Leaving our Workaway in Kautokieno we headed west, towards another Norwegian town named Karasjok, we filled up the van with diesel and headed across the border into Finland for our long trip south, the first time on our long journey we were heading south, heading to the Mediterranean and the warmer weather, but the cold of winter still had its firm grip on Finland, on the border with Russia we noticed a more russian feel to Finland than the rest of scandinavia, some of the shop signs had the distinctive look of Russian writing along with a rather 70’s vibe.
As we headed off quite late we were eager to find a decent camping spot for our first night. The roads were unbelievably long and straight through rows and rows of the deepest forests we have ever seen. Soon we came across a small nature reserve, only disturbed buy some snow shoe clad walkers we spent the night there.
Soon after we left our first camp spot we hit Inari, a small town but very popular with tourists, a base from which you could do every activity the arctic had to offer, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, reindeer sled rides, northern light tours and plenty more.
We stopped off at one of the many souvenir shops in the town, we were warned by numerous Norwegians of the many souvenir shops they have in Finland, we were told all we will see is forests and souvenir shops and so far they wasn’t far wrong.
From Inari we headed further south to a town named Saariselkä, there was plenty of skiiing and amazing views from the top of the ski slopes which you were able to drive to, although the trip to the top of the mountain was quite perilous. It was also home to the longest sled hill in Finland, although neither of us fancied giving it it a go.
As we were deep in Finnish Lapland tourism was big business, nowhere more so than in the next town on our route, Rovaniemi was the place to go if Santa is your thing, there were grottos and sleigh rides galore, we didn’t stop for long as heading through the town in the beginning of March we didn’t feel too christmassy, however we did stop in the town for a quick look around some charity shops and a local gallery.
From there we headed for a small island just east of Oulu, as we had spent a fair bit of our trip inland we decided to explore the east of coast of Finland, so to the island we went, as we approached the ferry the Baltic Sea was thick with ice and a lonely car ahead of us was waiting for the ferry, about half an hour passed when a bright yellow ferry chugged towards the small spit of land on which we were waiting. Before long we were crashing through the sheets of ice on an open deck ferry which could have only fitted 8-10 cars at a time, the weather was turning told so we hunkered down in a small car park near the woods for a couple of days and waited for things to warm up, but we had no such luck with the warmer weather came snow, and loads of it, by this point myself and Lauren have started to get fed up with all of the snow, we just wanted to be able to walk around without slipping on ice or worrying about the van getting stuck, especially on these small roads, so without hesitation we headed off again.
Our next stop was the Kvarken archipelago, a small selection of islands off the west coast of Finland, a UNESCO world heritage site it was famous for its rocky formation. A beautiful selection of islands but unfortunately there were very few places to ya to be able to stay in our camper, we had to use one of the most handy tricks we had learnt in our time in the van in Scandinavia which was to look for a church, most churches have car parks which are free and are empty most of the time, this has helped us numerous times when we're lost for a place to stay. We just look for a church spire on the horizon or in a village and head to to it!
From there we headed to towards Vasaa and to one of the largest beaches in Finland and spent the night in the car park we headed onto the beach the next day only to find it covered in snow and sheet ice covering the Baltic Sea for as far as the eye could see.
From the beach Pori was our next step, we hadn’t visited many towns in Finland. We were eager to get to Helsinki but decided we should stop and take a look round Pori, not a huge town we had a stroll around it’s city centre and looked in a few of its shops, as usual I had the GoPro on the selfie stick whilst we wandered round but as I put my hand into my coat pocket I noticed it had gone, both selfie stick and camera which were on a lanyard round my wrist were gone, luckily that morning we had backed up all of our videos so we didn’t lose anything we had shot on it, however the insurance doesn’t cover losses so the trip to Pori wasn’t the most productive day out we had had.
From Pori we decided to head to a town called Turku, the night before we stayed just out of town on a small island near a marina. When we drove into town we parked up by a river and had a look round.
After our Turku visit we headed further west to porvoo, the oldest town in Finland we had heard good things about the old town there so decided to pay it a visit, about 20km outside Helsinki we found a good place to camp just outside the old town and spent the night before going for a wander the next day.
Porvoo was home to some of the most beautiful shops we had seen along with the most enchanting toy shop full to the brim with traditional wooden toys and not an electric gadget or gizmo in sight, it was rather refreshing.
After a good couple of days exploring Porvoo we headed back east to Helsinki, we found what we thought was a decent parking spot and headed into the city for a while, after looking around the beautiful cathedrals and walking the very colourful streets we headed back to the van only to find a parking ticket, the last couple of days in Finland hadn’t been amazingly successful but the towns themselves were beautiful and we managed to explore the Moomin cafe so Lauren was happy.
late that night we boarded our ferry across the gulf of Finland and were excited to see Eastern Europe. We was on our way to Tallinn where our next adventure began and we said goodbye to Scandinavia, a place we had fallen in love with over the past 3 months.