finnish winter

A Lapland Winter Wonderland - Photo Highlights & Travel Tips!

Full of enchanting wintry scenery and authentic Finnish experiences, you don’t have to travel far in Lapland to find beautiful winter wonderlands.

They’re everywhere you look…

Lapland Winter
A Lapland Winter Wonderland, Finland

Aside from the many amazing adventures we experienced during our visit, such as meeting real reindeer farmers and cross-country skiing for the first time (!), it was the country’s natural beauty that captured us the most. Maybe that’s a photographer thing!

We spent a week touring the main spots of the Lapland region, including a north to south route through Inari, Saariselkä, Kemi and Rovaniemi. Our highlights? If you’re looking for the most enchanting scenery and an authentic Lapland wilderness experience, the north would be our recommendation. Specifically, Inari and the surrounding areas of Saariselkä.

Inari, Lapland

Inari is the homeland of the indigenous Sami people, who if you get a chance to meet, will give you a true taste of life in Lapland’s extreme conditions. One of our favourite experiences of this was spending a morning with real reindeer herders and taking a sledge ride out to meet the beautiful wild reindeers. You can read the full story in our article ‘8 Awesome Things To Do In Winter In Finland!‘ Here are our photo highlights.

lapland winter

lapland winter

lapland winter

lapland winter

lapland winter

lapland winter

Although we didn’t have much luck chasing the illusive Northern Lights, we did get a small glimpse!

Lapland Winter Northern Lights

lapland winter

lapland winter

Saariselkä, Lapland

Approximately 70km south of Inari and close to Finland’s mountainous arctic fell area, is where you’ll find the little village of Saariselkä. It’s most famous for outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, spas and traditional Finnish saunas – another of our favourite Lapland winter experiences! Husky and reindeer sledding is also popular here.

For us, it was the area closest to Urho Kekkonen National Park that really took our breath away. Surrounded by vast arctic woodland and beautifully snowy hills and mountains, it’s truly beautiful and well worth a few days of your time. Not only are there lots of stunning hikes and cross-country ski routes, it’s a great place to adventure and also relax. Specifically, Kiilopää fell centre, positioned on the edge of the national park, is a great place to stay to explore the best of the area. Here are a few of our photo highlights.

lapland winter

lapland winter

lapland winter

lapland winter

There’s also a long list of things to do in the area…!

  • Cross-country Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Hiking
  • Smoke Sauna
  • Winter Swimming
  • Geocaching
  • Disc Golf
  • Orienteering track

For more detailed information and the story of our first cross-country skiing experience and hiking around Kiilopää fell centre, don’t forget to check out our article ‘8 Awesome Things To Do In Winter In Finland!‘.

Lapland Winter
A Lapland Winter Wonderland

However if all of this beautiful nature is not your priority because you’re really just excited to hunt down Santa Claus and his elves, then you should head to Rovaniemi! As the “official” home town of Santa Claus and the capital of Lapland, it’s the biggest town in the region and packed full of Christmas themed hotels and also the famous Santa Claus’ village…every child’s dream!

How To Get Around

The easiest way to get around Lapland in winter is by hire car. However, if you’d prefer to avoid driving, then there are also plenty of bus services between the main towns. If you plan to fly to Inari, it’s possible to collect a hire car from the airport, however be sure to book it in advance. Despite the deep snow and weather conditions in Lapland, the roads are generally very well maintained and easy to navigate. However be sure to keep a look out for reindeers, especially at night!

Where to Stay In Lapland

There are a variety of hotels to choose from all around the main towns of Lapland, however be sure to book in advance as the best ones get booked up in advance!

As always, we recommend the hotel booking site Agoda.com. We usually book our accommodation in advance as you typically get a lower rate and the most popular spots get booked up quickly in Lapland, especially during peak seasons and public holidays!

We like Agoda.com as it offers a wide range of accommodation, from cabins in the wilderness to chain hotels, typically with free cancellation or the option to change your dates if needs be. Plus you can book most places without a deposit!

lapland winter
Frozen Loch Inarijärvi, Inari, Lapland

What Do You Think?

Have you been to Lapland or planning a trip? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences in the comments below!

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A Finland Winter Cottage Retreat

Imagine a place so serenely quiet and peaceful, where the only sounds you hear are of birds tweeting, and the falling of melting ice from nearby trees. At night, where you can gaze at the stars accompanied by the calming call of an owl, or the quiet cracking of a nearby frozen lake as its ice layer thaws. Welcome to a Finland winter in the heart of the Finnish Lakeland.

finland winter
Frozen Lake Soukkio in the heart of the Finnish Lakelands

The Finnish Lakeland is probably best known for its popularity during the Finnish ‘midsummer’, where the days are long and the sun starts rising almost immediately after it sets. But after our recent experience in February, we discovered the Finnish Lakeland is equally as charming in winter!

finland winter
Beautiful Lake Soukkio in winter

Following a wonderful few days spent in the heart of the Finnish Lakeland last summer, we wanted to return to experience winter time in this beautiful place. Having experienced fishing under the midnight sun, we couldn’t wait to get out onto a frozen version of the lake to try another new experience, ice fishing!

And so for the first time, we drilled our holes in the ice and set up position with our rods and bait…unfortunately though, it wasn’t exactly the best weather day for it. Okay that’s probably quite an understatement, it was windy and freezing!

Finland Winter

We’d come prepared with our various layers on, but even our veteran local guide was finding the conditions a little rough (and advised us that it’s not normally like this!) so unsurprisingly it wasn’t too long before we all called it a day and retreated to our cosy cottage fire and heated the sauna!

finland winter
Lovely cottage ‘Lempi’ from frozen Lake Soukkio

It wouldn’t be a typically Finnish cottage without a deliciously warm sauna attached to it, and so, during our 4-day stay in Rock and Lake‘s lovely ‘Lempi’ cottage by Lake Soukkio, we made the most of our sauna and hot tub! All we needed was lots of firewood (of which there is plenty in the forested Lakeland, handily provided in our own wood shed) and we were off!

finland winter
Cottage Lempi
finland winter
Our cosy room in cottage Lempi
finland winter
Kitchen & dining area of cottage Lempi
finland winter
Living room area

Saunas are hugely popular in Finland (apparently there are approx. 2 million, for a population of 5.3 million!) and after a day of ice fishing we started to understand why! Saunas are not just a way a life, but rather a meditative experience for Finnish people. The whole process, from gathering the wood and feeding the burner, to slowly letting it work its magic, is actually part of daily life here. This is something we could sure get used to! The process of heating a sauna is calming and shouldn’t be hurried, patience is the key! And so, as our boots hung to dry, and our fingers warmed up over our wood fire, we waited as our sauna heated up.

finland winter
Our lovely log burning fire in Lempi cottage

finland winter hot tub
Lempi’s amazing hot tub with a view!

