Best time to visit Finland
May to September to avoid the cold and dark
- Poking around the harbourside fish market in Helsinki – there’s everything from salmon and sausages to handicrafts and all manner of reindeer-related souvenirs.
- Spending the afternoon among the ramparts of the historic fortress on Suomenlinna Island
- Boating around the islands of Ekenãs Archipelago National Park
- Staying overnight in one of the Hanko’s charming Russian villas
- Cycling around the fishing villages of Replot Island
- Seeing the aurora borealis – nature’s Arctic light show
- Lapland at Christmas – the home of Christmas and jolly ol’ Saint Nick. The Santa Claus Main Post office is here and it receives close to a million letters each year from children all over the world.
- Enjoy the world’s largest smoke sauna in Kuopio
Snow grouse, reindeer stew or glowfired salmon
Salmiekikoska (home made spirit combining dissolved liquorice or peppermint flavoured sweets with the abrasive koskenkova (vodka) or sahti – sweet, high-alcohol beer).
With a capital that is synonymous with romance, a culture that’s richer than foie gras, and a gene pool of philosophers, revolutionaries and designers, it’s no wonder France has status. World-class ski slopes, glamorous beach resorts and rural villages complete the picture, while the food and wine score a garstronomic A+. Passionately patriotic, the French believe they live in the best place on earth. Any since they invented joie de vivre, they might just be right.
Best time to visit
April and May (spring) or September and October (autumn)
- Taking a boat down the Seine and marvelling at the Parisian architecture
- Checking out the glitz and glamour of the Le Mans 24 hours race
- Paying your respects at the evocative D-Day landing beaches in Normandy
- Enjoying on-piste action and après-ski at Val d’Isére
- Sipping a glass of Dom Perignon in Champagne
- Visiting the imposing chateaux on the Loire
- A pilgrimage to St Michaels Mound
- Old medieval towns like Annecy and Strasborg
- Barging through France
- Disneyland Paris for the children
- River cruises through France
Bloody steak, croissants, baguettes, Camembert
Red Bordeaux from Médoc, dessert wine from Sauternes, champagne from Champagne
Attitudes can be conservative, bars close at 7pm in rural market towns.
Enontekio is a large, mountainous municipality in the north western arm of Finnish Lapland. The area is known for its spectacular scenery, its range of exhilarating outdoor activities, and its fascinating traditional Sámi culture. Picturesque Hetta is the area’s main village and administrative centre so the names Hetta and Enontekiö are often used interchangeably. Hikers from around the world flock to Enontekio to explore the area’s many trails which are suitable for hikers of all levels of experience. The area also provides an ideal environment for fishing, canoeing and mountain biking. Culture enthusiasts are equally well sated as Enontekio is part of the native settlement area of the indigenous Sami people – the only indigenous people of the European Union. Visitors can explore the mythical past and present of of this unique culture in Raittijärvi, the last remaining genuine Sámi village.
The town of Espoo is a bustling metropolis and the second-largest city and municipality in Finland. It’s a city rich in culture and natural beauty. Surrounded by the spectacular Nuuksio National Park and the Baltic Sea, Espoo offers a wide variety of activities for its visitors. Visit the Finnish Nature Centre, Haltia Nuuksio, for a unique, immersive eco-experience, pick wild berries and mushrooms or go snowshoeing in the national park. Espoo features 58 kilometres of scenic shoreline and 165 islands in the surrounding archipelago that are perfect for fishing and boating excursions. Espoo also boasts over 200 kilometres of ski tracks available for winter sports enthusiasts to enjoy. The Espoo Museum of Modern Art, or EMMA, focusing mainly on Finnish artists but also has visiting exhibitions from around the world, is a must-see. Popular with visitors, is the Suomenlinna, an 18th-century sea fortress and nature area with centuries-old artillery and defensive walls, spread across six linked islands.
