The Land of the Midnight Sun, best known as Finland is home to many forests, over 187,000 crystal clear lakes, almost 180,000 islands, and 5,100 rapids. In the north of Finland the sun shines 24 hours a day for two months in the summer; in the southern regions, there’s still 15 hours of sunlight a day.
Despite it’s Nordic location, Finland has four distinct seasons. With the heat from the Gulf Stream, the climate is similar to that or New England or the Great Lakes Region of the United States – but geographically, it’s much further to the north. In the winter, between October and April, Finland transforms into a pulsating and shimmering festival of lights, which is known as The Lively Season.
Helsinki, the capital, is sleek, sophisticated and vibrant year-round. The streets are neatly lined with trees, the architecture is stunning – for a lack of better words – and it’s colourful market square and harbour brings the city to life. If you’re looking for nightlife, you’re in luck! Helsinki has some of the best nightlife in the region.
You’ll also find Helsinki is a city of contrast – east meets west, nature coincides with metropolis, and the past and present blend together. Visit one of the many trendy cafes and if you’re a student travelling, you’ll find the digs at Helsinki’s Hostels are some of the best in Europe.
Other major cities in Finland, all along the King’s road, of course, include Espoo, Ekenäs, Hamina, Hanko, Kotka, Loviisa, Naantali, Rauma, Porvoo, Turku, and Åland. Don’t forget there’s also Lapland where you just might find Santa and his Reindeer.
There are endless activities in Finland thanks to the four seasons, the lakes, forests, and terrain. Have a go at dog sledding, enjoy the midnight sun, or during the lively season, catch the spectacular aurora borealis as the sky turns into a magnificent display of colours.
The nation sports over two million saunas. Strip off ALL your clothing (it is traditional and bathing suits are faux pas), grab a shower, and go into the 210-degree (f) toaster for a warm-up. Once you’re nice and warm, go for a cold plunge in a lake or streak out into the snow and roll around! Don’t worry; this is all acceptable behaviour in Finland! Remember, it’s the lively season.
The official currency here is the Euro. You may exchange cash at Foreign Exchange outlets or banks, but your best bet is often the use of your ATM card to obtain the best exchange rate. Credit Cards are accepted in major cities, large shops and at most hotels.
You could always ask Santa for a ride on his reindeer-driven sled! Yes, sledding is one mode of transportation in Finland, but the nation has extensive train service as well as bus (coach) services which will get you to most places. If you rent or hire an automobile, there are well-marked national highways. Ferries also play an important role given the number of islands and the ferry services will transport you safely across the waterways of Finland.
The major gateway and international airport is Helsinki Vantaa International Airport (HEL). Helsinki is well serviced by SAS, Finnair, and most major European carriers.
For travel within the region, SAS offers a Scandinavian Airpass, which starts at just about $75 (USD) per sector. The airpass allows for travel among Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, but must be purchased in conjunction with an international ticket on SAS. Check with SAS or your travel agent for details.