I wish I was in Finland
Finland is a Northern European nation bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia. Its capital, Helsinki, occupies a peninsula and surrounding islands in the Baltic Sea. Helsinki is home to the 18th-century sea fortress Suomenlinna, the fashionable Design District and diverse museums. The Northern Lights can be seen from the country’s Arctic Lapland province, a vast wilderness with national parks and ski resorts.
Finland is a hidden gem tucked into the far up North. It is a treasure waiting to be discovered. You will find thousands of reasons to fall in love with Finland; the people, arctic adventures and secrets. And four distinct seasons that continue to call you back. When you think you have seen and experiences it all, then it is time to explore Finland.
One of the most remarkable features of Finland is light. When the endless sunshine of summer gives way to dark winter, the Northern Lights appear like magic and lighten up the sky.
The further north you go, the greater the chances of spotting the Aurora Borealis – in Finnish Lapland they can appear on 200 nights a year. In Helsinki and the south, the Aurorae can be seen on roughly 20 nights a winter, away from city lights.
Seeing the Northern Lights requires sufficient darkness and clear skies, which makes late autumn, the winter and early spring (September to March) the most favourable times. The best time of day is an hour or two before and after midnight. The display might last 20 seconds or go on for hours.
How do the Northern Lights come about? Sami legend says a Fox runs across the Arctic fells and lights up the sky with sparks flying from its tail, whirling up the snow. The modern Finnish term “revontulet”, the fox’s fires, derives from this myth.
A scientist’s explanation to the phenomenon would be something like “the solar wind sends charged particles towards the Earth, and upon colliding with its atmosphere they produce energy given off as light”. We prefer the Sami myth.
The white summer nights are perhaps Finland’s most iconic natural phenomena. The nighttime sun is at its strongest during the months of June and July but the further north you go, the longer and higher the sun stays above the horizon. In the very northernmost parts you can experience a full Midnight Sun from May to August.
In the northernmost parts of Finnish Lapland, the sun stays above the horizon for over 70 consecutive days.
Although the full Midnight Sun only shines above the Arctic Circle, nights are white all over the country. Late at night, the sun briefly dips beyond the horizon before rising again, blurring the boundaries between fading night and dawning day.
Sauna forms a great part of our country’s heritage and culture. It is estimated that there are over two million saunas in Finland. For a population of 5.3 million, this equals to an average of one per household – there’s even one inside parliament.
There are many traditions and practices concerning the sauna experience, but the most important one for the Finns is to relax, purifying both body and mind.
Did you know the word “sauna” is Finnish? Whether an electric sauna in a modern business environment or an old-fashioned wood-burning sauna by a lakeside cottage, a sauna is always near you.
Clean lakes – lots of them!
Finland is often called the Land of a Thousand Lakes. A modest name, considering that there are, in fact, 188 000 lakes in the country. As many of these lakes are very large in size, a great part of Finland is covered in water – making Finland distinguishably different from other European countries.
From the metropolitan area around Helsinki all the way up to the great Lake Inari in Lapland, Finland is filled with oases of the clean blue. Where Inari is known for its deep and crystal clear waters, Lake Saimaa’s ringed seal, one of the most endangered species in the world, is the country’s largest lake’s most memorable attraction.
A lakeside cottage is an essential part of Finnish summer and most summer activities revolve around water, such as swimming and going to the sauna, fishing, canoeing, rowing and sailing.
Finland is a country of vast green forests, beautiful Baltic Sea islands, windswept arctic fells and thousands of blue lakes. These untouched and beautiful landscapes provide habitat for thousands of wild animals and birds – many of which can be seen on arranged wildlife excursions and bird watching sanctuaries.
The King of the Finnish Forest – Finland’s vast forests are home to an estimated 1,500 brown bears. Though they may roam anywhere in mainland Finland, bears usually try hard to avoid people. However, on the bear-watching trips run between April and September in several localities in Finland’s Wild East sightings can be almost guaranteed.
In Finland you can find the world’s rarest seal, the Saimaa ringed seal. These inland seals have adapted to their freshwater home since they were cut off from the sea in Lake Saimaa – Finland’s largest lake – after the Ice Age. They are found only in Lake Saimaa. Thanks to conservation measures their numbers have recently risen to over 300, but they are still seriously endangered.
