Lapland Passenger Line in Finland

Lapland is the largest but also most sparsely populated region in Finland, which makes functional transport links a vital part of its global accessibility. The hubs of Kemi, Tornio and Haaparanta attract international traffic flows and carry a large share of the country’s raw wood exports.

The daily overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi stops in Kemijarvi. The station has 11 tracks and three platforms, as well as restaurants, ticket vending machines and car-carrier loading docks.

Getting There

Kemijarvi is Finland’s northernmost city and the only one with a town centre north of the Arctic Circle. The region was sparsely populated until the construction of a railway line in the 1930s, boosting both population and economy. Today, the main industry is paper and pulp mills, which have turned the area into a tourist destination.

The nearest airport is in Rovaniemi, although the opening of a new border crossing to Russia at nearby Salla has also brought more international visitors to the town. A daily overnight train from Helsinki and some bus services connect to Kemijarvi, but the connections are limited.

If you decide to travel by train, it’s best to book tickets at least three weeks in advance. Trains in Finland are comfortable, fast and modern. The ticket machines in Finnish railway stations (rautatieasema) and bus stations (linja-autoasema) accept both cash and credit cards. You can also purchase a ticket at any R-kioski kiosk across the country or online.

Train Schedules

The Santa Claus Express, operated by Finnish train company VR Rail, offers a scenic overnight trip from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. The trains are equipped with cabins that sleep two people and their luggage, plus a dining car. The train departs from the city of Helsinki (Pasila Station) and arrives in Rovaniemi at seven am.

The train makes a stop in Rovaniemi, where you can gaze in wonder at the Northern Lights or visit Santa Claus Park and Ranua Zoo (home to polar bears). It then continues on to Kemijarvi and Kolari in far northerly Lapland.

The trains run year round, with the exception of a few weeks in the summer when it is dark for a long time and a few weeks in winter when you might be able to see the snow-covered landscapes and the magical northern lights. The trip from Helsinki takes 12 hours. If you are travelling with kids, mention this to VR’s Facebook chat and they will send free kids’ tickets into your email.


Taking a train from Helsinki to Lapland is expensive but it adds an incredibly fun adventure element to your trip and is significantly better for the environment than flying. You can purchase tickets at the station or in advance online, through the VR app or in R-kioski shops (similar to 7-Eleven) across Finland. You can buy seats, berths or private cabins depending on your budget.

Once you arrive at Pasila in Helsinki, hop on the train and go to your compartment. Some of you will have car slots, which include a bunk bed for two and a space for your vehicle. As you approach Rovaniemi, the train will stop in a special area where drivers get their cars off the train and into a car-carrier. The driver then gets their car back in Rovaniemi. It’s an amazing sight! You can then continue on to Levi, Saariselka, Pyha or Salla, the flagship resorts in Finnish Lapland for skiing and other outdoor activities and to see traditional Sami culture.

Getting Around

As a tourist hub, Rovaniemi attracts visitors from across the globe. The most popular way to reach the town is by plane with frequent scheduled flights during peak times such as Christmas time. You can find many flights from Helsinki with Finnair and Norwegian Air International.

Rovaniemi has a wide range of attractions for all types of travellers. The main landmarks include the Jatkankynttila bridge with its eternal flame over the Kemijoki river, the Arktikum Science Museum, and the city hall and Lappia Hall designed by architect Alvar Aalto. The town also has numerous restaurants, cafes, and boutiques.

There are a lot of things to do in Rovaniemi, from skiing and hiking to visiting the Santa Claus Village. Toni Toyras, an adventurer and photographer based in Finnish Lapland, says you don’t have to go far from the town to find amazing views or landscapes. The best place to see the Northern Lights, he adds, is at Kuninkaan laavu or Ounasvaara fell.

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