The last time Kati and I were in Finland, we were standing in 5 feet of snow looking for the Northern Lights. It was a cold, bitter winter night and the only thing that got us through was eating reindeer stew along the road. It warmed us up and kept us going. But Finland is a lot more than just the Northern Lights. Finland is a land of incredible lush green sights, long lakes, and vast seas. The country is home to a record 179,584 Islands and 188,000 lakes. The four main archipelagos in Finland are; Helsinki, Kotka, the Archipelago Sea, and the Kvarken archipelago – a UNESCO Heritage site.
Finland is also famed for its robust health care system and highly efficient education system. But that’s not all that this beautiful Nordic country has to offer. The country is a favourite destination with most folks living in Europe .
Fondly known as “The home of a thousand lakes” Finland is a magical treasure box filled with stunning and fascinating attractions! From the Northern lights to the magical winter and irresistible summers, it is undoubtedly a hidden gem waiting to be explored by both the young and old alike.
Why Visit Finland?
Snuggled perfectly between Sweden to the west and Russia to the east, Finland shares certain traits with its Scandinavian neighbors. The breathtaking scenery, magnificent rugged coastline, snow-packed ski fields, and the winter Northern Lights.
You can enjoy exhilarating activities such as dog sledding, chasing the Northern Lights, and swimming across the Arctic when you visit Lapland during winter. In addition to the outdoor adventures, this Nordic country also has other enjoyable experiences in store for you! Think steamy and relaxing saunas, delicious cuisines, and trendy, stylish Nordic cafes.
We have compiled a list of some of the most irresistible places you must see on your Finland tour.
11 Must-See Attractions In Finland
1. Meet the Real Santa Claus in Rovaniemi
Do you have any idea where Santa Claus lives? Don’t let anybody fool you that Santa Claus doesn’t exist – yes, he does, in Rovaniemi, Finland! Doubling as Lapland’s official capital and the secret entry point to the Arctic, Rovaniemi is undoubtedly one of the most iconic tourist destinations. It’s without a doubt the best place to launch and end your Christmas visit to Lapland.
A must-visit attraction site is Santa Claus Village. This charming theme park encased in the snowy mountains of Lapland is Finland’s alternative to Disneyland. You will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and most importantly, you will have the opportunity to meet the jolly man himself – Santa Claus!
After chatting with Father Christmas, you can stop by Santa’s post office and post a postcard to your loved ones back home. Then visit Santa Park, a magical place where kids can discover Father Christmas’s Cave. Experience the Ice Gallery, admire a series of incredible ice sculptures, and even take a tour inside Santa’s toy factory.
Other outdoor adventures include enjoying a reindeer sleigh ride, ice fishing, making snow sculptures, and exploring the surrounding nature riding a snowmobile. As evening approaches, spend your night at the Arctic Snow Hotel. While there, don’t forget to sample out the Lap cuisines, and conclude your night relaxing in one of the incredible ice spas!
2. Visit the Polar Bears at the Ranua Wildlife Park
Nestled between the magical mires and wild but quaint forest lies Rauna Wildlife Park, an enclave of unruffled experiences mixed with the Arctic wilderness. The Ranua Wildlife Park offers enchanting experiences with Arctic wildlife, and the surrounding nature will take you to the fairytale world Of Snow-White And The Seven Dwarfs.
From Rovaniemi, you can start your day driving down to Ranua Wildlife Park, about an hour’s drive away. While here, check out the Ranua Zoo; this northernmost zoo pays homage to nearly 50 endangered Arctic animal species. However, the real draw is its polar bears. Be sure to say hi and take photos with Venus and Manse, the two beautiful polar bears living as a couple.
Once done with polar bears, experience a magical excursion in a coach drawn by horses through the whistling forest or a giggly reindeer sleigh ride. While enjoying the tour, stop by the ecological wolfdog rescue center for a campfire lunch. Other notable activities include a snowmobile ride through the deep crystalline woodlands, or hike through a frozen and barren bog wearing your snowshoes.
3. Chase down the Northern Lights
Regarded as one of the world’s natural wonders, visitors from all over the world flock to Finland every year in the hopes of snapping a photo of these awe-inspiring Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
The best area to witness the Northern Lights is near Kilpisjarvi. When the sky is bright at that latitude, the chances of seeing an Aurora are 80% percent. So three nights out of four! Those odds must be encouraging.
During the winter seasons, the sun appears for a few hours, and the nights are usually very long. The Finns typically call this season “Kaamos.” With these conditions, particularly in places like Kilpisjarvi, you can enjoy yourself joining the cross-country skying. Picture yourself skiing during the night while chasing after the Northern lights. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a fantastic way to witness this magnificent phenomenon.
If you are not a fan of skiing, don’t worry, you can enjoy watching this magnificent wonder at the comfort of your bed inside a glass igloo. Nothing is thrilling, like relaxing under the stars and staying up all night watching as the Northern Lights dance in the sky above you!
4. Lighthouse Island
Finland’s coastline has the largest archipelago globally. Naturally, you expect to see lighthouses by the hundreds all over the country’s shoreline. The lighthouses have become a magnet for tourists, some with unique features to accommodate visitors willing to spend nights in them.
The Bengtskär lighthouse is the tallest in the entire Nord region. It is a pretty magnificent sight to behold. Located on a spectacular Island, you can get to the island by boat, with the best possible season to visit between June – August. Make your bookings early in advance to secure your night stay. Bengtskär lighthouse has six rooms to stay in.