Ski resorts and routes
There are around 75 ski resorts in Finland, most of them small spots near cities and villages. The big ones, however, lie in the fells of Lapland and offer something very different from the usual European ski resorts. The surrounding landscapes are unspoilt, blanketed with pure snow from December to April. In the early winter the slopes are lit, later on in the spring the sun shines until very late in the evening.
The round fells of Finland’s main ski area, Lapland, offer varying terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. The largest ski resorts are all found in Lapland with a skiing season lasting as long as six months – the last snow usually melting in early May.
The ski centres also offer activities like husky and reindeer rides, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice-fishing.
Finland is a true design nation. Some of the world’s most imitated and admired designers and architects come from Finland. From Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair as James Bond’s favorite seat to Marimekko Poppies worn by Jackie O, Finland has been setting trends for decades. As these Finnish design icons are still worshipped worldwide, a whole new generation of innovative young designers are also taking hold.
Yet, Finnish design is more than what meets the eye – it is a way of being, delicately woven into everyday life and culture.
Finns take inspiration from nature and spin it into beloved objects, architecture and a blueprint for a way to live. The very essence of Finnish design is in its ability to take the natural world and seamlessly weave it into everyday life.
The Real Santa Claus
Everyone knows that Santa – the one and only – comes from Finland. Although the exact location of his private retreat in Korvatunturi, Lapland, is unknown, his official hometown is Rovaniemi, where he greets visitors all year round.
Santa Claus may only visit children in their homes once a year, but he is also delighted to welcome you into his own home and show you around his office. You might meet Rudolph the Reindeer too!
One of Santa’s most important jobs is reading letters, and the Arctic Circle Post Office receives more than half a million of them every year from all over the world. Santa replies to each one of them, as long as you include a clearly written address!
Travel Sustainably in Finland
Respect, treasure, enjoy, love. Use these words as your mantra when you are in Finland and you will enrich your visit and help to preserve this beautiful country. Finland’s untouched and pristine nature is at the core of Finnish life and its sanctity is paramount. Living sustainably and in harmony with the environment is deep-rooted here and is an essential element of responsible travel. This includes not only a respect for nature and wildlife, but also people and their age-old customs
Sustainable tourism is committed to having a positive impact on nature, society and the economy, leaving a low ecological footprint and honouring local cultures. Keep nature clean by choosing environmentally-friendly options in modes of travel, and recycle, reuse and reduce your overall consumption and waste. Choose locally- produced and ethically-made food and products, and be respectful of local communities and traditions.
This section introduces you to the Finnish way of living ethically and sustainably. It will guide you to make all the best choices as an enlightened traveller in Finland.
By choosing Sustainable Travel Finland labelled provider, we know you respect and treasure the Finnish nature, its inhabitants and culture during your visit.
Want to discover authentic Finland? Then we advise you to take your time and slow down. To get a true sense of place and people, one needs time.
Choose train over car if you can and explore your local surroundings on foot or by bike. All cities and most small towns have bikes for rent –Helsinki’s bike rental system is the most used by citizens in all of Europe! Traveling by bike is by far the best way to experience Finland, whether you are heading to the fells of Lapland, along the scenic routes of coastal Finland or exploring Lakeland’s beautiful waterways from the shore. And because Finns are so connected to nature, there is almost certainly a trail system nearby where you can walk, cycle or run and ski in winter.
Food – local, fresh, wild and pure
Finns take their food very seriously. As a nation, we grow up with a deep knowledge of the natural world and many Finns know how to identify most edible plants, berries and mushrooms found in nature. Fishing, hunting and foraging are still a natural part of the Finnish lifestyle and form the very basics of the modern food culture too. Aromatic, nutrient-rich, seasonal and very clean – that about sums up Finland’s unique, arctic wild food.
SLOW SHOPPING, GREEN DESIGN
Vintage, recycled, organic, fairtrade, home-made…the ethical list of “slow” products and fashion is long. Green design, on the other hand, can include anything from architecture to furniture – made from renewable sources, ethically. Finland is a leader in both slow fashion and slow design. Or what do you think of the fact that Helsinki Fashion Week 2018 was 100% sustainable?
Organic, fairtrade, green, ethical…oh yes, please!
By choosing products with an eco-label and traveling to destinations that take environmental protection seriously, you offset some of the burden traveling abroad puts on the planet.
