Welcome to the land of a thousand lakes, stunning landscapes, and a rich cultural heritage – Finland. Located in Northern Europe, Finland is a hidden gem that offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience. From its vibrant cities to its breathtaking natural beauty, Finland has something to offer every visitor.
Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or a history enthusiast, Finland has a myriad of attractions and activities to cater to your interests. Immerse yourself in the Finnish way of life, indulge in delicious cuisine, and explore the country’s picturesque landscapes.
Finland is known for its excellent quality of life, high safety standards, and friendly locals. The country seamlessly combines modernity with traditional values, making it a perfect destination for all types of travelers.
In this article, we will provide you with insider tips on where to visit, how to get there, and why Finland should be on your travel bucket list.
So, pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure to Finland!
Visa requirements for visiting Finland
If you’re planning to visit Finland, it’s essential to check whether you need a visa before traveling. The visa requirements for Finland vary depending on your nationality and the duration of your stay.
Finland is part of the Schengen Area, which means that visitors from countries within the Schengen Area do not require a visa for short stays of up to 90 days. These countries include most European Union (EU) member states, as well as Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.
If you are a citizen of a non-Schengen country, you may need to apply for a Schengen visa in advance. This visa allows you to travel freely within the Schengen Area, including Finland, for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period.
To apply for a Schengen visa, you will generally need the following documents:
- A valid passport with at least six months of validity beyond your planned departure date
- A completed visa application form
- Proof of travel insurance with a minimum coverage of €30,000
- Proof of accommodation in Finland
- Evidence of sufficient financial means to cover your stay
- Round-trip flight itinerary
It’s important to note that the visa application process can take some time, so it’s advisable to apply well in advance of your planned trip.
Additionally, if you’re traveling to Finland for purposes other than tourism, such as work or study, different visa requirements may apply. It’s recommended to consult the Finnish embassy or consulate in your home country for the most up-to-date information and guidance.
Remember to double-check the visa requirements before your trip to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey to Finland!
Best time to visit Finland
When planning a trip to Finland, the timing of your visit can greatly impact your experience. Finland experiences distinct seasons, each offering its own unique charm and activities.
Winter (December to February) is a magical time to visit Finland, especially if you’re hoping to witness the stunning Northern Lights. The country is transformed into a winter wonderland, with pristine snow-covered landscapes and frozen lakes. It’s also the perfect time for winter sports enthusiasts, with opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and even husky sledding.
Spring (March to May) brings milder temperatures and the reawakening of nature. It’s a great time to visit if you want to experience the enchanting phenomenon of the Midnight Sun, where the sun remains above the horizon for nearly 24 hours a day. Spring is also the ideal season to explore Finland’s national parks and witness the blooming of vibrant wildflowers.
Summer (June to August) is the peak tourist season in Finland. The weather is pleasant and allows for a wide range of outdoor activities. The long days and midnight sun make it a perfect time for hiking, fishing, boating, and enjoying the numerous festivals and cultural events that take place across the country. The famous Midnight Sun Marathon in Rovaniemi is a highlight for sports enthusiasts.
Autumn (September to November) ushers in the colorful foliage, making it a picturesque time to visit Finland. The landscapes are adorned with hues of red, orange, and yellow, creating a breathtaking backdrop for hiking and photography. Autumn is also an excellent time to witness the Northern Lights as the dark nights return.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Finland depends on your personal preferences and the activities you wish to engage in. Each season offers its own unique experiences and natural wonders, so plan your visit accordingly to make the most out of your trip to this remarkable destination.
How to get to Finland
Getting to Finland is relatively easy thanks to its well-connected transportation infrastructure. Whether you’re traveling by air, sea, or land, there are several convenient options available.
By Air: Finland has numerous international airports, with Helsinki Airport being the busiest and the primary entry point for most travelers. Helsinki Airport offers direct flights from major cities around the world, making it easily accessible for international visitors. Other airports, such as Rovaniemi, Turku, and Tampere, also have connections to select European destinations.
