Finland may not be the first place that springs to mind when you consider options for a European getaway, but to overlook this breath-taking country would be an error of Arctic proportions. True, it’s not going to be your traditional holiday. There will be no lying on the beach catching a tan. But that’s the beauty. Finland holidays offer such a stark contrast to the standard city break or beach holiday, that they are guaranteed to provide a stunning, once-in-a-lifetime experience, whether you’re there for the Northern Lights, wildlife or Santa Claus.
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From the hip capital Helskini, to the country’s oldest town Turku and, of course, Lapland, the awe-inspiring natural beauty on display all year round will truly blow you away. Everywhere you turn, the most dreamy postcard is projected in front of your eyes.
With its 39 National Parks, holidays in Finland are a haven for lovers of the great outdoors, whatever the season. And if you weren’t a fan of an outdoorsy lifestyle before going to Finland, you certainly will be by the time you leave.
In the height of winter, head north to resorts such as Ruka or Saariselka and strap on your skis, while the same locations in the summer offer stunning hiking and biking opportunities. The latter also hosts blues and jazz music festivals, so you can get your groove on too. Another resort, Vuokatti, is not only an Olympic training centre but also offers the chance for husky safaris and pony trekking.
Water sports are also high on the agenda in Finland, thanks to its stunning lakes and its coast boasting the world’s largest archipelago. To give you an idea, there’s even an area in the Baltic Sea named the Archipelago Sea.
Oulanka National Park, in particular, offers spectacular white-water rafting experiences, while Linnansaari National Park at the other end of the country, envelops hundreds of small islands which can be explored at your leisure by kayak.
Finland has so much beauty to spare, even the capital city Helsinki remains one of Europe’s most untouched. It boasts a young and hip vibe, with trendy cocktail bars, a diverse music scene and fascinating sights such as Suomenlinna – a UNESCO World Heritage site is an inhabited sea fortress, constructed on eight islands.
But there are traditions to be upheld here too, not least the sauna culture. ‘Experiencing the culture’ is a great excuse to treat yourself to a massage and some time in a typical wood-fired sauna!
For family holidays in Finland, a trip to Lapland simply has to be on the agenda. At SantaPark in Rovaniemi, you’ll meet Mr and Mrs Claus, can enrol in Elf School and can even walk across the Arctic Circle through an underground tunnel. The kids will absolutely love it. Plus, a timely reminder of Santa Claus’ existence could easily keep them in line until Christmas!
Aside from meeting Santa, you will be captivated by the wildlife and scenery of Lapland. Keep your eyes peeled because it’s not uncommon to spot bears, golden eagles and, of course, reindeer.
Speaking of reindeer, you may have to be on your toes to guard children’s eyes from spotting Rudolph on the menus of local restaurants, as reindeer is something of a favourite in the country. But luckily there are plenty of other delicious dishes to try too.
Unsurprisingly, fish dishes play a big part in Finnish cuisine, while leipajuusto – aka ‘squeaky cheese’ – and Finnish meatballs known as lihapullat also cannot be missed.
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