Midnight sun, northern lights and superb saunas
Drawing strong influences both from its easterly neighbour, Russia, and from its western one, Sweden, Finland remains one of Europe’s most enigmatic countries. It’s a land best known for its laconic, pithy people with a penchant for kicking back in a sauna au naturel, for its bizarre annual festivals and for creating those quirky, hippo-like fairytale characters, the Moomins – its strangeness is a good part of the country’s charm. And while it’s far from a budgeteer’s paradise, there are definitely ways to save – especially if you know where to drink.
The Finnish landscape is flat and punctuated by huge forests and lakes, with the drama heightening as you head north. The south is still peppered with stunning bodies of water, however. The capital, Helsinki, straddles several islands, brightened by brilliant fin-de-siècle architecture and superb collections of late modern and contemporary artworks. Former capital Turku is a cultural beacon too. Stretching from the thrumming industrial city of Tampere to the Russian border in the east, the vast waters of the Lake Region provide a natural means of transport for the timber industry – indeed, water here is a more common sight than land, with many towns lying on narrow ridges between lakes. North of here, the gradually rising fells and forests of Lapland are Finland’s most alluring terrain and are home to the Sámi, semi-nomadic reindeer herders. For a few months on either side of midsummer, the midnight sun is visible from much of the region; in the dead of winter the north of the country is shrouded in polar darkness.
Planning your trip to Finland
Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.
Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners
Everything you need to know before you set off.
The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget
An in-depth, easy-to-use guide filled with expert advice.
The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.
In pictures: brushing shoulders with bears in Finland’s newest national park
In 2017, Hossa – an area of pristine wilderness with superb hiking near Finland’s eastern border – became the country’s 40th national park. Photographe…
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you
There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …
Brave new world: the quirks of Finland’s saunas
To Finns, it is the most natural thing on the planet: disrobing, sweating it out naked in front of strangers in temperatures of 80°C, occasionally self-flagell…
After Finland, where next?
Check out Scotland