Finland summer holidays
The varied faces of Finland
A circular bus trip through Finland. From lakes and hills to the Arctic Circle and archipelago.
The varied faces of Finland
This bus tour acquaints you with Finland’s many faces and contrasts. Travel through Lakeland and along the Russian border to Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle, and return to the capital along the west coast. Enjoy the peace of unspoilt wilderness, admire the beauty of varied landscapes, see charming towns, explore the modern capital, relax in sauna…
On this tour you don’t need to see the scenery just through the bus window. You will get in to the wilderness during walking excursions that take you to admire some of Finland’s most beautiful landscapes. Join us and let the land of the thousand lakes and the midnight sun enchant you!
• Guided walking excursions
• National parks (Koli, Oulanka)
• Punkaharju ridge area
• Kvarken Archipelago
• Arctic Circle
• Karelian culture
Day 1: Arrival
Independent arrival in Helsinki and to Original Sokos Hotel Presidentti situated in the city centre. Dinner at the hotel’s restaurant and the briefing by our guide over dinner.
Day 2: The capital and the south coast
Helsinki–Porvoo–Kotka 133 km
Finland’s modern capital Helsinki has earned a reputation as a pocket-sized metropolis with a relaxed atmosphere and many interesting visitor attractions. Helsinki’s identity has been formed by cultural influences from both the East and West and it is highly characterized by the presence of water due to its situation on the Baltic Sea. After breakfast you will start your Finland tour with a guided city sightseeing tour. You see many of the main attractions like Senate Square, the Parliament building and the historical centre. In the afternoon a drive to the coastal city of Kotka through Porvoo where you will have a break to explore the charming Old Porvoo.
Day 3: The thousand lakes
Kotka–Punkaharju–Savonlinna 265 km
From Kotka you will head inland towards Punkaharju, famous for its beautiful ridge area that is known as a national landscape of Finland. You will get to know the ridge area and its cultural and natural history on a guided bus tour. After that it is possible to visit The Finnish Forestry Museum “Lusto” or enjoy some free time in Punkaharju. Today’s final destination is Savonlinna, famous for its annual opera festival held in the medieval Olavinlinna castle.
Day 4: Karelian beauty
Savonlinna–Kerimäki–Koli 210 km
In the morning you have some free time in Savonlinna. Visit the lively market or step on board for a short scenic cruise on Lake Saimaa! The first stop today is Kerimäki where you will visit the impressive Kerimäki church – the largest wooden church in the world. In the afternoon you will reach Koli. The guided walking excursion in Koli National Park takes you to the highest peak of Koli Hills called Ukko-Koli (347 m). The view from there overlooking Lake Pielinen is famous for its beauty and it is considered one of the national sceneries of Finland. The breath-taking views have also enchanted Finnish artists, including the composer Jean Sibelius.
Day 5: Northern Karelia and grounds of Kalevala
Koli–Nurmes–Kuhmo 157 km
After breakfast you will travel through the beautiful hill-country to Nurmes where you visit the Bomba House and the surrounding Karelian village with summer market, souvenir shops and Orthodox church. Don’t forget to taste some Karelian food specialities here! Later you will arrive at Kuhmo to the grounds where the Finnish national epic Kalevala was born. To get deeper into the secrets of the mythical world of Kalevala you can visit Juminkeko – information centre for Kalevala and Karelian culture. If you prefer wildlife, then head to Petola Visitor Centre offering information on Finland’s large carnivores – bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine. Accommodation at the cosy Kalevala Hotel. Possibility to rent canoes, rowing boats and bicycles.
Day 6: Along the Russian border
Kuhmo–Hossa–Kuusamo 272 km
Today you will head further north along the Russian border. Halfway you will visit Hossa reindeer park where your hosts tell you about the reindeer husbandry. Delicious lunch will be enjoyed at the farm. In Kuusamo you will visit a nature photography centre displaying photographs of Hannu Hautala, Finland’s most famous nature photographer.
Day 7: Into the wilderness
Kuusamo–Oulanka np-Rovaniemi 260 km
This morning you will set off for a hiking excursion in Oulanka National Park which is considered the most beautiful and popular park in Finland. The landscape is made up of pine forests, river valleys with sandy banks and rapids, and in the north of vast mires. The area is rich in animal and plant species, even endangered ones. Your route will pass through Kiutaköngäs Rapid which is one of the most famous sights in the park. After the hiking the tour goes on towards Rovaniemi. At the Arctic Circle you will visit Santa Claus’ Village that takes you to the atmosphere of Christmas. You can have a private meeting with Santa, visit an international Christmas Exhibition and purchase souvenirs at the dozens of boutiques in the area.
