Finland battles through bone-chilling winters with seemingly endless polar nights and frozen forests and lakes, meaning that when the sun does emerge above the snow and ice, Finns passionately celebrate the balmy evenings and lazy, hazy days. Few Brits make a beeline for Finland during its sweet summer season, but if immersing yourself in the great outdoors, enjoying peace and quiet in the wilderness and jumping into adrenaline-filled adventures is your thing, then you are bound to love it. With summer stretching from May all the way to sunny September, there is plenty of time to explore this Nordic nation without having to bring thermals and snow boots. Below are some of our favourite tips, tricks and hidden gems which will make exploring Finland in summer an adventure to remember.
- Explore the Finnish countryside on two wheels
- Sleep in a treehouse in a Finnish forest
- Sauna, lake, sauna lake
- Dance around a maypole at Midsummer
- Hit it off in Helsinki
The Kimito Islands are a smattering of earthy shrapnel within the Finnish archipelago and are an excellent place for a spot of summer exploration on two wheels. Grab a bike and put yourself to the test by embarking on the scenic 125-mile Coastal Route which takes you through national parks, past historical ironwork villages and across tiny islands. Along the trail, keep your eyes peeled for Bengtskär lighthouse, the tallest in Finland, as well as the grey shadows of reindeers shifting through the dense trees. Even seek out a natural spring where you can stop for a refreshing slurp before pedalling off into the wonderful Arctic wilderness.
What could be more magical than waking up in a sweet-smelling pine forest and opening your eyes to a Nordic Neverland? Although northern Finland isn’t particularly balmy during the summer months, it oozes Finnish charm and tradition. In late summer, head out to witness the reindeer migration where hundreds of thousands of these great antlered animals venture to the north coast in search of verdant grasslands (much like Tanzania’s Great Migration, just without the crocodiles…). Venture out for one last cross-country ski or into a traditional Sami village for a cooking lesson before heading back to your treehouse for another night of admiring the brilliant beauty of the midnight sun or yötön yö – the ‘nightless night’ – as Finns know it.
Even when the sun is out and temperatures flirt with the mid-twenties, putting the world to rights in a sauna is practically compulsory in Finland. Finland has 187,000 lakes nestled within its leafy realm and each is smattered with lake houses, some luxurious, some more ‘at one with nature’ without electricity or running water. But what most of them have is a sauna. What could be better than a sauna with a view over a mirror-like lake? Leap from lake to sauna then from sauna to lake, using the refreshing natural water to cool off. Although you will definitely need mozzie spray to keep those pesky pests at bay, spending a few days aside one of Finland’s southern lakes is a must when exploring Finland in summer. For a dash of wacky Finnish culture, head north to the town of Övertorneå where there a mosquito-catching competition is held, as residents make light of keeping the blood-thirsty bugs at bay.
As Finland’s most important national holiday, Midsummer (Juhannus) is a big deal. Finn’s love an excuse to party and celebrating the longest and brightest night of the year is a reason like no other. On a Sunday in late June, the air is filled with the smell of spruces and the sound of laughter, and bright bonfire beacons can be spotted across the country. Finns swarm to the countryside where maypoles are adorned with rainbow ribbons and flower crowns are constructed from wildflowers in pretty hues. The day is spent celebrating the disappearance of the blackened sky as the light is warm and the music beguiling, creating arguably the most spectacular setting to begin a Finnish summer fling.
Helsinki comes alive in the summer. Any Helsinki lover will tell you that you can’t come to the Finnish capital and not sit and watch the world go by in the city’s famous Market Square (Kauppatori). Lined by the impressive Presidential Palace and Helsinki Cathedral with its unmissable turquoise top, the ancient maritime trading spot is a haven for city lovers. Wander past funky food stands and sweet-smelling kiosks before settling on a traditional tasty treat to enjoy in the warm summer sun. Stroll through the jigsaw of rainbow-hued houses in the Ullanlinna district with a private guide before hopping on a waterbus for a nose around one of Finland’s most impressive UNESCO World Heritage sites: The Fortress of Suomenlinna.