By Sea: If you prefer a more leisurely journey, you can reach Finland by ferry. Several ferry companies operate regular services between Finland and neighboring countries. The most popular routes are from Sweden (Stockholm, Turku, and Helsinki), Estonia (Tallinn), and Germany (Travemünde).
By Train: Finland is well connected to its neighboring countries through an extensive rail network. Trains operated by VR, the national railway company, offer comfortable and efficient connections to Russia, Sweden, and Norway. The Allegro train between Helsinki and St. Petersburg is a popular option for travelers visiting Finland from Russia.
By Bus: An affordable and convenient way to reach Finland is by bus. There are several international bus companies that operate routes to major Finnish cities, including Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, and Oulu. Buses provide a cost-effective option for those traveling from neighboring countries such as Sweden, Estonia, and Russia.
By Car: If you prefer the flexibility of driving, you can enter Finland by car through various border crossings. Finland has well-maintained roads and is connected to neighboring countries through an extensive network of highways. Keep in mind that you may need to have the necessary permits and insurance when driving across international borders.
Once you arrive in Finland, public transportation within the country is reliable and efficient. Trains, buses, and trams are readily available in most cities, making it easy to explore different regions of the country.
Regardless of the mode of transportation you choose, traveling to Finland is an exciting journey that sets the stage for an unforgettable adventure in this captivating Nordic country.
Where to stay in Finland
When it comes to finding accommodation in Finland, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The country offers a wide range of options to suit every budget and travel style.
Hotels: From luxury five-star hotels to cozy boutique accommodations, Finland has a diverse selection of hotels that cater to different preferences. Helsinki, the capital city, is home to numerous international hotel chains and boutique hotels, offering a range of amenities and services. Other major cities like Tampere, Turku, and Rovaniemi also have a variety of hotel options to choose from.
Hostels: For budget-conscious travelers or those looking for a social atmosphere, hostels are a popular choice. Finland has a network of hostels located in major cities and popular tourist destinations. Hostels often provide dormitory-style rooms and communal spaces where you can meet fellow travelers and exchange experiences.
Cottages and Cabins: If you want to immerse yourself in nature, consider staying in a traditional Finnish cottage or cabin. These accommodations are commonly found in rural areas and near lakes, offering a tranquil retreat amidst stunning surroundings. You can find cottages of various sizes, equipped with the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay.
Guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts: Another charming option for accommodation in Finland is guesthouses and bed & breakfasts. These family-run establishments provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere. You can experience Finnish hospitality firsthand while enjoying cozy rooms and homemade breakfast.
Saunas and Wilderness Huts: For a unique and authentic Finnish experience, you can stay in saunas or wilderness huts. Saunas are an integral part of Finnish culture, and some establishments offer accommodations where you can enjoy private saunas along with your stay. Wilderness huts, on the other hand, are basic shelters located in remote areas, perfect for hikers and nature enthusiasts. They provide a place to rest and spend the night while exploring Finland’s beautiful wilderness.
Apartments and Vacation Rentals: If you prefer the comfort and convenience of having your own space, renting an apartment or vacation home is a great option. There are several platforms and agencies that offer a wide selection of apartments and vacation rentals in Finland. This is an ideal choice for those traveling with family or seeking a longer stay.
When choosing your accommodation, consider the location, amenities, and proximity to the attractions you plan to visit. Whether you prefer urban luxury or rustic charm, Finland has accommodation options to suit every traveler’s taste.
Must-visit tourist attractions in Finland
Finland is a land of extraordinary natural beauty and captivating cultural sites. Here are some of the must-visit tourist attractions that should be on your Finland itinerary:
- Helsinki: Start your Finnish adventure in the vibrant capital city of Helsinki. Visit the iconic Helsinki Cathedral, explore the historic Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, and wander around the bustling Market Square. Don’t miss the Temppeliaukio Church, also known as the Rock Church, carved directly into solid rock.