Söderskär lighthouse in Helsinki is a must-see. The journey to Söderskär is more accessible by boat, and it takes an hour to get there and about two hours touring the lighthouse. Activities include; climbing the lighthouse; you get to see the entire landscape from an aerial view. It’s quite spectacular. While there, you can have a cup of coffee at the keeper’s cottage adjacent to it.
5. Finnish Saunas and Lakes
Kati and I love to take a sauna. We actually have two saunas. One at home and we built one in the woods in western North Carolina. There is nothing better and we actually give the sauna credit for keeping us healthy. If you think thousands of Finland Islands are enough for one tiny country, there are over 3 million saunas and nearly 190 000 lakes in Finland. Locals enjoy saunas and have made it a favorite pastime. Finns go to enjoy saunas at least once a week. So when you visit, indulge as excessively as time allows you to have a relaxing dip in one of the great saunas.
Finnish Lakeland has the most summer cottages and saunas too. Experience swimming in winter and rolling in the snow around your holiday cottage.
6. Suomenlinna UNESCO Site
Added to the UNESCO Heritage List in 1991, Suomenlinna is an exceptional military architecture monument. The seven islands of Suomenlinna are comprised of old dungeons and fortresses in an inhabited district in Helsinki. To get to Suomenlinna, take a fifteen minutes ferry ride from the Kauppatori central market square.
7. Archipelago National Park
Positioned directly south of the city, The Archipelago National Park has a lot to give, from Viking settlements to fortified islands. Using Turku as your launching base, you can explore the park by either canoeing or cycling between the quaint towns, with breathtaking landscapes around every corner.
You can cycle along the Archipelago trail to Pargas and Nagu islands, which offer an authentic archipelago life experience and a wide range of accommodation. While in Pargas, don’t forget to pass by Art Bank for some fine art, then hop onto a boat and head out to Berghain, a fantastic comping site.
If you don’t enjoy cycling, go for the Riverine route. You can opt for a kayaking adventure, or if you feel it’s too much work, hop into one of the ferries available for a peaceful sightseeing day around the Archipelago Park. Notable areas not to miss include the Rosala Viking Village, the Military island of Oro, The isle of Bengtskar, and finally, the peaceful island community of Uto.
8. Bear Watching in Suomussalmi
For those who love bears, the best place to watch them is in Suomussalmi, a small region in Finland near the Russian border. There are approximately 1000 brown bears in Finland, but you are unlikely to meet with one while leisurely strolling through the forest. These brown beasts can smell you from afar, and they usually flee before your paths cross.
For the best bear-watching experience, hire a local guide. The guides are familiar with the forest and know where to find these beasts.
9. Try Out Finnish Cuisine
Whether it’s in the summer or winter, it doesn’t matter which season; sampling out the authentic Finnish delicacy is a must-do activity for anybody visiting Finland. Finnish delicacies combine traditional and chic cuisine, with beef, pork, seafood, and reindeer as the primary ingredients.
While strolling through Helsinki Old Market Area, you can start with quick bites, like Finnish Squeaky Cheese, Karelian Pie, and Rye Bread. Try lip-licking typical Finnish sauces with pancakes, Lapland bread cheese, or Riispurro (Rice Porridge) for a more severe breakfast.
For lunch and dinner, you are full of choices. You can try out authentic Finnish meals like Pastry Macaroni With Beef Meatballs Smeared with Jam mixed with Mash Potatoes, Roasted Herring, and many other dishes.
Lastly, beer lovers can try out local favorites such as Glogg Akvavit, Finnish beers, Finnish Vodka and Sima.
10. Oulanaka National Park
Oulanka National Park is widely regarded as one of the best national parks in Finland, and with good reason. There are a series of spectacular creeks that run through the Kiutakongas Falls canyon. It’s a quick one kilometer stroll from the parking lot, so you can have a swell time hiking with your spouse or your loved ones.
Just below the waterfalls, several beautiful rope swing bridges spanning over the canyon. Outdoor adventures are the thing here, and even if you are not athletic, you will have a good time.
11. Finnish Glass Igloo
Finland is a land of extremes in terms of season contrasts. During summer, the sun stays up all day, and all night, in Northern Finland . This phenomenon is known as “The Land of the Midnight Sun.”
During winter, the opposite happens: darkness fills the land, giving way to beautiful moonlighting, bright stars and a romantic setting for a cozy night under warm fires. This time is known as “kaamos.”
During kaamos, it is not entirely dark, the skies glow from the brisk the moon, and the stars, reflecting an amazing view from the backdrop of the bright snow across the landscapes. The Northern Lights project enchanting backdrops from the seashores. An exciting approach to experience the Midnight sun and Kaamos is to sleep in a a glass igloo, out in the open skies. It’s a magical experience!
Our Final Word
Finland is more than just a stunning European destination; it is mystical heaven on Earth that brings the human imagination to life. From the breathtaking sightseeing sites to the enchanted wonderland of snow and fascinating natural phenomena.
Finland appeals to a wide range of tourists, including history lovers, nature-buffs, food lovers, and thrill-seekers. There really isn’t a best time to see Finland. Both summer and winter offers travelers an incredible amount of activities.
Head to Finland and discover why it is rated as the happiest country on earth.