Planning Your Trip to Finland
Whether you're planning a quick or a leisurely trip to Finland, what you can do in the Northern European country will largely depend on the season. Finland is an appealing destination year-round, especially in the summer when the days are long and the temperatures warm, and also in the winter, when you can participate in snow sports. Although a large country, Finland is not very densely populated and has vast swathes of natural areas. You don't need much time to visit the highlights, but the longer you have, the farther you can venture from the towns and cities.
If you have a few days in any season, stick to one or two areas, such as the capital, Helsinki, in southern Finland, and possibly northern Lapland. With 10 days or more to explore Finland, you will have time to embark on outdoor adventures, whether snowshoeing on trails that will take you over the border into Norway or cycling and hiking along coastal paths in the south.
Finland in 5 Days
With five days to spend in Finland, you can opt to base yourself in a major city like Helsinki for the duration, head out into nearby areas on day trips, or focus on one area, like the far north or Lakeland.
Helsinki is a peaceful capital on the Baltic Sea with some grand architecture, including the landmark Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral and the Russian-style Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. Classical music lovers won't want to miss the attractive Sibelius Monument, and history buffs should spend at least half a day at the UNESCO-listed Sea Fortress Suomenlinna and Seurasaari Island Open-Air Museum. Sample local cuisine at the grand Old Market Hall, including reindeer meat, salmon, and caviar.
To experience Finnish nature in summer, head to Finnish Lakeland, a large area northeast of Helsinki with thousands of lakes surrounded by forests. You'll first spend the night in Helsinki before venturing northeast to your lakeside cabin. Heat up in a sauna and cool off after in the lake outside your home for the next few nights. Go paddle boarding for meditative exercise and take an island-hopping cruise. Hike to a viewpoint, such as the summit of Ukko-Koli in the Koli National Park. At 1,138 feet (347 m), it's the highest peak in southern Finland.
Venture to Rovaniemi, the capital city of the Arctic Circle region in Northern Finland and known internationally as the home of Santa Claus, on this fun, magical Lapland tour. Spend four nights discovering the wintry wilderness. You'll visit Santa Claus Village to meet St. Nicholas and ride with his reindeer and mush a dog sled through the forest before visiting Ranua to see Arctic wildlife in the world's most northern zoo. You'll have free time to explore Rovaniemi and its Ounasjoki River, followed by a memorable experience overnighting in a glass igloo, a perfect setting to admire the northern lights from the cozy of your hotel bed.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Finland in 1 Week
With a whole week in Finland, you can combine time in and around Helsinki with a visit north to Lapland by taking advantage of a quick domestic flight.
Lapland's capital, Rovaniemi, is a good base for exploring the area at any time of year. However, it's particularly attractive in winter, as it's the setting for Santa Claus' Village. Beyond the Christmas rush, you can enjoy many outdoor winter sports around Rovaniemi, including downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoe hiking, ice skating, snowmobiling, reindeer sleigh rides, dog-sledding, and polar swimming. Spend one evening chasing the aurora around the dark countryside, warming up after with drinks and marshmallows around a campfire.
Alternatively, avoid the far north and spend a couple of days in Helsinki before venturing to the peaceful environs of Lakeland, splitting your time in the cities of Tampere and Joensuu for a few days. Transferring to Tampere first, you'll see the interesting—if grim—frescoes of Tampere Cathedral and the fish-shaped Kaleva Church. Then in Joensuu, you'll visit a museum or two and spend a day in Petkeljärvi National Park, part of a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve.
Finland in 10-12 Days
If you have 10-12 days in Finland, you have time to get off the beaten path and spend more time in nature or cross multiple borders for a Scandi-Baltic adventure.
In summer, visit islands and inlets of the southern and western coastline in one of the largest archipelagoes in the world, easily accessible from Helsinki and Turku. You'll spend four days cycling along the 155-mile (250-km) Archipelago Trail around the Turku Archipelago, followed by time on the water. You'll thrill to an afternoon sailing excursion and have time to paddle a canoe around part of the coast. Turku is a fascinating coastal city, with the attractively solid 13th-century Turku Castle and the whimsical Moomin World, based around Tove Jansson's popular books for kids. A fun day if you have the kids in tow.
For an exciting overview of Finland and the Baltic region, this 12-day itinerary covers Finland and its southern neighbors, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Start in Helsinki, then ferry across the Bay of Finland to visit the charming Baltic capitals, unspoiled countryside, and rich cultural heritage. In Estonia, admire Tallinn's medieval streets, spot rare wildlife in the Lahemaa National Park, stroll along the windswept shores of Lake Peipus, on the border of Estonia and Russia, and explore the fairy-tale castles of Sigulda and Turaida. In Latvia, sample local cuisine at Riga's covered market. End in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius.
More Great Finland Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Finland? Check out these other Finland itineraries, with outdoor adventures and regional tours to hit the highlights.