From Northern Lights to Sauna Culture: Experiencing the Magic of Finland

Finland, the enchanting Nordic country known for its captivating natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, offers a myriad of experiences for travellers seeking an unforgettable adventure. Nestled between Sweden, Norway, and Russia, Finland boasts picturesque landscapes, vibrant cities, and a unique blend of modernity and tradition. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a culture aficionado, or simply seeking tranquillity in nature, Finland has something to offer for everyone.

Exploring Helsinki: The vibrant capital city

Helsinki Cathedral, Finland
Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a vibrant and exciting city that offers a wide range of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. Contrary to popular belief, Helsinki is not just a cold and dreary place; it is a city filled with life, culture, and beauty.

One of the best things to do in Helsinki is to explore the city on foot. Start your exploration by strolling along the iconic Esplanadi Park, lined with elegant cafes and shops, and marvel at the magnificent Helsinki Cathedral, a stunning architectural masterpiece and a great spot to observe the bustling city life. Free walking tours are available, or you can book a private tour to discover the hidden gems and local secrets of the city.

Helsinki Attractions

In addition to these experiences, Helsinki is also home to some outstanding attractions. The city boasts a number of world-class museums, such as the Ateneum Art Museum which houses the largest collection of classical art in the country, and Amos Rex which specialises in contemporary art.

For nature lovers, Sibelius Park is a peaceful oasis that features an abstract sculpture dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. If you’re looking for some relaxation by the water, Pihlajasaari Island offers sandy beaches and shady woods where you can unwind and soak up the sun.

Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Helsinki, Finland
Suomenlinna Sea Fortress

To delve deeper into Finnish culture and history, make sure to visit the Fortress of Sveaborg and the Suomenlinna Islands. These UNESCO world heritage sites are accessible by a short ferry ride and offer a fascinating glimpse into Finland’s past, while the Finnish Museum of Natural History features fascinating exhibitions that will take you on a journey across millennia (the Finnish Nature exhibition is particularly noteworthy).

Helsinki’s Market Square is another must-visit attraction, with its outdoor market selling Finnish foods, flowers, and souvenirs. Don’t miss out on trying some local delicacies or picking up unique souvenirs to remember your time in Helsinki. Overall, Helsinki offers a perfect blend of modernity and tradition, making it a must-visit destination in Finland.

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The magical Northern Lights: When and where to see them in Finland

Inari Northern Lights, Finland
Northern Lights in Inari, Lapland

Best times to see the Northern Lights

If you want to witness the mesmerising phenomenon of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, Finland should definitely be on your travel bucket list. Finland is regarded as one of the best places in Europe to see the Northern Lights, and the best time to experience this magical display is from September to March. During these winter months, the skies are at their darkest, providing optimal conditions for spotting the dancing lights.

Best locations to see the Northern Lights

While the Northern Lights can be seen in southern Finland, your chances of witnessing this celestial spectacle are much higher in Finnish Lapland, which is located within the “northern lights belt” or “aurora zone.”

When it comes to choosing the perfect location for your Northern Lights adventure in Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi and Kemi are highly recommended. Rovaniemi, also known as the “official hometown” of Santa Claus, offers a range of activities for families and couples. In addition to being a great spot to hunt for the Northern Lights, Rovaniemi provides local guides and insider knowledge to enhance your experience.

Kemi, on the other hand, is a smaller town with low light pollution, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a more tranquil atmosphere. Here, you can enjoy activities such as ice fishing and aurora hunts while marvelling at the captivating light show. Consider joining a guided tour or staying in a glass igloo for an unforgettable experience, and remember to dress warmly and keep an eye on the weather forecast for optimal viewing conditions.

While Rovaniemi and Kemi are popular locations to witness the Northern Lights, other top spots include Saariselkä, Ivalo, Kakslauttanen, Ylläs, Inari, Muonio and Levi. Each of these destinations boasts its own unique charm and offers excellent opportunities for Northern Lights sightings. Regardless, whether you choose to explore the bustling city of Rovaniemi or prefer a more secluded experience in Saariselkä or Ylläs, you are practically guaranteed to have an unforgettable encounter with this mesmerising natural phenomenon.

