Finland, a Northern European country, is an enchanting blend of some of the Mother Nature's greatest hits, beautiful relics from the bygone times, contemporary architecture, vast stretches of wilderness and lavish ski resorts. Affectionately known as 'the Land of a Thousand Lakes', the forested landscape of Finland is embedded with more than 188,000 lakes. Apart from housing the purest water on earth, the Northern country is thriving with flourishing forests blanketed with fresh air, rich blooms, and verdant greens. During winters, the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) can be easily spotted in Finnish Lapland for more than 200 nights a year. Here, you can also witness the rare natural phenomenon 'the Midnight Sun' in summers. Let's not forget that Finland is also the official home of Santa Claus! Here is how you can plan your Finnish adventure:
The Finnish Beauty
Finland is a quaint patchwork of rolling plains, low hills and towering mountains, pristine lakes, islands, and forests interspersed with busy cities and quiet towns. Summers are short but lively, and the whole country rise up to be drenched in sunshine. Sunny days call for jovial music festivals, cruising the many waterways and kayaking the lakes, catching the glimpse of the midnight sun, plenty of art exhibitions and farmer's markets, hiking opportunities and lazy days spent at lakeside retreats.
Winter is long and snow-clad, but it has its own charm. Frost-kissed lakes, snow-covered peaks, saunas, and the mesmerizing Northern Lights are among the many highlights of the wintertide. Winter sports are also big in Finland. There are plenty of ski resorts in Lapland where you can cozy up by skiing the icy slopes. Ice fishing, ice hockey, ice swimming, dog sledding, snowshoe hiking, ice karting and skating are some of the most extremely exhilarating activities you can try in Finland.
Places to Visit and Sights to See
Sprawling next to the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is the country's capital known for its modern art, innovative architecture, an excellent culinary scene, and a rich history tracing back to the Stone Age. Hop on a ferry and visit Suomenlinna, an 18th-century sea fortress in the Baltic better known as the fortress of Finland. It is entwined with defensive walls, scenic trails, breweries, and drawbridges. There are a number of seafront eateries where you can indulge in scrumptious Finnish meals. An island cluster surrounds the city that you can access through a cruise boat. The isles hide some of the best beaches and forested trails. There are many iconic churches and cathedrals such as Lutheran Cathedral, The Church in the Rock and Uspenski Cathedral that will take you back in time with their magnificent construction and symbolism. To feel the contemporary scene, visit the Design Museum that highlights current commercial and industrial modern art.
Located a few miles away from Helsinki, Porvoo is one of the six medieval towns in Finland. It possesses an olde-worlde charm with red shore houses perfectly lined up against each other, whimsical cafes where you can stop for a cup of joe, art galleries and museums that exhibit artistic traditions, and a number of interesting interior design and crafts shops. Take quiet strolls alongside the rushing Porvoo River and explore its gem on foot.
The capital of Lapland, Rovaniemi is the Gateway to the Arctic and home to Santa Claus. In summers, the midnight sun lights up the night skies and people enjoy activities in full vigor. The river bubbling through the town offers a plethora of exciting activities including canoeing, swimming, and fishing. There are various trails cutting through the town aimed for cycling and hiking. Visit Santa Claus Village, Arktikum Science Museum, and the Sami villages. In winters, gaze at the Northern Light and ski to your heart's desire.
Somewhere far off in Lapland, the beautiful town of Salla is actually in the middle of nowhere. Take a dip in hot, calming waters of the sauna surrounded by ice and snow in the privacy of your own cottage. After reveling in heat, dare to treat yourself to icy cold waters of the lake. Mingle with reindeers, explore the hiking routes, and go mountain biking.
Referred to as the Technology Town, Oulu is in central Finland on the raging shores of the Bay of Bothnia. Thanks to its knowledge bases and technological centers, Oulu has come out to be a high-tech hub in the recent years. The town is surrounded by parks and botanical gardens as well as ski tracks and cycling trails. The bay also houses a cluster of islands that you can access via a ferry. In winters, you can simply walk upon the frozen 'sea' road to get to the island. Downtown Oulu is far more modern with trendy bars, restaurants, and expensive boutiques. If you go there in July, be sure to attend the Oulu Music Festival.
Lemmenjoki National Park
Infused with rivers, valleys and fells, Lemmenjoki National Park offers a rare Arctic experience in true wilderness. It is Northern Lapland and home to indigenous Sami people. Hike the marked routes that are utterly beautiful, enjoy a guided river trip, cozy up in saunas and campfires, and indulge in a hearty bowl of reindeer stew before you go to bed.
Contrary to popular belief, Finnish cuisine is not limited to potatoes and reindeer meat. The cuisine is influenced by the neighboring countries with its own unique twist. As there are thousands of lakes here, seafood is highly popular including smoked Salmon, heavily salted Vendace and pan-Scandinavian Gravlax. Milk, cream, and cheese accompany almost all the dishes. There is a squeaky breadcheese eaten with cloudberry jam, thick and buttermilkish Pilma and Viili, a type of sour yogurt. Do try meatballs along with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam, and a bowl of thick reindeer stew that will warm you up.
Whether you want a Finnish kahvi (coffee) or a mug of olut (beer), you will a number of bars and cafes in every other corner. You can buy beers and spirits from stores as well. There are a few drinks that are unique to Finland such as salmiakkikossu which is made with liquorice sweets and Koskenkorva vodka, and special liquors made with cranberries and cloudberries. While you enjoy a refreshing beverage, experience the musical spirit of the country. Classical, jazz and tango are highly popular.
It is not easy on the wallet to find a decent accommodation in Finland especially during the winters. Staying in a youth hostel is a budget-friendly option if you don't mind sharing a room with others. There is also a tradition in Finland called 'Every Man's Right' that allows you to camp out on uncultivated land. Cottages are a wonderful way to experience the rural side of Finland. They can be very cheap or extremely expensive depending upon their facilities that can include running water and electricity. Surprisingly, saunas are available in almost every lodging.
The best time to go to Finland depends upon the choice of your activities. July is the high season filled with sunshine and festivals. Accommodations are considerably cheaper, and many attractions are easily accessible. June and August are more or less the same with fewer crowds. The low season range from September to May and it is quite expensive. It boasts short, cold days with high chances of the Northern Lights lighting up the night skies. You can enjoy winter activities from December to April.
Taking a direct flight to Helsinki is easy as many European, North American, and Asian air carriers offer flights. If you are traveling from Russia, you can come via a train. Other than that, bus services to Finland are also available in Russia, Norway, and Sweden. Baltic ferries also offer rides to Finland from Sweden, Estonia, Germany, and Russia.
If you decide to go away, book your hotel, flights and activities through our trip concierge for discounts and benefits. We offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, free hotel credit and VIP gifts at many luxury hotels for the same price as the hotel’s own websites. (Book direct and you don’t get these benefits so why would you?). Our packaged vacation prices tend to be considerably cheaper than flight and hotel prices available online.
The domestic air carrier, Finnair, offers flights to various cities but it is quite costly. Trains, cars, and buses are other common ways of getting around. During summers, a ferry cruise is a great way to enjoy Finnish scenery and get to your destination.
Finland’s official currency is euro. ATMs are everywhere and credit and debits are widely accepted. Money exchanges can be found in bigger cities. Keep in mind that stores won't accept any currency other than euro.