Sled Safaris & Skiing, March to April
Savonlinna Opera Festival, July
Ruska Hiking, September
It’s cold. Very cold and very dark. But this is the beginning of the active winter; there’s enough snow for ice hotels, and sledding, snowmobiling and skiing are reliable.
In late January, this three-day film festival with an indigenous theme is held in Lapland in the Sámi capital of Inari.
It’s a memorable experience to spend a night in one of these ethereally beautiful places, which are constructed each winter.
Conditions are still cold, but skiing really kicks off at northern Finland's resorts and on its cross-country trails, with a peak holiday season around the middle of the month.
This day, on 5 February, commemorates Finland’s national poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–77). Flags are at half mast and people eat jam-topped ‘Runeberg tarts’.
Hours of light dramatically increase and temperatures begin to rise, making March an excellent time to take advantage of the hefty snow cover and indulge in some winter activities.
Sled Safaris & Skiing
Whizzing across the snow pulled by a team of huskies or reindeer is a pretty spectacular way to see the northern wildernesses. Add snowmobiling or skiing to the mix and it’s a top time to be at high latitude.
In Oulu's late February/early March snow, the Tervahiihto (Tar Ski Race) is a historic skiing race that’s been running since 1889.
Held over the last weekend of March or first weekend of April, the King’s Cup in Inari is the grand finale of Finnish Lapland’s reindeer-racing season and a great spectacle.
Easter is celebrated in a traditional fashion. Spring begins in southern Finland, but there’s still solid snow cover in the northern reaches. It’s a great month for outdoor activities in Lapland.
On Easter Sunday people go to church, paint eggs and eat mämmi (pudding of rye and malt). The Sunday before, kids dress as witches and bless neighbouring houses in exchange for treats.
This five-day festival features new Finnish music and takes place in the buzzing city of Tampere in even-numbered years only.
Held in Espoo on the western outskirts of Helsinki in late April, this four-day jazz festival draws big-name artists as well as big crowds.
A transitional month in the north, with snow beginning to disappear and signs of life emerging after the long winter. In the south, spring’s in full flow. It's a quiet but rewarding time to visit.
Traditionally a festival of students and workers, Vappu (1 May) also marks the beginning of summer and is celebrated with plenty of sparkling wine and merrymaking.
Midsummer weekend in late June is celebrated with great gusto, but it’s typically a family-and-friends event. Lapland’s a little muddy, but the rest of the country is warm and welcoming.
These Orthodox celebrations are day-long religious and folk festivals held in North Karelia and other eastern provinces between May and September, most notably around the end of June.
The most important annual event for Finns, Juhannus (midsummer) is held the weekend closest to 22 June. The country completely shuts down as people head to summer cottages to celebrate the longest day of the year with bonfires and dancing.
Midnight Sun Film Festival
Round-the-clock screenings in Sodankylä while the never-setting sun circles around the sky outside bring a great atmosphere to this small Lapland town.
Celebrations of the capital’s anniversary, Helsinki Päivä, make for a busy time to be in town, with lots of events and activities around Esplanadin Puisto (Esplanade Park) on 12 June.
Peak season sees long, long days and sunshine. Finland really comes to life, with festivals throughout, boat trips, activities, cheaper hotels and a celebratory feel. Insects in many areas are a nuisance.
Savonlinna Opera Festival
A month of excellent performances in the romantic location of one of Europe’s most picturesquely situated castles makes this Finland’s biggest summer drawcard for casual and devoted lovers of opera.
Finland’s oldest and possibly best rock festival takes place over two days in early July on an island just outside the southwestern city of Turku. Top Finnish and international acts take part.
Wife-Carrying World Championships
Finland’s, nay, the world’s premier wife-carrying event is held in the village of Sonkajärvi in early July. Victorious couples (marriage not required) win the woman’s weight in beer as well as significant kudos.
Finnish tango is an institution and the older generations converge on Seinäjoki in this massive celebration of singing and dancing in early July.
