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Finland Travel Guide

Rediscover childish wonder
If you're happy and you know it, you're likely in Finland.
This little Nordic country has been named the Happiest Country In The World (twice now!) according to a UN report — and it’s no surprise why. Finns believe in the simple joys of life. Sitting in a sauna, daydreaming under a tree, looking up at the magical Northern Lights, camping in the wild woods, are all experiences that translate into delight and contentment. It works so well that Santa himself lives in Finland throughout the year. 
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If you're happy and you know it, you're likely in Finland.

This little Nordic country has been named the Happiest Country In The World (twice now!) according to a UN report — and it’s no surprise why. Finns believe in the simple joys of life. Sitting in a sauna, daydreaming under a tree, looking up at the magical Northern Lights, camping in the wild woods, are all experiences that translate into delight and contentment. It works so well that Santa himself lives in Finland throughout the year. 

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Location

Finland is located in northern Europe. It is bordered by the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Finland, Sweden to the west and Russia to the east. Its location makes it a popular destination, with flights from India taking only eight hours or so. It’s no surprise that Finland attracts travellers from around the world all throughout the year.

When to go

Choosing when to travel to Finland depends entirely on what you’d like to experience, and which regions you would like to visit. For a winter wonderland experience, December to March is the best time to go, but if you’re looking for sunshine and warmth, the summer months of  May, June and July would serve you well.

Where to go

Each region in Finland has its own distinct attractions, from the lively capital, Helsinki, to the expanse of wilderness up north. To really get the most out of your time in Finland, opt for a blend of experiences. Spend time in the Finnish wilderness, whether a simple hike or a camping weekend, complete with a warm bonfire in the evening. And spend time in its cities, such as Helsinki where every corner brings forth an architectural delight or a local market.  So whether you’re looking to take in a Finnish heavy metal gig or go scouting for the Northern Lights, take in 1 sauna or 20, or go on a reindeer safari, you’ll be able to experience any or all.
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At a glance

Language

Finnish and Swedish
The two official languages in Finland are Finnish and Swedish, although there are also several minority languages such as Romani and Sami.

Currency

Euro
The currency in Greece is the Euro. At the moment of posting, the conversion to INR is 1 Euro = 83.01 INR.

Weather

Finland has four seasons - visiting during each brings its own perks. Summertime ushers in sunny days when the temperature will be the warmest, while winter transforms the country into a wonderland of snow and ice. Rainfall varies based on region, as does the hours of daylight received.

During summer, there’s daylight around the clock across the whole of Finland, while in winter, hours of sunlight are very short.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

See the Northern Lights   

Recommended by Nomadic Matt

"This is hands-down one of the most incredible sights in Europe, so make sure to research whether the weather is going to corporate for a great view. There are plenty of guided tours you can join, otherwise, venture out on your own.”

Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, has travelled to nearly 100 countries. He shares proven tips and advice on his website which has been featured on major media sites including the New York Times, the BBC, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, The Independent, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and TIME magazine.

Visit Santa Claus village   

Recommended by Hand Luggage Only

“Whilst here, explore everything from Santa’s Workshop to visiting the reindeers and spot Rudolph!...Fun fact: If you send a letter from this location, it actually arrives at the recipient as postmarked by Santa Claus’s Main Post Office!"

Yaya and Lloyd share travel stories and photos with others like-minded travellers on the internet.

Enjoy a Finnish sauna   

Recommended by Polkadot Passport

“Don’t even think about visiting Finland without taking part in a sauna… This age-old tradition is such an integral part of Finnish culture that you’ll find more saunas in the country than cars on the street!”

Nicola, who runs Polkadot Passport, shares unique bucket-list experiences, destination guides, travel photography tips, and more. This popular blog receives over 1 million hits a year, won numerous awards and has been featured on the likes of Lonely Planet, Huffington Post and the Daily Mail.

Go Saimaa Ringed Seal spotting   

Recommended by Monkeys and Mountains

“The Saimaa ringed seal is one of the most endangered seals in the world. There are only 310 remaining in the world. It’s only found in Lake Saimaa and is a protected species.”

Laurel Robbins, the founder of Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel, shares stories and recommendations to help travellers experience their best trip ever.

Go in search of Moomins   

Recommended by That Backpacker

“[Moomins] are characters from a Finnish fairy tale that was created by Tove Jansson. They are very plump and white, and in a way they kind of resemble hippopotamuses. Oh, and they are virtually everywhere in Finland.”

Audrey aims to help inspire you and help you plan some adventures of your own in a way that suits your budget and your lifestyle.

Incredible places to visit in Finland

Tampere

Tampere, located in southern Finland, lies at the centre of Finland's Thousand Lakes area. This pretty little city is surrounded by two large lakes, the Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi, and thick forests. Its easy and simple to drive ten minutes from the city to a lake all by yourself, and spend a weekend hiking in the woods, fishing in the sunshine, or picking berries and mushrooms to cook with your fish. And back in the city, there’s plenty to do too.  Here’s what to enjoy when in Tampere:

Spend an evening at the Duck Park

At the Duck Park, you can, surprisingly enough, feed ducks. You can also spend a leisurely afternoon enjoying a picnic in the park, and then go for a walk. You’ll be able to spot some little sculptures displayed in the park as you do so.