Undeterred by our previous day’s ice fishing experience, we decided to venture out again! This time, with some local experts to witness their unique technique of fishing in winter. I never thought I’d describe fishing as exciting but it really was!

Holding tight onto our wooden trailer, we were towed out onto the centre of the frozen lake. This was going to be fun!

finland winter fishing

finland winter fishing

After a few minutes zooming across the frozen lake, we jumped out of our trailer and joined our local fisherman to learn and watch as they expertly demonstrated their unique ice fishing technique.

finland winter
Setting up the net
finland winter
Connecting the nets of 2 ice holes

With no official name, we’ll call it the large under-ice net technique! Catchy, I know.

The technique looked fairly complicated to us, but somehow they manage to connect a huge net between two holes in the ice (using a special device that propels the rope under the ice). This net is then left for a day or two before being pulled out through one of the small holes, with the hope of being accompanied by a few fish!

finland winter

We were fascinated by it and watched eagerly as our local expert fisherman went about their routine of drawing in their previously set up nets to check for catches. Despite the cold weather, it was inspiring to watch locals utilising a traditional fishing technique in the heart of the Finnish lakeland.

finland winter
Checking for catches
finland winter
A decent set of catches!

We watched excitedly as our local fisherman pulled out their first catch, then the second…third, and then what ended up being several catches that day! From pikes to capers, they must have caught around a dozen fish, and certainly enough to feed their family for a couple of days, which was their main goal. It’s illegal to sell fish without the right permits in Finland, so most locals fish solely for their own family’s consumption.

It was clear that this wasn’t an easy process and took real determination and hard work to maintain the nets, which can get tangled very easily! As a result, the fishermen need to visit them regularly to check on the positioning of the nets. Unfortunately this is an ancient technique which is fading out of use in the area, despite the fact it seemed extremely successful!

So after a cold day on icy Lake Kyyvasi, it was time to try another Finnish winter tradition…BBQ!

finland winter
A typical Finnish BBQ hut
finland winter BBQ
Barry’s BBQ heaven!

Getting cosy in a BBQ hut and toasting sausages over a hot fire is another popular activity we could get used to! This experience was made particularly special by the fact that we were surrounded by beautiful 360 degree views of the heart of Lake Soukkio, in Rock and Lake’s ‘Tiilikka’ holiday cottage. What an amazing way to enjoy the frozen views whilst keeping warm and cosy!

Of course we didn’t visit Finland in winter just for some fishing, saunas and BBQs, but also to hunt down the magical northern lights! Sadly, they turned out to be much more elusive than anticipated and we didn’t get lucky with our timing, but thankfully the night sky didn’t disappoint completely. As the clouds cleared in the evenings, we were able to admire the peace and natural beauty of the wonderful array of stars.

finland winter stars
The beautiful winter night sky in the Finnish Lakeland

You won’t find much light pollution here in the Finnish lakeland, and so the night sky is often an array of beautiful night stars and, as we were told, often a wonderful spot for admiring the aurora borealis (we were just unlucky this time!). However despite the fact we didn’t get to admire the amazing northern lights, we enjoyed these wonderful moments of beauty.

finland winter

finland winter

Another fun activity popular in Finland winter time, is good old-fashioned kicksledding. It’s pretty simple, get wrapped up warm, grab a sled and enjoy riding around the smooth frozen lakes of the region. We had great fun trying this for the first time on Lake Soukkio!

finland winter
Kicksledding on frozen Lake Soukkio

However if this all sounds a little too energetic, there are many beautiful walks to choose from around the area. From short walks around the beautiful Rock and Lake cottage area to longer hikes where you’ll need a map, there’s plenty to choose from. Just remember to bring your snow boots!

finland winter

finland winter

It’s safe to say that we loved our four days spent in the heart of the Finnish Lakeland, and can now recommend this as a relaxing winter or summer holiday destination!

Planning Your Trip to the Finnish Lakeland…

Accommodation?

Rock and lake currently offer around 30 different cottages for rental in and around the Finnish Lakeland area so we highly recommend them as your first stop to finding your idyllic lakeside spot! During our recent winter visit, we stayed in cottage ‘Lempi’ close to the shores of Lake Soukkio. It was a beautiful setting, particularly due its extremely close proximity to the lakeside complete with a hot tub/jacuzzi, sauna and 2 open fires. With 4 bedrooms, it also comfortably sleeps 9 people and has the added advantage of disabled access (which is uncommon for most lakeside cottages). For more specific information however, have a look at the Rock and Lake website.

Winter Activities?

As we’ve mentioned, there are lots of activities that can be arranged through Rock and Lake, including:

  • Fishing – of all kinds and across all seasons!
  • Walks & ‘kicksledding’
  • Hunting the Northern Lights
  • Bird watching & evening owl excursions – this part of the lakeland (Pukkiselkä nature reserve) is in an area of special significance hosting rare species of bird, so if this is what you’re into, you’ll find more information here.
  • Golfing
  • And of course there’s always just relaxing by the log fire, sauna or hot tub (our favourite activities)!

Is it easy to get here?

The short answer is yes! From Helsinki, it is a straightforward 3-4 hours drive to the Rock and Lake cottages. The directions provided by host Jenni for the last section of the drive were great and brought us directly to the cottages with no issues.

We opted to take a hire car and found it very easy to drive around due to the quiet roads. We found drivers to be patient and the roads were clearly sign-posted with speed limits. There were also plenty of service stations to make stops and buy groceries for the cottage (ABC stores are open 24/7!). You can also hire an automatic car if you aren’t confident in driving on the right hand side of the road.

More Information Required?

The Finnish Tourism Board, Visit Finland are a wonderful source of knowledge on all types of travel to Finland and a friendly bunch to get in contact with too!