Visiting the unique attractions of Finland: Lapland, Santa Claus Village, and more

Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland, Finland
Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland

No visit to Finland would be complete without experiencing Lapland, the magical region in the Arctic Circle. Journey to Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus, and immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of Santa Claus Village. Known for its Christmas attractions and the famous Santa Claus Main Post Office, Santa Claus Village offers plenty to see and do for visitors of all ages, including crossing the magical Arctic Circle and even meeting Santa himself!

As well as posting Christmas cards from the Santa Claus Main Post Office, highlights include exploring the enchanting Snowman World and meeting the adorable huskies and reindeer that call the village home. Many local tour operators offer night-time sledding and reindeer rides through the pristine wilderness, as well as other adventure activities such as snowmobiling, Northern Lights flights, and safaris. For those who prefer a cosier experience, glass huts and cottages offer the perfect vantage point to enjoy the mesmerising display of lights (which can be seen on approximately 200 nights a year!).

In addition to the exciting activities, there are also shops in Santa Claus Village where you can find unique Lappish crafts and souvenirs to bring back home. From traditional Sami handicrafts to festive Christmas decorations, there’s something for everyone to remember their magical visit to Santa Claus Village.

Getting to Santa Claus Village is easy as it is conveniently located near the Rovaniemi airport and can be reached by bus or shuttle, or you could choose to drive or take public transportation from elsewhere within Finland. And the best part? There is no admission fee to enter the village itself, making it accessible for everyone.

Unique experiences in Finland: Husky sledding, reindeer rides, and ice fishing

Reindeer ride, Lapland, Finland
Reindeer ride

If you’re looking for unique experiences in Finland, you won’t be disappointed. This Nordic gem offers a range of exciting activities that showcase the country’s close connection with nature and its rich cultural heritage, leaving you with unforgettable memories.

One such experience is husky sledding, an exhilarating activity that allows you to witness the power and agility of these remarkable dogs as they guide you through pristine snowy landscapes of Finland’s winter wonderland. It’s an experience that combines adrenaline-pumping adventure with a deep connection to nature, and is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for many travellers.

Another unique experience that Finland has to offer is reindeer rides. These gentle creatures have been an integral part of Finnish culture for centuries, and riding on a reindeer-drawn sled is a wonderfully authentic way to immerse yourself in the local traditions. As you glide through the snowy forests guided by the reindeer’s steady pace, you’ll feel a sense of tranquillity and harmony with nature. It’s an experience that allows you to slow down and appreciate the peacefulness of the Finnish wilderness.

For those who enjoy angling, ice fishing is a must-try activity in Finland. Drilling a hole in the frozen lake, dropping your line, and patiently waiting for a fish to bite is a serene and meditative experience, allowing you to connect with nature while enjoying the thrill of catching your own dinner. And if you’re lucky enough to reel in a fish, you can even cook it over an open fire, savouring the fresh flavours of your hard-earned catch.

Discovering the stunning nature of Finland: National parks and outdoor activities

Urho Kekkonen National Park in Lapland, Finland
Urho Kekkonen National Park

With its large archipelago, numerous lakes, and rivers, Finland offers a diverse range of outdoor activities that make it a popular destination for nature lovers. The country boasts over 40 national parks, hiking areas, and wilderness areas, providing ample opportunities for exploration and adventure. From vast unspoiled forests, raging rapids, and epic trails to pristine lakes, majestic mountains and picturesque coastal areas, Finland’s national parks have it all. The Finnish “Everyman’s rights” further enhances the experience by allowing people to venture anywhere in nature as long as they respect the environment and clean up after themselves.

