8 reasons why Finland should be on your radar
The Land of a Thousand Lakes. Other than being home to the jolly man in red, Finland is also known for having the largest Lake District in Europe, with 188,000 lakes within its borders. A blue labyrinth of glittering waters and luscious green islands, Finnish Lakeland is second to none when it comes to life in the great outdoors. Make like a Finn and appreciate the “art of doing nothing”: retreat to a summer cottage for a BBQ with friends and family, take a swim in the lake, and cleanse the body and spirit in a sauna (the only Finnish word that is internationally accepted in other languages). Journey further north to experience the best of the light; witness the white summer nights of the midnight sun from a glass igloo, or during kaamos, ski under the Northern Lights in the middle of the darkest day of the year. And when the Christmas spirit is calling, wrap up for a ride on a reindeer or husky sleigh before meeting Santa himself at his Arctic Circle retreat in Rovaniemi.
Finland’s capital Helsinki is a modern city full of innovative design and cool cocktail bars. Its small size and safe reputation means that you can enjoy exploring the city by foot. Wonder through unique galleries and boutiques in the Design District, hop from coffeeshop to coffeeshop sampling a range of roasts, or take a sea-side stroll along the picturesque Baltic coastline. The foodie scene is also set to whet your appetite, while a vibrant nightlife offers hip and trendy bars, clubs, live-music venues and more traditional pubs.
See the Light
Whether it is the endless summer days held by the midnight sun, or the stunning displays of the Aurora Borealis during the winter months, Finland’s night sky conjures some unforgettable sights. Both are best seen in the northern Lapland but can also be enjoyed less intensely from other parts of the country. Nothing can quite compare to looking up at the dancing greens of this awe-inspiring phenomenon from your very own glass igloo – definitely one for the bucket list.
Man like a Finn
Feel like a new person after experiencing a traditional Finnish sauna. A big part of the local culture, saunas are seen as a place for physical and mental relaxation, with many owning one at home (it is said there are enough saunas in the country for all 5.4million Finns!). The smell of the warm wood is deeply relaxing; whipping yourself with a bundle of fresh birch twigs known as “vihta” sounds less so, but is actually thought to be beneficial for the skin. Once you can no longer stand the heat, jump into a lake, pool or even take a roll in the snow to cool down. Most Finns will sauna nude, but if don’t worry if you would prefer to cover up with a towel; the main thing is the experience itself.
The Land of a Thousand Lakes
With, in fact, over 180 000 across the country, one of Finland’s most unique and interesting features is its abundance of lakes. It is no surprise then, that many a Finn chooses to spend their summers in lake-side cottages, where they can bathe, fish and enjoy a boat ride. Dark green forests meet clean blue waters, offering an unforgettable backdrop for memorable summer evenings spent talking, eating and drinking. In the winter, glistening frozen surfaces also allow for ice-skating and cross-country skiing. Finland’s largest lake, Lake Saimaa, is a whopping 4,400 square kilometers, contains numerous islands and is home to the endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal.
Into the Wild
The unspoiled nature and wildlife of Finland is something to be envied. It has the most trees per square kilometer of any in country in Europe, making it incredibly green and an ideal home to wildlife. From mighty bears, lynxes and wolves to elegant swans, cranes and eagles, there is plenty to spot for the keen photographer. With 40 national parks, Finland truly is an example of how a country protects and conserves its environment so that it can be enjoyed by all.
The ski season in Finland can last as long as six months, with the round fells of Lapland providing the best and most varied terrain from skiers and snowboarders alike. When you’re not soaring down the slopes on a blanket of fresh snow, go on a snowshoe hike, captain a snowmobile or experience a sled ride with reindeers or huskies. In the evenings, enjoy a nice warm cup of “Glögi” (mulled wine) under the starry sky where you may also witness a glimpse of the northern lights.
Food for Thought
The foodie scene in Finland is gaining more and more international recognition. For meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, here you can sample traditional dishes with modern twists and choose from the growing number of Michelin-starred restaurants, including five in Helsinki alone. Local dishes include Leipajuusto or “squeaky cheese”, Kaalilaatikko (cabbage casserole) and reindeer meat, amongst others. Every year Finland celebrates Restaurant Day, a day full of pop-up restaurants and food stalls, where anyone can open their own venue for the day. The concept has proved so popular other countries have adopted it too.
Ho Ho Ho
If you ever wondered where Santa Clause lives, look no further than Lapland, Finland. Rovaniemi was declared Santa’s official home in 2010. Venture to Santa Clause Village on the Arctic Circle where you can visit Santa’s workshop, the Arctic Circle post office and meet the man himself!
In partnership with Visit Finland.