Exploring FinlandOur Travel Guide
Our first introduction to Finland was riding in a van, during a snowstorm in the middle of the night, chasing the northern lights almost to the Russian border. We ended up standing in a field with snow about 4 feet and as cold as I have ever been. We ate reindeer stew along the road to warm up with hot chocolate and enjoyed every bit of it. It was a magnificent way to be introduced to a country.
Perhaps one of the lesser-known countries in Northern Europe, Finland is in no way less attractive and charming than its more famous neighbors. Finland is a country rich in both culture and natural beauty. In the winter, it turns into a breathtaking winter wonderland, while in the summer, the almost endless days create the perfect atmosphere for great memories!
To start off, Finland is one of the safest places in the world. In Helsinki, twelve wallets were left purposefully ‘forgotten’ around the city—in the end, eleven out of the twelve were returned to their rightful owner!
In addition, Finland is one of the cleanest countries on the planet. Helsinki, the capital city, has the cleanest tap water of all the world’s big cities. Kilpisjärvi, in the northern Lapland region, has the cleanest air in Europe!
Finland is a unique country, with a very unique people. They have several curious contests, including the Wife Carrying, Air Guitar Playing, and the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships! But Finland is not all about strange stuff—Finland drinks more coffee per person than any other country in the world! That means that Finland is riddled with great coffee shops!
Finland offers lots of options for all kinds of travelers.
Finland at a Glance
Visa: To enter and travel around Finland, U.S. citizens are required to have an approved ETIAS visa waiver.
Language: The official languages (national languages) of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. In addition to Finnish and Swedish, there are other languages in Finland whose users’ rights are laid down in law. The Saami languages are the languages of the indigenous population of Finland.
- Sight Seeing 70% 70%
- Cost 80% 80%
- Ease of Travel 75% 75%
- Activities 75% 75%
Standing in a snowy field, almost to the Russian border, chasing the northern lights is how we were introduced to Finland. Arctic Lapland is filled with national parks, ski resorts and the warm and welcoming Saami people.
Top Experiences in Finland
The summer days in Finland are very long. In northern Finland, the summer ‘nights’ are almost just as bright as the days; the only difference is that the light takes on a reddish-yellow color, as if it were sunrise or sunset! During these nights, you can do pretty much anything you would do during the daytime—but with everything covered in an enchanting warm light! In southern Finland, the summer nights are actually just short periods of twilight.
These summer months are perfect to enjoy the outdoors, including the countless lakes and forests, the charming coastal islands, and the beautiful national parks. The summer weather is quite agreeable, with temperatures ranging between 60°F and 90°F.
Finland has more than 180,000 lakes. Finns have built beautiful cottages around many of these. Summer is a perfect time to rent one of these and enjoy a relaxing vacation on the lakeside! One favorite activity in these cottages is the sauna! There you can sweat out all your stress, with refreshing dips in the lake! In addition, you can go swimming, boating, canoeing, and fishing in the lake!
Cities and Towns
The second oldest city in Finland, Porvoo is a beautiful wooden town with cobblestone streets, filled with enticing cafés and red-painted warehouses along the riverside! In the summer months, the city is filled with all kinds of activities, from art exhibitions, to music festivals, concerts, flea markets, and riverside attractions. This gorgeous city is surrounded by woods and fields and is only a short drive from the seaside.
During the summer, the hop-on hop-off Rinkeli bus takes you all over the Porvoo National Urban Park for free! In addition, the nearby Kokonniemi beach, which is barely a 15-minute walk from the city center, is a great place for swimming; it is a small but deep pond surrounded by white sand and grassy hills.
Even though there are great activities in Helsinki year-round, the best time to visit is during the summer. As in Porvoo, there are numerous activities, like the festivals and flea markets. Many people gather for picnics in the beautiful green parks, such as Esplanadi, Tokoinranta, and Kaivopuisto. One of the favorite parks in Helsinki is Rhododendron Park in Haaga. Around the middle of June, the eight-hectare park’s rhododendrons bloom into an amazing array of beauty! In addition, there are several public saunas, as well as many traditional saunas.
This old castle has become an icon for opera-lovers, since it is the home of the Savonlinna Opera Festival. This fantastic town is located among lakes, islands, and forest. Savonlinna offers entertainment for everyone, not just opera fans, as it has the summer theater, guided tours, concerts, and exhibitions! It is also a great place for kayaking, paddling, and taking a cruise on a steamboat or a motorboat!
