10 of the Most Beautiful Spots in Finland

November 20, 2013 by

City Tours & Sightseeing, Europe, Places to Go, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Finland is famous for its natural beauty, from its jagged coastline and strings of rocky archipelagos to bleak, scrub-covered fells and soundless expanses of northern snowlands. Over half of Finland lies within the Arctic Circle, forest covers 86 per cent of the land, there are 37 national parks, 187,888 lakes and almost as many islands and skerries sprinkling the coast. Here are 10 of the most beautiful spots in Finland ­– these beauty spots should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Nuuksio National Park

Nuuksio National Park. Image courtesy of markow76 on Flickr.

Nuuksio National Park. Image courtesy of markow76 on Flickr.

Just 30 minutes outside Finland’s charismatic capital city of Helsinki, Nuuksio is the perfect place to start a back-to-nature experience as the newly opened and typically stylish Finnish Nature Centre Haltia has exhibitions detailing the geology, flora and fauna of all Finland’s great wildernesses, from the Baltic archipelagos of the south-west to the frozen Lappish north.

Nuuksio National Park itself has 19 miles (30 km) of walking trails wending through an enchanted landscape comprising upland lakes and forested hills rich in birdlife, squirrels, deer and the occasional osprey. There are summer campsites, picnic and BBQ spots, and an information point for walkers at Haukkalampi. Visit in winter for Nordic ski-ing over tracks carpeted with pristine snow, and in summer (take mosquito repellent) to swim in the lakes or cycle the Reitti 2000 route through the park, or in fall to see the carpet of mushrooms exploding over the terrain.

Åland Islands

Åland Islands. Image courtesy of Acidka on Flickr.

Åland Islands. Image courtesy of Acidka on Flickr.

An autonomous province comprising an archipelago of around 6,500 mostly uninhabited islands midway between the Finnish and Swedish coasts, Åland is Swedish speaking and boasts more hours of sunlight in summer than anywhere else in Europe. As well as their cheerily painted little wooden capital town, Mariehamn, the coastal islands are famous for their inland forests contrasting with areas of distinctive red granite bedrock, swept bare and smooth by retreating ice from the last Ice Age.

In spring the lush meadows of the inner islands are carpeted with orchids, buttercups and campions but as the archipelago reaches out into the Baltic Sea, so the skerries become bleaker and tinier. The pine forests become stunted and give way to low-growing scrub, and on the outer islets no vegetation can survive at all. Summer conditions are perfect for sailing and kite surfing as well as excellent sea fishing and safe family bathing in shallow waters, while inland hiking and biking trails criss-cross the bigger islands.

Järvi-Suomo

Covering a massive area of southern Finland, this watery landscape was formed thousands of years ago by the retreat of glaciation; today there are more than 18,000 lakes, islands, drumlins, rivers and stumpy, forested mountains left behind by the ice, creating the largest Lakeland wilderness in Europe. Seals, moose, beavers, pine martens, wolves and even bear or lynx are hidden away in Järvi-Suomo’s seven national parks along with rare birds flitting among the pines and birches. In winter, a heavy mantle of snow falls and waterways freeze over; snowmobiles, horse-pulled sleighs and skis become the preferred methods of transport.

Järvi-Suomo is best navigated by boat in summer; to the east of the region lies Savonlinna, a charming town dominated by the imposing fortress at Olavinlinna and offering lakeside walks along broad esplanades and all-year sporting activities. Savonlinna is also departure point for cruises on lakes Haapavesi and Pihlajavesi, which in turn feed into massive Lake Saimaa.

Linnansaari National Park

Lake Saimaa in the midnight sun. Image courtesy of Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho on Flickr.

Lake Saimaa in the midnight sun. Image courtesy of Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho on Flickr.

Nicknamed the ‘lake of a thousand islands’, Saimaa is the biggest and most southerly in an intricate system of lakes linked by rivers and channels in Linnansaari National Park, which lies in the eastern section of Järvi-Suomo. The hilly shores of the lake and most of the islands are almost entirely covered with coniferous forest, and numerous little rocky bays huddle along the lake shoreline.

In summer the shallow, peaty-colored waters of Lake Saimaa are safe for canoeing and rowing expeditions as well as cruises to spot the wildlife; rare Saimaa ringed seals live in the shelter of the lake system’s numerous islets and osprey can occasionally be seen perching in the tree tops.

Koli National Park

Rope ferry on Lake Pielinen. Image courtesy of Vaakkuri on Flickr.

Rope ferry on Lake Pielinen. Image courtesy of Vaakkuri on Flickr.

Over in North Karelia and forming part of Järvi-Suomo Finnish lake district, Koli encompasses rolling hills covered in primeval coniferous forest spread over the western flanks of Lake Pielinen. Although the landscape is carefully conserved, Koli is also important for its traditional agricultural methods; slash-and-burn is still practised here and rare Finnish breeds of cattle graze the meadows.

There’s plenty of information about the geology and wildlife of the park at Tulikivi Stone Village and in Visitor Centre Ukko near the summit of Ukko-Koli, the park’s highest hill – climb to the very top to see the tranquil shimmering waters of Lake Pielinen and its scattering of rocky islets stretch far in to the distance. Summer brings hikers and cyclists on to Koli’s way-marked trails and nature lovers to observation cabins to catch (extremely) rare sightings of bears, lynx and wolves. Winter snows see the park transform into a skier’s paradise and husky safaris through the hushed, snow-laden forests are a regional treat not to be missed.