Eat local Tampere delicacies

Try the local favourites- fresh herring and salmon - along with wild mushrooms and cloudberries. And if you’re up for something a little more extreme, try a bite of mustamakkara puolukkahillo aka  black sausage. The charred colour of this Tampere speciality might be a bit uninviting but if you get past that, you’ll quickly realize it is an appetizing snack. Anthony Bourdain himself,  after dipping the sausage into lingonberry sauce and taking a  bite, pronounced it “Good.” You could not ask for a higher recommendation than that.

Visit the Rauhaniemi public spa

The sauna is nestled alongside Lake Näsijärvi,  and the combo makes for a lovely experience.  After spending some time in the warm, relaxing sauna, you can then head out into the wide lake for a cool, refreshing dip in the waters, or go paddle boarding. And afterwards, you can eat grilled hotdogs and icecream at the little cafe nearby, while as one TripAdvisor review puts it...”watching outside the window and thinking this is one of the best place in the world.”

Go museum hopping

Tampere has a wide variety of interesting museums to visit. For instance there’s the Spy Museum where you’ll find exhibits on eavesdropping, espionage, changing identity,and lie detectors. And then there’s the tiny Milk Platform Museum measuring only two square metres, that’s set in a wooden structure where villagers used to leave milk cans for dairy trucks to pick up. And there’s the National Police Museum that tells the history of the Finnish police and has  interactive exhibits, such as bomb disposal robots and crime labs.

Visit the Tampere Cathedral

The grey cathedral with its red roofs is one of the most recognizable buildings in Tampere. It is famous for its frescoes painted by the symbolist Hugo Simberg. These are considered somewhat controversial for a Cathedral as they depict serpents, nubile figures and morbid skeletons. Definitely worth a visit.

Helsinki

Helsinki is the capital of Finland, nestled on the southernmost edge of the country. It’s got a little bit of everything. You’ll find locals taking a slow, easy walk on the beach, foraging for berries in the woods, or taking in a sauna. Plus, there are plenty of city escapes only a few hours away. Here’s what not to miss when you’re in Helsinki:

Sibelius Monument

Built in honor of the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, this is a weird looking monument to say the least. Constructed of odd vertical metal pipes of different heights welded together, the monument looks like a soundwave suspended in the air.

Helsinki Cathedral

This white church is, no doubt, the most photographed building in Finland. It is one of the most distinctive buildings in the city, thanks to its gleaming bone-white pillars and green copper domes, stretching skywards. From high up in the cathedral’s main tower, you’ll have a clear view across the city. Local protip: when inside, glance up at the main chandelier; it looks like a snowflake from the right angle.

Kamppi Chapel

The Kamppi Chapel is located in a corner of the Narinkkatori square, and is immediately striking mainly because it looks more like a wooden mug rather than a church. It is known as the “Chapel of Silence”, as it is made completely of Finnish wood, and designed to have a calming effect. There are no services at this multi-faith church, just quiet contemplation on the simple wooden pews.

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna is a sea fortress that dates back to the mid-18th century. It was built to defend the country against Russia,  and to serve as an army base. Suomenlinna’s defensive walls spread out over six different islands that are connected by short bridges and a maze of walking trails, which make it a delight to explore. As you walk around, you’ll find restaurants and cafes, museums (including a Toy Museum that is filled with antique teddies and dolls), a playground, the World War II submarine Vesikko, a theatre, and an art gallery.

Market Square

Helsinki’s most famous market is located at the South Harbour, and easily identifiable thanks to its bright red and yellow stalls. You’ll find a variety of local produce available including fish freshly caught from the harbour, moose meat, and reindeer skin gloves. Local protip: treat yourself to some salmon soup when you’re at the market.

Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi is one of Finland’s most enchanting regions. Here is a land where the skies turn green, and Santa Claus spreads cheer throughout the year. Less prosaically, it is the capital of Lapland, located in the north of Finland, and it is Santa’s official hometown. It’s one of the best places in the world to spot the Northern Lights and enjoy a host of winter activities:

Take a snowmobile ride through the wilderness

Listen carefully to a briefing from the guide on riding a snowmobile. Then, climb aboard, and you’re off! Ride through the wilderness, past trees dusted in snow and glittering frozen lakes.

Hunt the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights is one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. Keep your eyes peeled to the skies as you set out into the snowy landscape. If luck is on your side, you’ll be treated to the sight of immense, luminescent green ribbons as they dance and shimmer overhead. It’s truly spectacular.

Meet the real Santa Claus!

You can meet Father Christmas himself at the Santa Claus village (and tell him what you want for Christmas this year). And while you’re there, stop in at the Post Office where postal elves sort through Santa’s letters, sent to him by children all around the world. Enjoy the Christmas goodwill and cheer right at the heart of where it all began.