Finland is a fascinating and beautiful European country bordered by Sweden, Norway and Russia. Any Finnish travel experience will be largely determined by the seasons. Winter is a time of perpetual darkness, magnificent frozen lakes and the glorious Northern Lights. In summer vast green natural landscapes are bathed in the light of the midnight sun. Enormous spreads of virtually untouched natural wilderness provide a playground for trekkers, mountain-bikers, skiers and fishermen. Reindeer roam free when they aren’t pulling sledges or being served up on the dinner table. This natural wonderland lies on the doorstep of phenomenally innovative modern cities offering cosmopolitan living, while the surrounding smaller towns are home to quaint wooden churches, historic castles and quirky museums brimming with cultural artefacts.
Located in the heart of the historical province of Hame, Hameenlinna is set in the south of Finland. Dating back to the 9th century, it is the oldest inland city in the country and is an important regional hub. The red-brick medieval Hameenlinna Castle towers over the city and offers excellent views over the surrounding countryside and Lake Vanajavesi. History lovers can stroll the picturesque streets lined with heritage buildings and discover a wealth of information at the collection of museums. Explore the surrounding National Parks, enjoy a thrilling day at the Puuhamaa Theme Park, and spend a relaxing day at the Aulanko and Vesihelmi spas. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including the playing a round of golf at one of the eight golf courses, exploring the network of hiking and cycling trails as well as sailing, horseriding, snowboarding and skiing.
Set on the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most charming and idiosyncratic capital cities, largely due to its unique geographical location on a group of peculiarly shaped islands and peninsulas projecting out into the Baltic Sea. The majority of attractions are conveniently clustered on a central peninsula which, while not exactly an ancient ‘Old Town’, boasts some of the purest neoclassical architecture in the world. The city springs to life in summer when the sun continues to shine long after midnight. Winding streets play host to an array of tempting sidewalk cafes and bistros serving bizarre Finnish delicacies such as beaver sausage and dried reindeer. If that proves a little too exotic, check out the legendary Design Museum or try the saunas at the famous Yrjonkatu Swimming Hall, known for its spectacular architecture and unique atmosphere.
Situated on the banks of the Ivalo River, the eponymous town of Ivalo is set in Lapland in northern Finland. It serves as a gateway to Saariselka, a popular arctic resort area. Popular attractions in the surrounding area include the Urho Kekkonen National Park, featuring alpine landscapes dotted with herds reindeer. Visitors can look forward to exploring the network of trails, catch a glimpse of the magical Aurora Borealis and learn about the local Sami culture. Don’t miss the opportunity to view the ear-shaped mountain Korvatunturi, which is the folkloric home of Santa Claus. Other highlights include skiing, dog sledding, and enjoy a joyful sleigh ride led by reindeer.
Located in Finland, the Kajaani serves as the centre and capital of the Kainuu region. The 17th-century town boasts an attractive riverside location. Highlights include: the Paltaniemen kuvakirkko, an enchanting wooden church dating back to 1726 and housing some of Finland’s most interesting paintings; and the Eino Leino-Talo, a museum which recreates the birthplace of Leino, one of Finland’s most famous independence-era poets. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the ruins of Kajaanin Linna, the Kajaani Castle built on Ammäkoski island dotting the Kajaani River.
Located in the Kymenlaakso province on the Gulf of Finland, the town of Kotka is just one hour’s drive from Helsinki, the Finnish capital. This picturesque seaside town boasts a rich seafaring heritage, interesting culture and magnificent lush green areas. Learn about the maritime history at the Maritime Museum of Finland and the Maretarium, catch the best salmon in southern Finland in the Kymijoki River and soak beautiful views. There is a vast variety of attractions and a rich array of water-based activities for visitors to look forward to such as rafting and kayaking through the rapids of the Kymijoki, or sailing around the archipelago.
Resting on the banks of the River Pajakkajoki, Kuhmo is situated in the southeastern corner of the Kainuu region in Finland. This natural waterway provides ample opportunity for nature lovers to get out into nature to enjoy an array of outdoor activities. It serves as an excellent jumping-off point for those wishing to explore the wild boreal wilderness of Finland. The town is known for its rich cultural heritage, an abundance of nature and variety of outdoor activities on offer. Visitors can look forward to fishing in the surrounding lakes and rivers, as well as canoeing, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, white water rafting and dog sledding. Other highlights include the Kuhmo Winter War Museum, the Kuhmo Arts Centre the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival and the Sommelo Ethno Music Festival.
