holiday in Finland?
This far north European country embraces cities and towns with buildings ranging from medieval castles
to modern classics that all go colourfully hyperactive in the summer months as the sun refuses
to set and the locals refuse to sleep.
The massed islands around the south coast and in the central Lake
area are a great destination for water sporters and not too bad
for wilderness seekers too, though up north to Lapland is more suitable
for bipedal space cases or white-out sports freaks in winter.
Crime is low and the country is very clean and efficient while domestic transport systems are excellent.
- Finland's not cheap, especially alcohol which is way overpriced.
- Drunk males are not uncommon and can be difficult. Nothing new
- Out of town the endless, flat, repetition of trees/ water/ trees
may make journeys tiresome.
Best weather: May-Sept
The Midnight Sun occurs in Lapland from mid-June to mid-July.
Worst: Winter (very short, dark days but amazing winter landscapes)
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: 2 days, Helsinki and
A reasonable time: 2 weeks, Helsinki-Turku region, the Lake area,
and Lapland or the Aland islands.
***Helsinki. Radiant architecture,
excellent museums, scenic waterways, and a lively, cheerful atmosphere
- especially in summer months. And a beach!
**Turku. This 800 year old port has
lost a lot of its old buildings and culture to rapacious development,
but still retains a watery charm, some good museums and a few great
buildings including the huge medieval Turku Castle. This is a popular
base for cruises around the islands.
**Turku - Hamina (east of Helsinki),
though the scenery is less than dramatic this road trip winds past
an evocative scattering of castles, ancient churches and manor houses.
About 200 miles.
**Aland islands (Ahvenanmaa). 6,000
or so flat, rural islands boasting few residents but their own flag
and distinctive culture - a particularly good target for bikers
or sailors. Ferries run constantly in the summer.
**Lake Region. Thousands of attractive
lakes and islands take up one third of the country and make a tranquil,
wild and watery destination.
**Savonlinna is the biggest town in the area, sports the grand Olavinlinna
castle and offers endless scenic summer cruises as well as a world
class opera festival in July.
The lakes are especially good for bike and kayak use.
**Lapland, north of not-very-interesting
Rovaniemi, is a place of space and stark wilderness as you cross
into the Arctic
Under the Midnight Sun hikers will love the spectacular routes,
wandering reindeer and free overnight huts of various parks, especially
Lemmenjoki National Park, while kayakers will find plenty of rapids
to give them an icy thrill.
For a shot of real Sami (Lap) culture try the lakeside town of Inari.
Kayaking: water,water everywhere, and
plenty of canoes/kayaks to rent. Easy paddling around the lakes,
not quite so easy at sea and a touch hairy over rapids up in Lapland.
Hiking: June-Sept, though beware insect
overload in June/July. Trails often have huts available en route,
or prepared camping places.
Saunas: if you haven't been beaten
by a naked mate with birch twigs in a steamy situation then you
haven't experienced Finland.
Hietaniemi Beach, Helsinki
Biking: hire available in tourist areas,
and roads are mostly flat and well surfaced in the south, but beware
monotony - trees, water, trees, trees and so on.
Fishing: a popular pastime in this
watery wonderland, including ice-fishing, but a local licence is
Cross-country skiing: Oct-April, some
trails are illuminated.
Downhill skiing: not common but if you must, try Lapland or Koli
Sailing: with thousands of islands
inland and out to sea, good fish and clean air, Finland makes a
sailor's eyes go wet and dreamy, but beware navigation around Turku.
31 Dec, New Year celebrations, especially lively in Helsinki.
May 1, May Day - an excellent excuse to get wrecked with the locals.
June, ***Midsummer's Day (Juhannus), the country's biggest event
with parties nationwide.
July, ***Savonlinna Opera Festival, held in a medieval castle set
in a lovely town.
July, Ruisrock festival in pretty Turku.
August, Savonlinna Beer Festival.
The currency is the Euro and prices are high but not stratospheric.
Finland is a sophisticated society so ATMs are plentiful and most
Traveller's Cheques accepted.
Tipping is rarely necessary.
European citizens and nationals of USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
Malaysia and Singapore do not need visas for visits up to 90 days.
Electric sockets are 230v and take 2 round pin plugs.
Crime is very, very unlikely.
The Finnish language is difficult but most younger Finns speak reasonable
An interesting fusion of Scandinavian and Russian styles, though
somewhat heavy and unsubtle. Heavy on the wallet too.
Ingredients lean towards marine life for obvious reasons, but reindeer
and snow grouse are on the protein platter too.
Scandinavians love a hearty breakfast so this is the time to load
up on calories if you are short on $.
Finland Pictures | Helsinki Guide | Finland