This massive rowing festival in the Lakeland is all about participation…and downing lager in what turns into one of Finland’s biggest parties.
Pori Jazz Festival
The nation’s biggest jazz event packs out the port city of Pori on the west coast over a week in mid-July. More than 100 concerts, free jam sessions and dancing in the street make it hugely enjoyable.
Kaustinen Folk Music Festival
The tiny cereal-belt settlement of Kaustinen hosts a massive folk-music and dance knees-up in the third week of July. It’s so emblematic that in Peanuts cartoons in Finland, Woodstock is called Kaustinen.
In remote Kuhmo, this is an excellent fortnight of chamber music, with concerts featuring a large bunch of young and talented performers from around Europe.
Other July Music Festivals
This multifaceted six-day festival makes sure the university town of Jyväskylä stays lively in summer. It’s one of Finland’s oldest and most important arts festivals.
A week in late July sees the old wooden centre of Rauma come alive with music and cultural events, as well as lace-making demonstrations and a carnival.
The port of Kotka celebrates this maritime festival over three days in mid-July. It features music, sailing races and cruises.
In Naantali, on 'Sleepyhead Day', the ‘laziest person’ (usually actually the mayor or someone else important) is thrown into the sea in the morning, sparking a day of festivities.
Most Finns are back at work, so it's quieter than July but still with decent weather across most of the region. It’s a great time for hiking in Lapland or cycling in Åland.
Air Guitar World Championships
Tune your imaginary instrument and get involved in this crazy rockstravaganza held in Oulu in late August as part of a music-video festival. This surfeit of cheesy guitar classics and seemingly endless beer is all in the name of world peace.
Neste Oil Rally Finland
Rallying is huge in Finland, and the local leg of the world championship, held around Jyväskylä, is a massive event that draws 500,000 spectators, normally in early August. The town packs out for a huge party.
Kind of like Wacky Races but with saunas, these mobile building championships near Närpes offer a solid portion of offbeat Finnish humour and frivolity.
Over a weekend usually in August in Inari, Lapland, is this excellent music festival that features groups from all spectra of Sámi music.
Held over two weeks and three weekends from late August to early September, the all-arts Helsinki Festival keeps the capital pumping with loads of events, including plenty for kids.
The winter is fast approaching: pack something warm. Autumn colours are spectacular in northern forests, making it a great hiking month. Many attractions and activities close.
Ruska is the Finnish word for the autumn colours, and there’s a mini high season in Kainuu, Koillismaa and Lapland as hikers take to the trails to enjoy nature’s brief, spectacular artistic flourish.
Performances by the famous Lahti Symphony Orchestra, honouring composer Jean Sibelius, take to the stage in Lahti’s spectacular waterside auditorium.
Snow is already beginning to carpet the north. It’s generally a quiet time in Finland, as locals face the realities of yet another long winter approaching.
Baltic Herring Fair
Held in the first week of October on Helsinki's main market square, this traditional outdoor herring market has taken place since 1743.
Once the clocks change in late October, there’s no denying the winter. November’s bad for winter sports, as there’s little light and not enough snow. It can be a good month to see the aurora borealis, though.
Whether you are blessed with seeing the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) is largely a matter of luck, but the further north you are, the better your chances. Dark, cloudless nights, patience and a viewing spot away from city lights are key factors.
The Christmas period is celebrated enthusiastically in Finland with the aromas of cinnamon, warming mulled drinks and festive traditions putting the meaning back into the event.
Finland celebrates its independence, gained in 1917, on 6 December with torchlight processions, fireworks and concerts as well as cakes iced in blue and white, the colours of the country's flag.
Pikkujoulu (little Christmas) parties, with plenty of glögi (hot punch) consumed, lead up to the main event, which features a family meal on Christmas Eve. Santa seems to be everywhere at once in Lapland, which sees reindeer and plenty of kitschy but fun Christmas spirit.