Finland lies in the Baltic Sea and has Sweden, Norway, and Russia as bordering neighbors. It belongs to the Nordic countries, along with Sweden, Iceland, and Norway and is not part of Scandinavia. Although it belongs to the Nordic countries, it has a language and culture that often separates it from Sweden, Iceland, and Norway. That being said, although the main language is Finnish a large majority of people speak Swedish, which is one of the two official languages of the country.
Finland is often renowned for its huge areas of unspoiled countryside and nature. It is a country that has stunning natural beauty, an abundance of lakes, some 188’000 and almost the same number again of Islands. The countryside unlike some of the other Nordic countries is more rolling hills than high peaks, the highest point is Fell Halti which is only 1.3 meters high. Much of Finland is covered with forests, roughly about 78% and 10% of the area is covered with lakes. Due to its huge amount of woodland area, Finland is one of the biggest producers of wood in Europe.
The population of 5.5 million people tends to reside more in the South of the country in the larger towns and cities such as Helsinki, the nation’s capital, which are well planned and very pleasant places to live. Being a country that is so far North means that the Winters are long and dark and the summers although fairly short, bask in many hours of sunshine and in some places there is permanent daylight during the summer.
This feature of the country leads to some of its main sources of tourism, people coming to see the Northern lights during the Autumn and Winter months and visitors attracted by the Midnight Sun in the summer.Tourism has risen in Finland over the last few years and there are many things to do and see that make this a great place in Northern Europe to travel to.
Sitting on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland is the countries capital city, Helsinki. An attractive city, with stunning architecture, with influences from its past associations with Russia and Sweden, Helsinki is also known for its amazing Art Nouveau style architecture as well. The city is compact and very easy to navigate on foot with a lot of the main tourist attractions being found on Mannerheimintie, one of Helsinki’s main central avenues. Here you will find such places as Parliment House, the National Museum, and Kiasma, the contemporary art museum.
As well as having many places of cultural interest to go and explore, Helsinki also has a number of stunning churches which are well worth looking at. Uspenski Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox cathedral, is the largest in Europe. The striking deep-red brick walls and green and gold domes are an arresting sight of the Cathedral which overlooks the harbor. Another famous church that is worth paying a visit to is Kamppi Chapel of Silence. This unique church is made from Nordic spruce and has a distinctive circular structure. It offers its visitors a place of great calm in which to escape the hectic city outside.
Apart from the eye-catching architecture, Helsinki is also known for its green spaces. 1/3 of the city is made up of parks and green areas meaning that there is always some peaceful spot to escape to rest in. If you fancy a bit of Island hopping then the archipelago of Helsinki is made up of over 300 Islands, many of which are easily accessed by ferries on a regular basis.
Helsinki is a vibrant city that has a bustling night life and a laid back atmosphere. There are plenty of markets to explore, especially the renowned Market Square, located at the end of Esplanade Park, which is an internationally famous market selling traditional fares and tourist souvenirs.
For evening entertainment, there are any bars and restaurants to go to, to sample local food or live music whatever takes your fancy.
For many people a trip to see the Nothern lights or Aurora Borealis is a once in a life time dream. There are a few places in the Northern Hemisphere that offer the chance to spot this amazing natural phenomenon and Finland is one of the best. The further North that you go the better your chances of seeing a really good show. In Lapland for example, the furthest region North in the country, you stand a chance of seeing the lights almost every other night when the skies are clear from around September to March where as the further South you are, you will only have the chance to see them for about 10-20 nights a year.
The one thing that is needed to see the lights show is darkness, therefore, choosing your position to see them is very important.The best trick is to get away from any towns or places where there will be lights and buildings, head up to hill tops or lake shores to take advantage of the best viewing points. There are lots of places where you can stay inside in the warm to view the spectacular shows, log cabins, and other overnight accommodation as well as local restaurants that will alert you to when the shows have begun.
The main thing to remember is, is that it will be cold so where ever you are wrapped up warm.Although there is no guarantee that you will see the lights, this is a natural show after all and they can come and go unexpectedly, the best time to spot them is usually between the hours of 9 pm and 2 am.
Have an Outdoor Adventure.
Finland has an outdoor activity to suit everyone and whether it is a gentle stroll, cross-country skiing, cycling or kayaking one thing is for sure you will never be bored or run out of ideas. During the Winter months of December – January cross-country skiing is a very popular sport. There are also fantastic ski slopes such as Levi, Ruska, and Yllas if this is more your scene. Although the Summer months are shorter there is still plenty to attract tourists outside. From May – September hiking is a very popular past time. There are 39 National Parks to choose from where you can go for hikes or wild life spotting. If you are looking for something a little more energetic then how about some canoeing or kayaking. Finland known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes, although closer to 190,000, has plenty of water ways to chose from and it is a great way to really experience the country.
There is also fantastic cycling routes to go on, one of the best being the Archipelago trail. This takes you through the Turku archipelago which consists of over 20,000 islands and is one of the most popular routes for tourists in Finland. The routes link the archipelago, many parts by ferry crossings and it is one of the best ways to see the Islands. As well as stunning scenery, there are lots of other points of interest, from museums and historic buildings to ruins and the Saaristomeri National Park.
View the Midnight Sun.
The other major natural phenomenon of Finland is the Midnight Sun that happens close to Midsummer to in the South of the country and in the northern region lasts for over 70 consecutive days. Once again, Lapland is the best place to go to really experience the endless days. This is one of the biggest contrasts in nature, the harsh dark Arctic winter with barely any daylight and then suddenly the endless hours of the Midnight sun. This is what keeps the Finnish population going through the long winters, the thought of these magical months during the Summer when sleep is almost not needed and there are endless hours to play outdoors.
If you would like to experience the Midnight Sun then the best way to do it is to head for a cabin like the locals do. Immerse yourself in the great outdoors and take advantage of 24 hours of sunshine. Even if you don’t head above the Arctic circle, the Southern half of the country barely sees darkness. There is very little distinction between the sun setting and rising again. These endless summer days are something that really needs to be experienced once in a lifetime and Finland is the place to see it.
Finland is a country full of contrasts, dark cold winters and endless summer nights, stunning national parks and thousands of islands. It is a country with a rich cultural history and a wealth of things to offer its visitors. Although the summer months are the best time to go weather wise, whenever you visit Finland you will find it warm and welcoming and a place that you long to go back to.