Here are three things I didn’t know about Finland: it’s made up of a lot of water and islands, Finnish people are crazy about the outdoors, and there are almost as many saunas as there are people.
Perhaps these things don’t come as a surprise to you, but this was my first visit to the country, and I like to go to a place knowing as little as possible, so I can be happily overwhelmed by new stuff.
That, or I’m too lazy to do research. I prefer to think of it as the former.
Anyhow, the main focus of my trip was to understand what visiting Finland in summer was like, and to experience the great outdoors of Finland, and I am pleased to report that that mission was a success.
Before getting into that, a little about the Finnish outdoors.
Finland has a fairly unique approach to land, with the concept of trespass being something other countries do. Everyone has the right to explore any land, pick wild berries or mushrooms, fish, and even camp, pretty much anywhere they like.
As long as you aren’t damaging property, disturbing others, or burning things down, then you are free to exercise what is known as your Everyman’s Right.
Pretty cool, especially if you’re into wild camping!
To help you get to grips with all this outdoors access, an organisation called Metsähallitus has a whole bunch of resources, from detailed maps to help you plan your adventures, through to guidebooks on getting the most from the outdoors.
So, armed with the knowledge that I could go (almost) anywhere and do (almost) anything, here is what I did.
Visiting Finland in Summer
1. Go Kayaking
I went kayaking twice, once near Helsinki, where I did some midnight kayaking, and once near the island of Kasnäs, in the Archipelago National Park – a UNESCO world heritage site.
The midnight kayaking was pretty darn special, as you might imagine. We set off with the sun sinking behind us and paddled 4km to a little island, where we were treated to a spectacular moon rise, accompanied by a roaring campfire and a whole host of Finnish treats.
Our other kayaking tour was also in the evening, as the sun was setting over the Archipelago National Park, which is a couple of hours drive south east of Helsinki.
This was more about getting up close to some of the little islands in the area, all of which seemed to be have summer living huts on, accompanied of course by a sauna. We spend a few hours paddling around these islands, thoroughly working our arm muscles which we softened up later on with beers and sauna. It’s the Finnish way.
2. Go cycling
We also took a couple of cycling tours, which are an excellent way to experience a bit more of both the city and countryside than walking would allow.
The first of these was through downtown Helsinki and out into the surrounding countryside and lakes, which was a lot of fun.
We explored the downtown area first, including the harbour, and then headed out past public parks and beaches into the country, where we found lakes and forests galore. It’s amazing how close the country side is to the centre of the city! If you’re in Helsinki, then you can do a tour just like this with Bike Tours Helsinki.
Our other cycling expedition was around the town of Hanko, a popular beachside destination for Finns, and famous for the huts along the beach, which are particularly photogenic.
That cycle ride included learning about some of the local produce on offer, as well as visiting a local farm which had an honesty box system for fruit and veg. We also even managed to squeeze in a bit of meditation in between cycling stints, which was a lot of fun, before finishing off with a home cooked meal from all the produce we found along the way.
You can find more information on activities and things to do in Hanko on the official Hanko tourism website.
3. Go hiking
In case cycling and kayaking weren’t enough, we also did a bit of hiking in the Nuuskio National Park, which is only an hour from Helsinki by public bus.
Here there are well marked trails for hiking, lakes for swimming in, huts (and wood!) for making BBQ’s, as well as many camping opportunities.
We did a little trip on one of the shorter trails, and stopped off to eat some bbq’d sausage on the route.
I thought it was kind of cool that all of this was available so close to Helsinki, and for free to boot!
If you want to learn more about Nuuksio National Park, and national parks in Finland in general, then I can recommend taking the time to visit the Haltia Nature Centre, which is next to Nuuksio, and will fill you in on everything you need to know.
4. Go stand up paddle boarding!
My last self-powered outdoor adventure in Finland was also water based, and also involved a paddle, although in my mind was somewhat more risky – stand up paddle boarding.
If you’ve not got into this yet, it’s kind of like surfing, except on a bigger board, and you stand up. The clue is in the name I guess. I’ve actually tried this once before, in the Galapagos, but I am very far from being either an expert, or in fact, confident in my ability to stand up for a prolonged period of time without an unplanned swim.
Luckily my GoPro camera is waterproof, and the lake was as flat as a mirror, so I managed to get myself around without falling in. Which I think was the overall goal, and was a lot of fun to boot.
Hopefully you can tell from the above, Finland has a whole heap of opportunities for anyone interested in the outdoors and wilderness exploration.
I’d love to have had more time to load a kayak up with camping gear and just set off on one of the many Outdoors Finlands suggested routes, or head off on a longer hike into the forests – options that are remarkably easy to do, and accessible to all fitness levels (and budgets!). As it is, I just got a taste, and will have to go back for more.
Hopefully though, you’re inspired to add Finland to your to-do list, and make some of these activities part of it. Let me know in the comments below which would be your preferred activity in Finland!
My trip to Finland was in partnership with VisitFinland, who put together our awesome itinerary and sorted out all the logistics. Content remains my own.