Five reasons to visit Finland

By far the most common question I get asked when I meet people these days is “why Finland?”  For me, Finland represented something completely foreign and unknown, at the extreme opposite end of the world from my home town. So beside the unique medical research opportunities available in Helsinki, the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone into the ‘scary unknown’ was the main reason I chose to move here.

A year later the county was voted as #1 place to live in the world and I’m not at all surprised. Finland has a lot going for it- immense natural beauty, enviable equality, excellent infrastructure, job opportunities and a great standard of living. But if you’re more interested in a passing visit then permanent relocation there’s still a bunch of reasons to put Finland at the top of your bucket list. Here’s five.


1. The Architecture in Helsinki is truly amazing

Those boys weren’t lying (non-Aussies see this). A year and a half later and I still can’t get over the shear beauty and ornate details of the buildings of Finland’s capital. There’s a huge range of beautiful colors, shapes and styles, with many buildings sporting turrets, painted details or other decorative flair. Helsinki is quite a compact city, so exploring on foot is ideal in the warmer months. In winter, the extensive tram network makes for a great way to explore slightly further afield.


2. Finnish Traditions are quirky and unique (as are the people)

The Finnish personality type is quite an acquired taste and while it can be hard to meet new people in a land full of introverts, I’ve also enjoyed the personal space and general acceptance Finnish people emanate. Then there is sisu. An innate characteristic of all Finns, best described as suffering on in silence no matter what, or as Wikipedia generously puts it “stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience and hardiness”.

And the traditions. From their love affair with saunas (and the subsequent ice swims/snow frolics), to mid-summer (Juhannus) bonfires and midnight sun, Vappu celebrations- where everyone barbecues and drinks in the city park whilst wearing white school caps (even the statue of Havis Amanda is ceremoniously adorned with one) and crazy coloured overalls, to the dark rye dessert of Mämmi and dressing up as witches at Easter, Finland has some damn fun traditions!

3. The Nature is beautiful and ever so peaceful

Forests, lakes, islands, large rocky outcrops, immense peace and quite. Finland has the best of all these things and the Finns really know how to make the most of nature, particularly during the month-long summer holiday of July when the country practically shuts down and everyone escapes to their summer cottages.

4. Lapland: Finland’s far north

Finland’s beautiful northern region is an amazing experience during both the cold winter months and summer- when a single day lasts for two months! For some ideas on what to do in Lapland check out this post.

5. Christmas is magical

Rovaniemi in southern Lapland is touted as the home of Santa- and there’s definitely a strong spirit of Christmas cheer and festive experiences to be enjoyed in the town- especially the reindeer parks and Santa Claus Village. In Helsinki and other cities around the country, Christmas markets, twinkling lights and decorations make December feel bright and alive, despite the darkness and cold.

If you want to hear more about why you should visit Finland then keep an eye on my blog over the next 4 months, as I share a post every Friday post about my experiences and tips for exploring Finland!

Exploring Lapland: 5 Things To Do In Finland’s Snowy North

Renowned across the world for it’s beautiful snowy scenery, reindeer and Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), Lapland in the north of Finland is truly a magical place.

As there are four commercial airports in Lapland flying is the most fastest and often cheapest means of getting to and from the north. There is also a train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, Kolari, and Kemijärvi. Once you arrive in Lapland it’s often important to have access to a car to get around. You can either take your car on the train (wow!) or hire one once you arrive. What should you do once you get there? Here’s some inspiration.

5 of the best things to do in Lapland


Snowy road in Lapland


1. Skiing & Sightseeing in Ylläs

Ylläs not only boasts two of the best cross-country and downhill ski resorts in Lapland but is also a beautiful spot to visit for those who are less winter-sport inclined. There’s a cable car at the Sports Resort which can be ridden by sightseers for a 10€ fee. If the view from the ride itself weren’t enough incentive, there are also two cafes at the top with amazing views. You can even go snowmobiling from the summit.


Cable Car at Ylläs

Skiing at Ylläs

2. Aurora Hunting & Reindeer Riding in Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi, a city at the southern end of Lapland, is large and busy compared to other more sparsely populated regions. As such, the city feels a little less relaxing than the rest of Lapland.

Possibly most famous for the Santa Claus Village– an amusement park dedicated to all things Christmas, Rovaniemi also has many other interesting tours and activities, as well as many accommodation options.

During our visit we took a reindeer safari through the forest and spent an evening at Apukka Aurora Borealis Resort where we were able to try out some traditional Finnish winter activities. It was fun and challenging to try snow-shoeing, tobogganing and pushing a sled (at very high speeds!) around a circular track. There’s also a snow ‘train’ over a frozen lake.

While we waited for it to get dark enough to glimpse the elusive Aurora Borealis (northern lights), we kept warm by an open fire in a traditional Lappish tent. Roasting sausages and drinking hot blueberry juice kept us warm and cosy while we waited.

Reindeer in Lapland

Reindeer in Lapland

A traditional tent in Lapland
A traditional Lappish tent by the frozen lake

3. Experience Winter Trails in Saariselkä

Heading further north, Saariselkä again regains a feeling of being immersed in nature. There’s a small village with everything you’d need for a short stay, including cross-country ski rental. We stayed at Kuukkeli Porakka Lodge and it was exactly the type of charming log cabin, among the snow and pine trees that I’d hoped for. The place also had it’s own log sauna- best enjoyed with intermittent snow frolicking!

The main activities in Saariselkä revolve around the love of skiing. The downhill skiing resort is the northernmost in Europe and provides a stunning backdrop for snowboarding or skiing. As a snowboarder surrounded by extremely competent skiers, I now have a slight phobia of t-bar lifts. Somewhat reassuringly, I’m not alone in this- these videos made me laugh and feel less awkward! here and here.

Then there are the cross-country trails. Wow! An array of beautiful paths of varying distances, for beginners or experienced skiers. You can rent skis from the village for around 15€ for 24 hours. There are huts along the way (with open fires and wood supply) if you need to stop for a snack or to get warm and there are also cafes, restaurants and nearby towns to stop at.

Trying cross country skiing
Trying cross country skiing
The ski fields at Saariselka

4. Enjoy Some Solitude in a Lakeside Cabin in Inari

Want some time to relax and unwind after all the winter sport activity? Then a cabin in the Inari area is perfect. I stayed in a cottage for 3 days between Ivalo and Nellim and it was a magical spot to read, relax and let my soul breath!

Of course there’s always the opportunity for more skiing on nearby.


Lapland at sunset

Cabins in the snow


5. Sleep in a Room Made of Ice

On the outskirts of Kittilä there is a hotel made entirely out of ice! It was by far the thing I was most looking forward to in Lapland and it definitely didn’t disappoint! Youc an find out more information here.


Lapland is expensive. To give you an idea of what to budget for, on this 10 day trip I spent around 1370€ all up (roughly $2200 AUD). That includes all transport (420€), accommodation (450€), tours & activities (300€), food, drinks & other spending money (200€).

Despite being on the higher end of what I normally budget for holidays, the experience was worth every cent!