Fall Into Finland – Winter Wonderland
We all dream of going to a place in our holidays surrounded by peace and the pristine nature. Finland, the promised land of Saunas, is just the dose of tranquility we all need for a winter getaway. Enjoying the beauty of a storybook like forest is something that will fuel the soul. The relaxing quietness is one of the major things that draws people to visit these fairy tale forests.
Finland, a northern European nation, stands apart from its other neighbouring countries – Russia, Sweden and Norway. Finland is well known for its winter activities and also the best place to watch the Northern Lights from!
Helsinki, capital of Finland, is the first and last stop of a typical Finland trip. It’s a wonderful place to discover by tram or by foot. Getting the Helsinki card is a recommended first step before going on a trip of Helsinki. It provides unlimited access to public transportation and gives free and discounted entry to the top 25 attractions. The Helsinki Cathedral is in the heart of the Senate Square and the most photographed place in all of the capital. The next top tourist attraction is the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress (included in Helsinki Card). It’s a cluster of islands off the coast of the capital city which was added by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The beauty of the fortress is so captivating that an entire day can be spent here discovering its museums and restaurants. Next up is the most favourite of haunts of tourists, Market Square. There are quaint pop-up shops selling handicrafts, foods and clothes. It looks beautiful in the evening time under the string of fairy lights hung from above. The Uspenski Cathedral is one of its kinds. The Russian influence can be clearly seen with its redbrick facade and golden domes. It remains one of the largest Orthodox churches of Western Europe. Porvoo is a medieval town fifty minutes away from Finland. One will immediately fall in love with it seeing its simple and quiet charm. It’s worth the time of explore on foot with colourful houses by the river, little boutique shops and pretty cafes. Kamppi is located in the centre of the city Hensinki. Some of the notable things to see are its churches and museums – the Kamppi Chapel,The Old Church and the Natural Museum of Helsinki.
After Helsinki, is Kemi. Kemi is a small town with iconic castles and amazing night life activities. Kemi Cathedral is the number one spot to visit. In winter, it looks hauntingly beautiful. The sunset around the harbour is also worth a catch. Here comes the best part why Kemi is a must visit: Ice Breaker Sampo Cruise. The tourists are carried through the frozen Gulf of Bothnia, the cruise drops its anchor in the middle part of the journey and everyone jumps on the frozen sea! Not to worry. They provide suits which are designed to withstand the freezing temperature and protects the wearer for more than six hours. It’s the most surreal experience of a lifetime!
Rovaniemi is a short train ride from Kemi. Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, the gem of Finland. It’s nature’s haven with magic. It’s a kid-friendly city and why not? Because it’s the home of Santa Claus. Yes, the real Santa Claus! Visiting the Santa Claus village will be an amazing experience for the 10 year old in us. Standing in line to meet the real Santa, visiting his post office where thousands of letters come from kids around the globe or just standing around the Arctic Circle Line is a pure joy. Every outdoor activity can be done in Rovaniemi, even visiting the Northern Lights.
While tourists leave the maddening crowd behind to see the Northern Lights from Saariselka, there’s something they miss in the rush of excitement. The traditional Finnish Smoke Sauna. Saunas are an essential part of the Finnish culture. Smoke Sauna is a sauna without a chimney. Wood is burned and smoke fills up a room. When the sauna is hot enough, the smoke is ventilated out. After the body is done heating inside the smoke sauna, one is expected to jump into a frozen lake, in one’s bathing suit. It’s not as terrifying as it sounds, the body can trap heat from the sauna.
The further one moves away from Rovaniemi, the less commercial it becomes and more is the peace of mind. Ivalo is a small town, about an hour away from Saariselka by bus. This is yet another fantastic place to view the Northern Lights from. Personal but not so commercial activities are plentiful here – Husky safaris, camping, ice fishing, snowmobiling and what not. A great place worth staying at is the Guesthouse Husky – a family run guesthouse right on a husky farm. Everything is a little bit better when 150 huskies are living with you. Not to mention, the Northern Lights can be seen right outside the guesthouse at night.
Inari is far away from commercial life dealt by people. It’s far up north so the chances of spotting the Northern Lights is extremely high. It is best if this is the last destination before heading back to Helsinki. The beauty of Finland, absorbed from all the days before, is able to settle down and soaked in one’s memory forever.
Best ways to travel to Finland :-
- By plane: The main gateway in Finland is the Helsinki to Vantaa International Airport, cheap flights available from some websites.
- By rail
- By boat or ferries
- By car
Fun things to not miss in Finland :-
- Bird Watching
- Hiking Tours
- Fishing Tours
- Sauna and Ice Swimming
Best time to go :-
It really depends on what one wants to experience. For snow and winter activities, December to March is the best time. For sun and nature viewing, April to May is the best period. For some autumn leaf and colour, September to October is the best time.
Finland definitely comes in ‘Top 10 places to visit before you die’ lists. The enchanting spectacle made by the fairy tale forest and water-painting views, Finland is really a wonderland.