10 SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL TIPS IN FINLAND
Are you planning to visit Finland but are worried about the environmental impacts of your travel? Yes, it is true that we are located off the beaten path – Finland is not the easiest location to reach by ecological travel options, like train. To get to Finland, air or boat travel is often necessary which will bump up your carbon footprint. But keep calm and read onwards: there are other ways to make your travel more eco-friendly and sustainable. Here are 10 effective tips that you can easily do before and during your trip. Enjoy your (green) stay in Finland!
1. TRAVEL LIGHTER
Before traveling to Finland, it is good to take a look of the weather forecast. We have four unique seasons and regions, and the temperature can change a lot even during one week. The weather is also often quite different between the south of Finland and Lapland. There is over 1100 kilometers between Helsinki and Inari – almost the same distance as going from Paris to Barcelona or Florence.
Layers of clothing are the best way to go. With layers, you can wear many things you already own, like warm sweaters. And if the weather gets warmer, simply take off a layer. This way you can also avoid buying a whole new wardrobe just for a single trip.
Before you fly, we recommend taking a look at your suitcase and thinking about ways to avoid packing unnecessary things. Lightweight luggage means that the airplane consumes less fuel – this is highly important in lowering carbon dioxide emissions. Many travel operators in Finland offer high-quality clothing and equipment for rent during winter time, such as skis, snow shoes and skates.
2. TRAVEL OUTSIDE PEAK SEASONS AND STAY LONGER
Think outside the box – would you be able to travel outside the peak season and perhaps stay a little longer since you made the trip all the way up to Finland? There’s more space to yourself, more calm, more relaxation. That’s food for thought!
Lapland is a very popular tourist destination during winter but it sure has a lot of magic – and often less visitors – during the other seasons as well. Spring and autumn are some of the best times to see the Northern Lights. Summer is the time of white nights, a phenomena comparable to the aurora.
When it comes to the rest of Finland, nature is usually at its best during summer, although all seasons have their perks. We suggest taking in the vivid greens of spring, admiring the inspiring autumn colors, or trying a warm sauna during the cold winter. There are things to experience in Finland all year round.
3. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Alright, you have arrived – fantastic! In Finland, it is effortless and affordable to use our public transport systems. Most cities in Finland are well-connected by bus and train routes. Trains in Finland are operated by state-owned VR, well-known for the iconic rock statues in front of the Helsinki Central Train Station.
If you are in our capital, try the beautiful single-lined metro – you can’t get lost. In the older metro stations, the wooden benches were designed by famed Finnish designer Yrjö Kukkapuro already in 1979. Talk about sustainable design! There is also a vast tram system in Helsinki, great for sightseeing. The city of Tampere will also have its own trams soon.
The trains in Finland and the Helsinki metro use renewable energy, so you can be truly green when traveling with them.
Walking is a also great way to get to know a new city and in Finland the sidewalks go everywhere. Consider also renting a bicycle or even an electric scooter during the summer time – and let the soft summer breeze flow through your hair. After all, Finland has some of the purest air in the world.
4. RESPECT LOCALS
It is always considerate to respect the local residents and their customs while traveling. The easiest way to show your respect in Finland is to smile. We Finns are sometimes considered a little reserved but we might smile back. And if we don’t, don’t worry – your gesture warms our hearts regardless.
Using the word “kiitos”, which means thank you, and “moi” which means hello, will also go a long way.
If you want to take pictures of us Finns, both young and old, please remember to ask for a permission first.
5. GET TO KNOW LOCAL FOOD, DESIGN AND HANDICRAFTS
Nowadays we live in a world that is full of material things, overflowing in abundance. When there too much of something, it often loses meaning.
We suggest falling in love with two phrases beginning with L: “less is more” and “local”! Think food, design and handmade products. They’re more eco-friendly and there’s usually a heart-warming story behind the products.
There are lots of skilled craftspeople in Finland who are eager to acquaint you with authentic memories from our country, such as handmade jewellery and wooden items. You can also find many places around the country, especially in the Helsinki region, that sell clothes designed or made in Finland.
If you’re looking for local treats to take home, take a trip to a small Finnish winery making sweet wine of berries or apples, or visit a ironwork village or a wooden town, where local treats are plentiful.
