Top 10 Things to Do When Exploring Finland

Top 10 Things to Do When Exploring Finland

Having problems deciding what else to do in Finland besides catching the Northern Lights? Here are 10 top things you must try!

Catching the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is probably on everyone’s bucket list and for this very reason, people brave the harsh winters in Finland. But surely, it has more to offer than just the celestial light show right?

Well, being the home of Father Christmas, Finland has to be magical! Read on and find out the top 10 things you must do before leaving this winter wonderland!

1. Experience the original Finnish sauna

Image credit: Gary Bembridge

Saunas (yes, it’s a Finnish word!) are a way of life in Finland and it’s not unusual to see one in every home. Fun Fact: There are 2 million saunas for a population of 5.3 million! It’s safe to say that the Finns are crazy about saunas. For them, a sauna is an important place for physical and mental cleansing. The room is typically dimly-lit and a special stove with hot stones is used to control the temperature within. It’s no wonder that Finland perennially tops the chart on global rankings for well-being!

Bathing in the sauna with groups of people is a formality as well and there’s even a saying in Finland more decisions are made in the sauna than in meetings! However, unlike the usual process of leaving the sauna and cooling off, the Finns end the session with a charge of adrenaline, plunging headfirst into icy waters. This is definitely a must try!

2. Reinvigorate yourself in Finland’s National Parks

Image credit: Rucksack Magazine

Being the most heavily-forested country in Europe, it’s no surprise that Finland has a whopping 40 National Parks which are furnished with camping grounds and nature trails. The Finns are serious nature lovers and it’s not difficult to see why. The moment you step into any national park, you’re transported into a timeless paradise. Think snow-covered Christmas trees under a clear blue sky what a sight to behold! Fortunately, thanks to the practice of ‘Everyman’s Right’ also known as the ‘Freedom to Roam’, access to these parks are free and they usually stay open 24/7 as well.

A must-visit is Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park situated in Lapland that is famous for having the cleanest air in the whole of Europe! It also happens to be one of Finland’s largest and oldest parks. Korouoma National Park in Posio is a close second when it comes to natural attractions. Marvel at the frozen waterfalls that will blow you away with its fantastic views and beautiful display of colours! In the national parks, you can expect to engage in activities such as camping and hiking, which are popular in the Finnish countryside. Alternatively, opt for a guided tour of the parks. Are you ready to bask in the restorative powers of nature yet? Recharge amongst the frosty forests or under the stars!

3. Get up close and personal with wild reindeers

Image credit: Joe Green

Spotting reindeers gallivanting in plain sight may be rare for many of us, but since this is Santa’s hometown we’re talking about, anything is possible! There are approximately 1700 – 2000 forest reindeers in the wild and they are all native to Finland. They also live in boreal taiga forests which are coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larches.

For those who are interested to catch these reindeers in action, there are safaris that will take you into these forests. However, do remember to keep a respectful distance from these gentle creatures.

4. Dash through the snow on a husky sleigh

Image credit: Fox Jia

Wind through the wintry forests while being led by 12 energetic huskies in Lapland’s husky safaris. Watch as the celebrated scenic wonder of snow-covered Alps and icy lakes emerge before you in its full splendour!

This is definitely the perfect way to explore the beautiful Finnish landscape. For animal lovers who may be feeling guilty, fret not. According to several husky trainers, these Huskies will be enjoying the run as much as you!

5. Try ice-fishing!

Another favourite pastime of the Finns is ice fishing which many consider a serious sport! But this love affair is not as simple as you think. The aim is not to catch as many fish as possible but instead, to relax and meditate. Anglers can expect a peaceful time to themselves while in the heart of nature.

Before the usual routine of throwing a bait into the water, you’d have to first drill a hole using either a hand auger (tool resembling a large corkscrew) or an electric ice auger. What’s more exciting is that you’ll be standing on a frozen lake while fishing! For those who are interested but are not sure where to start, join a guided tour that provides you with all the equipment. Remember, catching a fish is a bonus, not the purpose!