- Lapland: Journey to the northernmost region of Finland, Lapland, and immerse yourself in the magical winter wonderland. Experience the thrill of crossing the Arctic Circle, visit Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, and embark on a memorable reindeer or husky sleigh ride. Witnessing the mesmerizing Northern Lights dancing across the night sky is a bucket-list experience.
- Rovaniemi: Aside from being the gateway to Lapland, Rovaniemi offers its own enchanting attractions. Explore the Arktikum museum to learn about Arctic ecosystems and indigenous Sami culture. Visit the unique Santa Park, an underground cavern where it’s Christmas all year round.
- Lake Saimaa: Discover the tranquility and stunning landscapes of Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland. Take a relaxing cruise or kayak along its pristine waters. Explore the charming lakeside towns of Lappeenranta and Savonlinna, home to medieval castles and vibrant local markets.
- National Parks: Finland boasts a network of breathtaking national parks that showcase the country’s natural wonders. Among the must-visit parks are Nuuksio National Park near Helsinki, renowned for its forests, lakes, and wildlife, and Oulanka National Park in Lapland, with its dramatic waterfalls and hiking trails.
- Turku: Experience the rich history of Finland by visiting the city of Turku. Explore Turku Castle, the largest medieval castle in the country, and immerse yourself in Finnish maritime history at the Forum Marinum maritime center. Don’t miss the Turku Cathedral, a stunning example of Gothic architecture.
- Aland Islands: For a slice of paradise, head to the Aland Islands. This archipelago offers picturesque landscapes, charming villages, and a unique blend of Swedish and Finnish culture. Enjoy cycling tours, kayaking, or simply relaxing on the beautiful beaches.
- Levi: If you’re a fan of winter sports, a visit to Levi is a must. Located in Finnish Lapland, Levi is a popular ski resort with a range of slopes and activities for all skill levels. Enjoy skiing, snowboarding, or even try your hand at ice climbing.
These are just a few of the countless attractions that Finland has to offer. Each region of the country has its own hidden gems waiting to be explored, so plan your itinerary accordingly and get ready to be enchanted by the beauty and charm of Finland.
Experiencing Finnish cuisine
When visiting Finland, indulging in the local cuisine is a must for any food lover. Finnish cuisine combines simplicity, freshness, and unique flavors, influenced by its geographical location and natural resources. Here are some must-try Finnish dishes and culinary experiences:
Finland is renowned for its fresh and flavorful salmon. Try it smoked, grilled, or cured to experience the melt-in-your-mouth goodness. You can find salmon in various dishes, such as salmon soup (lohikeitto) and gravlax (cured salmon served with a dill and mustard sauce).
Reindeer is a traditional and iconic part of Finnish cuisine, especially in the northern regions of Lapland. Enjoy reindeer meat prepared as a stew, roasted, or in sausages. The meat is tender, lean, and boasts a distinct flavor.
Karjalanpiirakka is a Finnish specialty that consists of rye crust filled with rice or potato filling. These handheld pastries are usually served with a dollop of butter and topped with egg butter or served alongside smoked salmon.
4. Rye Bread:
Rye bread is a staple in Finnish cuisine, enjoyed in various forms. The traditional Finnish rye bread (ruisleipä) is dense, hearty, and full of flavor. It is often served as an accompaniment to meals or used as a base for open-faced sandwiches.
5. Sautéed Mushrooms:
Finland’s forests are abundant with wild mushrooms, and sautéed mushrooms (sienet) are a common dish. Whether it’s chanterelles, porcini, or morel mushrooms, the earthy and rich flavors are celebrated in Finnish cuisine.
Finland is famous for its wild berries, including lingonberries, bilberries, and cloudberries. These berries are used in various desserts, jams, and sauces. Don’t miss the chance to try a traditional Finnish berry pie or indulge in a bowl of freshly picked berries with a splash of cream.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try salmiakki, a unique Finnish candy flavored with ammonium chloride. Salmiakki has a salty and licorice-like taste and is often enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
When dining out in Finland, explore traditional Finnish restaurants and sample dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Helsinki, in particular, offers a plethora of dining options ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants to charming neighborhood eateries.