Note: We were guests of ‘Rock and Lake‘ in conjunction with ‘Visit Finland‘, however all views expressed in this article are our own and this is an honest account of our experience. You can read our other Finland articles here

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winter in finland

8 Awesome Things To Do In Winter In Finland!

The mere mention of the word Lapland conjures up mystical and enchanting thoughts. It takes you back to your youth, a time of innocence and excitement in your life where, for once a year, the world became just that little bit more exciting.

Lapland is of course, the official home of Santa Claus, and is a dream destination for families and children, desperate to meet their idol and pass on their Christmas list.

But as we found during our time there, there is so much more to winter in Finland, especially around the vast northern area of Lapland!

Winter In Finland
The view from Kaunispää Hill in Saariselkä, Lapland

Winter In Finland

Lapland is an enchanting and beautiful place. Picture perfect winter wonderlands adorn every turn in this wonderful region, and the vast size provides ample opportunities for a variety of activities.

winter in finland
Driving around quiet and enchanting Lapland

So here’s the lowdown on our top 8 recommended activities during winter in Finland, complete with mini-stories, photos and video!

1. Meeting Real Reindeer Farmers In Wild Lapland

This was an absolute highlight from our time in Lapland, and most definitely a top recommendation!

Close to the heart of Finland’s Sami culture centre in the northern area of Inari, we spent a wonderful morning in the forested wilderness surrounding Inari with two local reindeer farmers, learning about their lives and meeting their many reindeer.

winter in finland
One beautiful lone reindeer in Inari, Lapland

Something we always aim for on our travels are authentic experiences, and this was certainly one of them. This wasn’t petting a reindeer in a zoo or enclosure, this was a 20 minute drive into the woods from Inari, followed by a 30 minute snowmobile ride through the snow blanketed forests of Lapland!

Sat in a sledge behind a snowmobile, we were hurtled across frozen lakes and through narrow, tree-lined routes towards our local reindeer herders’ farm. This was an absolutely brilliant experience of winter in Finland!

Winter in finland
Sleigh riding through the Inari wilderness
winter in finland
Our driver & local reindeer herder

When we arrived, we were instantly greeted by many reindeer wandering around the forest. It was so exciting and we were already delighted when, all of a sudden, our farmer guide blew on his special whistle and out of nowhere hundreds more reindeer began appearing all around us. It was a completely overwhelming experience as everywhere we looked, more reindeer appeared from behind snow covered bushes and trees, with their grey, black and white furs contrasting against the beautiful white scene around us…

winter in finland

winter in finland

They came in their droves, surrounding us entirely in a matter of seconds, their antlers and bodies gently brushing against us as we spun around to capture the scene in our minds.

It was incredible.

After the initial couple of minutes, we got our bearings and began watching and admiring the reindeer as they fed. The farmers we had come with were feeding their reindeer today, something they do every two days, so the reindeer were excitable and constantly jostling with each other for position.

winter in finland
Feeding time at the reindeer farm
winter in finland
Surrounded by hundreds of reindeer!

After a while we all sat down by a fire, expertly set up by the reindeer farmer in a simple hole in the snow. Despite the cold, it was cosy as we sat on small rugs and listened intently while our hosts explained their labour of love and how reindeer farming works, especially in Lapland. From the history of herding by snowshoe and cross-country skis, to the more modern approach with snowmobiles and ATVs, it was fascinating to learn and get a glimpse into their lives. All the while a small pot of tea brewed above a roaring fire.

winter in finland
Round the campfire with the local reindeer farmers

It was at this point that the initial bewilderment subsided, and we were able to sit back and admire the reindeer in a more relaxed setting. Reindeer for the most part have been romanticised in our culture, forever linked to emotions of youth, innocence and, of course, Santa and the most wonderful time of the year. By sitting in the wilderness of Lapland, we saw them in their natural habitat, battling each other with their antlers, grazing and sitting in the snow with a quizical watch over us.

winter in finland

winter in finland

After a couple of hours, it was time for us to bid farewell to the reindeer and make our way back to Inari. It had been a wonderful and enchanting experience, and one we wish we had even more time to enjoy.

As we bumped our way back along behind our snowmobile, the snow-covered trees racing passed us, we reflected on what a beautiful scene we had just witnessed.

In Lapland, the mystical beauty of the reindeer in our minds was matched, and perhaps even surpassed by what we found in that cold, snowy forest in Lapland.

2. Experiencing A Traditional Finnish Smoke Sauna

If there is something that is quintessentially Finnish, it must surely be the sauna. Everywhere we went in Finland there was a sauna, from private ones in our hotel rooms to larger public saunas, there is no shortage to satisfy the locals love of a daily visit. In fact most Finns even have one in their home, now that we could get used to!

So of course it goes without saying, that when we were offered the opportunity to take the experience to a whole new level, well we grabbed it, despite what was involved! We just didn’t realise it would be quite so extreme…

The ‘smoke sauna’ was the good part, we later learned. Consisting of a huge stove filled with wood, this is a special type of sauna without a chimney (known in Finnish as the savusauna). As the wood is burned, the smoke fills the room while the fire is allowed to die whilst the smoke ventilates out when hot enough. What’s the result of this special type? Well the air is smooth and whilst still extremely hot, it’s less intense on the skin due to the wood smoked method and therefore extremely enjoyable for much more than 10 minutes!

So what’s the extreme part you might ask? Well it’s the tradition that follows the sauna that shocked us, literally! After enjoying the warmth of a good sauna, it’s traditional in Finland to take a dip into the closest lake or pool (despite it being winter or summer!) So at Kiilopää, right in the heart of sub-zero Lapland, this involved taking a rather refreshing dip in the Kiilopuro fell brook i.e. a small but deep pond of freezing cold water adjacent to the sauna! So with a wintertime water temperature of approx. -1 ºC, it was just a little bit of a shock when we tried the famous Finnish sauna routine for the first time…well that’s an understatement!

The first part was simple enough, we sat in the sauna and we sweated, and sweated a bit more…it was damn hot, just the way the Finns like it. After 15 minutes, we both looked at each other, it was time for our freezing ice bath. So out of the sauna we went, into the brisk cold air outside. A quick jog along the wooden promenade brought us to our challenge, an icy cold pool of water below us. It was so cold the steps were frozen. No time to think, there were Finns watching and we didn’t want to disappoint. Into the pool we went.

winter in finland
Body shock in the ice pool!

