Nature plays a big part in Finnish lifestyle; during the summer the sun stays up all night allowing long days of swimming, camping and hiking. In the dark months, trees fill with snow and create a winter sports wonderland. Here are the most beautiful spots to visit while you’re here.
During the summer, Finns love to escape busy cities as much as possible and surround themselves with nature. Many own secluded cottages by peaceful lakes and spend the days picking berries, canoeing, fishing, swimming and just enjoying being outdoors. Saimaa, located in the Finnish Lake District, is the country’s largest lake and the fourth largest in Europe. It’s also a popular place for both Finns and tourists to get a feel of the ’cottage life’. Some of the most beautiful spots on the shorelines of Saimaa include Linnansaari National Park, the idyllic town of Puumala, and Savonlinna, home to the Olavinlinna castle.
If you’re into architecture, Old Rauma should be on your list of places to visit. Located on the Gulf of Bothnia and in the heart of the western town of Rauma, it’s a Unesco World Heritage Site and the largest unified wooden town in the Nordic countries. The colorful homes, restaurants, boutiques and cafés date back to the 18th and 19th centuries and a walk around will make you feel like you’ve been taken back in time. In the winter, after snow has fallen, the 600 wooden buildings turn into a magical fairytale-like town.
Yyteri is home to Finland’s longest beach, which stretches to four miles on the western Baltic shore. It’s known for beautiful sand dunes and is one of the country’s most popular leisure destinations in the summertime. There are many events and public gatherings hosted on the beach throughout the season and other attractions in the area include a spa and golf course. Yvteri sits outside the city of Pori, known internationally for its great annual jazz festival.
At Nuuksio you can swim, ski, hike, camp, fish, and experience a little bit of wilderness inside the city limits. It’s located within Helsinki’s metropolitan area and can be easily accessed using public transportation. The park has nature trails and camping sites, offering a haven for those in need of a breath of fresh air. Animal life among the birch forests, lakes, swamps, cliffs and valleys includes moose, fox and flying squirrels. Nuuksio hosts events such as marathons and wilderness hikes throughout the year and is also home to Finnish Nature Centre Haltia, an ecologically designed exhibition and event center that specializes in outdoor activities and wildlife.
Koli National Park overlooks Lake Pielinen and is one of Finland’s most magnificent natural scenes. The view was discovered by painters in the 19th century and has since been referenced in numerous culturally significant pieces of art. The lake itself is situated in Northern Karelia, which borders Russia in the east of Finland. You can experience the view from the top of Koli National Park’s highest hill, called Ukko-Koli. It’s also an ideal spot for outdoor activities and hiking in the summer, and there are also lifts operating to the top year-round. In the winter, Ukko-Koli turns into a ski resort for advanced downhill skiing, with ski slopes 800 to 1,500 meters long.
Suomenlinna is a sea fortress in Helsinki, located on a group of islands connected to each other by bridges. The fortress dates back to the 1700s and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. A 15-minute public ferry goes back and forth between Helsinki’s Market Square and Suomenlinna multiple times an hour. Being such an historic piece of military architecture, the fortress is fascinating and hours could be spent exploring it. The islands also have beautiful views of the sea, and many locals often visit just to stroll around the cobblestoned roads and enjoy picnics on the grass and rocky shores.
You can discover Finland’s highest peak at Halti, a mountain with beautiful rocky scenery, located in Lapland on the border of Norway and Finland. Native Laplanders consider the 1,323 meter high peak a holy place. You can easily hike up the mountain during the warmer months, but the extreme conditions during the winter make it difficult. Getting there can also be tricky as the mountain is in the middle of wilderness and there aren’t hotels on the way, but many solve the problem by bringing their own tents.
Finland’s third largest national park is located in Lapland, where you can hike, ski and see arctic animals in the wild. The chain of mountains within the park stretch to almost 60 miles are worthy of exploring no matter what time of the year. Must-sees include the landscapes of Pallastunturi fells, Ylläs ski resort and the traditional Lapland village called Hetta. One of the world’s most magical and beautiful sights can also occur here on dark nights when the northern lights color the sky.
Despite being small, Kilpisjärvi is one of the largest villages in the Enontekiö municipality of Lapland. The most fascinating attraction is a monument called the Three Country Cairn. It marks a geographical tripoint and is where the borders of Finland, Sweden and Norway meet. Saana Mountain, which is part of the Scandinavian mountain range, and Lake Kilpisjärvi below it are the most picturesque spots of the village, attracting hikers and backpackers during all four seasons.
There are over 20,000 islands and skerries on the Baltic Sea outside of the southwestern city of Turku, which make up the Turku Archipelago. Some can be reached by car or bicycle; others only by boat or ferries. There are many rentable as well as privately owned cottages situated on the islands and it’s a popular area for sailors and boat enthusiasts. Outdoor activities in the archipelago include watersports; kayaking, cycling, fishing, tennis and golf. Turku is actually the former capital of Finland and the country’s oldest city and in addition to the beautiful islands, it holds many interesting cultural events.