’ll be staying in the PutiikkiHotelli Kemi 1932 (or similar), a charming boutique hotel in the old railway station, the heart of Kemi’s café culture.

    Described as the Pearl of the Bothnian Sea, Kemi is known for the massive Sampo icebreaker, a giant ship built to ply the Arctic water, as well as the Snow Castle.  Your afternoon will be spent exploring this white winter wonderland where you can experience snow and ice even in summer, admire amazing ice sculptures and enjoy a drink in the restaurant where even the tables are made of ice.

    Head to Restaurant Valakia (or a restaurant of your choice), for dinner, before heading across the frozen sea on a Sea Lapland Safari. Starting at the Safari House, you’ll get dressed warmly (all necessary clothing is provided) for the 10-minute trip to a nearby island on a sledge pulled by a snowmobile.

    Once there you will find a traditional kota where there will be a campfire to keep you warm. You’ll have time to walk around the island and marvel at the beautiful night sky. If the sky is clear, the stars and moon will guide you on your way, and with a little luck, you might even see the aurora borealis.

    Head back to the PutiikkiHotelli Kemi 1932 (or the hotel of your choice).

    Rail from Paltamo to Kemi: 131 miles (212 km), duration 3h 52m

  • Day 6 - Kemi to Hetta

    Start your day with an early wholesome breakfast as you will be spending much of today travelling deeper into Lapland and into the Arctic Circle.

    First, you’ll be taking the train to Kolari, passing through 1000-year-old forest to reach the northernmost railway station in Finland. From here you’ll continue your journey by bus, arriving early afternoon in the village of Hetta in Enontekiö, the ultimate destination for a truly authentic Arctic experience known for its ice fishing, husky sledding, snowmobiling and traditional reindeer farms. The high tundra arctic plateaus are just 20 km north of the village and you can see Finland‘s only mountains rising on the distant horizon.

    In Hetta you’ll be staying at the Hotelli Hetan Majatalo (or similar), a local guest house run by four generations of the same Lapland family. Tonight, you’ll eat at the hotel’s buffet where you can try a variety of Finnish and Lappish delicacies such as sautéed reindeer, fried salmon and King bolete stew. The family collects mushrooms, cloudberries and lingonberries from the surrounding woods, and you‘ll also get to sample their homemade beer and biscuits.

     Rail from Kemi to Kolari: 112 miles (181km), duration 3hrs 18mins

    Bus from Kolari to Hetta: 96.33 miles (155.5km), duration 2hrs 54 mins

  • Day 7 - Hetta

    After a delicious buffet breakfast with yet more local delicacies (the Lappish cheese, Lapin leipäjuusto and the Lingonberry porridge are a must), you’ll be heading to the Sámi village of Näkkälä by snowmobile, two people sharing a snowmobile. Please note you can also choose a sleigh ride if you prefer not to drive a snowmobile.

    You’ll enjoy beautiful scenery on the way and there will be plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos. In Näkkälä you’ll be met by a local guide who will tell you about Sámi culture and life with their reindeer herds and you’ll visit a herder’s yard where you can feed the reindeer. Hot drinks and snacks will be served in a traditional Sámi hut before driving through Näkkälä village and back to Hetta.

    Back at the hotel, you’ll have a buffet dinner giving you another opportunity to try some of their family recipes that have been handed down through the generations.

  • Day 8 - Hetta to Kilpisjärvi

    After breakfast you’ll be heading out for an exhilarating 3 ½ hour husky safari with Hetta Huskies, a family-owned husky farm committed to the WWF’s 10 Principles for Arctic Tourism. Hetta Huskies believe that their dogs deserve the best home, the most stimulating working life and the most relaxing retirement they can give them.

    Covering around 20km of varied Arctic landscape, you’ll whip along tight tracks with lots of ups, downs and corners, and traverse marshes, forest glades and frozen rivers. About halfway, you cross the area’s largest lake, Lake Ounasjarvi. But don’t worry – with an ice cover of over 1m thick each winter, there is no danger of falling in!

