834km (518 miles) N of Helsinki, 287km (178 miles) S of Ivalo
Our summer driving tour begins in Lapland's capital, Rovaniemi, which is best reached by flying from Helsinki. Once here, you can rent a car and tour Lapland (summer is the best time, as winters can be rough).
When the Nazis began their infamous retreat from Lapland in 1944, they burned Rovaniemi, the gateway to Lapland and a prime rail and communications center, to the ground. But with characteristic Finnish sisu (suggesting courage and bravery against overwhelming odds), Rovaniemi bounced back and became a completely modern town, designed largely by Finland's greatest architect, Alvar Aalto, who created roads shaped like reindeer antlers.
Eight kilometers (5 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is at the confluence of two significant Finnish rivers, the Kemijoki and the Ounasjoki. This capital of Finnish Lapland goes back some 8,000 years, and the settlement at Rovaniemi was mentioned in documents in the 1400s. As a tourist and travel center, Rovaniemi has excellent road, rail, and air connections. Highway 4, which passes through the city, stretches from southern Finland to Inari in Lapland. You can drive to northern Norway on the Great Arctic Highway and to Kiruna, Sweden, and Narvik, Norway, by following the North Calotte Highway. If you arrive by plane, you'll probably take a bus into Rovaniemi, although a reindeer-drawn pulkka would be more colorful.
Regardless of when you come, you'll surely escape the heat. In July, the hottest month, the temperature is likely to be around 50°F (10°C); however, you won't escape the mosquitoes from the swampy tundra.