Remember to pair your meals with Finnish beverages such as cloudberry liqueur, Finnish craft beers, or the national alcoholic drink, called Koskenkorva, made from barley or potatoes.
Experiencing Finnish cuisine is not just about the food but also about embracing the culture and traditions that surround it. So, be curious, adventurous, and savor the flavors of Finland!
Outdoor activities in Finland
With its vast forests, pristine lakes, and stunning natural landscapes, Finland is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The country offers a plethora of activities that allow visitors to immerse themselves in its breathtaking surroundings. Here are some outdoor activities you shouldn’t miss when visiting Finland:
1. Hiking and Nature Walks:
Finland boasts numerous national parks and nature reserves that offer well-maintained trails for hiking and nature walks. Whether you’re exploring the lush forests of Nuuksio National Park near Helsinki or the rugged beauty of Urho Kekkonen National Park in Lapland, there’s a trail for every skill level.
With its vast network of cycling routes, Finland is a cyclist’s paradise. Rent a bike and explore the picturesque landscapes, charming villages, and scenic coastal paths. The Archipelago Trail in southwestern Finland and the Lake Saimaa Cycling Route in the Lakeland region are popular cycling routes.
3. Canoeing and Kayaking:
Finland’s numerous lakes, rivers, and waterways make it an ideal destination for canoeing and kayaking. Paddle through the tranquil waters and soak in the breathtaking views. You can even go on multi-day kayak expeditions and camp along the shores under the midnight sun.
Finland is a haven for fishing enthusiasts, with its abundance of freshwater lakes and rivers teeming with fish. Cast your line to catch salmon, trout, perch, or pike. Fishing permits are required, but they are easily obtained, allowing you to enjoy the serene beauty of Finland’s waters.
5. Wildlife Safaris:
Embark on a wildlife safari to spot Finland’s iconic creatures in their natural habitat. Join a guided tour to observe brown bears, elk, reindeer, or wolverines in the Finnish wilderness. The Kuhmo region in eastern Finland is particularly renowned for its wildlife experiences.
6. Winter Sports:
During the winter months, Finland transforms into a winter wonderland offering a wide array of activities. Try your hand at skiing, snowboarding, or cross-country skiing in one of the many ski resorts scattered across the country. The Levi and Ruka resorts in Lapland are popular choices for winter sports enthusiasts.
7. Berry and Mushroom picking:
In Finland, the right to roam, known as “everyman’s right,” allows you to explore the forests and pick wild berries and mushrooms. From lingonberries and bilberries to chanterelles and porcini mushrooms, forage for these natural treasures and enjoy the flavors of the Finnish wilderness.
These are just a few of the outdoor activities that Finland has to offer. The country’s untouched natural beauty provides endless opportunities for exploration and adventure, making it a dream destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Exploring the unique Finnish culture
Finnish culture is rich and diverse, deeply rooted in its history, nature, and traditions. Exploring Finnish culture offers a unique insight into the way of life in this Nordic country. Here are some aspects of Finnish culture that you should discover:
1. Sauna Culture:
Saunas hold a significant place in Finnish culture and daily life. Finns have a deep appreciation for the sauna, considering it a place of relaxation, cleansing, and even socializing. Whether it’s a traditional wood-burning sauna in the countryside or a modern sauna in the city, experiencing a Finnish sauna is a must to truly understand the culture.
2. Design and Architecture:
Finland is renowned for its innovative and functional design. From iconic furniture designs by Alvar Aalto to contemporary creations, Finnish design is celebrated worldwide. Explore the design district of Helsinki, visit the iconic Finnish Design Museum, and admire the unique architectural styles seen throughout the country.
3. Traditional Festivals:
Participating in traditional Finnish festivals provides a glimpse into the country’s cultural heritage. Celebrate Midsummer (Juhannus) in June, when Finns gather to embrace the midnight sun with bonfires, singing, and traditional festivities. Experience the Christmas season by visiting the vibrant Christmas markets and witnessing the joyous celebrations.