That being said, it makes perfect sense that there is such a wide range of outdoor activities on offer for adventure enthusiasts. In the winter when most of the Finnish water areas are covered in ice, you can partake in activities such as walking, skating, skiing, and even ice fishing. The thrill of gliding across a frozen lake or trying your hand at catching fish beneath the ice is an experience like no other, although skiing enthusiasts might prefer hitting the slopes and experiencing the adrenaline rush as they glide down snow-covered mountains.

Nuuksio National Park, Finland
Nuuksio National Park

During the rest of the year, Finland’s nature beckons with its diverse array of options for outdoor recreation. Hiking and trekking enthusiasts can explore the numerous trails that wind through forests and national parks, showcasing the country’s breathtaking landscapes, while paddleboarding and canoeing enthusiasts can take to Finland’s lakes and rivers, immersing themselves in the tranquillity of nature.

Exploring the Finnish archipelago: Island-hopping and coastal adventures

Kvarken Archipelago, Finland
Kvarken Archipelago

One of the highlights of Finland’s natural beauty is its archipelago, comprising over 80,000 islands scattered along its coastline. This stunning collection of islands offers peaceful retreats and opportunities to spot wildlife in their natural habitat; from rare seals to majestic eagles, the archipelago is a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife photographers.

You can explore charming fishing villages, relax on secluded beaches, and enjoy the Baltic Sea from the shores of standout spots such as the Kotka Archipelago, the Helsinki Archipelago, the Turku Archipelago and the Kvarken Archipelago. You should also take the opportunity to visit the picturesque Åland Islands, an autonomous region known for its idyllic scenery and maritime heritage. From sailing to kayaking, the Finnish archipelago offers a multitude of opportunities to experience the beauty of the Baltic Sea. For those seeking a more tranquil experience, Finland’s extensive lake district provides a serene setting for activities such as fishing, paddleboarding, and ice-skating.

When it comes to travelling between islands, you have two options: taking ferries or renting a boat. Ferries are a convenient and popular choice, offering regular schedules and comfortable amenities. On the other hand, renting a boat gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and discover hidden gems along the way. However, it’s important to be cautious of weather conditions and always seek permission from landowners when visiting inhabited islands.

Embracing the Finnish sauna culture: A must-do experience

Floating sauna in Kangasala, Finland
Floating sauna in Kangasala, Finland

When it comes to experiencing the true essence of Finnish culture, a visit to their saunas is an absolute must. Saunas have been deeply ingrained in Finnish society for centuries, evolving from being a practical necessity to becoming a beloved tradition. With millions of saunas scattered across the country, it’s safe to say that this traditional steam bath holds a special place in the hearts of the Finnish people.

Aside from the spiritual benefits, saunas also offer numerous health advantages. The intense heat helps to detoxify the body, cleanse the skin, and improve blood circulation. It’s no wonder that Finns attribute their good health and longevity to regular sauna use. Moreover, saunas also serve as social hubs, bringing people together, fostering connections and strengthening relationships.

Inside a Finnish sauna
Inside a Finnish sauna

However, embracing the Finnish sauna culture also comes with certain etiquette rules. Firstly, it’s customary to sit naked in the sauna, as it allows for optimal heat absorption. Secondly, it is essential to shower before entering the sauna to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. Lastly, while inside the sauna, it is important to respect others’ need for silence and relaxation.

For those interested in experiencing traditional Finnish saunas, there are several popular options to choose from. Herrankukkaro, Rajaportin, and Jätkänkämppä are just a few examples of traditional saunas that offer an authentic and immersive experience.

Hidden gems of Finland

Naantali, Finland

While popular destinations like Helsinki and Lapland offer incredible experiences, Finland is also home to numerous hidden gems that are worth venturing off the beaten path for.


One such gem is the picturesque city of Porvoo. With its medieval cobblestone streets and well-preserved colourful wooden houses, Porvoo offers a charming and unique experience. But it’s not just the architecture that draws visitors in; the city also boasts a thriving restaurant scene, where you can indulge in delicious local cuisine. And if you have a sweet tooth, Porvoo has got you covered with its delightful chocolate shops. It’s no wonder that Porvoo is considered one of Finland’s top places to visit.


