Think of Finland and you probably think of Santa’s workshop, the Northern Lights and landscapes of thickly forested fells deep with snow. Finland has a well-deserved reputation as a fantastic winter holiday destination, but savvy travellers are waking up to the fact that this beautiful Nordic country has plenty to offer all year round.
Different seasons offer very different experiences. As the long winter nights recede and the snow begins to melt, husky sledding and ice hotels give way to lakeside bonfires and balmy beer gardens. On the TourHound website you can find escorted tours visiting Finland every month of the year, so we’ve put together this short guide on what to expect during each season...
Conditions vary considerably during Finland’s short-lived spring depending on which part of the country you visit. In the north the snow lingers into April and beyond, with the Northern Lights still visible in Lapland, and it’s possible to ski during spring. Further south the weather is warmer, the forests carpeted with wildflowers, and migratory birds are starting to return. Animals emerge from hibernation after the long winter months, and bear watching tours resume towards the end of May. Late spring can be a nice time to visit Helsinki, before the summer crowds arrive, and the city celebrates the Vappu festival on 1st May with eccentric outfits, colourful parades and plenty of sima, a type of fruity mead.
Finns seize the moment during the fleeting summer months, partying at music festivals, spilling out onto the terraces of Helsinki’s bustling bars or escaping to the Baltic coast. The summer solstice is a national holiday, when friends gather around bonfires at their lakeside cottages and spend their days swimming, fishing and socialising in the sauna. This is a great time of year to explore the myriad islands of the Turku archipelago or Finland’s many glistening lakes, where you can kayak, hike and cycle amongst wonderfully unspoilt natural surroundings. Summer is also the season of the midnight sun, when a single day lasts two months up in Lapland.
Autumn is known as the ruska season in Finland, when the forests are flushed with vibrant hues of red, orange and yellow. The fells and foliage of Lapland are especially beautiful at this time of year, and September is a great month for mosquito-free trekking in the north. You can take advantage of Finland’s ‘everyman’s rights’ and forage for wild mushrooms and berries in the woods, before enjoying a cosy evening around the fire or in the sauna. This is also a good time for birdwatching, as species including cranes, geese and swans begin their southward migration.
Finnish winters are long, cold and dark, but the locals are used to the conditions and, unlike the UK, the country continues to function as the snow begins to fall. The north of the country is blanketed in white from November through to May, sometimes longer, while the southern and central regions usually have snow from December until March or April. The Arctic north becomes a winter playground, with active pursuits including cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and husky sledding on offer. A trip to Lapland to visit Santa and his elves makes for a great family break, and the winter darkness is tempered by the unforgettable sight of the Northern Lights. You can also stay in some unique and characterful accommodation, from log cabins to ice hotels and glass igloos. If you’re looking for a winter city break then Helsinki is a great option during December, as the streets are strung with fairy lights and Christmas markets set up shop in the main squares.
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