4. Finnish Literature and Music:
Finnish literature and music have a rich history and continue to thrive today. Dive into Finnish literature with works from famous authors like Aleksis Kivi, Väinö Linna, and Tove Jansson. Attend a concert by a Finnish symphony orchestra or explore the vibrant contemporary music scene in Helsinki and other major cities.
5. Sami Culture:
The indigenous Sami people have a distinct culture and way of life that can be explored in the northern parts of Finland. Learn about their traditions, reindeer herding, and vibrant handicrafts. Attend a Sami festival or visit a Sami museum to gain a deeper understanding of their unique cultural heritage.
6. Folklore and Mythology:
Immerse yourself in Finnish folklore and mythology, which is filled with fascinating tales of mythical creatures, such as trolls and forest spirits. Discover the epic national Finnish poem, Kalevala, which has contributed to the preservation of Finnish folklore and served as a source of inspiration for artists and storytellers.
7. Local Cuisine:
Exploring Finnish culture would be incomplete without indulging in the local cuisine. Try traditional dishes such as salmon soup, Karelian pastries, and reindeer meat. Embrace the concept of “Kahvila,” Finnish coffee culture, and enjoy a cup of coffee with a tasty pastry.
Engaging with these aspects of Finnish culture allows you to gain a deeper appreciation for the traditions, values, and way of life in Finland. Embrace the warmth and hospitality of the Finnish people as you immerse yourself in their unique cultural experiences.
Shopping in Finland
Shopping in Finland offers a delightful blend of traditional craftsmanship, contemporary design, and unique local products. From vibrant marketplaces to modern shopping centers, here are some shopping experiences you should explore during your visit:
1. Design Districts:
Helsinki is home to several design districts that showcase the best of Finnish art, fashion, and interior design. Explore the boutiques, galleries, and concept stores in the Design District, Punavuori, and Kallio neighborhoods. Discover one-of-a-kind pieces and innovative creations by local designers and artists.
Marketplaces, such as Helsinki’s Market Square (Kauppatori) and Turku’s Old Market Hall, are iconic destinations for shopping in Finland. Experience the lively atmosphere, browse through stalls selling fresh produce, crafts, and local delicacies. Don’t forget to try traditional Finnish treats like smoked salmon, reindeer products, and lingonberry jam.
3. Moomin Souvenirs:
Moomins, the beloved Finnish cartoon characters created by Tove Jansson, are an integral part of Finnish culture. Find a wide range of Moomin-themed souvenirs, including books, toys, and household items. Visit the Moomin Shops in Helsinki, Helsinki Airport, or other major cities to immerse yourself in the whimsical world of the Moomins.
4. Handicrafts and Artworks:
Discover the traditional Finnish craftsmanship by exploring galleries and shops that specialize in handmade items. Look for intricate glassware from renowned brands like Iittala and Arabia. Admire the intricate woodwork, tapestries, and ceramics created by local artisans. The Sami handicrafts, such as silver jewelry and reindeer leather products, are also worth seeking out.
Marimekko is a globally recognized Finnish design brand famous for its bold prints and vibrant patterns. Explore Marimekko stores, like the flagship store in Helsinki, and browse their collection of clothing, accessories, home decor, and textiles. Take home a piece of Finnish design with a unique Marimekko creation.
6. Finnish Food Products:
Bring a taste of Finland home by purchasing local food products such as cloudberry jam, Finnish chocolates, or traditional rye bread mixes. Look for specialty stores like Stockmann’s Food Halls or delis that offer a wide selection of Finnish gourmet treats to savor and share with loved ones.
7. Arctic Fashion and Outdoor Gear:
If you’re planning outdoor adventures in Finland or seeking fashionable winter wear, check out the local brands specializing in Arctic fashion and outdoor gear. Brands like Fjällräven, Halti, and Icebreaker offer high-quality clothing and equipment designed to withstand Finland’s cold weather conditions.