Kvarken Archipelago

The Kvarken Archipelago. Image courtesy of Ahlea on Flickr.

The Kvarken Archipelago. Image courtesy of Ahlea on Flickr.

Found in the Gulf of Bothnia between the east coast of Sweden and the west coast of Finland around Vaasa, the Kvarken Archipelgo (less well-known by its Finnish name ‘Merenkurkku’) is Finland’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage Listed sight. It comprises around 5,600 tiny islets scattered across 44 miles (70 km) of sea and is accessible across the Replot Bridge from the mainland. The first islands were formed after the last Ice Age as the continental ice sheet retreated northwards and 24,000 years later are still moving upwards at about a half inch (one cm) per year. This bizarre natural process has seen the land rise up to a 935 feet (285 m) above its Ice Age level Ice and in this constantly evolving landscape of long, striated rocky outcrops, sea bays are slowly blocked off to become lakes as the earth’s crust rises.

Perfectly serviceable harbors silt up as the land slowly, slowly emerges from the sea and Finland and Sweden creep ever closer to each other. Tides are low and the shallow coastal water occasionally brackish in places; the sea freezes over during the long, dark winter months but the summer fishing is excellent in the streams and bays along the coastline and cruisers offer trips around the islands.

Hepoköngäs Nature Reserve

Finland’s highest waterfall is situated 10 miles (16 km) from the otherwise unremarkable village of Poulanka in Kainuu, north of the Järvi-Suomo lake district. Crashing some 79 feet (24 m) over jagged rocks into a deep gorge along the Heinijoki River, the waterfall is in the heart of hilly landscape pockmarked with bogs and mires and for all its remoteness is easily accessible on well-signposted wooden walkways through spruce forest. It’s at its most impressive and thunderous as the snows melt in spring; by mid summer the falls are often reduced to a mere trickle.

Oulanka National Park

Hiking trail in Oulanka National Park. Image courtesy of Ruka Kuusamo.com on Flickr.

Hiking trail in Oulanka National Park. Image courtesy of Ruka Kuusamo.com on Flickr.

The Aurora Borealis has to be one of Scandinavia’s most extraordinary natural phenomena. More commonly known as the Northern Lights, they can be seen occasionally in many parts of northern Europe but Finland’s wild, empty landscape provides the perfect backdrop for sightings of the jet-black sky dancing with ethereal fluorescent red, yellow, green, blue and violet swathes of ever-shifting color. Most visible around the equinoxes in March and September, this flashing celestial display is caused when solar winds hit the earth’s magnetic field and trap dust particles that collide with the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere and begin to glow and dance in the sky.

Oulanka National Park, just south of the Arctic Circle, is the premier spot in Finland for catching the lights – but sightings are by no means guaranteed; the atmospheric conditions have to be perfect. If you’re not lucky enough to experience the Northern Lights, then the inky darkness of the Finnish winter sky will reveal millions of twinkling stars. In summer of course, 24-hour daylight in Lapland brings its own surreal enjoyment.

Käsivarsi Wilderness Area

Ice fishing in Lapland. Image courtesy of Jani Uusitalo on Flickr.

Ice fishing in Lapland. Image courtesy of Jani Uusitalo on Flickr.

Lying completely within the Arctic Circle, Finnish Lapland combines with the frozen north of Sweden and Norway to form one of Europe’s great wildernesses, home to once nomadic indigenous Sami tribes. Close to the meeting point of all three frontiers, the little village of Kilpisjärvi sits at the foot of the fella and Sami sacred site of Saana; it is the jumping-off point for nature trails in the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, over bleak fells, along rushing, tumbling rivers and around ice-cold lakes. Käsivarsi is also home to Finland’s highest mountain, Halti at 4,344 feet (1,324 m). Here in Lapland the ski season lasts a whole six months, with husky rides, snowmobile adventures, ice fishing and reindeer tending adventures all available for winter fun. And of course Lapland is also the fabled Land of the Midnight Sun – in fact in Nuorgam, on the very northern tip of Finland, the sun blazes happily all summer, refusing to set for 70 days.

Northern Lights at Kilpisjärvi in Lapland. Image courtesy of Cfaobam on Flickr.

Northern Lights at Kilpisjärvi in Lapland. Image courtesy of Cfaobam on Flickr.

Lemmenjoki National Park

Another Lappish highlight is Lemmenjoki, Finland’s largest national park and one of its most remote – a trekkers’ paradise of high fells and winding river valleys traversed with way-marked trails and abutting the Norwegian border. Spruce and birch forests fringe the southerly reaches of the park; here bears are known to roam and golden eagles can be seen soaring on the thermals. The rivers are well stocked for fly fishing and can be explored by organised boat trips; hiking information and fishing permits are available from Lemmenjoki Nature Information Hut.

In spring the park’s low-lying wetlands are visited by thousands upon thousand of migratory birds and it is also home to the Sallivaara Reindeer Roundup Site, used twice yearly by the nomadic Sami until 1964 and now an unusual place to stay with basic wilderness facilities.

-Sasha Heseltine

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One Response to “10 of the Most Beautiful Spots in Finland”

  1. Patrick Says:

    Great list. I would recommend Repovesi National Park over Nuuksio National Park.

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