Tour Report: Lapland & Norway

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In early summer of 2016 I did a two-week cycle tour in Finnish Lapland and Norway.
Below are some pictures and impressions of the trip.

The Route

This tour took me on an approximately 1100km cycling route. I started from the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland and cycled up to Norway. In Norway I rode around the Troms area, took a bus back to Finland and did a second short Finnish Lapland leg. I cycled the whole route as drawn on the map, but the two long straight stretches were cycled only one-way with the return trips by bus.

(route drawn with the pannier.cc routing app)

Part 1: Finland to Norway

Day 0: Turku – Rovaniemi (night train)
Day 1: Rovaniemi – Lohiniva (100km cycling)
Day 2: Lohiniva – Särkijärvi (126km cycling)
Day 3: Särkijärvi – Karesuvanto (100km cycling)
Day 4: Karesuvanto – Kilpisjärvi (105km cycling)

The first two days were cycled in truly warm summer, even if this was only the first days of June. Sunlight all day – and night, as we are on the area of the midnight sun. After that the weather started to be a bit more changing, with occasional rain, wind and cloudy skies.

Most of the days were easy, with gently rolling hills and quiet roads. The last leg to Kilpisjärvi was tough, with continuous headwind all day. But the more north you get on this route in Finland, the better the views turn. A very hard day 4 was rewarded with a beautiful descent from the highest point on Finnish highways (565 meters above the sea) to Kilpisjärvi, with the Norwegian fells and mountains on the horizon.

My accommodation was mostly campsite cabins, the first night being an exception: a small sauna cottage on a farm via airbnb, with no electricity or running water. I had my tent with me, but as off-season prices for cabins are quite OK and a decent bed is actually quite nice after a full day of cycling, I did not camp out on this part of the trip. On my next tour I do I might even leave the tent at home, if it’s not a full-on bikepacking trip away from bigger roads and public campsites.

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Part 2: Around Troms County, Norway

Day 5: Kilpisjärvi – Manndalen (87km cycling)
Day 6: Manndalen – Tromsø (100km cycling + two ferries)
Day 7: Tromsø (rest day)
Day 8: Tromsø-Senja (85km cycling + one ferry)
Day 9-10: Senja-Skibotn (230km cycling)

Norway was great. The landscapes around the Troms area are stunning, especially the mountain area known as the Lyngen Alps. The roads are very quiet, even the parts where I cycled on the main roads E8 and E6. Many cyclists are apprehensive about the tunnels in Norway, but luckily this route took me only via one longer tunnel and a couple of very short ones. Weather was a bit hit and miss, quite a lot of rain and I was pretty soaked on days 6 and 9. But the views compensated, I can’t get enough of fells, fjords and mountains.

Tromsø was a bit of a suprise, a very active and vibrant university town far up north. I spent the rest day walking about the city, visited the Polar Museum (I am a bit of a classic polar expedition buff, so the exhibitions on Amundsen and Nansen were nice) and of course did some route planning while sampling local beers at Ølhallen, Tromsø‘s oldest watering hole.

The last leg was special. I was planning to stretch it to a couple of days – but ended up cycling all day, night and the following morning from the island of Senja. I took a short rest in my tent in the bushes at five in the morning before continuing to Skibotn. From Skibotn I took a bus back to Finland, avoiding cycling the same roads back.

Accommodation was varied, a nice fishing cabin in Manndalen, a cheap hotel in Tromsö and a couple of nights in my tent.

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Part 3: Return to Finland

Day 10: Skibotn – Palojoensuu (bus), Palojoensuu – Hetta (29km cycling)
Day 11: Hetta (rest day)
Day 12: Hetta – Levi (117km cycling), Levi – Rovaniemi (bus)
Return to Turku (night train)

After the bus trip and a short cycling leg I spent a day in Hetta, visiting the exhibitions in the Fell Lapland Nature Centre and doing a short hiking day trip in fresh snowfall.

The last part of the tour included only one longer cycling leg, but that was something to remember. There was a bit of a storm in Northern Finland, and I ended up cycling most of day 12 in wind and snowfall on extremely wet gravel roads. My bike is still muddy from it, after a week since my return.

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