Day 8: Back to the sea
Rovaniemi–Kemi–Oulu 225 km
In the morning you will have some free time in Rovaniemi. Worth a visit is eg. the Arktikum, a science centre and museum providing a unique insight into the way of life, culture and history of the North. From Rovaniemi you will head to the city of Oulu located on the Gulf of Bothnia. Free afternoon in this lively university city whose heart is the pedestrian street Rotuaari offering good shopping, cosy cafés and atmospheric restaurants.
Day 9: The sunny west coast
Oulu–Björköby-Vaasa 400 km
From Oulu the journey will lead towards south along the coast line until Vaasa where you have a chance to take part in the last guided walking tour along the Bodvattnet nature trail. This time the trail goes on the flat coastal area acquainting us with the Kvarken Archipelago that was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2006. In the Kvarken area, a rare geological process known as land uplift shapes the landscape year after year. Free afternoon to explore Vaasa, known as the sunniest city in Finland.
Day 10: Return to the capital
Vaasa–Tampere–Helsinki 420 km
The longest drive of the tour takes you back to Helsinki. The road winds through rolling hills, wide cultivated areas and mixed forests through Tampere and Hämeenlinna until the capital. Free afternoon in Helsinki.
Day 11: Departure
Breakfast at the hotel. End of services. Airport transfer on own arrangements.
Good to know
The whole trip was amazing. It was exactly what I was looking for when I booked the trip. I got to experience everything Finland has to offer in a in depth way. Heidi was the best guide possible for this trip and took her time to explain local history and customs to us in the different regions as well as makin stops when possible for us to take pictures of the beautiful landscape. The size of the group was just perfect for such a road trip and the holiday was made even more special by the great people that were part of the tour. Overall it was a great adventure and I would certainly recommend the tour to others.
A very well planned and executed trip. I covered a good selection of the country. The extras arranged by the guide made it even better. The vehicle was ideal for the size of group. Hotels were mostly good though I'd like thicker blinds to keep the light out at night! Guide/driver was excellent, always helpful, informative and friendly.
Male, New Zealand
The varied faces of Finland
Finland´s big year 2017
On the birth places of independency. A guided tour on the Finland´s eastern border allows you to experience the authentic battle sites of the 1939-1940 Winter War and the most important destinations in Suomussalmi and Kuhmo.
Finland´s big year 2017
The centenary of Finland’s independence in 2017 is a big year to the whole nation, but it is especially important to the area near the eastern border of Finland. Kuhmo is the birthplace of Karelianism, the Finnish romantic nationalism. Artists first started to develop an interest to Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, and the runo-song territories in the early 1890s. Nationalism and Romanticism were flourishing art movements at that time, and there was nowhere better for Finnish artists to find a foundation for their work in that spirit of times than in their nation’s ancient poetry and the realm of runo-singers.
Nationalism kept growing and the first public meeting demanding Finland’s independency from Russia was arranged in Suomussalmi, north from Kuhmo on 7th April 1917. Finally Finland became an independent state on 6th December 1917. For this Hossa, located in the northern part of Suomussalmi, is designated as commemorative national park for Finland's 100th year of independence. The main criterion for choosing the jubilee year's national park was that the area had an important role in the process of Finland gaining independence and in preserving it.
The newly born state and particularly border areas faced soon hard times during the Winter War 1939-1940. The Soviet Union invaded Finland on the 30th of November 1939. The military operation had six targets, with one in the centre of Finland. Suomussalmi and Kuhmo played a key role throughout the war, as Soviet troops intended to break Finland in half at its narrowest point then steamrolling to the West via Suomussalmi, as far as Oulu. The most famous battle of the Winter War was fought along the Raate Road in the terrible frosts of January 1940. The battle of Raate is a key example of salient warfare and the miracle of defence manifested throughout the Winter War keeping Finland independent.
This guided tour located allows you to learn about the Finland’s history and experience the authentic battle sites of the 1939-1940 Winter War and the most important destinations in Suomussalmi and Kuhmo. The package includes hotel accommodation, full board, and a wide range of excursions in line with the programme, sightseeing and the entrance fees to destinations of special military historic interest. Optional visits to Juminkeko Information Centre or to one of today’s busiest international border-crossing points in Finland, Vartius where in 2013, 507 000 crossings were recorded, with about 60% of them requiring visas.
Day 1: Suomussalmi – the harmony of nature and culture
Fly to Helsinki, domestic flight to Kajaani. Transfer (1,5 hours) to Suomussalmi, which is one of the most interesting localities along the Via Karelia tourist route from a military history point of view. Check-in at Kiannon Kuohut Spa Hotel. Free use of spa and sauna. Dinner at the hotel.
On the day of arrival you will have the opportunity to explore the hotel surroundings and the way of life in this scenic locality. For example, the beautifully maintained promenade on the shore of Lake Kiantajärvi will tempt you to take stroll at any time of the year. The shoreline route will lead you to many cultural attractions such as the idyllic Orthodox prayer room, the beautiful Jätkänpuisto (Lumberjack) Park, the statue of Ilmari "Iki" Kianto, Suomussalmi’s own author of the wilderness and the many services provided by Jaloniemi House including an exhibition of the area’s prehistory, a café, gift and candy shops.