Located in the Northern Ostrobothnia region, the remote frontier town of Kuusamo is set close to the Russian border. It serves as a wonderful base from which to explore the beautiful surrounding region. Renowned for its natural beauty, Kuusamo offers lush forests, glistening lakes, rushing rapids and blankets of crisp white snow in winter. Kuusamo and its more lively neighbour, Ruka, have both developed into Finland’s most popular all-year tourist resorts. In summer, the main activities include: hiking, fishing, boating, rafting, and in winter, the main activities include: skiing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Visitors can also enjoy berry-picking, explore the nearby Oulanka National Park and attend the annual Kuusamo Nature Photo Festival.
Situated within the Arctic circle, bordering Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Baltic Sea, Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region. This sparsely populated area is the epitome of a winter wonderland complete with an exquisite wilderness of forests laden with snow, glistening frozen lakes and charming little villages scattered across towering mountain ranges. Lapland is a mecca for outdoor adventure enthusiasts eager to experience the impressive range of winter activities on offer. Whether you are keen to try dog sledding, reindeer sleigh rides, skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, or searching the sky for the spectacular northern lights, you’re sure to collect some unforgettable memories. With a 24 hour sun during the summer months, and the sun barely skimming the horizon during the winter, this magical land of contrasts offers a unique experience for every visitor.
Located on the shore of the Lake Saimaa in southeastern Finland, Lappeenranta is a natural paradise. Once a bustling trading hub, today Lappeenranta serves as an excellent base from which to explore the stunning waterways and landscapes of the surrounding region. Hikers flock here to explore the incredibly scenic landscapes. Visitors can admire the magnificent scenery while enjoying a bicycle ride through the countryside, explore the winter wonderland on a cross-country skiing excursion or stroll along the beautiful lakeside promenade.Other highlights include: the 18th century Lappeenranta Fortress, which houses museums, shops and restaurants; a canoe trip to ‘Little Saimaa’, and boat cruises down the 43-kilometre Saimaa Canal.
Set in Finland’s Etela-Savo region, Mikkeli is a bustling historic town in the Lake District of Finland. It is set on the banks of the fourth largest lake in Europe, Lake Saimaa. This lakeside town offers visitors the perfect combination of natural experience and local life. Visitors can look forward to an array of wonderful activities and attractions such as viewing the historical Astuvansalmi rock paintings, hiking up Neitvuori Mountain, and relaxing in Mikkeli’s collection of urban parks. Other popular activities include: stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the many lakes dotting the region namely Lake Puula, Lake Kyyvesi, and of course, Lake Saimaa -the largest lake in Finland.
The serene, scenic village of Muonio lies above the Arctic Circle, on the enthralling landscapes of the Muonionjoki between Finland and Sweden. With air that is said to be the freshest in Europe, magnificent vistas of open plains, green hills, lakes, and snowy peaks, the area provides a wonderland of outdoor activities for nature lovers. Travellers can enjoy spectacular hiking and photography within the experience of the midnight sun, polar twilight and the Aurora Borealis. The area is also particularly beautiful in autumn when the leaves are bright in colour. There is a long network of skiing tracks to discover and an abundance of opportunities for snowmobiling, birdwatching, paddling, boat trips, and fishing. The nearby Pallas-Yllas National Park offers more to see.
Resting on the shores of the Bay of Bothnia in central Finland’s region of North Ostrobothnia, Oulu is famous for its cycling opportunities, urban vibrancy, and excellent gallery and museum culture. The cycleway is the most extensive in the country, and ski tracks, alluring well-maintained parks and the lovely sand dune island of Hailuoto provide further opportunities for enjoying the outdoors. Those interested in history will delight in visiting the Kierikki Stone Age Centre, where visitors can see what life was like thousands of years ago, and the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum, which features an enormous model of the city as it was in 1938. Other highlights include the atmospheric Rotuaari Promenade, the excellent Oulu Museum Of Art and numerous other galleries, and a wonderful array of shops, boutiques, and restaurants.