6. RIGHT (AND RESPONSIBILITY) TO ROAM AS EVERYMAN AND WOMAN
In Finland, we have a very special thing called Everyman’s Rights (“jokamiehen oikeudet” in Finnish). They are called rights but in fact they also include responsibilities.
You can, for example, pick berries and mushrooms from forests for free. You don’t have to ask for a permission from anyone. Also you are allowed to spend a night in nature in a tent, ski and walk in forests as well as swim in lakes and the sea. But do bear in mind – no pun intended! – that nature should always be left as you found it. Clean, pristine and respected. National parks may have some restrictions, so please read the signs in the parks to be sure.
Remember not to set up your tent too close to someone’s garden, or walk in private gardens and fields. Don’t leave any rubbish to nature, always bring them back with you to the nearest rubbish pins. Disturbing animals or birds is naturally a no-no. Also, you should leave trees, moss and lichen undamaged.
In this way, we leave our beautiful nature for all to enjoy.
We Finns have a healthy obsession with nature and eco-friendly life – and recycling! We want to be the best circular-economy country in the world and many cities are preparing for a carbon-neutral life during the next twenty years.
What’s the best way to recycle when you are visiting Finland? If an urgent need to buy a plastic bottle arises, remember to take it back to the store to a recycling machine after it’s empty. You will get money back in the form of a bottle deposit.
Most hotels have an eco-friendly policy for using towels – re-using your towel will save energy as it doesn’t have to be washed as often. You can also challenge your hotel and ask whether they are recycling your waste. Some of them may already, some are still in the midst of thinking. Encourage them to get to work!
8. DRINK TAP WATER
During your trip in Finland, you will probably hear at least once that we have the best tap water in the world. We actually do and it’s more pure than bottled water! So, we suggest forgetting about the single-use plastic bottles and filling your own bottle with clean water straight from the tap. It’s clean, refreshing – and by using your own bottle, it will help keep your carbon footprint down. Restaurants also serve tap water so be sure to order “still”.
9. TRY VEGETARIAN FOOD
The Finnish vegetarian food industry is booming! There are many options to replace your animal proteins with vegetarian ones. If you have the possibility to cook at your accommodation, visit almost any grocery store and ask for “Härkis” (a shredded protein made of broad bean) or “Nyhtökaura” (pulled oats). Fun words and great products to substitute meat, for example, in a sauce. For a new way of adding milk to your morning coffee, try Kaslink’s oat milk.
Almost every restaurant in Finland has a vegetarian, or even vegan, options so when dining out you can also go for the greener option.
1O. REMEMBER TO ENJOY LIFE, LIKE THE FINNS DO!
As you might have guessed already, nature is very important to us Finns. Most of us spend time in nature many times a week. Water and green areas are always surrounding us, even in cities. That’s one of the things that makes us the happiest nation in the world.
While you are here, try the Finnish way of life and connect with nature. Mute your phone. Take a walk. Visit a park. Go to a forest. Hug a tree. Swim in a lake. Take a deep breath of fresh air and walk slowly. Listen to what nature is telling you. Forget about everything else for a moment try what it feels to be like a Finn. Trust us, it’s good for the mind and the body.
10 Most Beautiful Landscapes in Finland
Travelling to Utö by car and boat from Helsinki takes just as long as flying to New York from Helsinki, even though the distance is a mere fraction of a trip to the United States. Yet many Finns prefer to visit the island of Utö, especially during the winter or in the spring and autumn to watch the migration of the birds.
Koli in northern Karelia is Finland’s most well-known national landscape. Imagine the blue (white in winter) of Lake Pielisjärvi, speckled with its many islands and the rocky summit of the Ukko-Koli Mountain soaring above you. This is surrounded by beautiful hills covered with tall candle-shaped spruce trees. Over 100 years ago, Finnish artists and nature enthusiasts, such as classical composer Jean Sibelius, writer Juhani Aho and painter Eero Järnefelt, began elevating Koli’s status as an important national landscape.
PYHÄ-LUOSTO NATIONAL PARK
From the highest peak in the Pyhä mountains, the sky was a beautiful shade of pink one December afternoon. The last rays of light hit the peak of the Luosto Mountain 25 kilometres away. The fog descended into the valley and made the scenery dreamlike, almost like a painting. The snow-covered birch trees created the frames of the photographs.