The spa hotel offers a genuine Finnish sauna. In the summer the clean water of the natural lake invites bathers to take a mysterious midnight sun swim. In winter, your sauna experience will be crowned by winter swimming under an open-sky: the luckiest may see the blaze of the Northern Lights and the starry night sky (weather permitting).
Day 2: Raate Road - the lock of the border
The Winter War Tour of authentic battle sites in Suomussalmi
Breakfast and depart for a guided day trip to the most famous battle sites of the Winter War in Finland. The guided bus tour including lunch and exhibitions lasts about 6 hours. The distance of the drive is about 100 km. A local guide with expertise in the military history of the Raate area will present the most significant battles of the Winter War that took place 1939 - 1940 and monuments at genuine off-road destinations. Renovated dugouts, trenches and armaments, as well as numerous monuments can be found along Raate Road.
Lunch at the memorable Raatteen Portti (Raate Gate) Winter War Museum. A local guide will present the museum's new exhibition, as well as the very impressive Winter War memorial. The memorial consists of a field of stones, about three hectares in size and the "Avara Syli” (Spacious Embrace) memorial at its centre from which are suspended 105 coppery wind chimes, one for each day of the Winter War. There is also a Russian and Ukrainian monument nearby. The Liekki (Flame) monument designed by Alvar Aalto in Karhulanvaara located in the former village centre of Suomussalmi is in turn, a tribute to the Finnish soldiers of the Winter War.
The day-trip ends at the hotel. Use of spa pools and saunas free of charge.
Day 3: Kuhmo – where East and West meet
Breakfast, and leave for Vartius, located about 100 km away. The route passes through unique bog-land and forest habitats towards the international border-crossing point at Vartius. Optional border crossing point presentation given by the staff.
The arrival at Kuhmo in the afternoon for a lunch and settling in the Kalevala Hotel. Guided tour of the Kuhmo Winter War Museum (very near the hotel) which brings Winter War events in Kuhmo alive with objects, photographs, models and sound effects. The museum presents a variety of themes, such as evacuation, bombing in the Kuhmo village centre, maintaining the front and caring for the wounded, battle operations and how life changed when peace was declared.
Dinner at the hotel. The hotel amenities include an authentic Finnish sauna, and as a special feature, an infrared sauna, as well as a pleasant Jacuzzi department. In summer it is possible to swim in the clean natural lake water and in winter, to experience winter swimming under the open sky.
Day 4: The Battles of Kuhmo
The Winter War Tour of authentic battle sites in Kuhmo
Breakfast and departure for a guided day-tour of Kuhmo's most famous Winter War destinations. A guide with expertise in the military history of the Kuhmo area will present the most significant Winter War battles of 1939–1940 at genuine off-road destinations, e.g. in the direction of the Saunajärvi and Lammasperä battlefronts. During the tour, it is possible to experience a number of restored field fortifications such as machine gun stations, tank traps, defence lines, dugouts, trenches and armaments. The tour takes about 6 hours and includes a picnic lunch. The drive is about 100 km in distance and takes about 1 ½ hours. All the richer for the experiences gained, your day will end at the hotel.
Optional visit to Juminkeko, Information Centre of Kalevala: Karelianism was an art movement that influenced many forms of art was inspired by the Kalevala and the fascinating landscapes and way of life of the runo-song regions on the both side of the border. Artists gravitated to Karelia in search of new stimuli, followed closely behind by new generations of folklore collectors and researchers. Among the founders of this art movement, or in a wider sense, the new way of thinking that later became known as Karelianism, were renowned artists Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Louis Sparre, who were the first to make these pilgrimages to the “Land of runo-songs.” It was Gallen-Kallela’s honeymoon trip to Kuhmo and further to the border villages of Karelia in 1890 that marked the starting point for Karelianism because it was here Gallen-Kallela found the model for his painting of the seer Väinämöinen and a number of other “real-life” materials that featured in or inspired his Kalevala paintings. The summer 2017 exhibition features graphic works by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.
Use of saunas and the comfortable Jacuzzi department as well as an outdoor hot tub free of charge. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 5: Kajaani and way back home
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to Kajaani airport and visit Kajaani Castle ruins en route. Transfer to flight to Helsinki and onward to home.
Good to know
Finland´s big year 2017
Upitrek summer tours run from mid-May until late September.
You can choose from week-long hiking, cycling or canoeing tours or multi-activity weeks with a mixture of activities. Wildlife excursions are also available and amongst the most memorable of experiences.
If you want to explore a larger area, a self-drive program or a circular bus tour is a great alternative – both of which give opportunities to try various activity programmes.
Come and enjoy with us the long warm summer days and experience 24hrs light in the land of the midnight sun!