Wouldn’t we all like to know what makes the ‘Happiest Country in The World’ tick? Well, a visit to this snow-filled (yet warmly inviting) wonderland and its treasure-trove of art, music and architectural wonders would probably answer that question for you.
One might argue that the best time to visit Finland is in the winter . However, this is not always true: Finland is a year-round adventure; Helsinki at springtime and Lapland in the winter are two vastly distinct experiences, yet both are scintillating in their own right.
Nature – and You.
Finland has natural beauty that you may not be able to find anywhere else. It is one of the few places in Europe that true wilderness exists. Finnish nature is revered for its wild charm. High, stone-clad slopes in Koli tower over clear, cool waters – one of Finland’s most visited sites. Understandably so, as landscapes in this country bring you closer to nature and pull you back to a time where one might even believe they belonged in a Medieval fairytale. The Devil Rocks of Läpisyöksy are made up of jagged naturally-carved inner crevices that scream when rough Northern winds blow through them. And if these peculiar – yet fascinating – sights weren’t enough, rock labyrinths exist a mere hour away from Helsinki for you to lose yourself in completely. Finnish nature is rough and unrelenting at first glance, still its beauty has depth upon exploration.
Many Scandinavian countries are starting to incorporate sustainability into their tourism, and Finland is no different. The country and its people take pride in the natural beauty that exists and thrive in oneness with it. Incorporating this mindset into their daily life has seen Finland transform their architecture into one whose design is sustainable, yet sleek and minimalist. ‘Slow Food’ and ‘Slow Travel’ are two more babies born from this initiative: whole, organic, green and ethical farming (and eating!) as well as exploring the country through bicycles, trains and on foot are what this concept is about. The idea is to take your time in this beautiful country, and explore both visually and gastronomically with mindfulness. Together, the experience is a must-feel – the connection that is felt with nature is a purposeful one, and once you feel it you just won’t be able to get enough!
Explore Finland – Helsinki, Lakeland, Lapland and The Archipelago
This is the capital of the country, and also its largest city – both in terms of population, and sustainability. With one of the best public transport systems in the world, it is easy to find yourself and your way in the same trip: its laid-back atmosphere allows for people to explore its sights without feeling judged, or congested.
There are myriad things to do here, one of the most popular being their public saunas: both locals and foreigners flock to these steamy baths to relax and unwind. Travelling by one of the easily available and uber-connected flights (or by ship through the Baltic Sea – which is breathtaking, by the way) takes a toll on our bodies, and what better way to calm the nerves than by laying in a soothing sauna? The opera and ballet scene in Finland thrives, so why not take this chance to immerse your senses in a Renaissance-like atmosphere as well?
There are 6 national parks less than 2 hours away from the city, which means flora and fauna are just waiting for you to arrive! Other neighboring attractions include the historically rich city of Porvoo, the Järvenpää-Tuusula area that’s known for its artistic heritage, and the ironwork villages speckled in and around Helsinki. The region is a melting pot of culture, history and metropolitan flair that’s bound to keep you entertained!
Lapland is the northernmost area of Finland, and the place to go if you want to experience the true Nordic nature of the Finnish mountain folk. A region of contrasts, where the summer sees 24-hour sunlight and the winter sees dark, Aurora-filled nights. Speaking of Aurora, this is the destination many flock to, to take a peek at the Northern Lights, one of the most magnificent natural phenomena the world has given us.
But that’s not all Lapland has to offer. Other attractions include amazing outdoor ski resorts and special arctic-themed hotels (i.e., winter wonderlands that you can explore from the inside-out: glass igloos, snow castles, and aurora domes that guarantee an authentic and relaxing stay). Lapland also has majestic, towering frozen waterfalls (straight out of Frozen, we reckon) and peaceful reindeer farms that are open to visitors – authentic one-of-a-kind memories that are just waiting to be made!
Welcome to an area filled with sparkling blue lakes and rolling green hills, both at the same place. Must-do water activities include steamboating and SUP boards – but if you’ve come to relax, the serene lakeside view is perfect for a calming sit-down as well. Winter paves the road for new adventures, too – waters on the lakes freeze into ice that’s perfect for snowmobiles, ice fishing, fat biking, and cross-country skiing.
