Finland is a peaceful Nordic country nestled in between Sweden and Russia, with the Arctic Circle puncturing the country up north. The Finnish nature is unspoiled and breathtakingly beautiful. Take a train ride from the southern capital of Helsinki to the city of Rovaniemi perched on the Arctic Circle, and you’ll see a country dotted with literally thousands of lakes with acre after acre of lush green forest. Finland is perhaps best known for all its wintery charms and the cold months from November to March are indeed not to be missed. But it turns out that this Nordic beauty has a lot more to offer beyond mountains of snow and ice. Let’s take a look.
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Explore Winter Wonderland
To get a feel of a truly Nordic winter, look no further than Lapland. The northernmost region of Finland is home to snow, reindeer – and Santa Claus. There is, in fact, a whole theme park dedicated to Old Saint Nick just outside of Rovaniemi called Santa Park, but there is plenty of Christmas spirit floating in the air even if you prefer to stick to the more authentic Lapland. With reindeer roaming about and miles of pure white snow stretching out before your eyes, make the views around here are probably the closest thing to an actual storybook of Christmas you could get anywhere in the world.
But even in the wintertime, you don’t need to stay indoors and settle for pretty views alone, far from it. Trust us; there is plenty to do in the snow. Northern Finland offers fantastic opportunities for skiing and snowboarding. You can explore the region far and wide by joining a snowmobile safari or maybe hitching a ride with a pack of Siberian Huskies. If you prefer to take your time, cross-country skiing offers equally stunning views at a more relaxed pace. Name any winter sport you can think of, and we guarantee you can find it here.
Marvel at the Northern Lights
People travel far and wide just to get a chance to experience the peace that can still be found in Northern Finland, far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. One of the biggest draws in Lapland is without a doubt the enigmatic Aurora Borealis, perhaps more commonly known as the Northern Lights. This is undoubtedly one of Mother Nature’s greatest performances, and it’s no wonder that catching a glimpse of the beautiful Aurora Borealis is on many a traveler’s bucket list.
The hands-down best spot for experiencing nature’s very own laser show is hotel Kakslauttanen, located far beyond the Arctic Circle in Saariselkä. The hotel offers guests an out-of-this-world-amazing opportunity to spend the night in one of their glass igloos. Tucked warmly in your bed beneath that glass dome, you can simply lay back and watch the Northern Lights dancing across the skies. Trust us – it’s a sight you won’t soon forget.
Enjoy the Summertime Magic
Though the Nordic winter does indeed have a lot to offer to visitors, the Finnish summer months are not to be missed either. Given that the summer around here is short, the warm months are usually spanning only from June to August, Finns go all out to make the most of the season. The energy and excitement that sweeps the nation during summertime are palpable. Better yet – it’s contagious.
The best place for experiencing that summertime magic would be anywhere with water close by. Finns are very attached to their summer cottages and got there during midsummer; you’ll find the cities deserted as folks clamor to the countryside to spend the most magical time of summer at their cottages, surrounded by nature and their loved ones. The midsummer festivities usually include eating, drinking and all around merrymaking and, this being Finland, heating up the sauna before heading out for a leisurely swim.
The Turku Archipelago off the southwestern coast is a strong contender for the best spot for enjoying the Finnish summer. These 20,000 islands dotted between Finland and Sweden offer beautiful views and peace by the bucket load. Looking at the views, complete with picturesque cottages, people island hopping by bike and sailboats leisurely drifting by; you would be forgiven to think you’ve stumbled into an Astrid Lindgren storybook.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
But it’s not all lazy sightseeing. In the summer, from the major cities to tiny villages, Finland comes alive with festivals and events. Music festivals offer everything from jazz to heavy metal and from opera to hipster pop, attracting some of the biggest names on the planet as well as local talent. During summer, a theatre seems to pop up in even the smallest of villages.
One of the nicest summertime events is Restaurant Day, which takes place in May and August. It’s a day when anyone can become a restaurateur for a day. This means a pop-up restaurant selling delicious food for next to nothing can be found practically around every corner. This event is all about enjoying good food and building a sense of community. The event first took off in Finland back in 2011 and is now celebrated in dozens of countries across the globe. Restaurant Day is still going strong in Finland, where you’ll find plenty of stalls selling local delicacies as well as tasty offerings from around the world.
Catch a Movie with the Midnight Sun
As is turns out, one of the best things about summer, too, is indeed the light show provided by Mother Nature. During the warm months, the sun doesn’t set at all in the northernmost parts of the country. This magical phenomenon is known as the Midnight Sun.
If you don’t want to settle for mere gawking at the nocturnal sun and are looking for a bit of culture to balance out all the outdoorsy stuff, head to the Midnight Sun Film Festival held in the small town of Sodankylä every June. During the festival films spanning all genres are screened 24/7, and it’s easy to lose track of time as the sun does not set at all. Everyone from Krzysztof Kieslowski to Francis Ford Coppola has attended the festival. The atmosphere is somewhat spellbinding, and many people return to the festival year after year. And who could blame them? The Midnight Sun Film Festival is without a doubt one of a unique movie festival on the planet.
That’s the thing about Finland – if you know where to look, there is a bit of magic lurking behind every corner.