Travel Tips for Finland

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Travel Tips for Finland

Things to See in Finland

A selection of top sights in Finland:

  • Central Helsinki, the Daughter of the Baltic, on a warm and sunny summer day
  • The historical sites of Turku and the vast archipelago around it, best viewed from the deck of a giant car ferry.
  • Pottering around the picturesque wooden houses of Porvoo, Finland's second-oldest city
  • Renting a car and exploring the Lake Land of Eastern Finland, an area dotted with around 60 000 lakes with a similar number of islands, which in turn have their own lakes...
  • Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna, Finland's most atmospheric castle, especially during the yearly Opera Festival
  • Hämeenlinna Castle in Hämeenlinna is Finland's oldest castle. Built in 13th century.
  • Relaxing at a sauna-equipped cottage in the lake country of Eastern Finland
  • Icebreaker cruising and the world's biggest snow castle in Kemi
  • Seeing the Northern Lights and trying your hand sledding down a mile-long track at Saariselkä
  • A ride on the historical "Linnanmäki" wooden roller coaster (Helsinki). Unlike modern designs, only gravity keeps it on the track, and it requires a driver on each train to operate the brakes.

Things to Do in Finland

Sports

Notably lacking in craggy mountains or crenellated fjords, Finland is not the adrenalin-laden winter sports paradise you might expect: the traditional Finnish pastime is cross-country skiing through more or less flat terrain. If you're looking for downhill skiing, snowboarding etc, you'll need to head up to Lapland and resorts like Levi and Saariselkä.

During the short summer you can swim, fish or canoe in the lakes. They are usually warmest around 20th July. Local newspapers usually have the current surface temperatures, and a map of the surface temperatures can also be found from the Environment Ministry website. During the warmest weeks, late at night or early in the morning the water can feel quite pleasant when the air temperature is lower than the water's. Most towns also have swimming halls with slightly warmer water, but these are often closed during the summer. Fishing permits, if needed, can be easily bought from any R-Kioski although they take a small surcharge for it.

For hikers, fishermen and hunters, the Ministry of Forestry maintains an online Excursion Map map with trails and huts marked. The best season for hiking is early fall, after most mosquitoes have died off and the autumn colors have come out.

And if you'd like to try your hand at something uniquely Finnish, don't miss the plethora of bizarre sports contests in the summer, including:

  • Air Guitar World Championships - August, Oulu.
  • Mobile Phone Throwing Championship - August, Savonlinna. Recycle your Nokia!
  • Swamp Soccer World Championship - July, Hyrynsalmi. Probably the messiest sporting event in the world.
  • Wife Carrying World Championship - July, Sonkajärvi. The grand prize is the wife's weight in beer.
  • Sulkavan Suursoudut - July, Sulkava Finland's biggest rowing event

Festivals

Finland hosts many music festivals (festari) during the summer. Some of the most notable include:

  • Provinssirock - One of the biggest rock festivals in Finland in the middle of June in Seinäjoki.
  • Tangomarkkinat - World's oldest tango festival. It is held early every July in Seinäjoki.
  • Vauhtiajot - Motorsport and rock festival in July in Seinäjoki.
  • Nummirock - heavy metal, Nummijärvi (near Kauhajoki), late June (Midsummer)
  • RMJ - pop/disco music, Pori, late June (Midsummer)
  • Tuska Open Air - heavy metal, Helsinki, late June
  • Sauna Open Air - heavy metal, Tampere, early June
  • Ruisrock - rock, Turku, July
  • Konemetsä - electronic music, Ollila (near Turku), July
  • Pori Jazz - jazz/world music, Pori, mid-July
  • Ankkarock - rock, Korso (near Helsinki), August (not held in 2011)
  • Flow - indie/electronic/urban, Helsinki, mid-August

Most of the festivals last 2-4 days and are very well organized, with many different bands playing, with eg. Foo Fighters and Linkin Park headlining at Provinssi 2008. The normal full ticket (all days) price is about €60-100, which includes a camp site where you can sleep, eat and meet other festival guests. The atmosphere at festivals is great and probably you'll find new friends there. Of course drinking a lot of beer is a part of the experience.

Northern Lights

Spotting the eerie Northern Lights (aurora borealis, or revontulet in Finnish) glowing in the sky is on the agenda of many visitors, but even in Finland it's not so easy. During the summer, it's light all day along and the aurora become invisible, and they're rarely seen in the south. The best place to spot them is during the winter in the far north, when the probability of occurrence is over 50% around the magnetic peak hour of 22:30 - if the sky is clear, that is. The ski resort of Saariselkä, easily accessible by plane and with plenty of facilities, is particularly popular among aurora hunters.

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