Finland is the deep north, with forests and lakes as far as the eye can see, and revitalising crisp air. Choose between summer’s endless light or winter’s eerie frozen magic.
Call of the Wild
The Finland you encounter will depend on the season of your visit, but whatever the month, the call of the wilderness is a siren song not to be resisted. There’s something pure in the Finnish air and spirit that’s really vital and exciting; it’s an invitation to get out and active year-round. With vast tracts of forest, speckled by picture-perfect lakes as if an artist had flicked a blue paintbrush at the map, Suomi offers some of Europe’s best hiking, kayaking and canoeing. A fabulous network of national parks has well-marked routes and regularly spaced huts for overnighting. There are bears deep in the eastern forests, where you can watch them on nature-watching trips.
Finland’s short but reliable sunny season sees the country burst into life. Finns seem to want to suck every last golden drop out of the summer in the hope that it will last them through the long dark winter months, and there’s an explosion of good cheer and optimism. It’s a time for music festivals, art exhibitions, lake cruises, midnight sunshine on convivial beer terraces, lazy days at remote waterside cottages and mouth-watering market produce.
After the Snowfall
Winter, too, has a special charm. The best way to banish those frosty subzero temperatures is to get out and active. For starters, there’s great skiing until May. But how about chartering a team of dogs, a posse of reindeer, or a snowmobile for a trek across the snowy wastes, lit by a beautiful, pale winter sun? Catch the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) after your wood-fired sauna and you’ll feel blessed by the universe. Need to cool down? A night in an ice hotel or an ice-breaker cruise should do the trick.
Don’t get the idea that the country’s just a backwoods emptiness, though. Vibrant cities stock the southern parts, headed by the capital, Helsinki, a cutting-edge urban space with world-famous design and music scenes. Embraced by the Baltic, it’s an enticing ensemble of modern and stately architecture, island restaurants, and stylish and quirky bars. And complaints about Finnish food are so last-century: the ‘new Suomi’ restaurant scene is kicking.
The real bonus? The Finns, who tend to do their own thing and are much the better for it. Independent, loyal, warm and welcoming – a memorable people in an inspirational country. Make it your business to get to know some.
Best places to stay in Finland
Revamped: 10 neighbourhoods that have had incredible makeovers
Some neighbourhoods are effortlessly charming while others bring new meaning to the phrase 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. From gritty to glossy, these 10 neighbourhoods around the world have been completely revamped into coveted places to live, work and play. Grünerløkka cafe.
Finland destination guides
Helsinki is a sea-town par excellence and an exciting, dynamic place.
Wife-Carrying World Championships: a guide to Finland's festival of marital trust
'World “Wife Carry” Championships' by jurvetson.
Experience the diverse delights of the Baltic states on this adventurous journey through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. From the medieval spires of Tallinn and the funky bars of Riga to the Baroque-styled quirks of Vilnius, hidden delights await. Visit colourful markets, be immersed in art and architecture and trek past Lithuanian lakes.
Discover Helsinki independently with the Helsinki Card. The card is a handy, economical way to make the most of your visit in Helsinki. It is a transport ticket and entrance ticket all in one and has a number of great value reductions and bonuses attached.
How to stay in an igloo (and live to tell about it)
'They give me a piece of insulation so me feet don't freeze to the floor,' the bartender tells me cheerfully at the Iglu Village in Kühtai, Austria, roughly a 40-minute drive west of Innsbruck. It's cold in the Tyrolean Alps. Very cold.