Finland for First-Timers

Photo by Marjaana Pato

Design districts and reindeer safaris, from the midnight sun to the Aurora Borealis

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From endless daylight in the summer to the still, wintry darkness of the polar night, the characteristics of Finland’s seasons shed insight into the country’s supply of extremes. Completed by the melancholic harmony of autumn leaf colors and the astonishing rebirth of nature in the spring, the four seasons have a profound effect on life in Finland.

In winter, snow fun is guaranteed with husky and reindeer safaris, snowmobiling, ice fishing, all types of skiing and a range of winter sports. Summer months offer fabulous choices of outdoor activities and sights, perfect for the whole family, from biking and fishing to white water rafting and canoeing – even gold prospecting. Santa makes his home here year-round.


Helsinki, the capital, is located on the Baltic Sea. Helsinki’s shoreline is about 70 miles long and has about 300 islands. Possessing a strong maritime heritage, it is said that the sea gave birth to Helsinki and the harbors raised her. Compared to major metropolises, the beat of Helsinki is laid-back and relaxed.  Most of the city’s tourist attractions are within walking distance from each other.

The score of urban events, great cuisine, bars and nightclubs make Helsinki a vibrant capital with cultural offerings, ranging from metal music to classical and modern art. Helsinki is a center stage for Finnish design with its own Design District. One third of the city is covered in green areas; beautiful parks and waterside hangouts are ideal for a bit of downshifting in the heart of the city.

Day Trips from Helsinki

Day trips from Helsinki are easily at hand. For example, take a tour on the historical King’s Road along the Southern Coast, a medieval mail coach route used by kings and their couriers since the 1300s. Along the route are many medieval churches, beautiful manor houses, old ironworks villages such as Fiskars Village and idyllic seaports. The medieval city of Turku, the former capital of Finland, provides an easy to a stunningly beautiful archipelago. Biking routes, island hopping and hiking trails are aplenty, as are lighthouses and boating opportunities.

Lake District

Although known for advancements in technology and progressive urban solutions, most Finns spend their free time in touch with nature. With almost 200,000 lakes and half a million summer cottages in the country, there’s a lot of room to retreat to the countryside and get away from it all. The Lake District in the Eastern part of the country is ideal for a quiet retreat at a waterside cottage.


Above the Arctic Circle, the sparsely populated Lapland presents itself with unmatched natural beauty. The vastness of fells and forests is breath-taking, and summers are graced with the midnight sun, while winters provide unique displays by the Northern Lights. In fact, the Northern Lights are visible on roughly 200 nights a year in Finnish Lapland.

Lapland is well known for its most famous inhabitant: the one and only Santa Claus. You can also get acquainted with the rich and unique heritage of the Nordic countries’ only indigenous group – the Sami. Visitors to Inari have the rare opportunity to see a real Sami home farm and feed the semi-domesticated beasts, listen to the reindeer herders’ stories, or even try their hand at lasso throwing.

This itinerary is compliments of Visit Finland. For more things to see and do in Finland, check out www.visitfinland.com.

More Scandinavia Itineraries

Copenhagen for First-Timers … Renaissance splendour, waterside romance, flair for design
Helsinki for First-Timers … A vibrant but laid-back city
Stockholm for First-Timers … Discover Sweden’s vibrant capital city, one step at a time

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