The initial shock was bewildering, firstly the pool was a lot deeper than we thought, so as we cautiously entered it wasn’t long before we were neck deep in icy cold water with no ledge to hold us up! I know we should’ve expected it to be cold, but it really shocked our systems. I went to grab hold of the rope, only to find that it had frozen solid. Damn it was cold in here!

Before I knew it, Laura was out and heading back to the sauna, leaving me to freeze my extremities off. And it felt like they were freezing off. Fearing my chances of having children, I launched myself out of the ice pool, along the freezing wooden promenade and back into the heat of the smoke sauna. Only now this boiling hot sauna didn’t feel remotely hot, my body so cold from the ice pool. I found Laura in the darkness, and slowly, over the next ten minutes our bodies warmed back up until we were once again sweating.

“Let’s go back in the ice pool!” Laura whispered to me. I was baffled, there was no way I was going back in that ice pool.

A few minutes passed, and after watching various elderly aged couples take the plunge again and again, I reluctantly headed back into the pool.

Again the cold brisk air hit us as we jogged along the wooden promenade, and this time there was no delay as we launched ourselves into the icy waters. The initial impact was the same, a massive shock of cold that felt like it was coursing through our veins. But after a few moments, everything went eerily calm. It was still very cold, but this time we were able to stay in longer. My extremities didn’t feel like they were going to drop off this time. Phew.

Again we only lasted around 30 seconds, but trust me it felt a lot longer than that. We took a moment, relaxed our breathing and took it all in. Then we bolted again for the sauna.

Back in the safety of the sauna, I could finally relax. All my bits were intact, and it was time to enjoy sweating it out with new Finnish pals. Or so I thought.

Around 10 minutes later, Laura turned to me and uttered the immortal words:

“I want to go in the ice pool again”

I was speechless, I thought perhaps I wasn’t hearing right. Maybe my ears were full of sweat. But no, it was true, my wife is a glutton for punishment. I was done with the ice pool, in fact if I never see an ice pool again it’ll be too soon. But she was insistent, she was going back in the icy water. And so in she went, one last time.

winter in finland
Laura braving the ice pool….for a 3rd time!!

This was her best performance yet. She hardly screamed at all this time, and spent exactly 40 seconds in the water. Moments later she was back in the sauna…

Although it might sound like we hated the ice pool, it really was an incredible experience, and one we would recommend you try at least once, perhaps twice. The contrast of hot sweaty skin and freezing cold water is invigorating, and we can see why it’s a favourite pastime of the Finns.

We managed to capture some GoPro footage of our experience, so check out the video below to see our shocking but invigorating ice pool dips!

3. Cross-Country Skiing In Northern Lapland

From one classic Finnish pastime to another. This time it was cross-country skiing, and something we were very excited to try when we arrived in Finland.

The premise is pretty simple, you grab a couple of skis and sticks, and you head out onto one of the many trails to get some exercise and explore the forest. Sounds simple right? Well after a couple of hours of tuition and practise, it unexpectedly was! We’re absolutely no experts but cross-country skiing turned out to be one of our favourite experiences in Lapland. There’s something truly magical about being out in the wintry forested wilderness, able to explore under your own steam, in a quiet and serene way.

If you’ve been downhill skiing before, cross-country skiing isn’t too difficult to figure out and something we’d highly recommend trying when in Lapland. The main difference? The skis are smaller, narrower and lighter, and although you clip your feet to the skis, you’re able to lift your heel off the ski to aid your movement. Easy!

winter in finland

winter in finland

Here we are getting some tips at the brilliant Kiilopää ski school in Northern Lapland…

winter in finland
Cross-country ski school at Kiilopää

After our lesson, we skied for around 3.5 hours, exploring the many trails around vast Urho Kekkonen National Park in Northern Lapland. It was an amazing experience, though probably long enough for us with our legs beginning to ache towards the end!

4. Hunting the Northern Lights

Ah Finland, home of the Aurora Borealis which makes an appearance around 200 days a year. Such a good chance of seeing it! Or so we thought.

The experience of hunting the aurora borealis is up there as one of the most frustrating of all our travel experiences. We have been incredibly lucky with weather conditions on many of our adventures that it was bound to run out at some point. And sadly the weather didn’t cooperate in our time hunting the Aurora Borealis.

Despite spending a week in Lapland, and countless hours standing outside in the cold night, the northern lights proved almost elusive, until one evening in Inari where I caught just the slightest of glimmers in the night sky.

winter in finland
A speckle of green and a glimmer of hope!

I had been standing in the cold for 3 hours. It was now 11pm and -22 °C. I was cold, once again my extremities began freezing up and I seriously considered going back inside. But then something caught my eye directly above me.

It began as what looked like a white sliver of cloud directly above me. But it was moving in a unique way, seemingly remaining in situ but still rippling above me. I turned my camera around to capture it, and suddenly it exploded into green, just hovering above me. It was truly mystical, and all I could keep saying to myself was “it’s here, it’s here”!

In the excitement, I caught these 2 images of it, my small experience of the northern lights.

winter in finland
The mystical Aurora Borealis…
Winter in finland
…for a short but magical moment

It hovered above me for only 3 minutes, but it was a magical moment. There was not a single person with me, I stood on a frozen lake at 11pm all alone, freezing but so excited. And 3 minutes later it disappeared, and that was it. Our week of aurora hunting resulted in a 3 minute sighting, but I was thankful I’d had that.

It’s worth setting expectations when it comes to the northern lights. They are elusive, and many people don’t see them. We met people who had been in Lapland for a week and didn’t see them once, not even a glimpse. So check the aurora forecast every 30 minutes and be ready to run out at a moment’s notice, as I found, the northern lights can be a fleeting experience.

5. Cruising Onboard The Sampo Icebreaker (And A Polar Plunge!)

After our experience of the ice pool with our smoke sauna, you’d think we’d had enough of throwing ourselves into freezing water. But no! If there’s one thing we love, it’s a unique experience we can’t get anywhere else. And so here we were, getting suited up in a wet suit on an icebreaker ship in the Gulf of Bothnia, ready to jump into the frozen arctic sea!

