Kemijärvi is in Finnish Lapland. It is the north-eastern railhead for passenger traffic.
Kemijärvi can pride itself on being the northernmost city in Finland, and the only one with the city centre north of the Arctic Circle.
In the late 19th century, Kemijärvi was a sparsely populated region, with only a few small villages scattered around the lake of the same name. The area was largely untouched by modernisation and remained a remote and isolated wilderness. However, with the railroad, which reached Rovaniemi in the early 20th century and Kemijärvi in the 1930s, Kemijärvi began to develop into a town. The railroad allowed for easier transportation of goods and people, and as a result, the population of the area began to grow. The town has a significant industrial history, particularly in the paper and pulp industry. In the 1950s, the Finnish government initiated a large-scale development program, which included the construction of several new paper mills in the country. One of these mills was built in Kemijärvi in 1954, which significantly boosted the town's economy and population.
Formerly quite off the beaten path, opening of a new border crossing to Russia in nearby Salla brought more international visitors to the city. The railway to Salla and on to Kandalaksha (Finnish: Kantalahti) was built on Soviet demand according to the peace treaties of World War II, but has never carried traffic across the border, and never regular passenger traffic. Thus, Kemijärvi, along with Kolari, are the northern railheads of Finland (although Rovaniemi, with better onward connections, acts as the main railhead).
The city gets its name from the namesake lake by the town centre, the lake in turn is on the route of the river Kemijoki, the longest river in Finland. Kemi is at the river's mouth.
The municipality covers 4,000 km2 (1,500 sq mi), a tenth of which is water, which means less than two people per km² of land on average; some 4,000, 60% of them, living in the town.
- Tourist info (Kemijärven Matkailuinfo), Vapaudentie 8, ☏ +358 40-189-2050, firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F 09:00–15:30.
The closest passenger airport is in Rovaniemi, some 80 km away.
A daily overnight train from Helsinki to Lapland goes all the way to Kemijärvi. From Turku you may need to transfer in Tampere. See VR.
- 1 Kemijärvi railway station (Kemijärven rautatieasema), Asematie 4. Unmanned. Waiting room with toilets and ticket vending machine.
There are buses from Rovaniemi, Kuusamo and Sodankylä as well as Kandalaksha in Russia; the Russian service may be suspended because of the Russian war on Ukraine.
The distance from Helsinki or elsewhere in southern Finland is about 1,000 km, so prepare for a whole day of driving – or get tickets for an overnight train. The car train station has been recommissioned, so you can again take your car with you. If car slots are outsold, you might try to get a ticket to Rovaniemi instead and drive from there. Cabins with bunk beds for four people and a car slot cost about 2·€250+€150.
From elsewhere in Lapland you can usually drive to Kemijärvi in 4–5 hours. Remember to watch out for reindeer on the road regardless of the time of the year! From the Russian border at Salla you can drive to Kemijärvi in less than one hour (but there may be quite some driving on the Russian side, with the road not a highway).
The town isn't larger than that you can get from any place to another in less than 10 minutes by foot. However Kemijärvi has some local bus lines.
Kemijärvi's service traffic (palveluliikenne) is traffic from the villages / residential areas of Kemijärvi to the center of Kemijärvi by taxi, after the trip there is a return transport according to the schedules. According to the service traffic schedule, customers can place orders by calling +358 40 751 7484. Taxis must be ordered the previous day by 2 pm (Monday shifts the previous Friday). Traffic is handled by Kemijärven Taksikeskus Oy. A single order from the villages or along the line for scheduled transactions is enough for the line to run. If there are no orders from some of the lines from the villages or along the way, they will not be run.
You can get further out by intercity bus, but if your destination isn't next to a highway you will need to drive or take a taxi.
- Etelä-Savon Taksi, ☏ +358 200 99300.
- Kemijärven taksikeskus Oy, ☏ +358 200 99300.
- Lake Kemijärvi. Kemijärvi translates to "Kemi Lake", and the city shares the name with the lake just east of it. The lake and the landscapes with fells (hills) around it is a beautiful view all year.
- 1 Kemijärvi church, Sallantie 54 (Kirkkokatu/Vapaudenkatu junction). Built in 1949, this is the most prominent landmark of the city.
- 2 The snowmobile and sawmill museum, Varastotie 11 (on the road opposite the railway station).
- 3 Kemijärvi local history museum, Sepänkatu 4 (south from the railway station), ☏ +358 40-503-9591, email@example.com. 13 Jun–31 Aug: M–Sa 10:00–16:00 or by request. The regional museum shows how people used to live in the old days. €3/1.
There are also a couple of galleries and workshops by local artists.
- Kemijärvi is more or less a town in the middle of the outback, so if you want to "take a hike" Kemijärvi is a good starting point.
- Suomu ski resort is administratively in Kemijärvi, about 40 km south-east along highway 5 (E63).
Kemijärvi isn't really a shopping destination. Most shops are located along the street 1 Vapaudenkatu, and there you can find basic stuff that you might need on your trip. There are grocery stores near the railway station, which may be convenient if continuing from there.
The hotels in the town also serve as restaurants and pubs. In the budget segment, the service stations' cafés offer meals from hotdogs and pizzas to schnitzel and fries.
- 1 ABC Kemijärvi, Pajulantie 2 (By the bus station), ☏ +358 10-763-3723. Breakfast 06:00–10:00, lunch buffet 11:00–15:00. Fuel station with restaurant. Buffet €12, children 3–7 €5, 8–12 €7.
The "right to access" and the fact that it easy to get out in the nature here make wild camping a viable option in the summer months. It is free, if not always comfortable accommodation. If you are in town, the 1 Pöyliövaara and Pöyliöselkä areas 3–6 km away might be viable, though on a Saturday night you might want to have some distance to the most popular routes and sites.
- 2 Hotel Kemijärvi, Vapaudenkatu 4, ☏ +358 46-561-2020, +358 40-756-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org. An aged hotel at the main shopping street. Sauna and Wi-Fi included. Also "economy" rooms without breakfast and linen. Go elsewhere for dinner (microwave oven at disposal, if that's enough for you). €100.
- 3 Mestarin Kievari, Kirkkokatu 9, ☏ +358 16 320-7700, email@example.com. A basic hotel in the city centre. TV and private bathroom in each room as well as unreliable Wi-Fi. "Family" rooms have single beds and refrigerator. The hotel restaurant is a good place to eat even if you don't stay there, they serve an extensive buffet for €11.50. Also lunch and à la carte, but check Sunday hours. €110.
Postal code: 98100 Kemijärvi.
- The Pyhä resort and the adjacent Pyhä-Luosto National Park, 50 km to the north
- Rovaniemi – the largest city in Lapland and probably the most popular destination after Helsinki
- Sodankylä – ... and the rest of northern Lapland
- Kandalaksha (Finnish: Kantalahti) – if you have a valid Russian visa or don't need one
|Routes through Kemijärvi|
|END ← Sodankylä ←||N S||→ Kuusamo → Turku|