Finland offers travellers untouched landscapes, stunning isolation, a stylish capital city and of course, saunas - about two million of them, for a population of 5.3 million. There's more than one mobile phone per head of the population too. Nokia is the Finnish brand.
Finland has 35 national parks - from the Gulf of Finland to Lapland. It is also the land of thousands of lakes and islands. There are 187,888 lakes (larger than 500 sq m) and 179,584 islands. A fantastic destination for an outdoors holiday, activities on offer include Nordic skiing, yachting, cruises and kayaking. Bird-watching is popular and elk, reindeer and hare are all common game.
Under the concept of Everyman's Rights, the Finns have extensive freedom to roam around the countryside, but with these rights come responsibilities. Travellers stepping off Finland flights will discover just how seriously the Finnish take these responsibilities. The countryside is pristine. In wintertime, Finland's immaculate snow-covered forests, illuminated by a pale golden sun, are Christmas-card beautiful. In Lapland, at the far north of Finland, the Aurora Borealis is seen in winter. Lapland is also the home of Father Christmas and a popular day-trip destination for families in the run up to Christmas.
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There’s a reason you’ll find cheap flights to Finland in the winter – the weather is bitterly cold. The capital city, Helsinki, is on the southern coast and has milder summer and winters. Note that the sun doesn’t completely set for 73 days in the summer, and barely rises above the horizon in the winter.
When to fly to Finland
Understandably, in a country where the winter is so dark, the most popular time for tourists to seek Finland flights and visit is during the summer months (May-September). There are exceptions, the month of December in the run-up to Christmas is popular with those coming to see Father Christmas in his natural habitat. The Northern Lights are most likely to be seen in September-October and March-April.
You’ll find travel deals in the winter months, though some major cities, such as Helsinki are year-round destinations.
Getting around Finland
Finland is a very large country. If you’re travelling long distances then a plane is by far the quickest option. There are a couple of airlines offering domestic Finland flights, including Finnair and Blue 1. About 20 destinations within the country are served by air.
The train service is efficient and covers a very good distance, though buses are necessary if visiting more remote towns. Both are reasonably priced and comfortable.
The road system is excellent. Cars are available to hire throughout the country.
Finland insider information
- Vibrant Helsinki is growing in popularity as a tourist destination. It’s a cultural city with museums, galleries, theatre and some excellent restaurants. Less well known, however, are its beaches. If visiting in summertime, and the weather is good, pack your swimming clothes and head for one of the many beaches.
- Some of the more unusual events in Finland take place in the winter months. Reindeer racing, for example, takes place in northern Finland between February and April. The races consist of six reindeer, each pulling a skier, competing to reach the finishing line first. Though the sport is popular in Finland, the world record is currently held by a Norwegian.
- Lots of winter sports, naturally, revolve around ice. Try your skills at ice-fishing, where a hole is cut into the ice and a line dangled through it, or, for the braver, ice swimming. Again, holes are cut into the thick ice, but this time it is people who go through to the water below and not fishing lines. If this makes you too cold, not to fear, there will almost certainly be a sauna nearby in which you can warm up.
- For a more child-friendly reindeer experience, take your family to visit Father Christmas and his reindeer in Lapland. Many tours – ranging from one day to longer – are available and can be booked from most of the main towns.
- Moomin World is the biggest theme park in the country. Dedicated to the Moomins, created by Finnish author Tove Jansson, the park is situated on an island and contains such delights as “Snork’s pancake factory” and the Moominhouse, where you can meet all the Moomins. The park is located close to Turku, about 193km from Helsinki.
- If you want to take an unusual souvenir home, Finland is the place to shop. Reindeer hides, soapstone or birchwood mugs, fur and, of course, more conventionally, a huge array of design products.