Besides these cities, you could also consider visiting the small town of Hanko, with its sandy beaches; Sodankylä, with its Midnight Sun Film Festival; Marieham, which has a strong maritime and shipping heritage; and the beautiful Turku Harbor.
Even though there are several great towns and cities in Finland, nature is definitely the most breathtaking attraction. There are forty national parks in Finland, with many activities, including hiking and biking. The “Everyman’s Rights” policy, or “Jokamiehen Oikeudet” in Finnish, gives anyone living or visiting Finland the freedom to respectfully roam the countryside and enjoy the use of natural areas! Because of this, all the National Parks are completely free!
The elk, wolf, lynx, wolverine, and bear populate the vast forests of Finland. They are not a threat to humans, since they flee from people. However, there are several special areas where you can see these animals up close. There are even wildlife-watching and bear-watching adventures at Bear Kuusamo and Wild Taiga!
Besides the wildlife, the Finnish forests are also filled with beautiful plant life, including edible berries and mushrooms! You will find blueberries and cloudberries, which grow in the swamplands and bogs of Lapland. You can also find the attractive and delicious yellow clusters of chanterelle mushrooms!
Finland is a great place to visit during the summer, but it is also full of activities and beauty in the winter! In northern Finland, in Lapland, winter starts in mid-October and lasts at least until May; for the rest of Finland, it starts during November and lasts until late March or April. During the winter, Finland gets a lot of snow and cold, and the lakes freeze over. The temperatures during this time remain between -22°F and 32°F. Most of the winter, you will get short days; in Lapland, you will even get the dark ‘kaamos’ days in December and January. Even during this time, however, it will not be completely dark, as the bright snow, moon, and stars, and even the Northern Lights create awesome landscapes! After these short days, you will get very long days (from 14 to 16 hours of sunlight) in March and April. You will still be able to do winter sports during these long days! Since this season is quite long, Finland is a great place for many winter activities!
Skiing and Snowboarding
The best skiing season in Lapland is from February to May, in which you can ski in the bright, long days! If you want to try something out of the ordinary, you could try moonlight skiing during the dark months!
There are about 75 ski resorts in Finland; however, most of them are small hills next to cities and villages. The main resorts are on the slopes of Lapland. The four big ones are Levi, Ylläs, Pyhä-Luosto, and Ruka, which have slopes of up to three kilometers! The Finnish resorts are far calmer and more relaxed than the hot-spot skiing centers in Central Europe and other locations.
In addition to downhill skiing, the Finnish also enjoy cross-country skiing. There are many tracks for this type of skiing; many of them are lit during the nighttime. The biggest track network in Finland spans 330 kilometers! There are even skiing tracks around the metropolitan area of Helsinki.
A snowmobile tour is a great way to explore Finland during the winter months! The tour guides will take you through snowy hills, forests, and frozen lakes! The only requirements are being 18 years of age or older and having a valid driver’s license.
Ice skating is so popular in Finland that almost every Finnish town has an ice-skating rink! Several cities have many indoor rinks, as well as many more outdoors!
Tour skating is also very popular—there are skating tracks all over Finland; along these tracks you will be able to find comfy stops where you can buy a warm drink, or even sit around a campfire for a while! Many argue that the most beautiful skating track in Finland is the Linnansaari Winter Trail, which takes you from the town of Oravi to Rantasalmi. This trail is even provided with fireplaces along the way, where you can cook your own food!
In addition to all the rinks, you can also skate on many of the frozen-over lakes, such as Lake Saimaa (the largest lake in Finland), and Näsijärvi lake.
The fat bike’s wide wheels are made specifically for snow-covered places like Finland. There are many trails you can bike on, including the trails on the Salpausselkä Ridge system, which runs throughout Finland.
Ride a Husky Sled
Huskies are adorable dogs; but they are way more than just that—they are very strong and smart. You can experience an adventure with these Huskies by riding a Husky sled through the forests and lakes!
See the Northern Lights
In the northern region of Finland, Lapland, you can see the Northern Lights about 200 days a year! You could do any of the winter activities under the eerie light, or you could rent a “glass igloo”, to spend a comfortable night with family or friends watching these lights!
In addition to these activities, you could also try snowshoeing, ice fishing, ice climbing, diving under the ice, and snow kiting!
Finland has something for everyone, year-round! There are the winter sports and summer hiking expeditions for the more adventurous tourist; and there are the beautiful cities and charming wooden towns, as well as more relaxed hikes and the lakeside cottages for the more relaxed vacationer! Regardless of your preferences, your trip to Finland will definitely be unforgettable!
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