Finland is well worth a visit by bike, it has some very beautiful and interesting scenery, however be prepared to see plenty of trees, lakes and long roads! Up in Lapland beyond the arctic circle the scenery reminds you of Scotland without the mountains, in mid summer there is no darkness at night, which takes a little getting used to and if you are really lucky you might see the Aurora Borealis (Northern lights).
Cycling on the road to Luosto
Finland has a country wide network of 72 marked national cycle routes and many other local routes that criss cross the country, they are way marked but not quite as diligently as in some countries. The 200,000 GT maps have all the routes marked.
The official way marking
sign for the 6 routes.
There are 6 major cycle rotes that have individualised way marking signs and official guides in Finnish, German and English. The routes are:
- Via Finlandia - 596 km
- Kings Road - 253 km
- The Great Lakes Route - 458 km
- Coastal Route - 955 km
- Through Southern Finland - 360 km
- Central Finland Route - 312 km
There is some information on these routes on the Visit Finland site.
Most of the cities, towns and major villages have cycle paths on most major roads and streets, but these generally only extend out as far as the built up areas. Outside of towns and cities the traffic is fairly light and the smaller country roads are generally quiet, Finnish drivers unlike Polish drivers seem to be quite courteous to cyclists and will usually even stop for you when you use the pedestrian crossings.
Most cities and towns have cycle paths which follow most roads, some are only partitioned off pavements. The cycle paths in the cities have some sign posting but it is very sporadic and not easy to follow, a good map is advisable.
The Åland islands which lie between Finland and Sweden are very cycle friendly with many well marked cycle routes.
All the National cycle routes are marked with these signs although at junctions the routes are not always clearly marked , so a good map is advisable.
On the Åland isles all the cycle routes are very well marked with exact distances to each destination.
All the Åland cycle routes are very clearly marked with these signs at every junction.
Finland has nearly 200 official campsites dotted around the country however they are not always that close together and can lead to some long days unless you plan your route carefully, if you get stuck then there are plenty of holiday cottages or cabin sites which will often let you put a tent up.
Most of the campsites offer good facilities which include kitchen facilities, laundry, grill area and the ubiquitous sauna. They are classified on a one to five star rating depending on the facilities offered, you can find a classification of what's offered on the Camping in Finland site here. All the Finnish registered sites like the Danish and Swedish sites provide cooking and washing up facilities.
However don't be surprised to find campsites in remote areas having earth closet toilets!
There is a book which is obtainable from most tourist offices which lists all the Finnish campsites and the facilities that they offer.
If you intend to visit the Åland isles there is a free small booklet available from the tourist office which has a map and details of all the campsites available on the islands. This is worth getting hold of from the tourist office on arrival.
You can buy the 'Camping Card Scandanavia' for €6 (which is valid for one year), this will give you either a 10% or €2 discount. Which after 3 nights has paid for it's self and after that all campsites are cheaper. You can buy this card at your first campsite, you will be given a temporary card card and will receive your plastic card later in the post. You can apply for one before you go at www.camping.fi If you have an International Camping Carnet, most but not all campsites will offer a small reduction.
The other option is the bivi tent area sites marked on most maps in the more remoter areas particularly near to national parks. At these areas you will find a earth closet, a fire place with a stack of logs and a water supply which is usually a lake.
Another alternative to the main campsites are the ECEAT- Finland(European Centre for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism in Finland) ecotourist farms, these are small farms where farming is on a small scale and done in an environmental way. They offer B&B accommodation and some have small campgrounds. If you go to www.luomu-liitto.fi there is information and details of all the farms and a link on how to get the 'Scandinavia Green Holiday Guide' which lists all the farms in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
Karttakeskus/Genimap 1:200,000 Karttasarja Ulkoiluun/Outdoor map series.
These are about the best maps for cycle touring in Finland. There are 2 versions that look very similar, there are the ones marked 'Karttasarja Ulkoiluun / Outdoor map series'. They are well produced, contain good tourist information (legend in English) and the national and local cycle routes are clearly marked. Only 6 maps are needed to cover the whole of the Finland as some of the maps are printed on both sides (map 6 covering Lapland is at 1:400,000). The other type look very similar but are marked 'Tiekartta / Road map', these are basically the same maps but without the cycle routes marked, so make sure when you buy them that they are the cycling version!
The maps aren't quite as readily available as say our OS maps so pick them up when you are in the bigger towns (Stockmans book shop in Helsinki has a very good selection). To obtain maps before you go touring you can either contact 'The Map shop', they hold a good selection in stock and are very helpful or buy online direct from the map makers Karttakeskus.
