With its gleaming lakes and clusters of red-and-white wooden cottages, Finland is a dreamy train destination. The country’s passenger railway, run by Valtion Rautatiet (VR), has an impressive network of routes.
Hop on a high-speed Pendolino ride between major cities, or choose slower InterCity rides with cozy airplane-style seats or sleeper berths. Perks include play zones for kids, onboard dining and quiet booths for making calls.
There are plenty of train options in Finland, including high-speed Pendolino rides between big hubs and comfy InterCity trains. There are even sleeper trains that offer cabins with either airplane-style seats or sleeping berths, although these are generally reserved for longer trips. Onboard perks include on-board children’s cars and licensed dining cars and extensive support for disabled travelers.
Train travel isn’t the quickest way to get around Finland, but it can create a magical journey that will remain with you for years to come. For a truly memorable experience, take the overnight Santa Claus Express train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and Kemijarvi in Finnish Lapland. It’s easy to lose yourself in this enchanting landscape of rolling forests, glistening lakes and clusters of wooden cottages all dressed up in classic Nordic colors.
The town of Kemijarvi itself is renowned for its wood sculptures, with an impressive collection at the Puustelli Art Centre and more scattered throughout the town center. There are also 14 historical boards recounting the region’s rich history.
The main train station in Helsinki’s Vantaa region, Tikkurila, is where almost all long-distance and commuter trains depart. It is connected to the airport by a regional bus operated by Matkahuolto, and to Helsinki city centre by an urban railway line.
The Santa Claus Express, a night train running from Helsinki to Lapland’s Kemijarvi, is also available here. A trip on this train feels like something straight out of a fairy tale: you can travel in a luxury double-decker coach, and buy seats or even berths.
The tracks funnel into eight principal tracks in the central station, with the local and express lines lining up alongside each other, giving space for passenger traffic and parking cars. See the schematic map for more information, with arrows showing direction of travel and spheres indicating stabling tracks. There is a free live train tracker online that shows the status of trains in real time. The best way to check route-specific schedules is by using a trip search.
Getting around in Finland is easy by bus, train or car – there are no tolls and immaculate road surfaces make driving a pleasure, even at the slow pace of highways. Buses run between cities and towns with frequent departures during the week, but services can fall off at weekends in remote areas. Regular vakiovuoro buses are cheaper than pricier pikavuoro express buses between larger cities.
The daily overnight train from Helsinki and Turku arrives in Kemijarvi, while a train to Rovaniemi continues north towards Kuusamo. You can also reach the city by bus from Rovaniemi and from Salla. For more information, see VR’s page on routes and timetables.
There are direct flights to Finland from Europe during the winter season, notably by Lufthansa and Finnair. There is also a shuttle bus between Kuusamo and the airport (extra fee). For details of flight options, see Visit Finland’s page on flights to the area. The airport is also served by two car-carrier trains each day.
Kemijarvi is a wonderful destination for nature lovers and those looking to enjoy a more authentic, traditional experience of Finland. The region is also known for its pristine, natural scenery and unique culture. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends, or on business, there are plenty of budget-friendly activities to choose from.
The most popular way to travel to Kemijarvi is by train, which offers comfortable compartments and a restaurant car with a menu of local foods. Eurail pass holders can use this route for their journeys, as well.
Taking the overnight double-decker Santa Express train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and then on to Kemijarvi is an unforgettable experience. Wake up in the snow-covered home of Santa Claus and explore souvenir shops, restaurants, and fun activities like husky rides. Ranua Wildlife Park is also just over an hour from the station and gives visitors a chance to see arctic animals up close.