6. Participate in exhilarating winter sports with your loved ones

Image credit: (left) Ethan Hu, (right) Visit Lakeland

Finland offers a great number of winter sports for everyone. This ranges from usual winter activities like skiing and sledging to more unique ones like ice karting.  Whether you’re a novice or a daredevil seeking out an adrenaline rush, Finland assures you a good time!

A local favourite is Ylläs Ski Resort which is also the largest ski resort in Finland. Boasting 63 slopes and 29 ski lifts, there is something in store for everyone! More importantly, it’s one of the best sites to catch the Northern Lights. A sighting is recorded almost every other night from August to April when auroral activity is at its peak.

7. Spend the night in an ice igloo

What better way to immerse yourself in nature yet retain material comforts than by spending the night in an ice igloo? This is also perfect for those who wish to catch the Northern Lights! One place that will meet all your fantastical expectations is the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland.

Apart from the wide array of winter lineups, Kakslauttanen is famous for being the perfect place to witness the phenomenal Northern Lights. You can say that guests are guaranteed at least a glimpse of this natural wonder!

8. Explore the intriguing SnowVillage

Image credit: SnowVillage

In a place where there is so much ice and snow, all of it has to go somewhere right? Well, the innovative Finns present to you the SnowVillage which comprises of a snow hotel, ice restaurant and an ice bar. It even boasts of an ice chapel!

What is most unique about this place is that it changes every year. SnowVillage undergoes construction annually (it gets torn down in the summer when it’s too hot for snow then rebuilt again during winter) and along with it, the theme changes. For example, the theme for this year was Game of Thrones! If you’re planning a visit to SnowVillage, do remember to only go when winter is coming!

9. Indulge in mouth-watering salmon cooked to Finnish perfection

Image credit: (left) Miia Ranta, (right) Jpatokal

Finland has great salmon rivers and it’s known for its salmon and other smoky fishes. For food gourmets, the charcoal barbecued salmon is a must have! It’s slow-cooked over the fire to gradually bring out the flavour of the fish while retaining its tenderness and moisture. Paired with various garnish, it tantalises all taste buds. Dig in!

Pro tip: Reindeer burgers are also pretty big here in Finland so do try some when you have the chance. Another contender? Blueberries! You can either have the fruit straight or my personal favourite, drinking blueberry juice!

10. Pay a visit to Santa’s hometown, Rovaniemi

Image credit: Visit Rovaniemi

Now, who said Santa Claus is a myth? We’ve successfully located his home in Finland! Officially recognised as Santa’s hometown, Rovaniemi is located in the Lapland region of Finland and is shaped like a reindeer. Coincidence? I think not! Here’s some good news too: you can even meet the man himself. Step into Santa Claus Village where it’s Christmas all year round to find out what Santa’s been up to. Stay for a chat and get your pictures and videos taken!

You might also be wondering about the time you sent out letters to Santa as a kid. Well, you can now see the post office for yourself! All letters addressed to Santa are delivered to this post office and perhaps, if you’re lucky, you can find that special letter you wrote!

Visit his postal elves at the main post office and send out postcards to your loved ones here. Santa’s special delivery reaches all parts of the world and you can even decide to have the postcard arrive during Christmas! Fun Fact: Your postcards will receive a special Arctic Circle postmark that is only available here! For last minute souvenir shopping, Santa Claus Village is an excellent choice. It is only a mere 3km away from Rovaniemi Airport and is well-stocked with iconic souvenirs of Finland.

Well, need I say more? Finland is snow much fun! If you’re looking for a unique escape to Europe, add Finland to your bucket list today.

About Author

Annabel Pang
Annabel Pang

Annabel is a final year English student at NTU wit a h00d playlist. She's no Mary but she's defintely poppin'. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Annabel is a part-time jedi and a force not to be reckoned with. Also a huge foodie with spectacular vernacular. Tread gently.

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