Perhaps we should rewind a little. Earlier that day, we’d stepped aboard the Sampo Icebreaker, the only tourist icebreaker ship in the world, at the port of Kemi in Lapland.

winter in finland sampo icebreaker
The famous Sampo Icebreaker Ship, docked at frozen Kemi Port
winter in finland
Onboard the Sampo Icebreaker

We’d left port, and our powerful ship had smashed its way through huge sheets of ice. Surrounded by vast white expanse, we’d watched in awe from the outer deck as our ship dramatically cracked, shuddered and lifted up to make its incredible journey through the arctic ice pack.

winter in finland
Breaking through arctic ice in Lapland
winter in finland
Ice sheets in the vast open arctic Gulf of Bothnia
winter in finland
‘The bridge’ control room onboard the Sampo
winter in finland sampo icebreaker
The old but well maintained engine room!

After a fascinating tour of the 1960 built ship, including a special sneak peek into the bridge and engine room, it was time for our dip in the frozen arctic sea…

winter in finland
Taking a polar plunge in icy arctic waters

The Sampo Icebreaker has its own special wet suits that keep you completely dry, so you don’t need to undress to get into the sea – simply step in, get fully zipped up, and slide yourself into the icy waters!

winter in finland

winter in finland

This was a really great, if surreal experience. The suits not only keep you dry, but also afloat, so you don’t have to do anything, just lie back and enjoy the surreal experience.

There’s something strange about floating on your back, in a frozen sea, alongside the hull of a huge icebreaker, but we weren’t complaining, it was a brilliant experience, and if you do take the amazing icebreaker cruise, you have to try the ice dip!

6. Sleeping In A Snow Hotel

If you find yourself in Southwest Lapland (perhaps already booked on the Sampo Icebreaker cruise from Kemi that we’ve just mentioned!), then why not consider this other unusual and totally unique winter in Finland experience!

winter in finland in kemi snowcastle
The SnowCastle of Kemi, Lapland

Drawing thousands of tourists each year, it’s a fascinating winter landmark of the small coastal town of Kemi. Specially constructed on an annual basis, you can visit the ‘SnowCastle’ and even sleep overnight in the ‘SnowHotel’ for around 3 months of the year (typically January to March).

Despite this being something of a touristic novelty, we couldn’t resist trying the experience for ourselves for a night and here’s what you can expect.

winter in finland
Inside the Snow Hotel of Kemi
winter in finland
Sleeping under snow sculptures

The vast construction and intricate sculpting, all made from real snow and ice was fascinating, but don’t come expecting a cosy and warm night’s sleep (obviously!). This is definitely one of those memorable, but once in a lifetime travel experiences!

7. Hiking By Snowshoe Around Beautiful Urho Kekkonen National Park

A simpler but still very enjoyable activity around Lapland is exploring some of the many beautiful areas and national parks by foot. Near Kiilopää fell centre, positioned within the eastern national park of Urho Kekkonen National Park (the second largest national park in Finland), there are many mapped out routes so we decided to explore by snowshoe – another new experience for us!

winter in finland
Hiking Kiilopää Hill by snowshoe

We found snowshoeing a great way to access parts of the snowy walks we might not have otherwise been able to traverse. Again it was surprisingly easy to get used to the snowshoes and they were great for discovering our own quiet and peaceful areas.

winter in finland

winter in finland
The beautifully enchanting landscapes of Urho Kekkonen National Park, Lapland

We were absolutely stunned by the natural beauty of this area, and would love to return some day for more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing adventures!

8. Sampling Hearty Lapland Cuisine

Last but by no means least of our highlights of Lapland has to be a special mention to the delightful and hearty cuisine we came across. Being food-lovers, we’d done our research and couldn’t wait to sample some of the local produce. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint!

From delicious soups to light fish dishes and heavier stews and steaks, we loved following up our cold outdoor activities with a hearty warm buffet or gourmet meal!

winter in finland

winter in finland

winter in finland

Soups are a Finnish favourite and often accompanied by freshly baked healthy rye bread, so it was a welcome lunchtime staple for us. Usually followed by some locally caught fresh fish or meat for dinner, with reindeer being the staple dish of the Sami culture in Lapland. Though it wasn’t our favourite, there were always many options to choose from so every meal was an exciting event…yes we love our food!

winter in finland

winter in finland

winter in finland

Final Thoughts

So that’s it. A full round up of our favourite Lapland adventures! As you can see, we crammed a lot into our 1 week winter tour. There is so much to see and do around this vast area, and it would be easy to fill weeks rather than days. However there’s no doubt that it’s the beauty and peacefulness of Lapland that makes it so magical. A truly enchanting place to visit.

winter in finland
The enchanting and surreal landscapes of Lapland, Finland

Note: We were guests of Visit Finland for this latest adventure, however as ALWAYS, all opinions are our own.

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What Makes Fishing In Finland So Special? (NEW Finland Video!)

“There’s something special about being out in the middle of a pristine Finnish lake at midnight with a sky projecting a bright symphony of reds and oranges.”

Words taken from the full story of our amazing experience fishing in Finland under the midnight sun.

Sometimes it’s hard to put this kind of experience into words so we’re excited to also share this short film of our adventure.

It’s no wonder that the locals flock to the Lakeland of Finland as soon as the ‘midsummer’ holiday arrives. At the peak of the long bright days, after a long dark winter, it’s an exciting and really important time in the Finnish calendar. A close 2nd to the Christmas holidays we were told, and we could see why….

finnish lakeland
Beautiful Lake Soukkio around midnight in June

When we think of the Finnish Lakeland, we think of a little piece of tranquility and stunning natural beauty. From the mirror-like lakes creating the most beautiful forest reflections to the atmospheric and colourful midnight sun inspired skies, it literally took our breath away.

finnish lakeland

midnight sun

Experiencing the midnight sun in Finland for the first time is really special. It gives you an incredible amount of energy to stay up late and enjoy every last drop of it. In fact we didn’t want to put our cameras down!

fishing in finland

midnight sun

Here you have the choice to simply relax and enjoy admiring the long midnight sun from a lakeside cottage (which we highly recommend!) or get out and explore a little more of the area. We ended up doing a bit of both which was great, so here’s a summary of our adventures from our one week in this beautiful, friendly and unassuming country.

fishing in finland

fishing in finland

fishing in finland

Our time there was short but left a lasting impression and a desire to return. We’d love to try ice fishing in winter with a view of the Aurora Borealis next time…that’s not too much to ask is it?!

Have you been to Finland? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

Looking for more Finland inspiration? Click here.