Another off-the-beaten-path destination in Finland is Naantali, a quirky small harbour town that holds a special place in the hearts of the locals. Naantali is famous for being the home of the Moomins, beloved characters from Finnish literature. The town embraces its Moomin connection with various attractions and events dedicated to these whimsical creatures.

But Naantali offers more than just Moomin-themed fun; it also has a charming seaside atmosphere and plenty of opportunities for relaxation. Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll along the harbour or enjoy a peaceful boat ride, Naantali provides the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Lake Pielinen, Koli National Park
Lake Pielinen, Koli National Park

Off-the-beaten-path destinations to visit

For those who crave nature and breathtaking views, Koli National Park is a must-visit destination in Finland. Located in the eastern part of the country, Koli offers stunning vistas of Lake Pielinen that will leave you awestruck. With its diverse landscapes, ranging from rugged cliffs to lush forests, it’s no wonder that Koli is considered one of Finland’s top hidden gems.

Further must-visit destinations include the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, the Temppeliaukio Church, and the Kemi Snow Castle. At the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort you can rent a glass igloo and witness the mesmerising beauty of the aurora borealis. The Temppeliaukio Church is a stunning subterranean house of worship carved out of bedrock, and for those looking for a touch of magic, the Kemi Snow Castle is a must-see; rebuilt every winter, this enchanting castle made entirely of snow and ice is a true winter wonderland.

If you’re in the mood for something quirky, don’t miss out on visiting a curated curio shop or marvelling at a balancing rock or a silent people sculpture. From hiking in the Lakeland region to exploring the quirky town of Naantali, these lesser-known destinations provide a unique glimpse into the diversity and beauty of Finland.

Traditional Finnish cuisine: Must-try dishes and local delicacies

Karjalanpiirakka with smoked salmon and ruisleipä
Karjalanpiirakka with smoked salmon and ruisleipä

Finland is a food lover’s paradise, with the national cuisine offering a delightful blend of simplicity, freshness, and unique flavours that will leave you craving more. Helsinki in particular offers unique dining experiences such as enjoying a cup of coffee made by a campfire barista, dining on the delicious fish dishes that the city is famous for such as fresh salmon and smoked herring at a revolving restaurant, or visiting the famous Café Engel, a charming café opposite the Helsinki Cathedral known for its delicious pastries and cosy atmosphere.

Must-try traditional Finnish cuisine

When it comes to traditional Finnish cuisine, there are several must-try dishes and local delicacies that will take your taste buds on a delightful journey. One of the most iconic Finnish foods is rye bread, known as “Ruisleipä.” This dark and hearty bread can be found all over Finland and is a staple in Finnish meals, with its dense texture and rich flavour making it the perfect accompaniment to soups, stews, and even as a base for open-faced sandwiches. Another popular dish that you should definitely try is Karjalanpiirakka, also known as rice pies. These pastries originated from the Karelian region and are a beloved snack in Finland.

Sauteed reindeer with lingonberries and potatoes
Sauteed reindeer with lingonberries and potatoes

Finnish delicacies

For those who enjoy seafood, Kalakukko is a Finnish delicacy that shouldn’t be missed. This fish pie is made with rye crust and filled with a combination of fish (usually vendace or salmon) and pork fat, while Leipajuusto, or bread cheese, is a must-try delicacy for cheese lovers. This unique Finnish cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a squeaky texture when bitten into. Traditionally grilled or baked, it’s often served with lingonberry jam for a sweet and tangy flavour combination.

