Finland – The Gem in the Far North
Sparkling Northern lights in the sky, the Midsummer sun and the polar night – Finland presents some of the most impressive natural phenomena you can find on earth. Most regions are well-developed for tourist now and the country offers a great variety of natural and cultural highlights.
Geography - One of the most northern regions on earth
Alone with regard to geography, Finland is an extraordinary country. The region is one of the most northern parts in the world. In addition, it has more inland waters than any other European country with hundreds of thousands of lakes and it is therefore rightly called the "land of a thousand lakes". Finland is located between Norway, Sweden and Russia and borders on the Baltic Sea in the east. Its area of 338,424 km² is sparsely populated with only 5.4 million inhabitants. About a third of the region lies north of the Arctic Circle and the farther you travel into the north, the fewer people you encounter. The climate is classed as cold temperate but it is subject to variation depending on the region. While the winters are very frosty, the summers between May and September can be hot and pleasant in the southern parts of the country. Due to the strong evaporation with only 600-700 mm, there is hardly any precipitation.
Nature - Experiencing rare animals and plants at first hand
Finland is also the country of the forests because over 86 percent of its area are covered in broadleaf and conifer forests. No other European country displays a comparable vastness of nature. About a tenth of this area is protected. The natural regions are divided into the coastal plains, the lake district in the heartland, the hilly landscapes and Lapland in the far north. With a biodiversity of about 42,000 species of animals and plants, Finland is only lower midrange but due to its special position, it accommodates particularly rare animals and plants. While elks, reindeer and the timid Finnish forest reindeer populate the forests, the golden eagles and willow ptarmigans circle the magical moorland. The northern regions of the taiga are home to Ringed seals and Arctic foxes.
Natural sights - Breathtaking Northern lights and extraordinary landscapes
Most of Finland's sights also fall within the scope of flora and fauna. Many visitors travel far into the north of the country to see the breathtaking play of colours of the Northern Lights for once in their lives. Lovers of nature can choose between 35 national parks, especially recommendable are the Urho Kekkonen, the Lemmenjoki and the Koli National Park. A special destination during the summer months are the Åland Islands, which are ideally suited for swimming and boating.
Culture - The special Midsummer
The Finns are characterised by their peculiar and extraordinary culture. Besides the influences from Russia and Sweden, the country maintained its Finnish customs and traditions such as the yearly Midsummer celebration at the end of June, which is called "Juhannus" in Finnish. While the Midsummer tree is popular in Sweden, in Finland people light the Midsummer bonfire the evening before and decorate their houses with birch twigs. The summer is generally filled with celebrations and events. Especially popular are the colourful fairs in many cities. The centre of cultural events is of course Finland's capital Helsinki.
Cultural sights - Impressive architecture
Finland holds a real treasure of astonishing sights. The old stone castles Turku Castle or Olavinlinna Castle show the nation's turbulent history and make the medieval Finland come to life again. The impressive architecture of the beautiful little wooden houses in Porvoo, Naantali and Rauma create a whole new world. Quite a few of those buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Experience - Sightseeing and shopping in the capital Helsinki
Sightseeing tourists are particularly well served in the capital Helsinki because most cultural monuments and sights are located here. The multicultural metropolis is also a good place for a shopping tour. In addition, its numerous bars and restaurants guarantee and exciting nightlife. Especially around the harbour you almost forget how far north the region is located. The Finnish cuisine makes use of natural ingredients, which you find in many of the traditional dishes. For instance, in the national dish kalakukko – a fish baked into bread – or the Karelian pirozhki. The Fins share one peculiarity with the Swedish: every Thursday they have pea soup for lunch and pancakes for dessert.
Activities - Winter sports and holidays at the lake
Finland offers a suitable programme for both people who love winter sports and sun seekers. In the winter months, most tourists travel far north to Lapland to go skiing, snowboarding or winter hiking. Especially the winter sports centres Ylläs, Levi and Ruka are frequently visited. It is typically Finnish to have a relaxing sauna followed by an ice or snow bath in the open after doing sports. In summer, however, you find most tourist in Finland's heartland and vast lake districts. Visitors usually spend their summer holidays in one of the mökkis - the log cabins at the lake. Long boat trips, hiking tours through the national parks, fishing trips or relaxing sunbaths are popular activities.
Most travellers from Europe arrive in Finland by car ferry but of course you can also take the plane. Altogether Finland has 150 airports with Helsinki-Vantaa Airport as the greatest and most important one. Within Finland travelling by car is a great option because the road network is well-developed and you can reach almost every region. Those who want to use public transport should rely on the well-developed bus network. Rail traffic does not cover all parts of Finland, especially the north cannot easily be reached by train. Tourists should note that it never really gets dark in Finland during summer solstice. The farther north you go, the longer this natural phenomenon lasts. The Fins speak their own mother tongue Finnish, the second language is Swedish. In the tourist centres and in the capital, you get along well with English.
Finland has a lot to offer for guests and visitors at all season. People who want to be active and do sports feel most comfortable in the skiing areas in winter and at the vast lakes in summer. Families also get their money's worth in Finland. Helsinki is a dream come true for city travellers. Shopping, eating and celebrating go without saying here. In addition, numerous museums and concerts round off the trip to Finland.