5 Things To Do In Turku & The South Coast Of Finland

Whether you want to relax or party, Midsummer in Finland is a big deal for Finns, with most families leaving the cities and heading to a rural cottage to celebrate this very important national holiday.

The Midsummer celebrations take place in June (typically the 3rd weekend of the month), and was originally a celebration of the summer solstice. Now it’s seen as the beginning of the warm summer weather, which is definitely worth celebrating!

Before we headed off to our own cottage to experience the midnight sun for ourselves (and in particular to embark upon on our first ever midnight sun fishing trip!), we explored the city of Turku and part of the Archipelago on the south coast of Finland.

From sailing around the local islands on a traditional steamboat cruise to hiking through a beautiful forest on Korpo island in the Archipelago (despite the rain!) we had a great time, so here are our highlights.

things to do in turku

turku cruise

There are lots of things to do in Turku and its vast archipelago of islands, however with only a couple of days available to spend in the area, we tried to fit in as much as physically possible in our 2 days!

So after a brief first encounter with Helsinki, consisting of a quick but delicious ‘Hesburger’ at the train station (luckily we were going back to Helsinki at the end of our trip!), we jumped aboard an impressively smooth and swish double-decker train for the short 2-hour journey to Turku!

things to do in helsinki

helsinki train

As you’re probably aware, we don’t often write about cities in our blog (mainly because we don’t usually spend much time in them and prefer the great outdoors!), but our time in Turku turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and here’s why!

Things To Do In Turku

1. Turku Cathedral (Turun Tuomiokirkko)

As the old capital of Finland, Turku is steeped in history and in fact hosts some of the most important historical buildings and archaeological ruins in the country, with its coastal location and proximity to Sweden playing a major factor in this.

So first up on our highlights list is one of such important buildings, the city’s wonderfully grand Cathedral (or ‘Turun Tuomiokirkko’ as it’s named). Built in medieval times in 1300, its colossal size and Gothic style is really quite striking.

things to do in turku

The reason for its particularly large size was because when it was originally built, it was intended to be big enough to hold the entire city’s population! Which in 1300, was around 3,000 people. This meant that the whole town could gather together in the same place and also take shelter from any conflict when needed. Unfortunately though, just like the rest of the town, it was subject to many large fires over the years and had to be rebuilt several times since. It’s even larger now than it was then.

turku cathedral

turku cathedral

Looking around the Cathedral and learning of its significant history was fascinating, especially the most famous tomb belonging to Karin Månsdotter (d 1613), Queen of Sweden and wife of Erik XIV.

Turku cathedral

2. The Riverside

Stretching for around 2km through the heart of the city, the scenic riverside feels like the heart of the city with many of the city’s main sights (including the Cathedral and museums) and lots of restaurants, bars and cafes.

things to do in turku

turku city

And around halfway along (towards the Castle), you’ll find this quirky little mode of transport…

things to see in turku

things to see in turku

…the shortest ferry crossing in the world?! It only takes 60 seconds to make the crossing from one side of the river to the other, so you don’t have to wait long to make this novel trip! We loved this, and went across the river and back – just because we could!

You’ll also find many historical ship builds and relics such as these along the riverside, some of which you can hop aboard for a look around.

things to do in turku

Shipbuilding remains a strong industry in Turku, in fact several of the world’s largest cruise ships have been built here. It also hosts the main ferry port for connections with Sweden so if you enjoy spotting large ships, there’s usually plenty around the riverside!

things to do in turku

3. Turku Castle (Turin Linna)

The end of the riverside not only brings you to the beginning of the beautiful Turku Archipelago but also to the city’s other most important historical building, Turku Castle.

Turku castle

Described as a Renaissance Palace, the Castle (dating back to 1280) is Finland’s largest making it pretty impressive to see, even for a Scottish person!

things to do in turku

things to do in turku

Sadly we couldn’t explore the interior of the castle due to it being the midsummer holiday the day we visited, so we just had to enjoy the view from the grounds instead. Pretty impressive indeed!

Note: Normally the castle is open daily 10-6pm throughout the summer (June-Aug) and at the time of writing, entry costs €9/€5 adult/child.

4. Steamship cruise (S/S Ukkopekka)

The evening highlight of our whistle-stop tour of Turku was an exciting steamship cruise!

things to do in turku

steamboat cruise

We’d hoped for a traditional Finnish experience (oh and “a good feed” in Barry’s words) and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The buffet was great and there was plenty of traditional accordion music and dancing whilst the drinks flowed! One advantage of taking the trip on the midsummer holiday was that everyone was up for a really good party and a few drinks!

turku cruise

turku cruise

turku cruise

turku cruise

But the best part was the views from the top deck. The midnight sun was out in all its glory and for the first time on our trip, we got to enjoy watching the longest sunset we’d ever seen.

midnight sun

We cruised around the various beautiful local islands and islets for around 3 hours and in between the food, drinks and music, we enjoyed waving to the friendly locals as they passed by in their speed boats and yachts heading for their summer houses on the local islands.

things to do in turku

things to do in turku

There are a few different cruise options to choose from dotted along the riverside, but we enjoyed our traditional experience on the ‘S/S Ukkopekka’ and think that overall it was good value for what you get.

Note: At the time of writing, the evening cruise costs €48/€55 lower/upper deck per adult which includes the cruise, live music, a reserved table and buffet (children are half price). Click here for more information. 

5. Turku Archipelago

If you enjoy the outdoors then venturing to the south coast archipelago is a must in Finland. Our schedule meant that we only had 1 day and night there, which unfortunately wasn’t nearly enough time to explore as much as we wanted to, but despite this we enjoyed our short visit and hope to return (with more time and better weather)!

On our brief encounter, we visited the lovely island of Korpo and although it’s one of the five largest inhabited islands in the area, it was extremely peaceful, quiet and relaxing. Due to the unseasonably wet weather the day we visited, we didn’t get to experience kayaking around the island as planned, but instead we took some lovely forest walks and enjoyed a couple of delicious meals at probably the 2 best restaurant spots on the island which definitely cheered us up from the weather!

