The northern European country of Finland borders the Baltic Coast to the south and stretches far above the Arctic Circle to the north. Its natural landscape and climate offer a variety of activities for visitors that vary greatly from one region to the other. Technically, the country is divided into many regions and subregions, but for purposes of visiting Finland as a tourist, it's convenient to divide the country into roughly four main areas: Helsinki, Lapland, Lakeland, and the Southwest coastal area.
Helsinki's location on the Baltic Sea has made it a center for European culture and business. The capital of Finland is a contemporary urban city with a busy port in the southern region of the country, where you'll find Scandinavian culture, architecture, and history. Also located in this region is Hameenlinna, Finland's oldest town, known for its medieval castle and for being the birthplace of the composer, Jean Sibelius. Porvoo, about 30 miles east of Helsinki, is a medieval town with cobbled streets, a 15th-century Cathedral, and museums.
Lapland lies in Finland's far north country above the Arctic Circle, so winters here are cold, long, and dark—snow arrives in November and lasts until at least May. The region is home to Santa Claus, his elves, herds of reindeer, and the indigenous Same people, who have inhabited the region for thousands of years. Hiking is popular in summer when the daylight hours are nearly endless, and winter brings dogsled safaris and the Northern Lights.
Lakes and More Lakes in Lakeland
The Lakeland region offers a labyrinth of lakes, rivers, islands, and forests where visitors rent cottages on the water, swim, fish, and boat during the summer. The area is made up of serene landscapes interspersed with traditional towns entirely built of wood. Tampere is popular with visitors and locals alike for its outdoor activities and cultural events. The views of nature are captivating, from the coastline of sandy beaches and rocky archipelagos to serene lakes and quaint towns. The Lakeland region has a strong Swedish cultural influence dating back to the 17th century when Finland was ruled by Swedish kings.
Scenic Archipelagos Off the Southwest Coast
The far western region of Southern Finland is noted for the series of archipelagos that sprawl along the Baltic coast dotted with historic coastal towns that are very popular with visitors in summer. The scenic area offers cycling, boating, and UNESCO-listed places to explore, such as the old town of Rauma. It is also the home to Repovesi National Park. The interesting Aland archipelago, off the southwest coast, is an autonomous Swedish-speaking province that has its own flag although it's a part of Finland. Visitors rent bicycles to explore the archipelagos, take ferries to the islands, stay in quaint B&Bs, or camp out in the countryside.