Finland holidays are to be transported to the winter since even in the warmer months of the summer you will need to take your coat and gloves with you, as when the afternoon comes you can feel the chill in the air. It is a friendly country where lovers of winter activities and sports will find a wide range of possibilities, especially the farther north you travel.
Located in northern Europe, and with coastlines on the Baltic Sea, the nation of Finland is the most sparsely populated country in the European Union and is known around the world for its unique natural phenomena, such as the Northern Lights and the midnight sun, and for being the home of Santa Claus, who lives in Rovaniemi, in the northernmost region of finnish Lapland. Year-round, visitors flock to this region to meet the man himself, who is often accompanied by his famous reindeer.
A Nordic country sandwiched between Norway, Russia and Sweden, a holiday to Finland is the perfect winter escape. The capital, Helsinki, located on the south coast, is bursting with cultural institutions, museums, churches and home to the impressive Helsinki Cathedral, the symbol of the city.
Other large cities include Espoo and Tampere, although a lot of Finland tour packages tend to focus on its amazing countryside or the numerous ski resorts, of which there are at least 75, the largest of which are located in Lapland with unspoilt blankets of snow from December to April. Composed of 19 regions, each with their own regional councils, Finland stands out from other European countries for its unique culture and landscape.
History of Finland
Inhabited since approximately 9000 BC, around the end of the last Ice-Age, hunter-gatherer communities were the first settlers on the territory and ancient artefacts and stone tools show that these communities shared a lot in common with other Baltic and Russian civilisations at the time.
From the 8th century onwards, Finland was considered a trading power of the Baltics, exporting wares such as fur to the courts of Europe. In the 12th century, the influence of neighbouring nations, particular Sweden, began to grow, as the Swedish colonised coastal Finland during the Northern Crusades, introducing Christianity and imparting elements of culture which are still seen today, for example in the prevalence of the Swedish language.
Visitors on a Finland holiday package will also notice the distinct Russian influence, evident in some of the architecture found in the capital, such as the imposing Senate Square and Orthodox churches like the Upenskin Cathedral. The main period of Russian influence in Finland began in 1809, when the country was incorporated into the Russian Empire, during the Golden Years of the Tsars. The country managed to shake off Russian control following the Russian Revolution in 1917, which sparked a period of intense civil war in Finland, although the Finnish Republic was declared at the end of 1918.
The Second World War also had repercussions for Finland as it was during this time that Russian forces again occupied a number of islands and regions under Finnish territory and later demanded war reparations. In order to afford the demands of the Russians, the country quickly industrialised, leading to prompt development and the adoption of a number of Nordic models to suit the revitalised economy, in particular, the Nordic welfare state model.
Nowadays, Finland is considered one of the world’s most prosperous countries, with a fantastic education system, a high equality ranking and a strong sense of stability. Like a number of Nordic countries, Finland is admired by much of the world for its way of life, and a trip to Finland is a perfect insight into its culture, history and the daily lives of its citizens.
Nature in Finland
As one of the world’s most northernmost countries, Finland boasts a rich array of diverse landscapes and brilliant natural attractions and National Parks. Magical seasonal changes are characteristic of Finland, with long summer days, the revival of nature in the spring, leafy autumn months and snowy winters.
A large amount of the country is barely developed, promising an abundance of wildlife and unimaginably beautiful countryside. A quarter of the country is located within the Arctic Circle, and in the northernmost regions, the Midnight Sun endures for around 70 consecutive days in the summer, with the sun remaining above the horizon for over two months.
To experience this natural phenomenon is an extremely attractive prospect for travellers on a Finland holiday package; there are very few places on earth where the sun shines eternally for such a long period of time. Another rare natural phenomenon is the iconic Northern Lights, most visible during autumn and spring in Lapland, where the dazzling, dancing colours of solar flares can be seen as frequently as every other night if the sky is clear. With around 60 native mammals, a trip to Finland is ideal for animal lovers who want to catch sight of some of the country’s most iconic wild animals such as the grey wolf, wolverines and the majestic brown bear, of which there are approximately 1,500.
A real icon of the country, brown bears can be found in the ‘Wild East’ where, during the summer, sightings are almost guaranteed. Finland’s national bird, the whooper swan is another wildlife highlight, whilst the country’s marine life is characterised by populations of whales, seals and seabirds.
Known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes, although there are actually as many as 188,000 lakes, covering 10% of the country’s territory, Finn’s traditionally head to lakeside cottages in the summer to soak up the abundance of nature and swim in the glistening water. Two of the most prominent lakes in the country are Lake Inari and Lake Saimaa, the latter of which is home to the endangered Ringed Seal, and the only place in the world where these unique freshwater seals can be found.
Despite balmy summers, those preparing for a holiday to Finland during the winter must be prepared to face its frigid temperatures. Although the capital city and south of the country are no match for the weather experienced in the more northern regions, the mean daily temperature can still sit below zero for the entire winter period, whilst up in Lapland, home of Sami people, the harshest winter nights can see temperatures fall as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius! The great outdoors is truly respected and celebrated in Finland.
Culture in Finland
Finland is often heralded for its positive community spirit and open-minded culture, making it a pleasant country to holiday in and to a great place to get to know the locals. Not only was it the first European country to grant universal suffrage in 1906, allowing everyone to vote, it is also known for its progressive laws and policies and enshrines many unique freedoms for the benefit of its citizens.
One example of this is the Finnish concept of ‘Everyman’s Rights’ which ensures that everyone, including visitors, has the right to roam freely around the countryside and natural areas such as forests, lakes and rivers without the permission of landowners, proof of the significance of the great outdoors to the Finnish. Even Finnish Design, world-renowned for its practicality and pleasing aesthetics, integrate natural shapes, materials and designs in order to bring nature into everyday life.
The role of religion is also at the heart of Finnish culture; as much as 70% of the population are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the capital of Helsinki is home to a wonderful array of religious institutions, cathedrals and churches, many of which are unmissable sightseeing destinations on a tour of Finland.
The sauna is perhaps the most iconic element of the country’s cultural landscape; there are so many saunas in Finland that the number equates to one per household and there is even a sauna inside the parliament buildings! With the purpose of relaxation and rejuvenation, a visit to a sauna is a must-do activity on a Finland holiday package, if only because it is the best way to interact with the locals.
Finally, it is true that the country is considered one of the safest in the world, the good nature of its people ensure that it might be one of the few places on earth where lost items such as wallets are almost always returned to their rightful owners!
The land of the midnight sun, Finland captivates visitors with its imaginative approach to nature. Despite the intense nature of its winters, the country embraces the snow, ice, frozen lakes and darkness to become one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Experience the dazzle of the Northern Lights, go skiing under the midnight sun and refresh yourself in a glistening lake on a warm summers evening on a trip to Finland.
What to know before travelling to Finland