5 Reasons to Add Finland to Your Bucket List
Finland is, in our opinion, simply one of the most magical places on earth. From the vibrant art-filled city of Helsinki, to the frozen depths of the Lapland wilderness, Finland is a relatively untouched and unknown corner of Europe that is just calling out to be explored.
A little off the beaten track, it offers many cultural, historical and natural attractions that are sure to delight a wide variety of travellers. Its stunning lakes, fells, rivers and vast areas of wilderness are covered with snow for many months of the year, making it a Nordic playground with a culture that you simply won’t find anywhere else.
We’ve put together the top five reasons we believe Finland is a must-visit on any bucket list.
1.The capital of Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital of Finland, acting as a busy Baltic port and home to a myriad of museums, art galleries, historical attractions, fantastic restaurants, and shopping opportunities.
Finland is famous for its unique, streamlined, minimalist design concepts, and Helsinki is the epicentre for this world-famous design scene. Having a major influence on design houses across the world, Helsinki is jam-packed with workshops, galleries and studios showing their work in glassware, lighting, textiles and homewares. If you’re into design, be sure to browse the Design District, which is just south of the centre in Punavuori. It’s also home to the Design Museum and, although you probably won’t be able to fit any design items in your suitcase, it’s still fantastic to have a look and get some inspiration for when you do return home.
As well as delighting the design enthusiasts among us, Helsinki is also the perfect place to sample the finest in traditional Finnish cuisine. Food that is organic, locally-sourced, sustainably made and even foraged from the natural environment may be a bit of a trend these days, however Finland is where it all started!
Restaurants in Helsinki serve up every kind of Finnish dish imaginable, from salmon to elk to snow grouse, often paired with wild forest mushrooms, lingonberry sauce and traditional mashed potato. You can visit a bistro or restaurant in Helsinki, or brave the cold and head to an outdoor open-air market.
2. Amazing history
There are many must-visit sites in Finland that are remnants of the country’s unique, often quite quirky, history.
The Suomenlinna Fortress
Considered one of the world’s largest sea fortresses, Suomenlinna was built in the 18th century by the Swedes (when Finland was owned by Sweden) to protect themselves against the Russians. However, the Russians eventually captured both the fort and the rest of Finland, so it was unsuccessful in the end! The fort is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a 15-minute ferry ride from Helsinki’s Market Square.
The churches of Helsinki
Helsinki has two churches that are worth visiting for any history or architecture enthusiast. One of them is the Uspensky Orthodox Cathedral that towers over the east of Helsinki’s harbour, with its majestic total of 13 green and gold spires. The Neoclassical Lutheran Cathedral is also a major landmark, with its 19th-century spires remaining the focal point of Senate Square for hundreds of years.
3. Getting back to true nature in the Arctic
The Arctic Circle in Finland runs through the town of Rovaniemi, giving it the name ‘Gateway to the Arctic’. However, its more official title may be ‘The Home of Santa Claus’, as it’s rumoured that this is where Santa Claus lives when not performing his once-yearly duties.
When you make your way up to the Arctic, the scenery is truly stunning. From snow-capped peaks stretching as far as the eye can see, to getting lucky enough to spot the Northern Lights, there really is nothing else like the Finnish Arctic.
Depending on the time of year that you visit, you may encounter the Midnight Sun. From late May to early August, the sun never drops far enough below the horizon for it to get dark, which is a magical thing to experience (if a little disorienting!).
Tourists spend the ‘White Nights’ staying up late and enjoying the extra daylight. You can learn about traditional Lapland culture, as well as the natural history, meteorology and geology of the Arctic at the Arktikum Science Museum in Rovaniemi.
For those looking for some physical activity, there are an endless amount of choices for light hikes, cross-country skiing and even cycling through the villages (if the weather permits). Lots of people spend time in the Arctic chasing after the very special Northern Lights, which often appear between 1 and 4 a.m. – so you may have to stay up late to catch a glimpse!
4. Once-in-a-lifetime glass villa accommodation
We believe that there really is no better way to experience the magic of the Northern Lights than in the luxury, warmth and privacy of your own glass villa. In the Finnish winter (December to March), the time that the sun disappears for months is known as ‘kaamos’, and it’s during kaamos that you’ll be most likely to get a spectacular Northern Lights show.
It really is a life-changing experience to see, and viewing the beautiful dancing lights from the warmth of your bed sounds pretty ideal to us!
5. Dog and reindeer sledding!
If the cold, white tundra is calling out your name, then you must answer the call of the wild!
Do as the Finns do and tour the scenery behind your very own pack of huskies or herd of reindeer. Lapland’s amazing snow makes for the perfect conditions for husky and reindeer sledding, giving you the opportunity to rug up warm and get comfy on the sled while your furry friends do what they do best.
Winter is the best time to go dog or reindeer sledding as this is when the snow is thickest, but it may be offered at other times of the year also.
Tour the real Finland with Albatross Tours
If Finland has caught your eye, then why not tour it with the best of the best? Take a look at our Northern Lights Tour to see what else the amazing destination of Finland has to offer.