A complete Travel Guide on Finland answering why, when, where and what things to do in Finland, the land of thousand lakes and midnight sun.
Immigration officer: So you are going to Norway?
Me: No Sir, Finland.
Immigration officer: Same thing, na!
Me: No Sir, Finland is different from Norway.
Immigration Officer: Haven’t seen many Indians going to Finland. What’s so special?
Me: There’s a lot to see in Finland like Northern Lights, Santa’s Home, 188,000 lakes and Reindeer Safari among others.
The above conversation affirms how little we know about Finland, the Nordic wonderland sandwiched between Sweden and Russia. But we are in for a change as Finland celebrated its centenary of independence in 2017 with yearlong celebrations. There can’t be a better time than NOW to visit. Before you take off, let me take you on a virtual Arctic Safari of the Arctic nation, whose resident is the most famous resident of the world – Santa Claus.
Here’s a complete Travel Guide on Finland answering why, when, where and what things to do in Finland :
WHY VISIT FINLAND
1) Offbeat yet well organized
Finland is often overlooked for its Scandinavian neighbours, and that’s what makes it an ideal destination for discerning travellers. Queues, jams, and crowds are alien words here. The unspoiled vast expanses of the wilderness like no other. Finland might be wild but it is well geared up from all-included-safari style packages to compass-and-map DIY adventures.
2) Natural Wonderland
When I first looked down from my Finnair plane, I saw an endless carpet of forests snuggled under a white blanket, speckled by picture-perfect lakes as if an artist flicked a blue dipped paintbrush on a white canvas. Finnish dreamscapes are a treasure trove for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts like me. You name it and Finland has it – from having some of Europe’s best hiking trails to adrenaline-pumping activities like cross-country skiing to kayaking to glacier walking to Aurora Borealis hunting to Bear-watching.
3) Four distinct seasons
Nature in Finland seems to be a fashion aficionado. Four times a year it changes its wardrobe completely– colour, light, temperature, sounds, and smells. Everything changes mystically in a way that happens nowhere else.
4) Family Friendly
Staying at Holiday Club Resorts Finland, I noticed how conscious Finns are about family well-being – from having separate kids beds to special kids cutlery to Angry Birds Park to personal saunas. Kids are the VIPs in Finland.
5) Finnatastic Education
There is no better place than Finland to expose your kids to the world’s best education system, which draws educationalists from around the world to learn its secrets. There are no private schools in Finland. Even the Prime minister’s children in Finland need to enrol in a public school.
One of the reasons why Finland is still not hot on Indian tourists radar is because of being perceived as expensive. But thanks to Club Mahindra, even that barrier has vanished. Enjoy the 100% pure Finnish escapades at INR rates. (Details at the end of the article)
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT FINLAND
The country is an ideal destination for all seasons as it has four distinct seasons that transform the white snowscapes to vibrant colourscapes in just a few months. Temperatures vary considerably from -30°C in winter to +30°C in summer. The best time to visit Finland depends on what you’d like to experience:
- For plenty of snow and winter activities, December to March is the best time.
The Finland you encounter will depend on the season you visit, but whatever the season, the fresh and pure air will detoxify and rejuvenate you. Like a doting dad, Finland will spoil you with choices. You’ll have countless reasons that will make every season the best time to visit Finland
Here’s an infographic on the seasonal activities you can enjoy in Finland:
WHERE AND WHAT TO EXPLORE
I am guilty of arriving in Finland without going through its highly impressive resume. No wonder, I was left awestruck with its versatility and contrasts. The design capital meets remote Lapland. Nordic style gurus rub shoulders with Reindeer herding Sami. Midnight sun plays musical chair with a perpetual night. Rock festivals compete with majestic Aurora Borealis. Finland’s menu is anything but bland. However, one trip is not enough to taste the entire multi-course meal. You’ll keep craving for more.
Finland is best relished through slow travel but stopover holiday is second to none. Just choose your region and enjoy your unforgettable Finnish experience. With a “tip to toe” length of over 1000 kilometers, Finland is divided into four main regions:
When I was a kid, my parents gifted me a snow globe from which snowflakes would fall whenever shaken. I would go off to sleep dreaming to wake up in the snow globe. After decades of waiting, Lapland finally happened.
The Narnia like the mysterious region is the country’s northernmost province, home of the one and only Santa Claus, midnight sun in the summer and almost guaranteed Northern Lights every night of the winter.
I was fortunate to experience the remote wilderness of high fells, hoarfrost-clad forests, arctic adventures of cross-country skiing, a reindeer safari, husky safari, snowmobile ride, snow shooing and heart-to-heart conversations with the Sámi, western Europe’s only indigenous people who inhabit the Arctic. There is no shortage of things to do in Finland in winters.
