Finland. The land of saunas, reindeer and an ever-challenging vernacular (if you can pronounce Sytytystulppa or Hyppytyynytyydytys, I salute you). Too often overlooked in favour of its Scandinavian neighbours Sweden and Norway, this tiny Nordic nation is a bucket list-worthy destination in its own right.
Its buzzing capital, Helsinki, has evolved into a dynamic hub for culture and design, while the pristine peaks and rolling landscapes in the Lapland Province remain largely untouched. Just in case the allure of crisp mountain air and authentic culture aren’t enough to sway you (note: they should be) we’ve picked five more reasons to find time for Finland.
1. The scenery is stunning
What the country lacks in hours of natural sunlight during the winter, it makes up for with infinite photo opportunities both day and night. Aptly nicknamed the ‘Land of a Thousand Lakes’, Finland is home to almost 200,000 inland lagoons. Between November and May each year, the lush landscapes of Lapland are coated in snow, transforming the region into a picture-perfect winter wonderland.
The countryside is full of fells (an Old Norse word for mountain), which make perfect vantage points to watch the sun go down. From the 2,356 foot-tall Yllästunturi in the Lapland Province to the waterfalls of Auttikongas and the rapids of Rovaniemi, Finland’s frosty temperature isn’t the only thing that will take your breath away.
2. There are activities aplenty
With almost 90 ski resorts nationwide, the Arctic playground is a powder-lover’s paradise. But the fun isn’t limited to the slopes. Closer to sea level, both guided and individual show-shoe hikes take you off the beaten, skied-out tracks to lookout spots only frequented by locals. If you feel safer sliding when you’re not standing up, husky-led sleds are a great way to go (and fast).
For those who’d rather appreciate the snow-capped peaks from the comfort and warmth of the indoors, indulging in a traditional Finnish sauna is a fail-safe way to defrost. But if you really want to do it like a local, you’ll have to plunge into the nearest fresh water lake afterward. Brr.
3. The food in Finnish Lapland is amazing
Fun fact: In 2008, Finland beat Italy in an international pizza contest. Fusing international influences with traditional favourites, authentic Finnish pizzas have been to known to include smoked reindeer and are served on rye dough with very generous quantities of cheese.
Unsurprisingly, traditional Finnish dishes are hearty and warm enough to satisfy all hankerings. Breakfast isn’t complete without a slice or two of Ruisleipä (rye bread), served fresh with ham and cheese, or warm with salted butter to dip in Lohikeitto (salmon soup). For mains, a meat-lovers’ favourite is the traditional Makaronilaatikko (baked macaroni with minced meat) or Karjalanpaisti (meat stew).
If you’re a sweet tooth the options are almost infinite, but Korvapuusti (cinnamon rolls) and Mustikkapiirakka (blueberry pie) can’t be missed.
4. You might spot the Northern Lights
This statement needs no further explanation. The elusive Aurelia Borealis has captivated and mystified astrologists, photographers, travellers and essentially anyone who appreciates pretty things for centuries.
Sightings of the famous dancing green lights can never be guaranteed, but the Northern Lights appear an average of 200 nights of the year in Finland, making it one of the best places on Earth to spot them. For your best chance, head to Yllästunturi or Kakslauttanen.
5. You can meet Santa
You can meet the man himself in Rovaniemi, the ‘Official Hometown of Santa Claus’. While Saint Nicholas’ original home is in Korvatunturi (‘Ear Fell’), legend has it the face of Christmas decided to set up shop in the capital of Finnish Lapland in 1985. The Santa Claus Village is open every day of the year and comes complete with festivities including reindeer rides and snowmobile tours.
Experience Finnish Lapland for yourself and tick this incredible Nordic nation off your bucket list on our Finnish Lapland in Winter small group adventure.