With the dark nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, winter getaways are on the mind of holidaymakers and house-hunters alike. Sunny climes are often the order of the day, but a place that wears winter well is just as attractive. Where should you be looking? It may be a small country, but we round up the reasons to visit Finland.
1. The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are one of the most spectacular things you can see on this planet – and Finland is one of the best places to view them. In Finnish Lapland, you can see them on 200 nights a year, with clear and dark skies without light pollution right on your doorstep.
2. It’s home to Santa
We mentioned the “L” word once, but it deserves to be mentioned more than once: the largest and northernmost region of Finland, Lapland is known to little kids and big adults around the world as the home of Santa Claus. The country, of course, makes the most of the chance to capitalise on that connection, with Santa’s office open every day of the year in the city of Rovaniemi. What does Santa do when he’s not delivering presents on Christmas Eve? Finland’s abundance of winter sporting activities may well hold the answer, from cruising down the fells of Lapland to dog-sledding and forest hiking. With Lahti hosting the skiing Centenary World Championships in 2017, it’s hard to imagine a more wintery, Claus-friendly place.
The only figure from Finland who’s bigger than Santa Claus? The Moomins. The white, hippo-like creatures, imagined into existence by writer Tove Hansson way back in the 1940s, are beloved worldwide, with Tampere Art Museum set to open a new museum dedicated entirely to the Moomins in 2017.
4. It’s one of 2017’s must-visit destinations
Finland was recently named the third best travel destination for 2017 by travel bible Lonely Planet, ranked behind Canada and Colombia.
“Fought over by Russia and Sweden for 800 years, Finland finally gained independence in 1917,” says the guide company. “The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto, with events planned in every region. Expect everything from al fresco concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage-travel-poster exhibitions. There’s even a new national park, an 11,000-hectare chunk of land in Hossa, studded with pine forests and crisscrossed with rivers. With the country also playing host to the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships this year, there’s never been a better time to discover Finland’s proudly unique culture and landscapes.”
That recommendation will not only catapult Finland onto everyone’s travel wishlists, but help to put it on the international property map too.
5. The clean air
Finland boasts the third cleanest air in the world, according to a recent study by WHO. If that sounds relaxing, you’d be right: Finland is the kind of place you can go to unwind, thanks to its copious number of lakes and relative lack of people. New spa complex The Allas Sea Pool, inspired by the historic spa heritage of the Baltic Sea, is a reminder of how much Finland has associated itself with the art of relaxation.
If you want proof of Finland’s unique appeal, look at capital city Helsinki, where the island of Vallisaari finally opens this year – a destination full of unspoilt nature within a stone’s throw of the vibrant seaside city.
7. The wildlife
If you go down in the woods today in Finland, you probably will be in for a surprise, whether it’s a bear, reindeer, lynx, eagle or other stunning species. There are no fewer than 39 national parks in Finland, with its 40th scheduled to open in 2017. The country’s beautiful natural backdrop ranges from rapids and rift valleys to forests and fells. With so many woods to go down into, it’s no wonder there are so many surprises on offer.
8. Finland is 100 years old
Finland become independent 100 years ago in 2017, which means that next year will be one giant birthday party for locals and tourists alike. The theme for its Centennial? Together. It’s exactly the kind of welcoming attitude that gives the country its appeal. Unable to get to the Centennial? The country is never short of a festival or occasion, from its famous Restaurant Day, when anyone can set up a restaurant anywhere, to Sauna Day and Nature Day.
9. The Northern Lights
Did we mention The Northern Lights?