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Finland

Finland

Great Destination:

4.5

Value for Money:

2

Total Stars:

6.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

Fits the middle of the personality curve best-Centric Venturers and Centric-Authentics, along with many Mid-Venturers

Did You Know…?

  • Sauna is the only Finnish word to enter languages around the world.
  • Finland counts close to 190,000 lakes and Europe’s largest archipelago: 100,000 islands.
  • Only about 5 million people speak Finnish.
  • Longfellow patterned the rhythm of “Hiawatha” on “Kalevala,” Finland’s national epic.
  • Finland has one sauna for every three residents.

Land of Nokia

Finland is perhaps best known for the sauna, but it also is the source of Marimekko textiles and apparel, Finlandia vodka and the Nokia mobile phone.

The Finns, when characterizing their own country, cite the countless lakes, vast forests, a caring country (Finland is a welfare state), composer Jean Sibelius and a mealtime staple, rye bread. They also think of the sauna, and they consider Finnish strawberries the world’s best.

That’s an eclectic collection of images. Boiled down, Finland is a northern European democracy where Mother Nature has been generous and her citizens conscientious about protecting her gifts.

Over time, Finland has had to struggle with Sweden to the west and Russia to the east to maintain its independence. The Finns are neither Scandinavians nor Slavs, and it is a tribute to their spirit that they have won.

Finland’s capital Helsinki commands the southern coast with its striking modern architecture and contrasts with the stunning wilderness beauty of Lapland in the far north, where the sun shines all day in summer and almost never in winter. Tens of thousands of reindeer roam free in these majestic open spaces and lush forests. In the middle of the country, visitors find a veritable paradise of lakes, good for boating and fishing.

The country is widely known for the simple beauty of its ceramics, furniture, glassware and textiles. That translates into beautiful souvenirs. The shopping is not inexpensive, so look for quality. The same kinds of modern and elegant lines can be seen in the work of Finland’s best-known architects, Alvar Aalto and Eliel Saarinen.

To live a little like the Finns, sit in a sauna, perhaps adding a dip in a nearby river or lake. Then, have coffee in one of Finland’s numerous cafes.  Living like the Finns also means enjoying the outdoors. Finns are noted as well for being good at sports that require a helmet: ice hockey, motor sports and ski jumping, for example.

The country wins a lot of points with active travelers. It has the terrain, natural beauty and range of available pastimes that particularly appeal to the outdoors enthusiast.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go to ski resorts in summer for mountain biking. Places with planned routes and guided excursions include Hallanmaa, Kuopio/Puijo, Lahti, Levi, Rovaniemi/Ounasvaara, Ruka, Saariselka, Tahko and Yllas.  Or, cycle from Helsinki to Vaasa on the west coast on the 350-mile Via Finlandia. Or take the 155-mile King’s Road between Helsinki and Turku.
  • Take a horseback trek in Oulanka National Park, which is just to the south of the Arctic Circle and near the Russian border. Overnights along the way are typically taken in cabins or huts.
  • Shoot the rapids on the Muonio or Tornio river systems. These waters, best for experienced canoeists, are in western Finland along the border with Sweden.
  • Go on an overnight bear watching adventure at the Martinselkonen Wilds Center at Soumussalmi near the Russian border. You spend the night in a log hide for viewing the animals. Also, at Martinselkonen, you can spend another night in a hide for watching moose.
  • Try ice-hole swimming. Do this with a warm dressing room and sauna near at hand!
  • Cruise on an ice breaker that has been converted for carrying tourists. The Sampo sails out of Kemi from mid-December to the end of April. Try swimming in a waterproof thermal suit, too.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Spend part of your holiday in a farmhouse or cottage made available by a Finnish family. You may have options like biking, fishing, hiking and saunas, and you can help with farm chores if you wish.
  • Go fly-fishing in Lapland, or fish in the Aland archipelago. In winter, go ice fishing, even enter a competition.
  • Hike in Petkeljarvi National Park which has hiking trails of varying lengths. For a longer excursion, hike the 83-mile Bear (Karhu) Trail in the northwest.
  • Make the sauna a trip theme. Visit the Muurame sauna village near Jyvaskyla; visit traditional saunas in the Nuuksio National Park near Helsinki; in the Lapp village of Kongas, complete a sauna by swimming in a hole in frozen ice; also, sample a smoke sauna.
  • Attend unusual events. Try the Wife Carrying World Championship in Sonkajarvi or the Finnish blacksmithing championship at Petajavesi. Buy the smithies’ products.
  • Compete in Stone Age games at a re-created Stone Age village at Saarijarvi in central Finland.

Things to do for Authentics

  • In Jyvaskyla, see the museum dedicated to the father of modern Finnish architecture, Alvar Aalto. Jyvaskyla was his hometown.
  • Sample a traditional sauna, complete with a quick dip in a river or lake.
  • Visit the Open-Air Museum Hallan Tupa, displaying traditional buildings and features of 17th century Finnish life, at Hankasalmi.
  • Eat well on local fish, and sample game meats as well: duck, elk, reindeer, snow grouse, plus a wide range of local berries.
  • In summer, visit the Savonlinna lake district to see Finland’s largest castle, Olavinlinna; attend a performance of the opera festival held in its courtyard. Seek out other historical castles at Hameenlinna and Turku.
  • Go skiing. Finland counts nearly 80 ski resorts. Or, go cross-country skiing on any of thousands of miles of marked and maintained ski trails, with trails suitable for skiers at all skill levels. Some trails are lighted for nighttime skiing, as well.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Finnish Tourist Board at www.visitfinland.com