Top 5 things to do in Lapland:
- Experience the wilderness of extremes from twilight to the nightless night
- Doze off under the Northern lights in a glass Igloo
- Go on no ordinary winter’s ride with Huskie or Reindeer
- Have you ever written a letter to Santa? Now be his guest and tell him in person
- Throw yourself into the local life amid the power of nature and get to know the Sami culture
Lakeland is the largest lake district in Europe. The blue labyrinth of lakes, islands, rivers, and canals is so important in Finland’s culture that it became a part of the identity of the Finnish flag. With over 188,000 lakes it is no secret why Finland is called the land of thousand lakes.
Lakeland has more lakes than land, therefore, it’s a crime not to get out. Per Mikko, my local friend,
Seasons are for couch potatoes. Finns love to stay outdoors in every season – paddle up with their families in summers and go ice-skating or ice fishing in winters. Every Finn has a countryside Lake cottage where their weekends and holidays are spend.
I visited Lakeland when it was a solid mass of ice on which I jumped, skated and did ice fishing. Even -10°C didn’t feel cold. I was just happy walking on the Saimaa Lake, one of the largest lakes in Europe.
Top 5 things to do in Lakeland:
- Rent a cottage in Finland’s most idyllic and scenic location
- Spot the endangered freshwater seal
- Photograph Brown Bears in their natural setting – at night
- Forage for berries and mushrooms
- Visit the Savonlinna Opera Festival
Finnish coastline is long and the archipelago off it one of the world’s largest. The Finns love to be close to water almost as much as they love trudging deep into boggy forests picking berries and mushrooms.
Like Lakeland, this region too boasts of wooden summer cottages – decked with saunas – gazing out across the Baltic. The area is best explored by bike, foot or sailing boat/kayak. Island hopping with camping is a great way to experience the area, as is staying in small seaside B&B’s and hostels in old wooden towns like Rauma or Hanko. Unfortunately, this was one area that I couldn’t explore. There’s always the next time.
Top 5 things to do in Coast and Archipelago:
- Go island hopping by bicycle in the world’s most beautiful archipelago from Turku to the Aland islands
- Go sea kayaking among 20,000 islands and skerries
- Spend a night on a lighthouse island (Uto Bentskar)
- Catch the biggest pike and perch in Archipelago
- Dive and discover underwater trails in the Archipelago National Park
Helsinki might be the younger sibling to the Scandinavian capitals, but it’s the one that went to art school, enjoys Rock music and works in a cutting-edge studio. The vibrant city of Helsinki is where more than 450 years of history and tradition blend seamlessly with contemporary design and trends. There are a lot of things to do in Helsinki.
Just as architecture makes Manhattan, people make Helsinki. Not only the climate but even Finns are cool – although a bit quiet and reserved. If you dig deeper you’ll see they are warm, friendly, hospitable and especially honest people.
Helsinki is best discovered by strolling through the thoroughfares or riding a tram. This pocket-sized city hooked me with its unhurried attitude, gourmet food delights, renowned museums, East-meets-west-design cathedrals, flourishing design, and cultural scenes and self-deprecating sense of humour.
The cozy and compact city is buzzing with life and there’s always something going on in Helsinki every day of the year.
Top 5 things to do in Helsinki:
- Visit the iconic Helsinki Cathedral, Orthodox Church and the Temppeliaukio Church
- Walk in Kallio, a neighbourhood full of cool bars, cafes, and boutiques
- Shop for local delicacies from the food halls and markets followed by rejuvenation at the neighbourhood Saunas in the city
- Take a day trip to Porvoo, Finland’s second oldest city
- Go for a picnic in one of the Archipelago islands
The best way to experience the untouched wilderness and culture of Finland is to become a part of it. Hope this Complete Travel Guide on things to do Finland inspires you to travel to Finland!
FINLAND WITH CLUB MAHINDRA
Mahindra Holidays is India’s largest leisure hospitality player, providing unique and memorable family holidays for over 20 years. The company is fully committed to providing holistic family holidays experience to its ever-growing community of 211,000 members through its wide network of 77 resorts (46 Club Mahindra Resorts in India and abroad, and 31 Holiday Club Resorts in Finland, Sweden, and Spain).
Club Mahindra is committed to providing unique and memorable family Holidays at exotic locations in a pocket-friendly budget. Taking this philosophy forward, the company recently acquired Holiday Club Resorts Oy, Finland, and made an exotic destination affordable for Indian families. With this acquisition, Mahindra Holidays is now the world’s largest vacation ownership company, outside of US.
All Club Mahindra members can now enjoy Finnish Holidays through their membership. For Club Mahindra members the accommodation cost in Finland per day per person is between 28 euros to 90 Euros in low season and between 38 to 130 euros in peak season. For non-members, it costs anywhere between 40 euros to 150 euros in low season and from 60 euros and upwards in peak season.
If you are in Finland, you might like to check out the things to do in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Belarus.
- I was in Finland on Club Mahindra and Visit Finland invitation. Everything expressed above is based on my personal experience and conversations I had in the country
- Images used are either shot by me or provided by Visit Finland with due permissions