This sometimes mysterious country is known for its breathtaking forests, stunning aurora displays, vast areas of unspoiled wilderness and its fondness for saunas! From the breathtaking landscapes of Finnish Lapland to creative bistros filled with cloudberry liquor-swilling locals in Helsinki, here are my personal favourite places I’d love to share with you…
This capital is a unique and eclectic mix of contemporary and Art Noveau architecture, excellent designer restaurants, lively bars, creative bistros, beautiful boutiques, and galleries all wrapped up in one stylish, neat and compact package!
Also, throw in some quirks and eccentricities – locals casually walking across the frozen sea during mid-winter, the long rows of heavy metal bars and the super-cute Moomin cafe and you’ve got yourself quite an extraordinary city indeed! The Finnish capital had gained a huge fan!
It’s also a very progressive place with a burgeoning vegan scene and a commitment to sustainability, and it also possesses a charming small-town friendliness. My favourite highlights include Uspenski Cathedral, the Sibelius monument, the Katajanokka district and Temppeliaukio Church (aka the very unique rock church which has become a huge tourist hotspot)!
Of course, everyone has heard Santa Clause, but did you know he was based in Finland? Rovaniemi was home to the original figure Santa Clause was based on, so if you have a child with wild Christmas eyes, Rovaniemi is the ideal place to take them on a Finnish holiday!
In the city, residents have lovingly embraced the legend and figure of Christmas, so sights and sounds of the season can be seen throughout the land. Adults can enjoy this area as well with exceptional views of the Northern Lights, and endless days during June and July when the sun never sets. This season is referred to as the Midnight Sun.
Few areas anywhere in the world hold as much history as Suomenlinna. This area of Finland has not always been a part of the country but has changed hands a few times. Once owned by Russia and Sweden, this island is now one of the most visited places in the country.
Suomenlinna was constructed as a fortress in 1748 and has always served as a fortress in some form or another, but it is also home to a small community of residents as well. Suomenlinna is certainly something to behold and in my opinion, this World Heritage Site should not be missed!
4. Arctic Resort Kakslauttanen
A stunning, tranquil but much sought-after resort due to its incredible unique accommodations. Located in Kakslauttanen, Finland, the big draw is their world-famous glass igloos which allow you to experience the feeling of sleeping under the stars and of course make the most of the Northern Light should make an appearance.
Surrounded by thick forest, the Kakslauttanen River and covered in snow during the winter months this place isn’t cheap but it sure is the stuff of dreams!
5. Nuuksio National Park
National parks are known for providing an escape from everyday modern life and that is exactly what you will find at the stunning Nuuksio National Park.
This nature lover’s dream is just outside of Finland’s capital and offers an array of opportunities to reconnect with nature and enjoy the epic beauty of the forest.
Camping and hiking are permitted in this national park and the many waterfalls and breathtaking photo opportunities keep tourists and locals coming back time and time again!
In terms of a quaint little fishing village, Porvoo is not, but with just over 50,000 residents, it does maintain a lot of a small-town feel, but with big-city dreams.
This part of Finland is one of the six remaining medieval towns and was first mentioned in history back in the 14th century. History is everywhere you look in Porvoo and tourists enjoy an array of activities from kayaking the waterways to enjoying the many quaint shops and cafes throughout the city.
The allure of Porvoo is often linked to its ability to recapture the old-world feel while managing as a modern town. I would just say don’t forget to pack your camera this place is highly photogenic!
7. Lake Saimaa
This country has a substantial amount of lakes, they actually have the most in Europe! Lake Saimaa is the largest of these interconnected bodies of water. The lake system is possible to view from land but to see the massive scope and exceptional beauty of this remarkable piece of paradise, you must travel by boat.
Tours are common on Lake Saimaa and I would highly recommend going on one to try and catch a glimpse of the Saimaa Ringed Seal, which is currently endangered with merely a few hundred in existence! Aw!
8. Oulanka National Park
An extraordinary magical wilderness especially during the winter, Oulanka National Park covers an area of 270 square kilometres in Finnish Lapland (the far north of the county).
Originally established in 1956 it caters to many an outdoor and adventure lover, during the summer you’ll hear Brooks gushing and rivers rushing between the densely packed trees and during the winter the snowy wonderland is also somewhere which often plays host to the incredible Northern Lights.
