Helsinki Waterfront - July 2022

Finland - 2022

This is part two of Baltic Adventures. Part One captured the chaos of post-pandemic travel and our bonus tour of Amsterdam. This post will cover our 4 days in Finland.

Our original plan had us taking an easy first day in Helsinki, maybe doing a simple canal cruise. The delay getting to Helsinki meant we didn’t get the down day. Instead, we got up the next morning to get the rental car.

Pool at the hotel
But we did get to go to the pool

Driving in Helsinki was terrifying, primarily due to the lack of street signs. Street signs are small and attached to the buildings. They’re meant for pedestrians, not drivers. Luckily Waze worked, and I was able to use my phone to navigate throughout the city. I really just needed to swing by the hotel to get our luggage and to return the car to the Kampii mall / City Center area. The rest of the trip was along Finnish highways and was super easy.

Finnish City streets sign
Finnish City streets sign

Our first stop was the city of Porvoo, an old town with a little touristy shopping district. The kid was tired and being picky about food, so we didn’t get to eat lunch on the water. The choices were burgers or expensive sit-down meals. He didn’t want Burgers, and we didn’t plan to drop 30€ per person for lunch, so we found a food truck.

Porvoo Waterfront
Porvoo Waterfront

Our next stop was the Porkkalanniemi Cliffs west of Helsinki. We had a lovely relaxing hike there before heading back to Helsinki to drop off the car. The car cost us 243€, but it fit all our luggage, so we didn’t need to do anything about storing it for the day. We’d easily have paid that for one person for an excursion to Porvoo or Porkkalanniemi.

Porkkalanniemi Cliffs Map
Porkkalanniemi Cliffs Map
Porkkalanniemi Cliffs
Porkkalanniemi Cliffs

After dinner, we went to the central train station for our night train to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, and right on the Arctic Circle 66th parallel.

Night Train
Finnish VR Night Train to Rovaniemi

The night train was an interesting experience. It was two bunks and a tiny chair. There was one dining car which was fairly crowded when we departed. We splurged to get the cabin with a toilet and shower, and since there were three of us, we needed two cabins. The train was local, so it had multiple stops throughout the night. It was also a car train, so we stopped for about 30min right after we left Helsinki to load the cars. The trip to Rovaniemi was about 12 hrs. The beds were comfortable enough but not soft by American standards. The shower was an interesting experience too. It was pretty easy to get hot water, but you had to press a button to get wet, then the water would shut off so you could lather, then you pressed the button again for more water to rinse.

Train Cabin
Train Cabin
Train Bath
Train Bathroom

When we arrived at Rovaniemi, there were plenty of taxis to take us to the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel. Even though it was the last day of the midnight sun, summer is the down season for Rovaniemi, and we were able to check-in early. The staff was super friendly and helpful. We planned two excursions for Rovaniemi, one to see the waterfalls at Korouoma National Park and one to the Amethyst mine in Pyhä- Luosto national park.


The waterfalls were a bit of a disappointment. They’re famous for being frozen waterfalls, but they’re not river-fed waterfalls. They’re mostly just where rain falls from the cliffsides and freezes in the winter. They’re popular for climbing. In the summer, it’s just a 5km hike with about 600m vertical that you go up and down a few times. Also, the mosquitoes were insane. I’ve heard about Alaskan mosquitoes being a major problem, and this was the same.

The Amethyst mine was great. It was about a 2km hike from the parking lot to the mine, but it was mostly flat. Then you had to climb many stairs to the top of the “mountain”, what they call a fell. From the top there were great views. Our guide said on a clear day, you could see 200km, and I estimated from Google maps we were about 100 - 150 km from the Russian border. So that’s the closest I’ll get to Russia while Vladimir Putin is alive.

Eastern View from the Amethyst fell
I think I can see Russia from here

The kid plays a lot of Minecraft, so he knows what Amethyst is. We found a few nice pieces. We then had a nice lunch by a lake in the park before returning to Rovaniemi. Dinner of reindeer at the MonteRosa hotel, and then the night train back to Helsinki.

Kota shelter
Kota style shelter we ate lunch at
Puut (woodshed)
The government stocks these wood sheds in all the parks

Back in Helsinki, we stashed our bags in the luggage storage at the train station. That required Euro Coins and cost us about 6EUR. We then had a chance to finally see Helsinki, so we did the two cathedrals, the waterfront area for lunch, and a boat tour before fetching our bags and heading to the ferry terminal.

Uspenski Cathedral
Uspenski Cathedral in downtown Helsinki

The next post will cover our ferry ride to Stockholm and our time in Sweden and Estonia

Boat to Stockholm
Silja Symphony - our boat to Stockholm