Finland is the place for midnight sun blazes to silent forests

Feb 15, 2023, Reading Time: 5 minutes

On two separate occasions, we also spent an additional month in Lapland, and we have many more trips planned there. Along the way, we visited several of Finland's most (and least) well-liked tourist destinations and developed a deep affection for them. It can be difficult to choose what to do in Finland because there are so many wonderful sites to visit.

So, here is a list of my favorite things to do in Finland to help you focus on your bucket list.

You'll never be able to see it all in one visit, which is fortunate because Finland has enough to keep you captivated for a lifetime. And it will cast its spell—whether it's the magic of the northern lights in the icy wastes of Lapland, bear watching in the sparse, silent forests of the east, picking cloudberries while the sun sets, or paddling from lake to lake in Finnish Lakeland with nothing but the seals and sea eagles for company.

But don't take our word for it; every event and memory is completely unique in this land of extremes and extreme otherness. To get you started, here are 15 of the top things to do in Finland.

Behold out all the northern lights in Lapland

A really out-of-this-world experience is holding your breath as the aurora borealis dances over the freezing Arctic night sky. The moment when the heavens suddenly light up, the sky changes in the creepiest way, and green rays glide down like strobe lights as if the Nordic gods are throwing a wild party above, is impossible to capture in a photograph.

One of the best sites on earth to witness the electrifying, shape-shifting phenomenon known as fox flames or revontulet to the Finns, is Finnish Lapland. According to legend, an Arctic fox dashing across the snow is what caused the phenomenon.

Given that some Sámi people consider the northern lights to be the dancing spirits of their ancestors, they have a profound regard for them and observe silence when they are present. The perfect starting point for a tour to find the northern lights in Rovaniemi. Alternately, travel even further north to the snowy peaks of Saariselkä, Harriniva, Levi, or Utsjoki, where your chances of spotting the Northern Lights between September and April are extremely great.

Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, has a festive atmosphere.

Do you wish that Christmas could last forever? You're going to adore Rovaniemi because you can spend every day of the year cuddling with the giant, merry, red-robed, chimney-diving guy there. As you murmur your list of requests into Santa's ear in his grotto in the Santa Claus Village, perched atop the Arctic Circle, you are forever a five-year-old. When you're finished, either board a reindeer-drawn sled or post letters at the post office with the Arctic Circle stamp.

And if you're still bubbling over with holiday energy, head over to Santa park to hang out with elf toymakers and gingerbread bakers, ride glitzy rides, relax at the ice bar, and see, um, the other actual Santa.

In Ranua, pick cloudberries.

With a basket, a netted hat, a forager's eye, and miles upon miles of forest and lake ahead, you feel nothing but at-one-with-nature delight as you travel into the lonely wilds in search of cloudberries. The mosquitoes are after blood, and the swamps want to suck you down, but who gives a damn: Ranua, a little village just south of the Arctic Circle that calls itself the "capital of Finland's cloudberries," is the best place to look for "Lappish gold."

You can embrace your inner hunter-gatherer for a few brief weeks in late July and early August and come here to gather the tart, creamy, amber-gold berries that were created by winter snows and drive Finns mad for their flavor and super-food power. But Finnish happiness isn't just about picking berries; it's also about having the leisure to reflect while alone in the cottongrass-dotted marshes. You can get help with foraging maps, apps, and guides from Visit Ranua.

Jump in at the deep end of the sauna

If you've never done it, you might find it unsettling to think about stripping in front of a group of sweaty strangers in a little wooden cabin, but don't worry—this is Finland. You can quickly gain access to the nation's steam-loving essence by fully embracing the sauna experience. Leave your modesty in the bathroom, bring a towel and an open mind, and let your stress melt away as the temperature rises to a toasty 80°C (176°F), water hisses on the stove, and löyly (vapor) clouds rise in the air. You've attained the pinnacle of Finnishness if you finish by softly whipping yourself with a vasta (a birch whisk that improves circulation), jumping in an ice hole, and sipping beer.

There are saunas all around Finland, but a few stand out: the largest subterranean smoke sauna in the world, Herrankukkaro (Mama's Pocket), on an island just south of Turku; the rustic lakefront Jätkänkämppä in Kuopio; and the oldest operating sauna in Finland, Rajaportin in Tampere.

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