    After this thrilling adventure you’ll transfer to Palojoensuu for the bus to Kilpisjärvi, a small border village 400km above the Arctic Circle where Finland, Sweden and Norway meet.

    You’ll be staying at the Cahkal Hotel (or similar), a brand new, boutique hotel providing amazing views of the mountains from every room. Channelling true Arctic atmosphere throughout, it has geothermal heating and solar panels, and the restaurant serves traditional Arctic cuisine from the surrounding landscape. Here’s your opportunity to try roasted Arctic char, reindeer fillet, King crab fresh from the Arctic Ocean and the purest water straight from the mountains.

    Bus from Palojoensuu to Kilpisjärvi: 78.4miles (126km), duration 2hrs 20mins

  • Day 9 - Kilpisjärvi

    Enjoy breakfast whilst admiring the magnificent mountain views, before departing on a 2 ½ hour guided snowshoeing tour. You can either head to the top of the local mountain or take an easier walk through the surrounding snowy forests. There will be plenty of photo opportunities along the way and hot drinks and homemade snacks will be served during the tour.

    Lunch will be served back at the hotel and during the afternoon there will be time for a warm steam bath in the traditional Finnish sauna.

    After dinner, you’ll be taken on a Northern Lights walk to Cahkal Lake with a photographer, one of the best places to see this most magnificent natural spectacle.  Kilpisjärvi’s location on the border of both maritime and continental climates means it very often has clear skies which allows for these intense displays of rays, spirals and dynamic flickers covering the entire sky. You’ll walk to Cahkal Lake.

  • Day 10 - Kilpisjärvi to Tromsø

    After breakfast morning is yours. After lunch, you will walk to the lake to find out how winter fishing works before heading into Kilpisjärvi to take the Arctic Route bus to Tromsø in Norway.

    Known as Paris of the North, Tromsø is the third largest city in the Arctic. Despite its location, the region of Tromsø has a relatively mild climate.

    On arrival in Tromsø you’ll check in to the Hotel With (or a hotel of your choice). Located on the quayside you’ll be in the midst of the Tromsø’s maritime history, surrounded by views of the harbour, sea and the iconic Arctic Cathedral.

    Dinner in the hotel restaurant is included, as is Fika, an example of true Scandinavian culture that is about taking time to sit down with friends with a cup of tea or coffee and something home-baked to eat.

    Bus from Kilpisjärvi to Tromsø: 61.7 miles (99km), duration 2hrs 20mins

  • Day 11 - Return to the UK

    After breakfast put your bags in storage as, although you’re sadly coming to the end of your trip, there’s still an adventure or two to be had and a full day of activities has been planned for you.
    In the morning you’ll be taken on a fjord cruise on Brim Explorer’s electric hybrid vessel (about 50% of this tour runs on the electric engine). The boat will take you out to Ramsfjord, known for its 90-degree corner halfway through the fjord, where you will see the historic Cold War facility of Olavsvern and visit an old fishing facility on the island of Kvaløya. Throughout the day the guides and captain will keep an eye out for some of the wildlife that can be spotted such as white-tailed eagles, reindeer and a variety of fish. You can use the binoculars on board for an even better view. Food and drinks can be purchased on board in the ship’s café.
    On return to Tromsø, a shuttle bus will take you to the Fjellheisen Gondola, cable cars known as Seal and Polar Bear which run up to the Storsteinen mountain ledge (421m above sea level) in just four minutes. Or if you’re feeling super fit, you can get there by climbing the 1200 stone steps up the Sherpa Staircase. From the viewing platform at the upper station, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Tromsø and the surrounding islands, mountains and fjords.
    You can have dinner (at your own cost) at the Fjellstua restaurant on the upper platform.

    A private airport transfer will pick you and your baggage up at 18.30 to take you to the airport for your evening flight to London. Alternatively, to keep carbon emissions lower we can plan the slow route home by rail and ferry as appropriate.

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