Finland has seen a surge in bookings from eager tourists as travel restrictions are removed around the world. Here’s why the Land of the Midnight Sun should be at the top your list for your first holiday of 2020.
As travel restrictions lift across Europe in the aftermath of coronavirus lockdown measures, Finland has emerged as a characterful choice for many explorers. The Nordic country has always been popular holiday spot, but is usually seen as a winter destination. With vast lakes, serene forests and wide open spaces, it’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world when the sun is shining, too. Here are the reasons you’ll want to book your holiday here now.
Finland has always ranked highly when it comes to safety and security. Holidaymakers are welcome throughout the country and local emergency services are regarded as some of the best in the world. Its reaction to the coronavirus outbreak – imposing lockdown measures early on – was in line with most other Nordic countries, barring Sweden. As a result, it has quickly returned to relative normality, thanks to social distancing and common sense measures.
Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland in the north. It’s almost within touching distance of the Arctic Circle and home to Santa Claus, making it a popular destination over the Christmas period. Yet there’s plenty of excursions and tours you can take all year round, but which might be more fun in summer. Floating on a lake to soak up the evening sun, for example, is possible in winter – if you don’t mind donning a thermal suit. It’s also the perfect place to see the midnight sun. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set at all from May to August, so you might call it the gift that keeps on giving.
Finland has a number of nature reserves and wildlife parks across the country, including Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Located between two large mountains, it contains sweeping fells, virgin forests and amazing wildlife. There’s also the option of heading out on your own to see if you can spot some of these animals in the wild, but given that some of them can be dangerous, perhaps stick to the safety of the parks and guided hikes for now.
Finland’s extensive train network is one of the best in Europe in terms of accessibility and comfort. You can reach most parts of the country via rail, with panoramic views from the comfort of your own seat in summer. It’s such a vast country, so ideal to cross it by train, and you can book tickets for journeys with sleeper cars and restaurants. Search on Finland VR to find out more about the routes and schedules you can take this summer. Helsinki is a great place to start, but we can also recommend lesser known destinations such as historical Turku and educational hub Jyväskylä, aka the Athens of Finland.
Finland has endless bodies of water that are perfect for outdoor swimming, with many being used as part of the traditional sauna routine (see below). A highly recommended experience is open-water swimming in Lake Kitkajärvi, Europe’s largest natural spring.Wild swimming is a key aspect of the Finnish lifestyle, and in summer many locals combine it with evening barbecues long into the night.
There’s not much that beats the thrill of the open road, and Finland has some of the best conditions around. Driving holidays are often at the mercy of traffic jams and cluttered roads, but not here. Finland has a number of scenic routes that are devoid of other cars. Best of all, you can take a break from the wheel and hike, bike or even swim to your heart’s content.
If you feel you’re lacking vitamin D, then a trip to Finland might just be what the doctor ordered. The country isn’t known as the Land of the Midnight Sun for nothing, with days stretching for as long as 20 hours in parts of the country during summer. If you plan your trip just right, you can even experience the magic of midsummer and catch the longest day of the year. Average temperatures are also warm and pleasant at 20C, but not insufferable as in other parts of Europe.
Saunas are a huge part of the Finnish way of life. They obviously provide warmth from freezing winter conditions, but are such an important element of communal living, they are just as popular in summer too. In Finland a steamy sauna session is followed by a refreshing swim, before returning to the sauna. As the chlorine in swimming pools can have an adverse reaction with the vapours in the extreme heat, it is advisable to cool off in fresh water. One of the best saunas in Finland can be found at Löyly, which happens to be home to one of the finest restaurants in the world. The wooden complex has a cooling-off pool that is part of the Baltic Sea.
The Kvarken archipelago, a Natural Unesco World Heritage site dating back to the Ice Age, comprises thousands of islands of ridged washboard moraines in the Gulf of Bothnia. It was formed by the melting of the continental ice sheet 10,000-24,000 years ago, and a natural phenomenon occurs here called rapid glacio-isostatic uplift, whereby the land, previously weighted down under a glacier, lifts at rates that are among the highest in the world. You won’t actually see the landscape changing, but new islands are popping up all the time.
At the other end of the cultural spectrum, Finland is home to some of the liveliest festivals and wackiest competitions you could possibly imagine. Take the Air Guitar World Championships in Oulu, or the Wife Carrying competition in Sonkajärvi, both of which have been cancelled this year due to coronavirus. One attraction still worth visiting is Moominworld, a theme park dedicated to Finland’s most popular export.
Finland was recently voted the happiest place in the world, an accolade it has collected for the third year in a row. There’s clearly something about the way of life here that leads to locals finding enjoyment in life that visitors will want to sample, if not take home with them. The best advice is to relax and take it all in, something that is even easier to do in the summer months.
Summer in Finland lasts for about 100 days, between late June and early September.