Go dog sledding

Head to a husky farm where you will meet an incredibly adorable pack of dogs, who, though cute, are powerful beasts are capable of pulling a two-man sled with speed and stamina. After instructions on managing the sleds, and the excited dogs, you’re off! In an exhilarating instant, you’re zooming through a white forest, the dogs running ahead, the sled gliding over the snow.

Spend a day at Snowman World

This is the coolest place in Finland, literally - everything is built out of snow and ice. You can speed down  daring ice slides.  You can enjoy a chilled drink served in ice glasses at the Ice Bar and Restaurant, which are decorated with beautiful ice and snow sculptures. You can go ice skating or race around an ice-kart. And you can befriend Snowmen. No wonder this is considered to be the best playground in the Arctic Circle for kids and the young at heart.

Turku

Turku, nestled on the southwest coast of Finland, is Finland’s oldest city and its former capital. It’s the perfect city escape for travellers who love food and culture. It’s filled with museums and galleries to explore, and its bars and restaurants have positioned Turku as the frontline for foodies. The Turku archipelago is made up of around 20,000 islands and islets with bridges, gardens and colourful little towns that make it a delight to explore.

Turku Castle

Turku Castle, founded in the late 13th century, is the largest surviving medieval building in Finland. Inside, you’ll learn how it grew from a small island fortress to a huge palace, serving as an administrative center, a prison and navy barracks over time. Its chambers reflect different points in its history such as a 16th century huge banquet hall, as well as an 18th-century church. Also, at the castle’s gift shop, you can buy proper knight’s gear. Don’t tell us that didn’t give you pause for thought.

Turku Cathedral

The cathedral, over 700 years old, is considered to be Finland’s most valuable historic monument. Inside, travellers can learn all about Finland’s history -  Queen Kaarina Maununtytär, bishops and military leaders were buried in the church, there are narrative frescoes as well as a religious museum.

Turku Market Hall

Turku Market Hall is the second oldest market hall in Finland. It is huge. It has rows and rows of shops and delis serving up yummy Finnish fare. Travellers will love sampling local specialities such as smoked pike roe,  Arctic char, asparagus, and blueberries. Local protip: head to the bar in the style of a vintage train for a drink, and definitely have a piece of “Kiss My Turku Cake”, a blueberry chocolate cheesecake from M Bakery.

Moomin World

Moomins are white, round creatures with a large snout that looks a lot like a hippopotamus, and are the central characters of books by Tove Jansson. And they are so beloved by Finns that they have an entire theme park dedicated to them. Visitors can meet Moomin characters in Moomin World and visit their houses - from the Snork's Workshop to the Moomins' blue tower house. And there are lots of activities to keep everyone entertained.

Go on a boat cruise on the Aura river

Exploring the city from a boat lets you see it from a completely different point of view. As you float along the water under bridges and past riverboats, you’ll hear about the sites you see from onboard, as well as the important role the Aura has played in  Turku’s past to the present day.

Savonlinna

Savonlinna is located in the south, right in the centre of Finland’s large lake region, making it one of the most popular holiday destinations in the country. There’s plenty to do here regardless of whether you’re looking for a city break, learning about culture in history, or are looking for some outdoor adventure. Don’t miss these experiences when in Savonlinna:

Eat yummy fried fish

Savonlinna is famous for its pan-fried "muikku.” This is a traditional snack made with whitefish caught from the nearby Lake Saimaa, fried with rye flour and butter, and served with fresh mashed potatoes.

Attend the Savonlinna Opera Festival

This world-famous festival is held in the 15th-century medieval Olavinlinna Castle on a tiny islet in a lake. Every year, more than 60,000 spectators from around the world attend it to enjoy performances by the who’s who of the opera world. The swell of the music from the orchestra, the electrifying voices of the soloists, the stonework of the castle and the encircling charm of the lake collude to make it a truly unique experience.

Get Lost in Olavinlinna Castle

Olavinlinna Castle, also known as St Olaf’s Castle, used to be a historical fortress, and is today one of the best preserved medieval castles in Finland. “The history of the place is tangible: you can almost hear the medieval swords clanging and the cannons booming off the walls”, writes Jouni Marjamäki, keeper at The National Museum of Finland. While in the area, you can visit three historic ships, the Mikko, the Salama, and the Savonlinna moored; each houses exhibitions within.

See some of the most endangered seal species in the world

The Lake Saimaa ringed seal is not found anywhere else in the world. There are only 400 of them left. Head out on a boat into the lake and keep your eye peeled for a smooth round bobbing head on the water. You can also see two other endangered species in the region: the white-backed woodpecker and the corncrake.

Relax in Sauna World

Sauna World is located about half an hour north of Savonlinna, at the Jarvisydan Hotel and Spa. Here you can opt for a variety of saunas, slip into a spa pool (complete with massage jets), take a dip in an outdoor ice pool, or take a rain shower.

Top things to do & experience in Finland

Nobody wants to be a tourist. Here are curated experiences in art, music, food, culture and communities
to help you have an authentic and memorable trip.

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