This December, Finland will celebrate its 100th birthday, and as such, they’ll be commemorating the occasion with a number of festivals and events throughout the year. It’s also a destination that has been touted across the travel world as one of the best countries to visit in 2017, and we couldn’t agree more. The land of endless saunas, the Northern Lights, adorable husky rides and scenic landscapes, Finland has so much to discover no matter what season you visit. Here are seven reason to visit the Land of a Thousand Lakes:
There are around 5.4 million people in Finland and over three million saunas found in homes, hotels, factories, offices, factories and deep below the ground in mines. If you’re counting, that’s almost one per household! Saunas are less of a luxury and more of a way of life for Finns in this Nordic climate, and are used for more than just warmth. Locals will eat inside them, perform purification rituals before marriage ceremonies and will give birth inside their cozy walls because of its sterile components. One of the best places to go for your sauna experience is Löyly, a high-end venue built on the Hernesaari shore in Helsinki. Here you’ll find three saunas: a private one, a smoke sauna and a typical, continuously-heated one. Normally, you’d enter a sauna sans clothing, but at Löyly you’ll find guests wearing swimming suits and shorts. A glass wall allows guests to look out onto the sea through slated pieces of wood and upstairs, visitors will find a 19,375-square-foot terrace for sunbathing.
Experiencing the Northern Lights has to be on just about everyone’s bucket lists. Visible only 200 nights a year, travelers can head to northern Lapland to spot the Aurora Borealis from September to March. Along with simply looking up to see the phenomenon, visitors can also go on a cross-country skiing expedition, snowmobiling trip, dog-sledding tour or a snowshoeing excursion to fully experience the lights. Many hotels also offer ways to see the Borealis from your room such as the Arctic Treehouse Hotel. Located in Rovaniemi, the property has 37 lodges designed by the Finnish architecture firm Studio Puisto with panoramic windows designed to give guests a birds-eye view of the lights.
Finns are passionate about their food and are extremely loyal to their culinary roots. Much of the country’s fare focuses on natural products and seasonal staples found in its own backyard such as cranberries from wild wetlands, Bilberries from the wooded wilderness and locally-caught salmon, whitefish and herring. Previously, Sweden and Denmark held the title of having the best food in the Nordic region, but Finland is quickly making its way to the top with now eight Michelin-starred restaurants to its name. Helsinki is one of the region’s best cities for gourmands seeking intriguing, trend-setting dishes and restaurants. Olo, Boulevard Social, Chef & Sommelier, Demo, Ask, Gaijin, Farang and Emo all boast one star and are located in the Helsinki. Awarded a Michelin star each year since its inception in 2010, Chef & Sommelier serves an oft-changing, three- to nine-course tasting menu and every season experiment with creating new ways to enjoy wild and foraged vegetables.
Everywhere you go in Finland, you are met with beautiful Finnish design, which is why the country attracts architecture fans from around the world. Characterized by clean lines and minimalism, the design aesthetic here is modern and innovative. Situated in the heart of Helsinki, the Design District is the place to go for purchasing unique goods and learning more about Finnish design culture. Situated on 25 streets, you’ll find everything from interior decorating studios to artist galleries, antique shops, jewelry boutiques, and fashion stores. Because there is so much to be discovered, a good way to navigate the area is via a guided walking tour. Every Friday from 3 p.m. and on, expert guides will take you through the streets to encounter small design boutiques and well-known design brands. The Design Museum is also a place where travelers can learn the history of the country’s design trends and walk through international exhibitions on Finnish art and design.
There are 39 national parks in Finland and this year, the 40th will be inaugurated to celebrate the country’s centennial. Boasting a variety of landscapes from lakes to forest, peat lands and rift valleys, the country’s archipelago is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. All of the parks include hiking routes, picnic sites, rock climbing areas, nature trails and many offer camping options. Travelers can choose to sleep in tents, cabins or even unlocked huts while exploring the parks and guided tours are available as well. If visiting the Urho Kekkonen National Park, the largest national park in Finland, check out Kakslauttanen hotel for your accommodations. The property features glass igloos and heated log cabins and offer a number of outdoor activities to enjoy, no matter the season. Horseback riding, mountain biking, reindeer safaris, fishing trips and ATV are all offered through the hotel.