By the time you’re ripping around a frozen lake on an ice-kart, it will be easy to see why Finland is one of the best places to combine thrill-seeking and the stunning natural beauty the Nordic region is known for. More than just a winter wonderland, however, Finland is an adventurer’s paradise all year due to its exhaustive list of exciting activities that tend to create moments that go straight to your long-term memory. So what are some of the country’s highlights you should look for when planning a trip to Finland? Don’t miss these opportunities to take your Finnish adventure to the next level.
From ice-karting and world-class skiing to midnight hikes at year-round wonder Levi.
Finland is well-known for its winter sports, and no place in the country better embodies this than the world-famous Levi resort. Located in the Lapland region of northern Finland, Levi is your proverbial skier’s utopia, offering spectacular downhill skiing and snowboarding to go with a range of great accommodations. If you’re not much of a downhill skier, it’s also the perfect place to learn how to cross-country ski while feasting your eyes on the immaculate hillsides that surround the resort. With miles of skiing trails that showcase the brilliance of Finnish Lapland, it’s a great fit for any active sightseer.
The winter also brings other thrilling options as well, including the increasingly popular ice-karting course. Similar to go-karting, ice-karting puts guests in control of a kart that fits one or two people and takes you around a frozen lake surrounded by towering, snow-covered trees. Ice-karting has taken off as an adrenaline-pumping experience for thrill-seekers of all ages, making it a great option for both couples and families on the adventurous side. If you’re really into winter sports, Levi also hosts the Alpine Ski World Cup, which brings in some of the most talented skiers and snowboarders from around the world every November.
Levi isn’t only for winter-sports enthusiasts, however, as there is no shortage of things to do in the summer either. As the snow gives way to a lush green landscape, visitors canoe, row, and bike for miles and miles around the resort and enjoy the long hours of daylight. Other popular options include horseback riding through the forest and hiking nearby Pallas National Park, which has a host of great features all on its own.
Many also travel to Levi (or Lapland at large) to see the midnight sun, which can provide some truly unforgettable opportunities. Canoeing around lakes Sirkkajärvi and Levijärvi deep in the night can stir the poetry in anyone’s soul, as can a midnight photography session that takes you to the most beautiful spots of Levi and Pallas.
Biking along Route 62 in Saimaa
Tucked into southeastern Finland a few hours from either Helsinki or St. Petersburg, Russia, the Saimaa region is an exquisite piece of land that highlights many of Finland’s greatest natural advantages. This area also has a whole spectrum of great roads for either a slow drive or biking, taking you through winding lakeside pathways and pristine forests that serve as the perfect backdrop for an adventurous escape. On the famous Route 62 between Ruokolahti and Mikkeli, bikers get an unparalleled view of the countryside and small-town Finland, making it an outstanding place to chew on the scenery as you work off a few morsels of Tippaleipä (Finnish funnel cake).
While you could just spend an afternoon or two perusing the landscape, it’s a great spot to bring a tent and camp right out under the stars for a few nights at one of the many campsites in the area. Lake Saimaa also has more than a few great activities as well, from rowing and paddleboarding to an excellent set of hiking trails that ring the minimally developed lakefront. Easy to get to and loaded with outdoors activities, Saimaa is a great place to find a few thrills while letting your eyes wander the tranquil beauty that draws visitors from all over the world.
Also consider: Right along the bike route, in Anttola, the Ollinmäki winery lets you taste traditional Finnish wines made right from the berries and fruits in Saimaa. Although you could definitely still have a great time in the winter in Saimaa, the region is a must-see in the warmer months.
Snowshoe by day and inspect the Northern Lights by night in Finnish Lapland
One of the greatest places in the world to see the Northern Lights is in Finnish Lapland, a sprawling land of enchanting visual splendor as well as the harsh realities of upper Finland. It’s also an ideal place to tap into the oldest Finnish traditions, particularly in the winter months when the Aurora Borealis is really popping. Between September and March, you can catch the famous dancing green flashes of light in Finnish Lapland, where the lack of city lights makes for a stunning, unforgettable experience.
But if you think sitting and staring at the sky is all there is to do in Lapland, those with an adventurous spirit have an assortment of activities to occupy their time during the day. A classic Finnish experience is to strap on snowshoes for a lengthy hike through the wilderness, where you’ll marvel at the breathtaking, snow-coated landscape as you walk atop an endless canvas of the white powdery snow. In the summertime, fellwalking (hill walking) is another age-old Sámi custom that will keep you active while giving you a terrific vantage point.
Another fun and thrilling way to enjoy the local culture is to hop on a dogsled, an ancient tradition that yields a unique and beautiful experience for visitors. Some dogsledding excursions can last only an hour or two while the more ambitious thrill-seekers can book a route that will last closer to a week. The huskies that pull the sled are also beloved members of the Lapland community thanks to generations of co-dependence in the region, and dog lovers will want to book only with companies that are a part of the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. organization that ensures a happy and safe environment for the beloved canines.
Where to consider staying: Huddling in an igloo hut with a glass ceiling is an outstanding way to see the Northern Lights after a long day of snowshoeing or dogsledding. Although there are now a variety of different great accommodations in the region, the renowned Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is a trailblazer that combines a modern touch with a peerless view of the aurorae.
Explore Högberet Cave (if you can find it)
You’ll need an adventurous spirit to experience Högberet Cave, a hidden gem in Kirkonummi about a half-hour drive due west from Helsinki. The adventure starts with a wonderful hike around the countryside and ends at the side of a granite cliff, which hosts the secretive entrance to the cave nicknamed the “Womb of Mother Earth.” Although not for the overly claustrophobic, squeezing through the moss-covered granite cliff will take you back to the Ice Age, when ancient settlers were believed to use it as a shelter from the elements (and possibly for fertility rituals). Finding the cave is also part of the fun, as it’s unmarked and might require a little bit of patience from trekkers hiking around Kirkonummi.
But even if you are a bit on the claustrophobic side and don’t feel like going in, the area itself is still well worth the trip due to the collection of great hikes in the area. It’s also an ideal day trip from Helsinki by car and very doable by bike as well, as it’s about 19 miles away from the heart of the Finnish capital. Although you probably don’t want to check out Högberet Cave during the peak of the winter, it’s a fantastic spring, summer or early fall outing steeped in mystery and wonder.
Final thoughts to consider before booking
Finland, particularly in Lapland, offers one of the most stunning seasonal reversals in the world. For this reason, you absolutely need to heed the weather and understand the differences in climate/sunset times. Near the first of January in Finnish Lapland, for example, you can expect nearly day-long darkness, as the sun emerges afternoon and barely begins to rise before falling again with about a half-hour of daylight. By the end of January, however, you’ll have close to six hours of total daylight and a sun that sets around 3:30. You can also expect average lows of about 10 degrees Fahrenheit during January or February, which is actually ideal for all the wintery adventures of Lapland,
In the summer, you’ll have an abundance of daylight, but the temperatures still remain cool for much of the day. In Levi, the average high is typically about 55 degrees Fahrenheit in June and 66 for much of July, with dips to the mid or low-40s at night. The average low can also be dramatically different from July (the warmest month) to either June or August, which is why you’ll likely want to bring some warm clothes even if you’re planning an excursion in the summertime. The same principle holds true in Helsinki, where it’s typically at least a few degrees warmer than Lapland at any point of the year. July also typically gets by far the most rain of the year, although that should only add to the excitement for anyone ready for a true Finnish adventure.