Other must-try dishes include Korvapuusti (cinnamon buns), Muikku (fried vendance), Graavilohi (cured salmon), Mustikkapiirakka (blueberry pie), Salmiakki (salty liquorice), and Poronkaristys (sauteed reindeer). Each of these dishes showcases the flavours and ingredients that are unique to Finnish cuisine. So, if you find yourself in Finland, make sure to indulge in these traditional Finnish dishes to truly experience the country’s culinary heritage. From the comforting flavours of rye bread to the delicate sweetness of blueberry pie, each bite will transport you to the heart of Finland’s rich food culture.

Planning your trip to Finland

Subway station in Espoo
Espoo subway station


As you plan your trip to Finland, consider various factors to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. Accommodation options in Finland cater to every preference and budget, from traditional Finnish farmhouses and cosy log cabins nestled in the wilderness to unique glass igloo hotels that offer uninterrupted views of the starry skies. Booking offers an array of options, along with images and guest reviews.

For an extraordinary experience, consider staying at the previously mentioned Snow Castle in Kemi. Made entirely of snow and ice, these purpose-built spaces like glass huts and luxury suites provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to sleep under the Northern Lights and truly immerse yourself in nature’s most spectacular light show.

There are also many affordable options available. Staying in hostels or camping in the country’s national parks can be a great way to save money while experiencing the beauty of the Finnish landscape. Check out Hostelworld for great accommodation prices, including for both dorms and private rooms.


Transportation is another important aspect to consider when planning your trip. Flying is often the cheapest way to get to Finland and there are plenty of low-cost airline options if you fly to Helsinki, although it may be worth exploring other airports depending on your destination within Finland.

Once you arrive, Finland boasts an efficient transportation system, with well-connected cities and an extensive network of trains and buses (as well as the northernmost metro system in the world in Helsinki). Consider purchasing a travel card for unlimited access to public transportation.

If you’d prefer to explore the country at your own pace, check out the rental car options on Discover Cars or Qeeq, or BikesBooking for motorcycles and scooters.

Budget tips

Finland can be relatively expensive, so when it comes to budget tips there are several strategies you can employ to save money. For starters, researching and planning your route ahead of time can help you avoid hidden costs and make the most of your time in Finland.

You can use platforms like Get Your Guide and Tiqets to book activities and attractions in advance. This may save you money, and will also ensure you don’t miss out on anything in peak tourist season. Consider getting a city card such as the Helsinki Card, which can provide discounts on attractions and public transportation. You can also find low-cost accommodation on Hostelworld, as mentioned above.

Additionally, remember to take advantage of the many free or low-cost attractions that Finland has to offer, such as foraging walks and Northern Lights shows. With proper planning and a little creativity, you can have an unforgettable Finnish adventure without breaking the bank.

Is Finland safe?

Finland is not only known as one of the happiest places in the world but also one of the safest. The crime rates in Finland are comparably low, providing a sense of security for both residents and visitors. However, petty crimes such as pickpocketing can occur in urban areas, so it’s important to stay vigilant and keep an eye on your belongings.

Another thing to keep in mind is the road conditions, especially during winter. Driving can be hazardous, and wildlife road accidents are common. Moose, deer, and reindeer can unexpectedly cross the road at any time of day, so it’s essential to adjust your speed and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles if you see warning signs.

An important thing to be aware of is that Finland shares a border with Russia, so given the war in Europe you should keep an eye on government travel advice before travelling to the region. Overall, while Finland is generally safe to visit, it’s important to exercise normal precautions and be aware of potential risks.

If you require emergency assistance in Finland, dial 112 to contact emergency services.

Conclusion: Embrace the magic of Finland on your next adventure

Finland, with its captivating natural wonders, rich cultural heritage, and unique experiences, offers an enchanting destination for travellers seeking a truly unforgettable adventure. From witnessing the mesmerising Northern Lights to immersing yourself in Finnish sauna culture, the possibilities are endless. Embrace the magic of Finland on your next adventure and create memories that will last a lifetime.

CTA: What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and embark on the trip of a lifetime to Finland! Saunas, adventures in Lapland and the magical Northern Lights await!

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