Pyhä-Luosto National Park
The Pyha-Luosto National Park is a spectacularly scenic nature reserve situated in the remote winter wonderland of Lapland, Finland. The park covers an impressive 142 square kilometre area and comprises Finland’s southernmost fell range, a collage of treeless peaks and deep ravines. These ancient rugged hills feature some remarkable age-old forests lit by the Northern Lights in winter and the Midnight Sun during the endless days of summer. The park has many functions including conserving the area’s exceptional natural features, preserving the indigenous Sami culture, and serving as a popular destination for hiking and tourism. Visitors can enjoy some excellent cross-country and downhill skiing opportunities as well as visits to an Amethyst Mine and the many historic sites of the Sami people.
Situated in the Arctic Circle, right at the confluence of the Kemijoki and Ounasjoki rivers, Rovaniemi is the unofficial capital of Finnish Lapland and the gateway to all the tourism treasures this winter wonderland has to offer. Culture vultures can enjoy the city’s eclectic collection of unusual museums and cultural attractions including Lapland’s Provincial Museum Arktikum, the Lapland Forestry Museum, the Pilke Science Centre, and the Korundi House of Culture which also houses the Rovaniemi Museum of Art. Outdoor enthusiasts are equally well catered for with snowmobile safaris, reindeer and husky rides, and Northern Light hunting in the Winter; and relaxing riverboat cruises under the midnight sun in Summer. No matter what time of year you visit, Santa Claus will always be always waiting to meet you at the famous Santa Claus Village and Santapark.
Situated in northern Finland, Saariselka is a resort village in the municipality of Inari in Northern Lapland. It serves as a gateway to the incredibly scenic surrounding landscapes. Saariselka is one of Finland’s oldest ski resorts and the northernmost holiday resort in the world set 260 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. It is known for its network of hiking trails, and ski trails traversing the beautiful wilderness of the Urho Kekkonen National Park. Visitors can look forward to viewing a fascinating film in the panorama theatre at the Destination Northernmost Europe exhibition, visit the lakefront Sami Cultural Centre, and sample local Finnish cuisine at a variety of inviting restaurants and cafes. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the midnight sun and catch a glimpse of the magical Northern Lights. Other popular activities include: cross-country and downhill skiing, snowmobile safaris, dog sled tours, reindeer rides, snowshoeing as well as gold panning, and fishing.
Set on the riverbanks of Finland’s largest river, the Ounasjoki River, the village of Sinetta is set in the Arctic Circle in Lapland. Visitors can view the Arctic night sky, fall asleep under the clear starry skies and view the magical Aurora Borealis. Other highlights include: enjoying a story-filled guided tour at the Arktikum-palvelu Oy museum, visiting the magical Santa Claus Village and staying overnight at the world-famous Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy an icy drink in the ice bar, sample local Lappish dishes and enjoy an array of winter wonderland activities including Snow sculpting, snowshoeing and ice fishing.
Syote is a ski resort town in the southernmost fell of Finland, around 150 kilometres below the Arctic Circle. Set on the fringe of the magnificent Syote National Park, the landscapes offer a wonderland to explore with their majestic mountains, vast lakes, and thick forests. With 17 pristine slopes and a famously versatile freestyle park, this is a winter holiday destination well suited to families and young people. Activities on offer include ice fishing, snowmobiling, reindeer safaris, ice fishing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, and cross-country skiing. Animal lovers will delight in a visit to the Ranua Wildlife Park. The area also boasts numerous luxurious spas and top-notch restaurants and bars, providing a perfect way to relax after a day out exploring.
Located on the southwest coast of Finland, the city of Turku, Finland’s former capital, stretches along the banks of the Aura River. It is known for its rich arts and culture scene, ancient heritage and vibrant modern atmosphere. For history lovers, Turku features numerous historical attractions including the majestic 13th century Turku Castle, which houses an interesting museum documenting medieval history. Visit the collection of restaurants lining the cobbled riverside streets, enjoy excellent shopping opportunities at an array of unique boutiques, and attend one of the lively festivals. It also serves a great base from which to explore the surrounding area which encompasses the magnificent Turku Archipelago and the scenic coast dotted with character-filled towns. Don’t miss a visit to the ancient Turku Cathedral which houses a royal tomb and museum.