Tranquility, lakes and forests under the Northern Lights


Tranquility, lakes and forests under the Northern Lights

So, wild swimming. Now there’s a thing. Said to improve immunity, increase metabolism, reduce anxiety and boost mood, submersing the body in open water has become a bit of a fad among over-worked, under-nurtured city folk everywhere. But there’s wild swimming and then there’s wild swimming Finnish style. Emerging from a steaming sauna into the cool, tingling, watery surface, you’ve never felt so alive. With some 188,000 lakes to choose from, kick starting the system like this is commonplace, a daily practice typical of the Finns’ pure connection with their virgin environment.

Finland is simply rammed with just such special experiences. Reaching from the Baltic to deep within the Arctic Circle and forming an eastern border with Russian neighbours, this least visited of Nordic nations invites magical opportunities while remaining a safe, reliable, and clean destination. From buzzing Helsinki, you’ll very quickly arrive into a rural paradise, where social distancing has been the norm since long before the rest of us were forced into familiarity with the term. Unique stays in lighthouses, tree tents, lakeside villas, aurora domes, and houseboats make the most of natural surroundings, with luxury as well as rustic offerings, and always with a strong focus on sustainability.

You’re never going to be short of the space and freedom to roam in Finland, but for ultimate tranquillity and best value for your cash, at Low Season Traveller we recommend a visit in April-May or October-November. This way you’ll avoid both the summer crowds celebrating long hours of daylight and the Lapland winter peak when the north becomes busy with Santa’s elves preparing gifts for those important Christmas Eve deliveries. Spring is a beautiful time of year when things start to open up and light and life return to the land, while autumn is ideal for watching the glorious northern lights. Do keep in mind that some traditional activities like husky sledding are only available while the snow lasts, and in May smaller business close for a break before the summer but you’ll still discover many unforgettable authentic experiences to take part in.

Reconnect with the Earth

Covered with pine forests and boasting no fewer than 40 national parks, Finland offers wonderfully accessible opportunities for re-energising and rejuvenation in nature. You may even spot the bears and wolves that share this land. You’re free to wander and hug a few trees, but if you feel unsure about exploring alone, there are experienced guides who can help. Book a session of arctic cocooning in a hammock among the pines; try floating in beautiful waters in a special drysuit, or indulge in ‘Wine in the Woods’ in Nuuksio National Park, the closest of the protected areas to the city of Helsinki.

Live Like a Finn

Who wouldn’t like to share the authentic experiences of a nation named by the UN as the ‘Happiest Country in the World’ for four years running? Take a sauna, an integral way of life in Finland, to the extent that you are practically guaranteed to find one in your hotel, rented accommodation or guest house. In fact, Finnish sauna is observed by UNESCO on their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage practices, and there are more saunas per capita in Finland than in any other country in the world. Find a baking class and learn to make mouth-watering hot cinnamon rolls, join a Finnish family for a superb traditional home-cooked dinner, or try outdoor wild cooking.

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Top Experiences

Autumn Northern Lights

Finland is one of the very best places to view the eerie Northern Lights, with sightings on at least 200 nights a year in Lapland. October and November offer a chance of a spectacular double aurora as reflections appear on the water of a lake before the surface freezes.

Sauna & Spa

Choose a super luxury venue like Hanko’s Regatta Spa surrounded by parks and sandy beaches; a rustic place complete with birch twigs for visitors to beat themselves; or something different like Helsinki’s sauna ship which also hosts bbq and fishing trips.

Finnish Fishing

Anglers will have year-round excitement with different catches on offer whether you’re interested in freshwater or saltwater sports. Catch pike, perch, salmon, zander and trout in stunning natural locations, and even in early in April ice fishing is still an option.

Insider Tips

  • Fat biking is a fantastic way to explore Finland’s 40 beautiful national parks. These off road cycles have larger than usual tyres designed for low ground pressure making them a perfect low season vehicle for traversing snow, sand, and mud.
  • Finns are the world’s biggest coffee drinks, with a consumption record of 12 kgs per person annually. Grinding your own beans and going to independent coffee shops is a lifestyle norm and coffee forms a part of every meal and social visit.
  • As well as boasting a pretty waterfront, capital Helsinki has plenty of parks, museums and historic sites to explore. Not least, you should visit the stunning white, neoclassical cathedral, complete with its distinctive green domes, built in 1852.

Good To Know

  • There’s a myth that Finns are quiet and introverted. While it’s true that they appreciate the beauty of silence and refrain from shouting out opinions at the drop of a hat, they’re also open, honest and talkative once they take a liking to you.
  • Although the largest festivals are in the summer, special events take place year round. Check out the April Jazz Festival in Espoo, the hectic May Day Vappu celebrations, and the annual October Helsinki Herring Fair which dates from 1743.
  • Tour the award winning distilleries which offer tastings of gins and whiskeys, like Kyrö Distillery, home of the Napue Gin as well the growing number of artisanal breweries. Remember the most commonly used word for cheers ‘kippis.’

Food & Drink

Dinner in a Finnish Home

A truly unique experience as you share a delicious meal with a local family. You’ll dine on regular daily fare according to the season, typically fish in the spring and game meat in autumn, and learn about Finnish homes and culture first hand.

Puukarin Pysäkki, Valtimo

Just one of many authentic eateries, this charming place in the east of the country offers local ingredients, like foraged mushrooms and berries, cooked in the Karelian way, and is an award winner in Finland’s Sustainable Travel program.

Finnjavel Salonki, Helsinki

This is one of several top end restaurants in the capital which have been granted a Michelin star. Located in a 1920s building, chefs serve dished cooked by traditional methods like of smoking and curing, in an atmosphere of refined elegance.

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