Finland is a country in which contemporary life and tradition exist side by side, and where modern cities are just a stone’s throw from deepest wilderness. Whether you’re planning a summer break in Helsinki or winter holidays to Lapland for your Finnish travel adventure, here are a few things not to be missed.
Out and About in Helsinki
Modern architecture sits peacefully alongside historic cathedrals and market halls in Helsinki, a city hemmed by tiny islands and inlets to the south. The elegant harbor side is the heart of the capital and home of the bustling market square where you can shop for everything from fresh fish to fruit. One of the most novel Helsinki experiences has to be taking a boat to Suomenlinna, where there is a historic fortress, much of which has been transformed into quirky artists’ studios. Scandinavia is the capital of design shopping and Helsinki is renowned for being one of the best places for it.
Events wise, Helsinki is a vibrant city where you can catch classical concerts or some of the finest rock bands to come out of Scandinavia’s. The design festival in September is one of the world’s best of its kind.
Outdoor Adventure Under the Sun
Finland’s extensive wilderness includes several large national parks that provide scope for hiking, canoeing, biking and kayaking. There are plenty of places to camp, or you can cozy up with a loved one in one of the wooden cabins available off many of the major hiking trails. Finland is an excellent summer holiday destination with long days and natural landscapes to make the most of. Beware of the large pine forests because, if you’ve not got your wits about you then you may come face to face with wolves or bears, or both if you’re really unlucky (!). Oulanka National Park is one of the most popular places to head to, home to the Karhunkierros Trail through spectacular natural scenery. Log cabins range from the luxurious, featuring built-in saunas, to the old-school rustic.
In the Thick of the Action
Come the cold season, Finland’s national parks and wild areas transform into the setting for a variety of winter sports. These include plenty of adrenalin-pumping options for thrill seekers, from snowmobile safaris to husky sledding. More relaxed activities include cross-country skiing on trips on a reindeer sled. Finland’s most popular ski resorts are Levi and Phya, which have the perfect slopes for beginners and families alike. Resorts provide lessons for skiers for all levels and plenty of gentle slopes.
Exploring the Sami Culture
The northern region of Finland is the heart of native Sami culture and it is there that you can learn more about the Sami’s traditional way of life. The Sami people have lived in the northern area of Finland for millennia and have a religious, social and cultural outlook that is tightly bound to nature. The great museums and the parliamentary buildings of the Sami people are located in Karasjok and you can also buy Sami handicrafts in the shops there. At Sami Park you can explore traditional winter and summer dwellings as well as learn Sami history via impressive multimedia displays. Working reindeer farms provide you with the chance to meet Finland’s national animal up close and learn about traditional Sami herding techniques.
Discovering the best of Finland can take you on a seasonal journey from snowy adventures to summer culture. Are you heading to Finland in 2014? Which destinations are on your bucket list?