Finland seems to be synonymous both with raw nature, and sparkling creative magic.
Santa famously resides in snowy Lapland, while the Moomin museum in the lakeside city of Tampere showcases Tove Jansson’s lovable hippo-like characters to perfection. And need we mention Finland’s dark-sky canvas for the Northern Lights, its rippling lakes and dense, magical forests… or its array of unusual places to stay?
As the country’s capital city, Helsinki is a popular choice for travellers, and the good news is that you’re likely to be offered a warm welcome from its friendly residents. There’s a laid-back, artsy feel to this quirky Baltic city, and plenty of culture to immerse yourself in – particularly in the lively, lavish Senaatintori (Senate Square.)
Oh, and while you’re in Helsinki, why not take a quick ferry trip across to Suomenlinna, a fascinating sea fortress that’s also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site?
Water babies are certainly set to find their heaven in Finland, with 187,000 lakes to dip your toes into. Savonlinna, one of the country’s prettiest towns, makes for an excellent introduction to lakeside living. Boasting a dramatic 15th century castle, Olavinlinna – the backdrop for July’s famous opera festival – you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your camera phone handy.
Turku, Finland’s oldest city, is divided by the sparkling Aura river, and is full of heritage that includes a medieval castle and a mesmerising Gothic cathedral.
Not forgetting the Finnish archipelagos, of course. There are around 180,000 rugged, escape-worthy islands and inlets here, including Kvarken, another UNESCO World Heritage site that’s perfect for fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
And what of those enchanting Finnish forests, which cover a vast 76% of the country? Linnansaari National Park is ripe for hiking and kayaking on the misty lakes (whilst possibly spotting an endangered Saimaa ringed seal taking a swim!)
Head east for the best of the country’s forests, where you can forage for lingonberries, cloudberries and mushrooms, and keep watch for brown bears and elk. Or you can ski instead, perhaps at the beautiful Koli National Park, which has inspired many an artist to break out their easel.
Visit the reindeer-herding Sami tribe in the glistening frosted postcard that is Finland’s north, peppered with steaming wood-fired saunas. In the midst of magical winter, there’s surely nothing lovelier than huddling around a crackling fire as you wait for the Northern Lights… with a steaming cup of glogi (spiced berry juice) to warm the cockles of your soul!
Yet you don’t have to visit Finnish Lapland only in winter to experience its dramatic beauty, as the summer brings the glorious Midnight Sun, meaning you can hike in the stunning national parks at whatever time you choose.
And what of Finnish cuisine, you may ask? Well, coffee and warm korvapuusti (cinnamon rolls) or a delicious slice of potato Karelian pie would go down a treat after all that fresh-air exploring, and we doubt you’ll need too much persuading to indulge!
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