Finland is known for its stunning forests and winter beauty. The country is characterized by two main seasons (summer and winter) and majestic natural landscapes.
Its relatively untouched natural scenery and vibrant cities filled with history make Finland the perfect destination to get in touch with your Finnish ancestry and heritage. You can experience Finland’s natural beauty in much the same way that your ancestors did and visit some charming historical sites to gain a better understanding of your cultural heritage.
Below is a list of many things you can do while in Finland to experience the culture and scenery of Finland.
Cultural Experiences in Finland
Finland’s culture has been influenced by the various surrounding areas, as well as its famed countryside. Here are some ways that you can experience Finnish culture.
Saunas are an integral part of Finland’s culture and can be found dotted across the country. Find a sauna, and relax in true Finnish style.
2. Siida Museum
Visit Siida to learn a full history of the Sámi, a seminomadic native tribe. You can also see shows about the northern lights at its theater.
3. Käpylä and Vallila
Visit these historic wooden districts in Helsinki to gain an idea of what Finland looked like back in the day.
4. Market Square
Market Square in Helsinki has been a gathering place for merchants since 1889. Enjoy the outdoor market year-round.
5. Ijahis idja
Ijahis idja means “Nightless Night” and is a festival in August that honors the music of the indigenous Sámi.
Nature in Finland
Finland’s natural phenomena are some of the main draws to visitors, and for good reason. Finland offers some of the most spectacular sights, including the northern lights, beautiful lakes, breathtaking forests, and amazing coasts. Here are a few of the top nature sites to see on your trip.
1. Lake Saimaa
As the largest lake in Finland and with the longest coastline in the world, Lake Saimaa offers plenty to explore. It is dotted with over 13,000 islands and features a unique and beautiful species of seal called the Saimaa ringed seal.
2. Högberget Cave
This cave dates back to the Ice Age, and its naturally rounded shape gives it the nickname “Womb of Mother Earth.” It is situated in an area full of beautiful hiking trails.
3. Koli National Park
Koli National Park offers beautiful scenery with rolling hills and lakes. It has fittingly been featured in the work of many artists.
4. Kummakivi Balancing Rock
This large, 8,000-year-old boulder perches precariously atop another rock, looking as though it might fall. Legends say that giants placed the rock there.
5. Oulanka National Park
At Oulanka National Park, you can hike many trails and see some of the most impressive waterfalls Finland has to offer.
Summer in Finland: Top Things to Do
Finnish summers are drastically different than Finnish winters. Summer days are long and warm, with a single “day” lasting around two months, which is to say that the sun never fully sets during the peak of summer. Nights during this time are called “white nights,” since daylight or dusk light remains throughout the night, depending on where you are in Finland. No wonder it is called the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”
Try some of the following activities during your summer visit.
1. Nuuksio National Park
Visit Nuuksio National Park to go berry and mushroom picking, a true Finnish experience. Bilberries, cloudberries, and lingonberries are tasty and nutritious.
This area located outside of Helsinki is nestled along the coast of Finland. Enjoy the beach along with local shops, restaurants, and saunas.
Known for its open-air museum featuring old, wooden buildings, Seurasaari is a wooded island outside of Helsinki.
Winter in Finland: Top Things to Do
Winter in Finland serves a stark contrast to the summers. In northern Lapland, the sun does not rise through all of December, and it rises for only six hours a day in southern parts of the country.
Despite the bleak result of little to no sunlight, Finland is a magical destination in the winter. Here are some of the best ways to make use of your time in Finland during the winter:
1. Northern Lights
Visit Lapland between the months of September and March for your best chance to see the northern lights, or aurora borealis.
2. Salla Reindeer Park
Salla Reindeer Park offers some of the last-remaining reindeer populations that are still traditionally herded. Appreciate these majestic native animals along with sleigh rides, ice fishing, and ice swimming (if you’re brave enough).
This castle is made entirely of ice and is rebuilt every winter.
4. Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Located in a quiet wooded area, this resort is famous for its glass igloos, which allow you to look directly up at the northern lights.
Historic Sites in Finland
From medieval castles to museums, Finland has a range of historic sites that can give you a picture of its history. Here are some of the best to visit.
This famous 15th-century castle was built in the center of a lake to offer it more protection from enemies. Cross a number of bridges to get to the castle and take guided tours to learn its history.
Take a ferry from Helsinki to visit this impressive fortress that was built by the Swedes in 1748. It spans eight islands with six kilometers of walls that protect around 290 buildings. There are also six museums inside its walls.
3. Lampivaara Amethyst Mine
This amethyst mine is the only surviving mine of its kind in Europe. Hike or snowmobile to the mine to learn its history, and dig for your own amethyst.
4. Pike’s Gut
Pike’s Gut, a narrow channel between two islands, served as a safe haven for sailors who would wait out bad weather. On the coasts of the islands, you’ll find rocks marked with etchings from travelers since the Middle Ages.
What is cultural heritage, and what can you do to further honor your ancestors as you prepare to visit your country of origin? Learn more here, and take some time to discover more about Finland and your family story.