The Blue Highway (Norwegian: Blå vegen, Swedish: Blå vägen, Finnish: Sininen tie, Russian: Голубая дорога) is a route in Northern Europe, stretching from Mo i Rana on the Atlantic coast through Norway, Sweden and Finland to Pudozh in Russia, across Lake Onega from Petrozavodsk. It follows ancient waterways from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Onega, hence the name "Blue Highway". Among the lakes you'll see are the largest and second largest lakes of Europe.
The route is about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) long and probably best experienced by car or motorcycle. Much of the route is through sparsely populated countryside or wilderness, with great opportunities for outdoor life.
Through Norway (from Mo i Rana) and Sweden it is known as European Route E12. The route through Finland follows the highways 18, 16, 13 (just a short stretch), 77, 5 and 9. Finally, the route through Russia follows the highways 86-K8, A-121, P-21 and A-119.
Check what visas and car documents you need (e.g. carnet de passage). Citizens of most countries need a visa to Russia, and citizens of most non-western countries need one for the Schengen area, which includes Norway, Sweden and Finland. With Russia's war on Ukraine, the relations between Finland and Russia are strained as of 2022; check that the border is open.
As there are stretches through wilderness, you should check that your vehicle is in good condition, and pack basic spares and tools. Some of the Russian roads may be rough. Unless driving in summer, check whether preparations for winter driving are needed for the pass through the Scandinavian mountains (highest stretch 500–600 m, 1,600–2,000 ft, i.e. close to the tree line) or for the eastern inland.
Mo i Rana is at the highway E6 coming in from the Swedish west coast via Oslo and continuing through the country to the Russian border at Kirkenes in the far north-east. You could also use the Hurtigruten ferries between Bergen and Kirkenes (most of them take cars); the closest port for Mo i Rana is Nesna, 60 km (37 mi) away.
In the other end, Petrozavodsk is a little over 400 km (250 mi) by road from St. Petersburg and 1,050 km (650 mi) from Moscow. Pudozh, on the eastern side of Lake Onega is a bit further away from St. Petersburg and correspondingly closer to Moscow.
- 1 Mo i Rana, by Ranelva, Ranfjord, Saltfjället and the Svartisen glacier. Famous for the numerous caves, two of which are developed as attractions.
The road avoids getting above the tree line at the watershed between Norway and Sweden by the 3.7-km Umskard tunnel. After the tunnel is Umbukta fjellstue, which could make a good base for the last chance to experience the Norwegian fells. The area is popular for hiking. Kubben by the tunnel reaches 1,019 m (3,343 ft) and there are several slightly higher peaks in the vicinity, Melkfjellet some 15 km (9.3 mi) away reaches 1,473 m (4,833 ft).
In Sweden the route follows the Ume river, from some distance after Hemavan.
- 2 Hemavan, a ski resort by Sweden's largest nature reserve, and with a botanic garden.
- 3 Storuman; junction with E45
- 4 Lycksele, with a forestry museum and a zoo.
- 5 Umeå, regional capital of Västerbotten, a university town with some 110.000 inhabitants. Junction with E4. Around Umeå the Blue Highway follows the old route of E12, north of the river.
The ropax ferry between the river mouth by Holmsund, Umeå, and Vaasa, tries its best to attract cruise passengers as well, although not as glamorous as the ferries from Stockholm. The route goes over Kvarken, the shallow sea area between the Bothnian Sea and the Bothnian Bay. The Kvarken Archipelago off Vaasa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with Höga kusten on the Swedish side.
- 6 Vaasa, regional capital of Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia, a university town with some 70.000 inhabitants. The road follows E12 out of town along national road 3 (to Helsinki) and road 18 (to Jyväskylä). In (Laihela) the roads part, with the Blue Highway going along road 18 to Ylistaro (of Seinäjoki), where it Switches over to road 16 to Kyyjärvi, passing Lapua and Alajärvi.
- 7 Alajärvi, sister city of Pudozh. Several buildings by Alvar Aalto, the most famous architect of Finland, who lived here as child. Also museum of artist Eero Nelimarkka.
- 8 Kyyjärvi, 30 km from Salamajärvi National Park. You have now left Ostrobothia for Central Finland and the Finnish Lakeland, soon with lakes all around you. From Kyyjärvi the route follows road 13 (between Kokkola and Jyväskylä), but soon forks off along road 77 towards Siilinjärvi. You pass north of Kannonkoski and through Viitasaari.
- 9 Viitasaari, with the rapids Huopanankoski, a famous fishing site, part of the Kymijoki system, where Viitasaari is in the upper end of the Viitasaari route). After passing north of the lake Keski-Keitele you turn south along Vesannontie (road 659). You turn to road 551 and reach Vesanto.
- 10 Vesanto, a village with musical traditions and a wooden church from 1857. You continue along road 551 through Tervo (with Kolu Channel, the longest inland water channel in Finland) and Karttula and reach Kuopio.
- 11 Kuopio, regional capital of North Savonia, with some 120.000 inhabitants. From Kuopio you follow national road 9 northwards towards Siilinjärvi. Halfway, in Vuorela, you turn east towards Joensuu and the border, as does the designation road 9. You drive through Riistavesi, Tuusniemi and Outokumpu. Outokumpu was the origin of Finland's biggest mining company (now general metal industry); the copper mine has been transformed into a mining museum.
- 12 Joensuu, regional capital of North Karelia, with some 80.000 inhabitants. You continue southward along highway 9.
The road crosses borders at Niirala/Värtsilä in 13 Tohmajärvi/14 Vyartsilya. The route now turns south along the road A130.
- 15 Sortavala (Со́ртавала) is a small town at the northern shores of Lake Ladoga, with the Lagoda Skerries National Park and a statue erected at the 100-years celebrations of the Finnish national epic Kalevala. The road passes north of the town.
- 16 Pitkyaranta (Питкяра́нта, Karelian: Pitkyrandu) is the next town, also by Ladoga and a short side trip.
- 17 Pryazha (Пряжа, Karelian: Priäžä) is at the Olonets–Petrozavodsk road by a small lake. Continue northwards.
- 18 Petrozavodsk, capital of Russian Karelia, with some 260.000 inhabitants, by Lake Onega, the second largest lake in Europe.
- 19 Medvezhyegorsk (Russian: Медвежьего́рск; Karelian: Karhumägi) is at the north end of Onega, at the White Sea Canal. The environment is beautiful, but the main draw of the town is its history: a site of mass murders under Stalin and battles during World War II.
- 20 Pudozh (Пудож, Karelian: Puudoži, Veps: Pudož), on the other side of Onega, with some 10.000 inhabitants.
Traffic is light to moderate along this itinerary, and traffic jams and the like aren't an issue at all. Wildlife accidents, on the other hand, are certainly common.
If you make the trip between November and April, there's a good chance for snow and ice on the roads. During that time of the year, the environment looks a lot different than during the summer.
If you've ended your trip at the eastern end of the itinerary, you can for instance head southwest to Saint Petersburg, southeast to Moscow and the cities along the Golden Ring or north to Murmansk or Arkhangelsk.
If you have ended your trip at the western end, you can take the E6 highway or Hurtigruten ferry north or south through Norway, or head back to Sweden, perhaps via Lofoten and E10.