Shopping in Finland is more than just acquiring souvenirs; it’s about exploring the creativity, craftsmanship, and unique products that reflect Finnish culture and design. Whether you’re looking for fashion, home decor, or tasty treats, you’ll find a wealth of options that showcase the best of what Finland has to offer.
Safety tips for traveling to Finland
Finland is known for its high safety standards and low crime rates, making it a safe and peaceful destination for travelers. However, it’s always important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind while traveling in Finland:
1. Stay informed:
Before your trip, familiarize yourself with the local laws, customs, and potential risks in the areas you plan to visit. Stay updated on any travel advisories or warnings issued by your home country’s foreign ministry or embassy.
2. Dress appropriately for the weather:
Finland’s weather can be quite extreme, especially in winter. Make sure to pack and dress appropriately to stay warm and comfortable. Layer your clothing, wear a hat, gloves, and a good pair of insulated shoes or boots. It’s also wise to carry a small emergency kit with essentials like a flashlight, first aid supplies, and a mobile phone with emergency contacts saved.
3. Take precautions against pickpocketing:
While Finland is relatively safe, pickpocketing can occur in crowded areas and public transportation. Keep your belongings secure and be mindful of your surroundings. Use a money belt or a secure bag to carry your valuables, and avoid displaying large amounts of cash or expensive items in public.
4. Follow outdoor safety guidelines:
If you plan to engage in outdoor activities, such as hiking or skiing, be prepared and follow safety guidelines. Check the weather forecast, inform someone about your plans, and stick to marked trails. It’s advisable to carry a map, compass, and/or a GPS device for navigation, especially in remote areas.
5. Respect nature and wildlife:
When exploring Finland’s beautiful natural landscapes, it’s important to respect the environment and wildlife. Observe animals from a safe distance and do not disturb their habitats. Follow designated paths, avoid littering, and leave nature as you found it.
6. Use reliable transportation:
Finland has a well-maintained transportation system, including trains, buses, and taxis. Stick to licensed and reputable operators when using public transportation or hiring a taxi. It’s also advisable to book transportation and accommodations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
7. Practice caution in wilderness areas:
Finland’s vast wilderness is captivating, but it can also be challenging. If you plan to venture into remote areas, be aware of the risks and take necessary precautions. Research the area, be prepared for changing weather conditions, and consider hiring a local guide with knowledge of the terrain and safety procedures.
By following these safety tips and using common sense during your travels in Finland, you can enjoy a smooth, worry-free trip and fully immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of this remarkable Nordic country.
Finland is a destination that offers a plethora of wonders and experiences for all types of travelers. From its breathtaking natural landscapes to its vibrant cities, Finland has something to captivate and inspire every visitor. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, cultural immersion, or simply a peaceful retreat in nature, Finland delivers.
As you plan your trip to Finland, remember to consider the best time to visit based on your interests and preferences. Check the visa requirements in advance to ensure a smooth entry into the country. When it comes to accommodations, Finland offers a range of options to suit every budget and style, from luxurious hotels to cozy cottages.
Make sure to explore the must-visit tourist attractions, from the vibrant city of Helsinki to the magical land of Lapland. Engage in Finnish culture by experiencing the sauna, indulging in delicious local cuisine, and learning about the rich lore and traditions that shape the country.
Shopping in Finland provides the opportunity to discover unique design pieces, handmade crafts, and local delicacies that reflect the creativity and craftsmanship of this Nordic nation. And as you embark on outdoor activities, whether it’s hiking through national parks, canoeing in pristine lakes, or spotting wildlife in their natural habitat, follow safety guidelines and be prepared for Finland’s diverse weather conditions.
In conclusion, Finland offers a harmonious fusion of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and warm hospitality. Embrace the serene landscapes, immerse yourself in Finnish traditions, and create lasting memories in this enchanting country. Finland truly has it all – adventure, tranquility, and a deep connection to nature – making it a destination that will captivate your heart and leave you longing to return.