You might know Finland for its Arctic Circle and Winters with lots (and lots) of snow, Santa Claus, reindeer, the Northern Lights, many design shops and even more saunas, perhaps the Moomin and definitely plenty of wilderness areas, national parks and ski resorts…
…but what else is there to do in Finland? And what experiences and places to visit in Finland can contribute to your personal development? After having visited the country four times now, I have some suggestions for you:
What we'll cover in this article
- PLACES TO VISIT IN FINLAND FOR SELF-GROWTH
- 1. Visit Helsinki Central Station & The Design District
- 2. Experience a Finnish Sauna
- 3. Visit a Reindeer Farm
- 4. Hike in Oulanka National Park
- 5. Taste Local Finnish Food
- 6. Visit Finland in Winter… and Summer!
- 7. Haltia Nature Center: Dive Deep into Finnish Nature
- 8. Go Dog Sledding in the Arctic
- 9. See the Northern Lights
- 10. Meet Santa Claus
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PLACES TO VISIT IN FINLAND FOR SELF-GROWTH
1. Visit Helsinki Central Station & The Design District
Helsinki was the design capital of Europe in 2012 and every time I visit, I can’t stop taking photos of the incredible art-deco architecture. In similar fashion, my suitcase always ends up with a piece of design by brands such as iittala, Marimekko or Alvar Aalto. It seems that our household is going towards the clean and fresh lines of the Scandinavian design as we’re adding pieces over the years.
Other Helsinki design spots to check out are the Finlandia Hall overlooking Töölönlahti Bay (by Alvar Aalto), the Kamppi Chapel of Silence and of course the Design Museum. There is even a ‘Design District’, with shops filled with original work by Finland’s talented young designers.
Another must-visit is the iittala & Arabia Design Center, where you can get a behind-the-scenes factory tour of Finland’s biggest design brands.
2. Experience a Finnish Sauna
If there is one thing that is typical Finnish, it has to be the Sauna! While taking a sauna is usually a family experience, these days there are plenty of places around Finland for visitors to get a glimpse of what the Sauna Culture is all about.
Sharing a sauna with someone is about bonding, about discussing real issues – no small talk. In Finland, all the important decisions are said to be made in the sauna! Most people visit one on a regular basis, or even have one at home and spend time here daily.
There are a few different types of sauna, from the dry to the steamy ones, that you can enjoy for just 10 minutes or turn into an evening-filling event with games, food and -of course- a dip in the ice lake! Would you dare it?
In Helsinki, I can recommend visiting the public sauna “Löyly”, in the Southern Ostrobotnia region of Finland, I loved “Koskenkorvan Trahteeri” (where we even did Sauna Yoga!) and in the Ruka-Kuusamo region, “Pyhäpiilon Sauna & Spa” is really quite magical and the lovely hostess guides you through the entire sauna process.
Swimming in the frozen lake at Koskenkorvan Trahteeri
Sauna Yoga, Anyone?
3. Visit a Reindeer Farm
During my last visit to Finland, we made a lunch stop at the Reindeer and Fishing Farm (“Palosaaren Poro-Ja Kalastustila”) in Kuusamo, Northern Finland.
Here, we met Satu Palosaari, the sixth generation in her family to keep reindeer. She lives on the farm which was founded by her grandfather in 1920 when he built a log cabin which is still in use. Satu is now keeping the family tradition alive with her husband Mika, and sometimes you can find next generation helping at farm also.
While in Winter, you can have a go at riding the reindeer sled (and even receive your own reindeer driving licence, haha!), in Summer you can feed the reindeer and learn more about them around the campfire.
Feeding moss to the reindeer that stay at the farm.
4. Hike in Oulanka National Park
One of the best places in Finland to be in nature has to be Oulanka National Park. Here, you can walk over hanging bridges to reach the most impressive waterfalls of the country. There are trails with lengths of 3 km all the way to 82 km. Some tracks are suitable for children, while others are demanding rock walls for experienced climbers. There is even a river route for both beginners and experienced canoeists!
At the Oulanka Visitor Center, you can learn more about the local landscape and wildlife and get a meal before hitting the trails. You can also hire snowshoe and ski equipment here.
No time to visit Oulanka in the North? No worries! There are 40 national parks in Finland. All scattered around the country’s archipelago, lakes, forests and fells! Wherever you visit in the country, nature is everywhere.
5. Taste Local Finnish Food
Finnish cuisine is usually a combination of traditional country meals and haute cuisine with contemporary continental style cooking. You can expect lots of fish and meat (usually pork, beef or reindeer), grains and berries.
In Helsinki, I had a fantastic Finnish meal at restaurant Savotta. The interior is super cozy, like an old Finnish cottage and the menu consists of Finnish food from different regions of the country. Finland. You can order things such as lake fish, reindeer and berries and Finnish traditional dishes like Lamb from wooden “särä” bowl, or even bear meat!
In Seinajöki, I tasted some great local Finnish Gin & fish at the Koskenkorvan Trahteeri (the same place I showed you at the sauna section).