Lakeland is more than just looks – its overwhelming visuals make way for the cleanest water in the world, which means you’re not just looking at nature – you’re feeling it, too.
What does the Finnish coast have to offer that other coasts don’t? Well, the answer lies in their rustic towns, Nordic fishing, and lifestyle.
Nötö is a quaint village area in the southern Finnish archipelago that people go to unwind and slow down in life – the Bed-and-Breakfasts are perfect for wholesome breakfasts that stretch out into lunches, and the atmosphere guarantees a dip in stress levels. We’re not sure if you’d ever want to leave, though!
Another inspiring part of Finland is Åland, located in the Gulf of Bothnia. The archipelago of Finland is arguably the one that receives the most sunlight, and with it, a heartwarming sunset as well. Åland is the perfect place for this – enjoy a romantic boat ride and Medieval bike trips around this archipelago that feels like you’re sailing back in time.
Each part of Finland hosts their own definitive style and way of life. What brings all the different parts together is the warmth and genuineness that Finnish people have in common. Although people here are known to be introverted and reserved, once you get to know them you’ll find yourself making friends that will last a lifetime. They enjoy their own space, however, they love to bond and make meaningful connections with people whom they feel comfortable with – you’ve just gotta give yourself time, and before you know it, you’ve made a new friend!
Finnish culture goes beyond their people, though – one of the countries’ archipelagos, Åland, is so unique that they own their own distinct taxation system and postal stamp, too!
What else is Finland known for?
One of the World’s most famous architects is from Finland, too – Alvar Aalto. Finland boasts a booming classical music scene as well, with some of the best conductors hailing from here, and the world-famous composer Jean Sibelius adding to the list. Their wood-inspired architecture and international classical and hipster music festivals keep creating new benchmarks for contemporary art, design, and music around the globe. Some of their most notable accomplishments include the newer constructions of Oodi Library and the sauna Löyly, as well as festivals like Helsinki’s Flow (an indie favourite), the Kuopio International Dance Festival and the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
Furthermore, it’d be stating the obvious if we said Finland is known for its saunas – but it is! Like we stated before, Finnish saunas are enjoyed by both locals and foreigners alike. And for good reason, too: these people take their saunas very seriously. Those who are able to, go at least once a week, usually on a Saturday. It seems to be an interesting yet vital part of the country’s culture. This being said, saunas here are a wonder to behold – stepping into a hot, steamy room from the country’s frigid climate is both relaxing, and comforting. Being enveloped in the warmth of the room, and coming out to the warmth of the people is what Finland has in store for us all.
The Food Scene
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again – Finnish folk have a bond with nature that transcends boundaries. It makes its way into the nooks of local mushrooms after September monsoon, and the crannies of chef’s hats in their Michelin restaurants. With one of the most innovative food scenes in Europe, they blend local ingredients into an awakening gastronomic tour (which they actually offer – food tours are the way to go!). Iconic Finnish foods include Karjalanpiirakka (a mouthwatering savoury pastry filled with potatoes, rice or carrots) and Mustikkapiirakka (Finnish pie-like dessert made from wild native bilberries and lingonberries). We recommend that you try out as much as you can – once you start there’s really no end!
How to Get Here?
Finland has a cold (but temperate) climate, and has connecting flights from almost anywhere in the world – allowing you to experience the infamous ‘Midnight Sun’ regardless of where you’re from.
It’s also possible to reach the country via sea, with its many ports around the country. Boats to and from Estonia and Sweden in particular, are huge and multi-faceted, with department stores and such on the ship itself. With a Scandinavian visa, you can move in and around Finland comfortably, entering via any mode you like (hint: https://visa2fly.com/visa-requirements/Finland/apply-for-Finland-visa-online/Tourist 😉 ).
Finland’s public transport connectivity is phenomenal, and this is the best place to fulfil your solo backpacking fantasies, also while travelling by train or bus. They’re extremely comfortable, and reach into the depths of the country’s rural districts as well.
So what are you waiting for? Finland’s beautiful nature, sights, saunas and people are just a few hours away!