I would highly recommend staying at Basecamp Oulanka like I did and sampling their homemade cloudberry liquors and taking invigorating dips in their outdoor hot tub!
9. Turku Archipelago
A unique aspect of Finland can be found in the Turku Archipelago. The locals like to think this is one of the most stunning beauty spots in the whole world! I do agree that the sprawling 20,000-island chain is something very special. I also admire that even though each island is separate, they all seem to work together as an encompassed community.
Island travel is managed by a network of ferries, so tourists need not contend with renting a vehicle, but the rental of a bicycle can be a huge help as this is the general mode of transport for most people living and visiting the area.
Located in Lapland and bordering Norway, the small population of just over 1,200 people in Utsjoki helps to maintain the small village feel that attracts so many visitors each year.
This Sami village is a place where tourists can slow down from hectic city life and just enjoy the sheer beauty of nature’s splendour. The Tenojoki River flows along the northern border of Utsjoki, so it attracts its share of fishermen.
A land of endless festivals and embracing Finish culture awaits you in Naatali! This is a pretty resort town located in Southwest Finland and festivals such as the Naantali Music Festival happen every June from the 6th to the 17th attracting visitors from all parts of the globe the town, in general, maintains a unique old-world atmosphere that keeps visitors coming back again and a gain.
Kultaranta Gardens is just one of the many attractions in Naantali featuring a unique look at the 100-year history of the nation’s presidents.
This is the capital of the gorgeous Åland islands and Mariehamn attracts visitors for its magnificent beauty, but also its walkability! Many enjoy visiting this classic shipping town as it is easy to get from one end to another without ever setting foot in a car.
Ferries and foot traffic are the most common modes of transportation here. For the best view of this growing city, a trek up to Badhusberg will allow you to see Mariehamn from the top.
I would highly recommend browsing the variety of shops and restaurants while strolling along Torggatan, the pedestrian precinct located in central Mariehamn.
The main attraction in Saariselki is the Aurora Borealis! The Northern Lights attract countless tourists annually and encapsulate the imagination as streams of colour dance across the night sky.
In Saariselka, they make the event even more special with uniquely designed cabins. These cabins offer a pure view of the northern lights while guests remain toasty warm inside.
During the summer season, guests enjoy a trek into one of the last remaining, vast wilderness opportunities in Europe. With so many forests disappearing these days, it is nice to get back to nature in a true wilderness-driven landscape like Saariselka.
14. Repovesi National Park
Located only 3 hours from Helsinki in the municipalities of Kouvola and Mäntyharju, this former site for intensive commercial forestry, the Repovesi area successfully transformed into a gorgeous national park.
A haven for outdoor enthusiasts both in summer and winter the parks are filled with hills blanketed with thick, rugged forests, and clear blue lakes and during the winter the whole place is covered in pure white snow.
15. Lake Pielinen
Located in eastern Finland in the Karelia region, Pielinen Lake is the fourth largest in Finland, with a large drainage basin that covers both eastern Finland and Russia.
In my opinion, it’s an unspoiled and tranquil spot that is home to many points offering fantastic views as well as many recreational activities such as hiking and cycling. Other sights include small villages and towns on the forested hills of Karelia.
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Scott Balaam – writer and photographer
Scott started his travelling life back in 1999, when he headed off on a solo jaunt to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia with just a backpack, a camera and a spirit for adventure. After that, the travel bug bit hard and now he is always seeking to head off somewhere new. Over the years he has lived in Italy, Qatar, Australia, Ireland, UK and the USA but his spiritual home will always be Rome as this is the city which most satisfies his unrelenting thirst for culture, good food and great football. In his spare time Scott loves nothing better than to be behind the camera and also runs his own blog and Instagram page. He also counts Melbourne, the rest of Italy, Amsterdam, USA, Athens, Cape Town and Tel Aviv among his favourite places. Find Scott on Linkedin, Instagram, or Twitter.
Hotel Reviewing Experience –Asked by many tourist boards and many high-profile travel brands to formally review hotels including Visit Sweden, OET (Spanish Tourism Office), Sultanate of Oman and Travel Alberta. Also travelled around the world scouting out and reviewing all the most unique hotels in the world, check out our Instagram page for photos. Also mentioned as a top UK travel journalist.