If you get the chance to spend some time with the reindeer herders somewhere in Finland, then eating a local meal in one of the Sami tents is definitely a highlights. In Seinajöki, we had sausages and rye bread with “Komiat Hetket” and in Ruka-Kuusamo we had the best salmon soup ever from Satu at Palosaaren Poro-Ja Kalastustila (the reindeer farm I mentioned above).
And if you’re feeling particularly brave, do like we did in Ruka-Kuusamo and have a go at eating deep-fried moss… the same that the reindeer eat!
If you want to take your food experience even further, go berry or mushroom picking in the forest! The best berry-picking season lasts from end of July until September. Mushrooms can be picked from late summer until the snow comes. In the Helsinki region, the best place to go berry and mushroom picking is in Nuuksio national park.
Tasting Reindeer in Helsinki
Local Gin & Fish in Seinajöki
Tasting the Reindeer Herder’s Food in Seinajöki and Ruka-Kuusamo
6. Visit Finland in Winter… and Summer!
The first 3 times that I visited Finland, I was here in Winter. There was lots of snow everywhere, and temperatures reached well below the 20 degrees Celsius (-4F). So I was definitely curious to find out what the country would look like in Spring and Summer!
Sure, most of the epic ‘bucket list’ activities in the country, such as seeing the Northern lights, going snowshoeing, skiing and riding in a reindeer sled will be only available in Winter, but in Summer, the country is perfect for hiking, canoeing, and really enjoying the peaceful nature, as there are wayyyy fewer tourists around. It’s a total different experience that will bring out different parts of yourself as well.
Let me know: would you consider visiting Finland in Summer?
Nordic Walking in Winter in Helsinki
Staying at a Cabin in Spring in Ruka-Kuusamo
7. Haltia Nature Center: Dive Deep into Finnish Nature
The ecologically designed Finnish Nature Center Haltia is a modern exhibition and event centre that brings the best of Finnish nature together under one roof. Here, you can learn more about all of Finland’s 40 National Parks through interactive exhibitions, that are great for both kids as adults.
Outside, you can find the Finnish Tipi called “kota”, where you can warm up by the fire and have a nice lunch. You can also enjoy organic food at Haltia’s restaurant, which has some incredible meals!
Haltia is surrounded by the spectacular views of Nuuksio and Lake Pitkäjärvi and offers excellent hiking paths and a connection to the Nuuksio National park. You can spend all day here – and that just 40 minutes from the Helsinki city centre!
8. Go Dog Sledding in the Arctic
This is an activity I haven’t done myself yet, but one of the most popular activities in Winter in Finland definitely are the husky dog sledding tours that you can do all around the country. In the North, the season for dog sledding runs roughly from mid-November to late April or even early May. You can try riding with a pack of huskies from 15 minutes to excursions that last for days.
The husky dogs LOVE the cold weather and they need to be active most of the time, so pulling the sled is actually something that’s a lot of fun for them to do. You stand on the sled, and it’s an exhilarating ride that you won’t easily forget. Make sure to look around and enjoy the stunning scenery too!
9. See the Northern Lights
In Finland you can find one of nature’s most spectacular light show: the Aurora Borealis. In Finland, the nights are dark enough for Northern Lights viewing from late August to April. Seeing them requires clear skies and just a bit of luck. Chances of catching them get better the further north you go. In southern Finland they are visible on about 10-20 nights a year.
Though they might look almost within reach, auroras form at altitudes of over 100 km. Auroras are caused by electronically charged particles originating from the sun. Multi-coloured displays form when different atmospheric gases are agitated by this solar wind.
The more traditional ways to go Aurora spotting are snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobile and sled dog touring, but you can also view the Northern Lights in a range of purpose-built spaces from glass igloos to luxury suites.
10. Meet Santa Claus
Did you know that Santa Claus lives in Finland? Oh yes!
And did you know that you can actually meet him? Oh yes!
Santa Claus’ house lies in the mysterious Korvatunturi (“Ear Fell”) in Finnish Lapland. Since the exact location is a secret only known to a chosen few, he decided to establish an office in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, in 1985. Rovaniemi received the status of the Official Hometown of Santa Claus in 2010.
You can visit the office every day of the year. Here, children of every age (0-100) can enjoy a private chat with him. Sounds life-changing to me!
Which of the above experiences would you like to have when visiting Finland? Let us know in the comments below!
READ OUR OTHER ARTICLES ON FINLAND:
- Travel Diary: Welcome To Finland! Tervetuloa Suomi!
- Travel Diary: Helsinki In Winter: You’re Hot And You’re Cold!
- Behind The Scenes Of The Iittala Factory In Helsinki, Finland
- Daytrip From Helsinki: Visiting Enchanting Tallinn With The Ferry
- Travel To Seinäjoki Finland For Silence And Energizing Nature – Especially In Winter!
- One Day In Helsinki, Finland? See The Highlights With These Tips
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