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So you’ve decided to explore the rugged wilderness and quirky culture of Finland for your next vacation and even found some great hotel and resort options for your stay. Now you’ll have to decide how to spend your time in this far northern country with less than 5.5 million residents.
Finland is well-known for its boreal forests and artsy city capital, but it also offers some of the most unique cultural experiences you’ll find anywhere on the planet. This is the home of the World Air Guitar Championships, the World Cell Phone Throwing Championship, and themed festivals that you would never imagine being real events. Whether you’re into the outdoors, music, festivals, food, or something entirely different, there’s bound to be a few things that capture your imagination in this country. Here are some of our favorite things to see and do in Finland.
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See the Northern Lights
One of the all-time top reasons to visit Finland is the amazing spectacle of the Northern Lights. Colorful natural lights appear to dance and flash before your eyes, in an experience that must truly be experienced first-hand to comprehend. Even if you’ve seen hundreds of photographs of the Aurora Borealis, it’s an unforgettable experience to have in Finland.
Experience the Midnight Sun
Although the Northern Lights aren’t visible in the summer months, there’s another phenomenon worth experiencing in Finland when the temperatures heat up: the midnight sun. Finland is a place of extreme contrasts, and there’s something seriously bizarre about being in a place with 24 consecutive hours of sunlight. Summer is a wonderful time to get out in the cities’ public spaces, engage in outdoor activities during odd hours of the night, and join in the fun bar and nightlife scene.
Get Active in Finland's National Parks
Although Finland has 40 national parks, Syote National Park is the best for mountain bikers. It’s the only one where trails are marked for bikers, and the landscape is marked by forested hills. Archipelago National Park is the best place to go canoeing, and some people take canoe expeditions in the area lasting up to two weeks. Meanwhile Oulanka National Park is the place to go for whitewater rafting enthusiasts, and Repovesi National Park is a favorite spot among rock climbers.
Give Nordic Walking a Try
If hardcore adventure sports like climbing and rafting aren’t your style, then why not give the traditional Finnish sport of Nordic walking a try? It’s just like cross-country skiing but without the snow. Grab some poles and start burning some calories!
Visit Santa Claus Village
Kids between the ages of 2 and 102 will get a kick out of visiting the mythical home of Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas. Reindeer and elk roam the wilderness, and snowy images will remind you of every Christmas movie you saw as a child. The world’s largest snow castle is here in Lapland too, so be sure to check it out!
Visit a Reindeer Farm
Reindeer aren’t just part of Santa’s legends; they’re a big part of Finnish culture and some local farmers welcome visitors to their farms. The local Sámi people have made a living from reindeer husbandry, and even racing reindeer in competitions. The Jaakkola Reindeer Farm is one farm that opens their doors to the public for sleigh rides, educational programs, and overnight reindeer safaris.
Warm Up in a Sauna
There are more saunas per capita in Finland than anywhere else in the world, so there’s definitely one with your name on it. Would you believe there are more saunas than cars in Finland? It’s a local tradition to relax in the sauna and then take a dip into one of Finland’s near-frozen bodies of water. But you can just enjoy the soothing warmth and steam and skip the cold if you prefer.
Check Out a Pesapallo Match
Pesapallo is the national sport of Finland, and while it’s not very well-known throughout the world, attending a match is a true Finnish experience. The sport vaguely resembles baseball and is also played in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, and Canada. Equipment includes a ball, bat, helmets, gloves, and spiked shoes. Superpesis is the Finnish championship series for both men and women, and a World Cup is played every three years.
Attend a Heavy Metal Concert
It might come as a surprise, but Finland has more heavy metal bands per capita than anywhere else in the world. Even if you aren’t typically a fan of heavy metal music, attending a metal show in Finland is a great way to get a true local experience. You can check out upcoming concerts on DiscoveringFinland.com, AllMetalFest.com, and MetalTravelGuide.com.
Drive a Team of Husky Dogs
Dog sledding is a big deal in Finland, and there are lots of opportunities for visitors to get in on the action too. You can reach speeds of about 20 mph while driving a team of huskies and learn about their care and training from dedicated owners. There are lots of other snow sport activities you can try during the winter as well, including snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and skiing.
Sing at a Karaoke Bar in Helsinki
Karaoke may be most closely associated with Japanese and Korean culture, but it’s becoming a big hit in Finland these days too. There are an increasing number of karaoke bars in the capital city of Helsinki, and there’s even a karaoke taxi that takes karaoke to the road and seats about 12 people.
Ski at Yllas
Snow sport enthusiasts will fall in love with the long ski slopes at Yllas, Finland’s largest ski resort. This is a great place to experience the natural beauty of Finland during the winter months and treat yourself with some top-notch accommodations that are warm and toasty. What could be more comforting than a cozy log cabin after a long day on the slopes? Lapland Hotel Äkäshotelli is one recommended place to stay because of its traditional village environment, wellness services, and Lappish pampering treatment offerings.
Sleep in an Igloo
The idea of sleeping in an igloo may give you nightmares about shivering in the cold all night long, but modern igloo accommodations have taken a luxury glamping approach to give guests a comfortable and authentic experience. The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort also offers glass igloos, as well as wedding ceremony accommodations, so that you don’t miss a single moment of the legendary Northern Lights display.