- 2 Weeks
This highlights tour of Finland covers some of the best places the country has to offer, with cities, castles, lakes, saunas and Santa on the menu.
Kick off in capital Helsinki, prowling the buzzing Design District and unwinding in excellent restaurants and bars. Hit Suomenlinna or an island restaurant to get a feel for the archipelago, and day trip to historic Porvoo’s enchanting wooden buildings.
From there, head to the heart of the Lakeland, Kuopio, another segment you can do on a lake boat. Try to time your visit to coincide with the convivial smoke sauna.
The high latitudes are in evidence once you get to Oulu – depending on the season, the sun barely sets or barely rises. It’s one of Finland’s liveliest towns, with a great summer marketplace.
In winter stop in Kemi to see the snow castle and take an icebreaker cruise. Finally head to Rovaniemi, capital of Lapland and a great base for outdoor activities. From there, explore the north or get the sleeper train or fly back to Helsinki.
- 10 Days
Lapland’s unique charms deserve plenty of time. This trip can be done in a week, but take two if you can, giving yourself time for some of the numerous activities on offer and national-park hikes.
Rovaniemi is Lapland’s capital and a logical place to start. It’s also a good spot to hire a car. Santa Claus is the big crowd-puller here, but the real don’t-miss attraction is the excellent Arktikum museum to learn about these northern latitudes. Further south, you can see some of the region’s fauna at Ranua Zoo.
Cut eastward to Ruka, a lively winter ski resort and activity base. Here, there’s walking to be done in Oulanka National Park, including the Karhunkierros, one of Finland’s best treks. You can also canoe some great river routes and go bear-watching from nearby Kuusamo.
From Ruka, head north via Kemijärvi to Sodankylä. Don’t miss the wonderful old wooden church. Continue north through ever-more-sparsely populated territory; when you reach Urho Kekkonen National Park you’re in one of Europe’s great wildernesses. Take some time out for a hike across the fells, or try gold-panning at Tankavaara's Kultamuseo. Saariselkä is the best base to organise all sorts of summer and winter activities.
Inari, one of Lapland’s most intriguing towns, is the capital of Finland’s Sámi, a handicrafts centre and home to the memorable Siida museum, where you’ll learn a lot about the Sámi and the wildlife of these northern latitudes.
Continue the loop towards northwest Finland, perhaps cutting through Norway and ending up at Hetta, another Sámi town and the trailhead for more excellent walking.
If you have time, take a detour up the ‘arm’ of Finland to remote Kilpisjärvi, in the shadow of fearsome Norwegian mountains and the smaller bulk of Saana Fell, a rewarding climb with some memorable views over three nations.
Then head to Muonio. In winter you should go husky sledding, but even in summer it’s worth meeting the lovable dogs. Finally, return to Rovaniemi, stopping to ski or rent a summer cottage at built-up Levi or peaceful Pyhä.
Contemporary City Hopping
- 10 Days
Finland’s thriving design and music industries mean that its cities, though small, pack plenty of contemporary punch.
Take a few days to get to know Helsinki, the capital. Check out the Design Museum, then snoop around Punavuori’s small studios and shops. See what’s on at Kaapelitehdas and Korjaamo cultural centres, and pay Kiasma a visit. Fine-dining restaurants and stylish, quirky or just plain weird bars make the evenings fly by.
Catch a ferry across to Tallinn, Estonia's capital. The traditional architecture of the Old Town meets the post-Soviet generation’s creative energy in an intriguing mix.
Sail back to Helsinki and head to Tampere, a model of post-industrial regeneration. Take in the city’s bohemian vibe and stunning lakescapes, and head for a half-day trip down to Iittala to see the home of one of Finland’s iconic design brands.
Cut southwest down to Turku. The country’s stateliest city has plenty going on, whether it’s the Ruisrock festival or the latest exhibition in Ars Nova, the contemporary-art centre that hosts the Turku Biennaali.
Head back to Helsinki along the coast. Thirsty for more? Sort out your visa and the city of St Petersburg is just a train ride away.
Baltic & Bothnian coasts
- 10 Days
This trip takes you through Swedish- and Finnish-speaking communities and gives the chance to see picture-perfect wooden towns, sparkling blue water and more-than-decent beaches.
Heading west from Helsinki, stop at the pretty ironworks village of Fiskars, near family-friendly, seaside Ekenäs. Then head on to the noble wooden villas of Hanko, where St Petersburg society once summered.
The next coastline is ‘Parallel Sweden’: first stop Kristinestad with its Swedish-speaking majority. Vaasa has an excellent museum and kids’ attractions. West of here, Kvarken archipelago is an ever-changing landscape of land rising from the seabed.
Jakobstad’s Old Town rivals Rauma’s for beauty. Beyond here, beautiful coastline runs north to vibrant Oulu. Stop off at Hailuoto island for a relaxing stay by the sandy beach; it’s not often you can have a dip this far north.