Karttakeskus Åland Ahvenanmaa 1:100,00 Turistkarta
|If you intend to visit the Åland islands then this map covers all the islands. It is well detailed and has a lot of tourist information marked, with information of the museums & sights, walking trails, Bicycles routes etc. written in English on the back.||Some of the more well known cycle routes have their own maps produced by the local tourist offices, such as this one for the 'Eastern Kings Road'.|
Finland a Lonely Planet travel survival kit - Published by Lonely Planet Publications ISBN 0-86442-649-6 A very useful guide to all things in Finland.
In the remoter areas in particular Lapland in the villages (if there is a shop) they opening from 9-5 occasionally to 6pm, we did find that the large supermarkets in Sodankylä did open till 9pm. Most shops close early on Saturdays, usually 12:00am some are open until 16:00 and very few if any are open on Sundays. The supermarket in Inari was open until 21:00. In the large towns, out of town shopping centre supermarkets are open till 21:00 hrs most days including Sundays. Remember if you go to the remoter areas, shops will be few a far between and usually only in the major towns, so stock up when you can and carry emergency meals.
Taking your bike on Finnish trains is relatively simple, most ticket office staff speak good English. You have to pay 10Ç per bike what ever the length of the journey, most of the local trains have a guards van for bikes which is locked by the guard during the journey, so take what you need on the train with you when you put the bikes on. The inter city double decker trains have special carriages for bikes and these are marked on the doors, these are easy as you can just wheel them on panniers and all as the doors are at platform height, however you may have to take the panniers off to get the bikes on the special racks. Some of the commuter trains have no guards van but the usual double door 3 steps up into the carriages. On the commuter trains around Helsinki bicycles may not be transported during rush-hours Mon-Fri 7.00-9.00 or 15.00-18.00.
You can take your bike (if space permits) on most Finnish buses as they are usually coaches and the bikes go underneath with the normal luggage. You will need to remove all panniers and bags. If there are several of you with bikes then you would be advised to book in advance. The prices for bikes will vary from operator to operator and you will need to check with the individual operator. One of the Lapland bus companies www.eskelisen-lapinlinjat.com has its own website in English publishing its routes, timetables and prices.
Probably the easiest way to get to Finland from the UK is to fly. We flew with 'Buzz' airline from Stanstead to Helsinki, unfortunately since our trip in 2002 Buzz have stopped this service. However KLM the dutch airline still run schedule flights to Helsinki. For information on taking bikes on planes see our 'Taking your bike on planes' page.
- Since we went to Finland in 2001 they have changed their currency from the Finish Mark to Euros.
- Finland seems to have a short tourist season which mainly seems to be from the beginning of June through to mid August. Which means that things such as Museums and Lake ferries seem to close after the 16th August.
- You wont have too many problems with speaking Finnish as English seems to be their second language with most people speaking reasonable English.
- Most of the major & minor roads are tarmac, however there are quite a few that are gravel. Most of which we found to be well maintained and have a good rideable surface, some however weren't brilliant but were passable even for heavily laden touring bikes with 700x37 tyres. If you get hold of the Karttakeskus/Genimap 1:200,000 Karttasarja Ulkoiluun/Outdoor map series as mentioned above, then the un surfaced roads are marked clearly in yellow.
- Most people have complained about the Mossies, either we were lucky or it was a poor year for them, but we didn't have too much bother with them.
- all of the sites listed below are in English unless otherwise stated.
Cycling in Finland
Pyöräillen Suomessa - A very useful site on cycling in Finland.
General Tourist information for Finland
Museums and National Parks
- www.outdoors.fi - Finland's National Parks.
- National Board of Antiquities - Information on Finlands national museums and archaeological sites.
- Siida - The Sami museum and the Northern Lapland Nature centre in Inari Lapland.
- Tankavaara Gold Prospector Museum.
- Suurpedot.fi presents information about four large carnivores living in Finland: bear, lynx, wolf and wolverine.
Regional Tourist information
- visitaland.com - The official Åland Tourist office site with loads of information on the islands.
- City of Helsinki Tourist Office - Tourist information around Helsinki.
- Helsinki Region Transport - information on cycling around Helsiniki.
- City of Joensuu - Tourist information around Joensuu.
- Kemijärvi - Yleisesittely - Tourist information on the area around the town of Kemijärvi in Lapland.
- Lieksa Tourist Service - Tourist information on the area around the town of Lieksa in Northern Karelia.
- Sodankyla Tourist site - Tourist information on the area around the town of Sodankyla in Lapland.
- Turku TouRing - Tourist information for the Turku area.
- VR- The Finnish railway service.
- Viking Line - Runs ferries to Sweden, Estonia and the Åland isles from Turku and Helsinki.
- Silja - Runs ferries to Sweden, Estonia and the Åland isles from Turku and Helsinki.
- www.kingsroadfinland.net - Information on the 'Kings road' cycle route which runs along the southern coast of Finland from Turku through Helsinki to the border with Russia.
- The Map shop, 15 High Street, Upton-upon-Severn, Worcs. WR8 0HJ England
Tel: 01684-593146 Fax:01684-594559