Finland's fusion of wild beauty, contemporary design and culinary excellence is a beguiling mix. Throw in winter magic and irresistible summers, and you've one cool country.
Call of the Wild
The Finland you encounter will depend on the season of your visit, but whatever the month, there’s something pure in the Finnish air and spirit that’s vital and exciting. With towering forests speckled by picture-perfect lakes, as if an artist had flicked a blue-dipped paintbrush at the map, Suomi (the Finns' word for their country) 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, and you can observe bears and elk deep in the forests on nature-watching trips.
Finland’s short but sparkling 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 sustain them through the long, dark winter months, and there’s an explosion of good cheer and optimism. With surprisingly high temperatures for these latitudes, summer is a time for music festivals, art exhibitions, lake cruises, midnight sunshine on convivial beer terraces, idyllic days at remote waterside cottages and bountiful market produce.
After the Snowfall
Winter has its own charm as snow blankets the pines and lakes freeze over. The best way to banish the frosty subzero temperatures is to get active. Skiing is great through to May. Other pursuits include chartering a team of dogs, a posse of reindeer, or a snowmobile for a trek across snowy solitudes, lit by a beautiful, pale winter sun; catching the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) after your wood-fired sauna; drilling a hole for ice fishing; and spending a night in a glittering, iridescent ice hotel.
Finland isn't just vast expanses of pristine wilderness. Vibrant cities stock the country's southern areas, headlined by the capital, Helsinki, an electrifying urban space with world-renowned design and music scenes. Embraced by the Baltic, it’s a spectacular ensemble of modern and stately architecture, island restaurants and stylish and quirky bars. And the ‘new Suomi’ epicurean scene is flourishing, with locally foraged flavours to the fore. Beyond Helsinki, Tampere and Turku in particular are lively, engaging cities with spirited university-student populations.