Have you ever been to Finland? The chances are it’s probably still on your list.
Finland is actually celebrating independence today, on 6 December and I thought that might be a great chance to show and tell you what I’ve learned in my 6+ years of regular visits.
Why so many times? My husband is Finnish. So it’s the sort of in-laws visit I love to fulfill!
Here is what the guidebook doesn’t tell you:
- Everything works. Government will take care of you no matter what.
- It’s ok to be naked.
- It’s ok for other people to see you naked.
- Small talk is science-fiction.
- Their education system is one of the best in the world, if not THE best
- The roads are spotless, despite the weather (Cyprus, take notice!)
- The whole country is one big forest full of lakes and small islands
- The word sauna is sacred. Yes, you go there naked with other people and its fine.
There are two seasons when you can see the country at it’s best: summer and winter.
Summer in Finland
When it’s sunny, it feels like you live in a postcard country. Traditional red houses lined with white wood settled around beautiful coastline, with occasional nude Fins hoping to the water from the pier.
If you want to see the coastline better, rent a boat or choose a more comfortable option – a picnic cruise! We took one few times, from Turku, which takes 8 hours if I remember correctly. You start in Turku, sail to Aland which is the big island between Finland and Sweden, in there change the ship and travel back. The same ship can also take you to Stockholm, it’s very affordable and takes around 12 hours. It’s a proper cruise ship with casinos, disco, restaurants and all that.
This little red house is where we stay in summer. Located on a tiny island only accessible with boat, with a handful of neighbours that you rarely see. Inside is a new sauna, terrace and a small bedroom with kitchen.
The traditional red and white summer cottages are scattered around the whole coastline and almost every family has one. On Friday, they depart from their homes to spend the weekend at the cottage.
Because there are so many lakes in Finland, it’s easy to find a cottage with water access. The one that belongs to my husband’s family is by the sea, so you get a bit more wild weather. Sadly we can’t see the sunset from where the cottage is facing, but the sunrise is as spectacular.
This was taken around 4am when my little one woke me up for feeding. That’s the one time I was happy to get up!
If you want to enjoy proper summer in Finland, plan your trip around midsummer, which is normally end of June. That time of year, the sun almost doesn’t go down. I remember taking sunset photos at our friends cottage a bit higher up north around 2am!! 2am for sunset!! How cool is that!
Midsummer is also the time when the whole nation parties in the summer cottage. There is a big music festival around that time called Ruisrock (hopefully I will make it there next year to bring you some photos).
Now, wrap up warm.
We’re about to jump into winter!!!!
Winter in Finland
Three years ago, we did a trip of a lifetime to Lapland. We just got engaged and this was our small treat. It took a long 12 hours journey from south coast to Rovaniemi. You can also take a plane, but the train journey was pretty cool.
We stayed in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere, having booked no activities in advance.
First one on my bucket list was husky ride.
That’s before I saw these guys.
Aren’t they just amazing? I thought this sort of stuff exists only in movies!
We arrived in the husky park pretty late and were told all of their slots were fully booked. I was really lucky because my father in law managed to convince one of the ladies to let us have a short ride.
The dogs were amazing! They were barking like mad the whole time we were getting set up and as soon as they started running, all of them went quiet. As I quickly learned, the leading dog was the one who was getting all instructions from the driver.
And it was no leisure ride. The sledge was moving so fast between the trees I was just hoping we won’t crash into one of them. Trying to take pictures while holding on for your dear life was quite a challenge.
After we finished our turn, I had few cuddles with the dogs and we moved to the Santa Claus village.
First stop – reindeer ride.
Our chaufer was called Hessu.
Those little red cottages you see below are actually holiday homes you can rent if you want to stay next to the resort.
And this is the Big Man’s village.
We didn’t get a chance to see it all, or Santa himself, but I promised myself when I have little one I will have the perfect excuse to return.
I went to warm up in Santa’s post office, checking out letters from kids from all over the world and writing some of my own. This place is just magical.
And looks like Santa is a bit behind with his filing system.
The whole village was covered with white blanket with new snow arriving all the time.
One thing you need to keep in mind when visiting Lapland in winter – the days are extremely short. There is bright-ish light for a few hours during the mid-day and the rest is just various shades of grey until the evening.
I think the lack of daylight just ads to the magic of the place.
So, if you had to choose, which one would you go for? Summer in Finland or Winter in Finland?