Finland, with Lapland in the north, has been a big draw for winter tourists for many years. It is also now becoming a popular destination in the summer months. The country is sparsely populated and has an interesting history with many Russian and Scandinavian influences. Medieval buildings, desolate expanses of wilderness, lakes and wood-fired saunas all combine to make for a memorable holiday.
The capital of Finland is Helsinki. Situated on a peninsula on the south coast, it has managed to retain a small town feel despite being the country’s economic centre. Here you will find an assortment of waterways, parks and squares to explore. The best of these is the lively Kauppatori (Market Square), where you can enjoy a spot of people watching at one of the open-air cafés surrounded by 19th century architecture.
Finland’s oldest city is Turku, home to a 13th century cathedral and castle – both with interesting museums. Rauma, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a town constructed from wood. Here, in addition to a 15th century church, you will find lace-makers and goldsmiths working in studios dating back to the 1700s. The Savonlinna Lakes area has one of the finest medieval castles in Europe, Olavinlinna. Åland, a province containing more than 6,000 islands, is a wonderful camping and cycling area.
Head north to Lapland and visit Inari, home of the Sami, many of whom earn their living from the reindeer that inhabit the area. This is also the place to view Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
The best range of hotels can be found in Helsinki. There are a few top class options but the majority on offer are mid-range. A popular choice, in more remote areas, is the wood cabins situated around many of the lakes. Prices vary depending on location and the quality is generally good.
Most airlines offering flights to Finland use Helsinki International Airport. Flights can be expensive but there are a few budget airlines with cheaper options available. There is a choice of ferry routes that are ideal to arrive here via other Scandinavian countries. You can get here by train via Sweden and Denmark from several European cities.