First up for lunch was the brilliant Hjalmars restaurant where we had the most delicious local dishes including some very fresh white fish and locally sourced meatballs with freshly picked lingonberries mm…

things to do in korpo

things to do in korpo

In the evening, we also tried out the local Steakhouse Buffalos, and thanks to it being the midsummer holiday, there was a special ‘all you can eat’ ribs buffet! That’s right Barry thought he’d died and gone to rib and beer heaven!

things to do in korpo

korpo restaurant

The other highlight of our visit was staying at the most beautiful country house, Hotel Nestor

Hotel Nestor, Korpo
Hotel Nestor, Korpo

Not letting the rain dampen our spirits too much, we enjoyed the close by local forest walk and a visit to the beach.

things to do in korpo

things to do in korpo

Getting to the Archipelago was easier than we expected due to the good roads and very regular (and free!) ferry crossings along the route from Turku city. It took us only a couple of hours from Turku including the 2 ferry crossings on route to Korpo, both of which were quick and provided some lovely views!

things to do in finland

korpo ferry crossing

Have you visited Turku or the Archipelago?

Share your tips in the comments below!

Note: We visited Turku and Korpo in partnership with Visit Turku as part of our Visit Finland trip. To read our other posts click here.

Looking for more Finland inspiration? Click here.


Midnight Sun

Why Midnight Sun Fishing In Finland Is So Amazing

The sun had just set on our midnight sun fishing trip, and the sky was a brilliant hue of reds and oranges. Suddenly there was a tug on one of our fishing lines!

midnight sun fishing

Janne (our guide), swung into action. He grabbed the rod, handed it to Laura and she began reeling it in – this was exciting! Suddenly, to my right, another line tugged, we had another fish! Janne grabbed the rod and handed it to Jenni to reel in. It was all kicking off on our midnight sun fishing trip!

As Laura and Jenni were grappling with their catches, pulling them in carefully, another line tugged – we had another bite! This time it was my turn to reel it in.

This was the most exciting part of our evening of midnight sun fishing in the Finnish lakelands. We’d left around 8pm to begin our fishing trip on Lake Kyyvasi, leaving behind our beautiful Finnish lakeside cottage and heading out onto the nearby lake.

midnight sun fishing finland

Janne took us through the safety procedures and we were off, zooming across the glass-like surface of the lake, in search of our catch.

midnight sun fishing

The Beginning Of Our Midnight Sun Fishing Adventure

The lakes promote sustainable fishing, which in reality means ensuring that only a small number of fish are kept per trip for consumption and all fish either less than 45cm or larger than 90cm are automatically returned to the lake. This ensures the fish population remains healthy and avoids decline in the future. 

The first couple of hours were exciting, and we watched with mild confusion as Janne expertly set up the 7 lines in a ‘trolling’ fashion. Fishing is one of those activities I hadn’t really thought too much about, and assumed it was a relatively simple task: cast off a line with bait, wait for a bite, reel it in. Seems simple right? Wrong.

The reality of the troll fishing technique is very different, and incredibly complex!

midnight sun fishing finland midnight sun fishing

To begin with, two guide buoys were sent out either side of the boat, floating alongside the boat around 15 metres from the boat. Attached to these two main lines were various lines from our 7 fishing rods. How they didn’t get tangled up escapes me, if we had attempted it ourselves it would have looked more like a spiders web than the organised fishing lines we had either side of us!

midnight sun fishing

As the evening proceeded, we caught and released around 18 fish as they were too small to be kept. We were waiting for the big one…

Midnight sun fishing

Midnight sun fishing

And then it arrived, just as the sun had set at around midnight.

Janne was grappling with his net to bring in the 2 fish on the ends of Jenni and Laura’s lines, and I was trying to bring mine in.

But this one felt different.

I’d reeled in a couple of other fish that evening, and those experiences had proven to be very relaxed and fun, given the small size of those fish and ease of bringing them on board. But this one was not easy.

This one was either a fighter, or a biggy.

The scene around me was one of excitement, Janne was hanging over the edge of the back of the boat trying to net Jenni’s fish, and as he finally netted it, just beyond the end of the boat, around 5 metres away, I caught a glimpse of the monster I was reeling in, and it looked big!

Fishing in Finland

Cracking the surface of the lake, all I saw was its huge mouth open as it surfaced and dived back under, this one was definitely a biggy AND a fighter!

Janne, having finally gotten the other fish on board and released them, turned his attention to my fish, it growing ever closer to the back of our boat. After a few more minutes, it was around a metre back from our boat.

I was getting excited now, and tired! I was not used to this type of activity, especially given that the boat was still chugging through the water, which meant I was having to reel the fish in with the drag of the boat as well, never mind the highly annoyed fish on the end of my line!

A minute later, the catch was close enough to the boat, and Janne expertly netted it and brought it onboard.

Fishing in Finland

Fishing in Finland

This was what all the fuss was about, a 4.5kg, 90cm pike! Our biggest catch of our midnight sun fishing trip!

midnight sun fishing

We were all delighted, me especially as it had been a bit of challenge to get this bad boy on board.  After a couple of photos, we decided to put him back as he was far too big for us to eat. So back in he went, off to live another day.

It was the highlight of our fishing trip.

As the excitement of our midnight sun fishing trip unfolded, an epic sunset was taking place all around us. With the midnight sun, it felt as though the sunset lasted FOREVER compared to the sunsets we’re normally used to. The sky changed colour so many times over the course of the evening.

midnight sun fishing

midnight sun fishing finland

After all this excitement, it was time to call it a night, and we headed back to shore, Janne opening the throttle one more time as we sped back towards the jetty, arriving back around 0030 tired but delighted with our midnight sun fishing experience. 

For Laura and I, it marked the end of our first ever fishing trip, and it had been spectacular. There’s something special about being out in the middle of a pristine Finnish lake at midnight with a sky projecting a bright symphony of reds and oranges. As we were in the midst of catching those 3 fish at the same time, I grinned a little at where we were and what we were doing.

Fishing in the Finnish Lakeland was a brilliant experience, and one we would love to experience again, not only in the summer, but also in the winter when the lakes freeze over and you can go ice fishing. 

It’s also not something just for the experts. As complete amateurs, we feel we learned a lot and it awakened an interest in fishing we didn’t know was there. I’m sure we’ll be searching out other fishing trips on our adventures now.

We arrived back to our cosy cottage around 1am, and sat up for a bit as the sun and sky continued to change colour around us.