I had spent a weekend in November in Åland and now it was time to go home. I hopped on board a ship in Mariehamn and began the 5-6 hour trip towards Turku. In the afternoon around 4 pm, I went out on deck and watched the scenery of the Baltic Sea as we floated by. Windmills of a rugged yellow stood against the background of the sky on the rocky islets.
UTÖ ISLAND IN THE FINNISH ARCHIPELAGO
The island of Utö is the southernmost inhabited island in Finland. The free ferry takes five hours to reach this small island in the Baltic Sea. Utö is popular in both the winter, when it is freezing cold, and during the migration time of the birds in the spring and autumn. The photo of the ice and movement of the waves near the shore was taken late in the afternoon on a cold January day.
The rocky island is just over one square kilometre in size and only about 50 people live there all year round – the number triples during the summer. After the Finnish Armed Forces vacated the island in 2005, their premises were taken over by locals that are now rented out as accommodation for tourists.
PALLAS-YLLÄSTUNTURI NATIONAL PARK
It was still quiet at the top of the Ylläs ski resort on a Sunday morning in the middle of February, when this amazing view from the top of Ylläs Mountain appeared. Looking towards to the national park that begins just at the base of the mountain, you could see the Pallas Mountains in the distance, already bathed in bright sunlight. Right in front of me was the Kellostapuli Mountain, with the Kesänki Mountain behind it, and the mist just floated along the valley.
This is a view from Koli in northern Karelia, famous for its tree-covered hill scenery. This particular hill is called the Mäkrävaara and in the distance is Ukko-Koli, the highest peak, soaring 253 metres above Lake Pielisjärvi. The famous painting “Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielisjärvi” by Finnish painter Eero Järnefelt captured this scenery back in 1899, so a friend and I climbed up to witness this amazing view ourselves one September afternoon.
OULANKA NATIONAL PARK
Oulanka National Park in Kuusamo, one of the most popular Finnish national parks, is known for its impressive rapids and falls. The most well-known are the Kiutaköngäs rapids in the Oulanka River, as well as the Myllykoski and the Jyrävä falls in the Kitka River. I use a slow shutter speed when photographing rapids to bring out their natural beauty. I am most taken with the glowing white beauty of the ice and snow. This photo of the Myllykoski rapids was taken in January 2012 (at 2 pm).
THE VILLAGE OF SARAMO
It was 6 pm at the beginning of October. I was driving from Kuusamo towards the tree-covered hills of Koli in northern Karelia. During the day, I had hiked for five hours at Hiidenportti National Park. As I drove along the small roads towards the south, I spotted a big field with a lake behind it. The lovely autumn landscape was reflected on the surface of the lake, so I walked to the shore to capture this vision lit by the last rays of the sun.
RIISITUNTURI NATIONAL PARK
It was about midday and the temperature was about minus 30°C as I parked my car in Riisitunturi National Park, which is less than a couple of kilometres from the summit (466 metres). At the top of the hill, it was much warmer and a lovely sunset illuminated the idyllic winter scenery. The snow-covered trees of Riisitunturi in mid-winter are known among nature photographers worldwide.
REPOVESI NATIONAL PARK
I was walking through Repovesi National Park one July afternoon. I had taken a tent and some provisions with me, since I was planning to spend the night there. In the evening, I ended up by the Olhava cliffs. I climbed up to admire the spectacular view when I noticed movement along the rock wall: climbers were making their way up the near-perpendicular rock face, 50 metres above the lake surface. It must be an amazing feeling!
At Kilpisjärvi, there is a popular tourist attraction where the borders of Finland, Sweden and Norway meet. Not far from there is Saana Mountain. If you go further up to the north you will find Halti Mountain, which, at 1,324 metres, is Finland’s highest point. One August, I had the privilege of photographing the blue iridescence of Kilpisjärvi Lake from a helicopter.
Are you looking to experience culture in Finland? Is wellbeing your thing? Are you looking to unwind and relax? Maybe you love the outdoors and can’t wait to get out to nature? Or you simply love food and you’re looking for the next best culinary destination?
Welcome to Finland!
We have it all here – in our weirdly wonderful and unexpectedly unique way. Finland is one of the best places to experience pure and clean nature, unique cultural experiences, pure and organic food and to take a break from everyday life, even a digital detox. After all, a Finnish sauna is no place for a mobile phone.