Discover the happiest country in the world
I haven’t been to Finland, but it’s definitely on my bucket list. I have ancestors that come from Finland, and I’d love to explore the country, especially the locations that my progenitors came from.
Many people visit Finland as part of a European cruise to the area. But after reading about all there is to do and see in this beautiful country, you might want to schedule a land trip so you can catch it all!
Finland, A Year-round Destination
Long, sun-filled days and mild temperatures make summer the best season to visit Finland. While the country looks beautiful covered in blankets of snow in the middle of winter, you'll find more places are open in the summer, and traveling around the country is a little easier. In the summer, parks are filled with locals picnicking in the sun and strolling around the cities. Longer days mean plenty of outdoor concerts and more time to enjoy exploring this beautiful country!
Don’t discount winter travel, however! As the temperature begins to drop and the days get shorter, the country opens up to offer a completely different set of experiences. You can chase the northern lights, hang out with reindeer, and take a cruise on the Sampo icebreaker, the only tourist icebreaker ship in the world. Cross country ski through one of Finland's enchanted snow-covered forest, and spend a night in the SnowCastle of Kemi.
Reindeer in Finland
Ever wondered where to find reindeer in the summer? Come to Finland and find out! The country is home to almost 200,000 reindeer, most of which live in the Lapland region in northern Finland. Here, visitors can get up close to the semi-domestic animals and learn about their habitat, history, and what makes them the perfect animal to pull Santa's sleigh! If you are visiting Finland in the winter, be sure to make a trip up to Lapland to see the magical snow-covered forests that are filled with herds of grazing reindeer.
Situated on the northern shore of the southern peninsula of Finland is Helsinki, the county's capital city. Initially set up as a trading post, Helsinki became the official capital of Finland when the country gained its independence in 1917. The smallest of the European capitals, Helsinki is also known as the "white city of the north," because many of its buildings are constructed from local light-colored granite. In the winter, you won't find the city's streets and sidewalks covered in snow either. Granite slabs were installed to heat the paths and roads, so snow and ice melt immediately, making it easy to travel around the city in the winter.
In Helsinki, tram and ferry tours are some of the best way to see most of the best sites!
Be sure to always ask for tap water when you visit Helsinki. The tap water comes straight from the mountain by the Päijännetunneli, the longest water tunnel in the world. The quality of water in Helsinki is so high, it’s exported to other countries!
Since 1852, when the construction of the Helsinki Cathedral was complete, this magnificent building has been presiding over the center of the city in Senate Square of Helsinki. For many years Finland was part of Russia, so the cathedral was originally built as a tribute to the Tzar Nicholas I. The design of the cathedral is even modeled after the design of the St. Isaac Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.
While the outside of the cathedral is very opulent, once you step inside, you'll notice an almost complete lack of decoration. This is because Lutherans were opposed to the worshipping of saints, which makes the Lutheran cathedrals, in general, more somber than their Catholic counterparts in places like Spain or Italy, that have much more decoration, ornaments, and history.
Imagine strolling through the streets of a quiet town in northern Finland after dinner and being greeted by dazzling lights dancing across the sky. Finland is one of the best countries in the world to view the Aurora Borealis, making it the perfect destination for people who want to experience the northern lights. From September to March, on just about every clear night, the Aurora Borealis lights up the sky. For the best view, take a drive away from the city lights.
Huskies and sled dogs have a long, eventful history dating back thousands of years. Known for their strength, endurance, intelligence, and lovable nature, huskies have been an integral part of Finland’s culture. Initially thought to have been introduced to Finland for racing, the huskies' role quickly evolved to transporting goods and even herding livestock.
Today, visitors can take a dog sled ride through the Finnish countryside during the winter and learn more about the history of huskies in Finland. You can even play with the puppies and learn about the training process to become a proper sled dog!
When you travel through parts of northern Scandinavia, especially in the countryside, you'll probably notice quite a few old log houses with grass growing on the roof. No, these aren't run-down, overgrown buildings. The grass is actually part of the original structure. To help keep in the heat and stop drafts, people would add a layer of sod to the outside of their homes. The birch bark that is found underneath the layer of sod ensured that the roof remained waterproof. This simple yet effective design was used well into the late 19th century, when more efficient roofing and insulation systems were invented.
Food in Finland
Known as the happiest country in the world, Finland is a popular travel destination in the Nordic region. Perhaps one reason why the Finns are so happy is the local cuisine. Finnish food is simple, fresh, and includes plenty of local ingredients sourced from the forests and lakes Finland is known for. One of the most beloved items in Finnish cuisine is salmiakki, or salty licorice. While black licorice is not always a fan favorite in other parts of the world, this salty go-to snack is a must-try.
Finland is also well known for their baking. Karjalanpiirakka, or rice pies, are a very popular pastry in Finland. The rye crust is traditionally filled with rice porridge and topped with egg butter. It is eaten in Finland for breakfast, as a snack, and even served at weddings. The korvapuusti, or cinnamon buns, are another fan favorite throughout the country!
Throughout Finland, you will see lingonberries on menus and in markets in various forms. It may be in a jam, pie, and other baked goods. Lingonberries are a bright red fruit that grow throughout Finland. It is one of the most common shrubs in Finnish forests, and has become a staple in the nation's diet. Lingonberries were traditionally used as a garnish for meat dishes, but have since found their way into other parts of the menu. They can be used as an ingredient in berry soups, porridge, casseroles, baked goods, and juice. The berry is preserved by freezing, crushing, or boiling to make jelly or jam. A jar of lingonberry jam also makes for a great souvenir!
Finland Forests & Parks
Finland is a beautiful country that takes great pride in its forests and parks. The country boasts over 40 national parks and is Europe's most forested county, with over 75% of the country covered in forests. On the other hand, about 10% of Finland is made up of bodies of water. In fact, the country has a reputation for being "The Land of 1,000 Lakes." Off the coast of Finland, there are approximately 180,000 islands, most of which are incredibly small. Of those, about 800 are currently inhabited. Taking a drive or a boat tour around Finland is a great way to explore new parts of the country while discovering its beauty.
Visit a Sauna – a perfect wellness activity
Sauna culture in Finland is real, and it's something you must experience when you're there. It is estimated that there are two million saunas in Finland, for a population of 5.5 million. Big companies and state institutions have their own saunas, as well as government, and private residences. They can be found in city apartments, private clubs, and at country cottages.
Traditional saunas are heated by wood, burned either in a stove with a chimney or by a stove with no chimney. All saunas have a basket of rocks heated by the stove that you throw water on to increase the humidity in the room. Aside from keeping warm in the winter, the Finns use saunas to relieve stress, improve cardiovascular health, flush toxins, and help fight illnesses!
Are you interested in Finland? It’s a great time to schedule your next trip to Europe. And why not include the happiest country in the world on your must-see list? You’ll be happy you did!