Midnight Sun Finland

Planning Your Trip to the Finnish Lakeland:

Accommodation

We stayed in a cottage owned by local company Rock and lake and would highly recommend them. They offer a large selection of cottages (over 20) of varying sizes for rental in the Finnish Lakeland area, which are easy to get to.

Arranging Your Fishing Trip

Our midnight sun fishing trip was arranged by Rock and Lake (in conjunction with Kalaxi Fishing Oy) and as you can probably tell from this article, we loved it! Visit their website for more information and contact details.

General Information

The Finnish Tourism Board, Visit Finland are a wonderful source of knowledge on all types of travel to Finland and a friendly bunch to get in contact with too!

Looking For Accommodation In The Finnish Lakeland?

If you’re looking for some accommodation options in the Finnish lakeland, or elsewhere in Finland, we recommend you check out Agoda. Whenever we’re making plans for a new destination, we always research the accommodation options first to check what’s available. That’s just our travel style. You can also book the Rock and Lake accommodation in Kangasnemi that we enjoyed during our visit, just search for ‘Rock and Lake – Villas & Cottages’ through Agoda.

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!

Note: We were guests of ‘Rock and Lake‘ in conjunction with ‘Visit Finland‘, however all views expressed in this article are our own and this is an honest account of our experience.

Looking for more Finland inspiration? Click here.


10 Stunning Images Of The Midnight Sun in Finland & How To Visit!

Welcome to the land of the midnight sun. Lake Soukkio, a little piece of tranquility and heaven in the heart of the Finnish Lakeland.

When Barry and I were invited to experience the midnight sun in the beautiful central lakeland of Finland, we were so excited for the opportunity. We were intrigued to learn more about Finland, a whole new destination for us! We had some expectations about the nature and beauty of Finland, but we had no idea it would look this good. It literally took our breath away!

midnight sun

Not only was it simply stunning, but we also felt an immediate sense of calm and peace here. We knew we were going to have a really relaxing time, which was just what we needed after a busy few months of wedding film shoots! And chill.

Midnight sun

We arrived to Finland in the middle of the ‘midsummer’ holiday, which we quickly learned is a pretty big deal and one of the most anticipated times of the year by Finns. Why? Because the long dark winter and cool springtime is officially over and the prolonged summer sun has finally arrived! Otherwise known as the ‘midnight sun’, which I think we now appreciate almost as much as the Finns, and this is why…

midnight sun

Ever heard of the golden hour? Well you probably have if you’ve spent any time talking to Barry.

If not, this is usually his absolute favourite time of the day. It’s that special time when the sun and sky looks glowing and warm and typically occurs around half an hour before and after sunset. Well this is where the Finnish midnight sun is unique as it creates the most wonderfully long sunsets resulting in the usual golden ‘hour’ lasting much longer! It truly is a photographer’s dream. We captured this moment around 11.30pm during our late night fishing trip

Midnight Sun

Experiencing the midnight sun for the first time is really special, and gives you an incredible amount of energy to stay up late and enjoy every last drop of it.

The only downside is trying to wake up the next morning, which is difficult enough for us anyway! We couldn’t put our cameras down!

The sky would literally change colour ever few minutes and looked better every time! It was like an ever evolving piece of art that we couldn’t take our eyes away from.

midnight sun fishing

Experiencing this made us realise why most Finns flock to the Lakeland to celebrate their midsummer holiday, and luckily we got to try it out for ourselves by spending a few days at the lovely ‘Kotiranta’ cottage by quiet Lake Soukkio. Just one of many cottages owned and managed by the excellent Rock and Lake.

finland cottage
Our cottage
lakeland finland
Our private jetty & rowing boat

Our cottage was fantastic. We had great self-catering facilities, a private sauna (another popular Finnish pastime) and our own pier/lakeside area.

It really was an idyllic spot to soak up the fresh Finnish air whilst enjoying the stunning natural beauty of the lake. We only wished we had a little more time there, even if just to take another couple of fishing trips in our little rowing boat, like this video from one of our evenings there.

 

There are so many lakes to choose from in the Lakeland area of Finland that it’s easy to get a cottage and piece of land all to yourself!

Lakeland Finland
Beautiful Lake Soukkio

There are many great outdoor activities to enjoy here, from relaxing in a traditional Finnish sauna (we loved this!) to canoeing, swimming, golfing or taking a fishing trip around the beautiful lakes. You can read more about our epic midnight sun fishing trip here!

Fishing in Finland

A drive around the local area will also reward you with some more beautiful views of the many small islands dotted around the vast Lakeland.

lakeland finland

We met some wonderful people and felt very welcome during our stay in the Finnish Lakelands. We found the local Finns to be particularly friendly, warm and in tune with the British sense of humour, which is not always easy to find when travelling abroad! Oh and the water from the tap is deliciously fresh, perfect for a good cup of tea after a day out on the lake!

midnight sun finland

Planning Your Trip to the Finnish Lakeland!

Accommodation?

Rock and lake currently offer over 20 cottages (soon to be more!) for rental in and around the Finnish Lakeland area so we highly recommend them as your first stop to finding your idyllic lakeside spot! Remember they can also help you to organise activities in the local area, so if it’s a spot of fishing or even just a boat trip you’re after, get in touch with them.

Activities?

Our midnight sun fishing trip, arranged by Rock and Lake (in conjunction with Kalaxi Fishing Oy), was the absolute highlight of our visit to the area, so we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a trip to anyone!

Is it easy to get here?

The short answer is yes! From Helsinki, it is a straightforward 3 hours (approx.) drive to the Rock and Lake cottages (however we came from the archipelago area near Turku which takes around 6-7 hours). The directions provided by host Jenni for the last section of the drive were great and brought us directly to the cottages with no issues.

We opted to take a hire car and found it very easy to drive around due to the quiet and safe roads. We found drivers to be patient and the roads were clearly sign-posted with speed limits. There were also plenty of service stations to make stops and buy groceries for the cottage (ABC stores are open 24/7!). You can also hire an automatic car if you aren’t confident in driving on the right hand side of the road.

More Information Required?

The Finnish Tourism Board, Visit Finland are a wonderful source of knowledge on all types of travel to Finland and a friendly bunch to get in contact with too!

Note: We were guests of ‘Rock and Lake‘ in conjunction with ‘Visit Finland‘, however all views expressed in this article are our own and this is an honest account of our experience. You can read our other articles here

Looking for more Finland inspiration? Click here.