It is a long way to the north of the Arctic Circle, Lapland in Scandinavia, from other parts of Europe. Yet, so many road travelers make the trip that during the busiest summer season in July and August, popular camp sites can be fully booked if you arrive late in the evening. Enjoying the great outdoors is the primary reason for visitors to drive to the far north, and while doing it, why not enjoy the best scenic drives while on the road.
Here are the top 5 scenic drives in the land of fells, fjords, reindeer and Sami people as ranked in the travel guidebook Lapland. Some of the routes cross the borders of Finland, Norway or Sweden.
Travelers who are heading to Nordkapp can approach the Europe’s northernmost point from Alta or from Lakselv. The road from Lakselv to Nordkapp is the one to take if you want to maximize your time taking in spectacular scenery. Without breaks, this drive takes about 3-3.5 hours.
A video that shows the sceneries along the Lakselv-Nordkapp road:
Lakselv is located at the southern end of Porsangerfjorden. Heading north of Lakselv, towards Nordkapp, the road (E6 and E69) follows the shores of the fjord. You can admire fjord views practically all the way to Nordkapp, apart from two long tunnels that dive into a mountain and under the sea.
There are plenty of places to stop and take a break on the way. It is really better to stop on the roadside and take time to absorb the scenery, take some photos, and perhaps take a dip in the sea than to drive slowly and block the narrow road. Local truck and bus drivers may want to go faster than tourists even though the road is narrow.
The road from Karigasniemi to Utsjoki may not be one of the best known road sections in Lapland, but it definitely is one of the most beautiful. The road follows Tenojoki River which is famous for its wild salmon and trout. There are many places along the road where fishermen can stay at a cottage and hire a local guide with a boat to fish for the famous Tenojoki salmon. One thing is common for all travelers: everyone admires the varying landscape. The lush river valley, high fells and snow-capped peaks come into view as the road undulates along the river shores.
You can choose to drive on the Norwegian or Finnish side of Tenojoki River. I have only made the trip on the Finnish side where the road was in good condition. Roadside carparks were built in scenic places that provided beautiful views to the river and the surrounding fells. In Finland, the road starts from Karigasniemi village, and in Norway from Karasjok. There are no bridges across the river between Karigasniemi and Utsjoki.
The road between Narvik and Kiruna shows the many faces of Lapland landscape. In the west near Narvik, fjords and mountains create the unique scenery Norway is renowned for. From Narvik towards the east, the road ascends to a mountain plateau. Approaching Abisko, a whole new world opens up: mountain peaks, lakes, rivers and scarce vegetation establish a unique landscape that doesn’t look like anything you have seen before. As Kiruna comes closer, scarce vegetation gives way to lush forests as the landscape changes from fells to undulating forests and hills.
The landscape between Kiruna and Narvik is shown on this video clip:
There are many roadside carparks on the way, especially near Abisko. During weekends, the carparks may be crowded as locals head to lakes and rivers to fish and hike into the fells. Abisko and Riksgränsen are the only places where services are available along this road section.
Kong Olavs Veg
Kong Olavs Veg (King Olav’s Road) leads travelers from mainland Norway to the Lofoten archipelago and across the islands. The scenery is pretty much continuously spectacular: mountains, fjords, villages and fishing ports. There is not a dull moment on Lofoten no matter which road you choose to drive. Occasional bridges and ferries along the way let you admire the landscape from the sea as well.
Summer sceneries along the roads of Lofoten can be viewed on this video clip:
Winter/spring sceneries along the roads of Lofoten can be viewed on this video clip:
Roads, even the main roads in Lofoten, are narrow and some sections can be a bit bumpy. Take care that right-side wheels travel on the white line on the right edge of the road, because local bus and truck drivers want to drive at their own speed on the roads they know so well. Plan your trip so that you have plenty of time. Driving across the archipelago is slow because of narrow and twisting roads, and villages on the way.
Bjerkvik north of Narvik is the place to start the road trip to Lofoten. An alternative route is to take a ferry from the mainland (for instance, from Bodö or Bognes to Moskenes) and drive across Lofoten from west to east.
This scenic road takes you from majestic fell landscape in Finland to beautiful fjord mountain landscape in Norway. The highlights of this trip are Saana fell in Kilpisjärvi and Lyngenfjord.
This video shows the sceneries between Karesuando and Skibotn:
The starting point is the village of Karesuvanto that is located on both sides of the border in Finland and in Sweden. The village can be reached via E45 from Sweden and via E8 from Finland. From Karesuvanto, head west along E8. The road follows the border river Muonionjoki and gradually ascends to the gently sloping fells. Kilpisjärvi is a destination of its own for travelers. A hike to the Saana fell is highly recommended. Towards west, after Kilpisjärvi, you enter Norway and the landscape changes. Fells get steeper as the road winds down towards the sea. The village of Skibotn welcomes road travelers to the shores of the beautiful Lyngenfjord.
This was extracted from the travel guidebook to Lapland that has more information and tips for all travelers who are planning to visit the last large wilderness of Europe.