You may never have given much thought to the things to do in Finland. Nestling between Russia and Sweden, Finland is one of the quiet countries of Europe – it never makes a noise about anything really. Despite this, it has a lot to shout about as a tourist destination. It is stunningly beautiful and its cities are full of interest, ancient and modern. Come with me on a short resume of some of the things to do in Finland and see whether it’s a place you could see yourself visiting.
Of course, one of the essential things to do in Finland is visit the capital. Set around a glorious harbor, on an inlet studded coastline and festooned with many small islands, it has less of an olde world feel than many European capitals. Art Nouveau and modern quirkiness sit side by side, there are world class museums and a vibrant café culture. Some of the main sites are Porvoo Old Town, Sibelius Park, the Open-Air Museum, Kiasma and Senaatintori.
There are more than 188,000 lakes in Finland. As well as being a place of outstanding natural beauty, the heart of lake country, unsurprisingly called Lakeland, is one of the best places to go in Finland if you love outdoor pursuits. Among the scenic hills, forests and lakes there’s a natural adventure playground where you can swim, canoe, fish, sail, hike and ride. If you prefer gentler pursuits, rent a lakeside log cabin, spend the day berry picking or hunting for mushroom in between spotting the local wildlife, then settle down to watch as the sun sets magnificently over the still water.
One of the quintessential things to do in Finland is to have a sauna, the very place where they originated. Many hotels and holiday rentals have saunas but if you want an authentic experience, there’s a few choices. The largest smoke sauna in the world is in Jätkänkämppä just outside of Kuopio, a peaceful town in Lakeland where the log cabin originally served as a base for the loggers who worked the forest. If the city is more your scene, there’s a certain charm to the timeworn Kotiharjun public sauna, which is in the Kallio district of Helsinki.
One of the greatest attractions of Finland is the Aurora Borealis. Best seen between November and May, the Northern Lights make a spectacular dance across the polar sky. Needless to say, this is the depth of the Finnish winter so dress appropriately. The best places in Finland to see the Northern Lights are Kilpisjarvi, Oulanka National Park, Karesuando and Kakslauttanen, which is only 50 miles from the Russian border.
The festivals in Finland span the spectrum from traditional through quirky to bizarre. Traditionalists and music fans can head to Savonlinna in the Lake Country in July for the Opera Festival. If you’re a fan of rock music, you’ll find a spiritual home at the Air Guitar World Championships, which is held every year in Oulu. For something that will make you laugh there’s the annual Wife-Carrying World Championships in Sonkajärvi, and if you head to Naantali on 27th July you can see the town’s laziest resident tossed into the sea on Sleepyhead Day.
One of the best places to go in Finland if you want to experience the Arctic is Rovaniemi. As the gateway to Lapland, come Christmastime there’s a mass of attractions themed around Santa Claus, but for the rest of the year it’s a place to use as a base for exploring the glorious national park and getting up close with about 300,000 reindeer. There’s a very interesting museum in Rovaniemi – the Arktikum –which is a serious insight into the anthropology and ecology of the Arctic.
There are some terrific trekking trails that run through some of Finland’s most glorious countryside. As well as the Lake Country and Lapland, there are national parks, including the Archipelago, which covers more than 2,000 islands off the south western coast. There are national hiking areas and wilderness areas. A fabulous time to choose to enjoy the scenery is fall. Thanks to the heavily forested areas, the country bursts into a mass of reds, golds, ambers and sepia.
This is just a small selection of the things to do in Finland. So, after reading this would you be tempted to visit?