Top 15 coolest things to do in Finland
Where else in the world can you sleep in an igloo under the dazzling aurora borealis, glide through the snowy forest on a reindeer sleigh and enjoy a relaxing sauna… while travelling up a ski slope?
Yes, Finland sure knows how to set the scene for some of the most magical experiences you can imagine. But the Happiest Country in the World is so much more than a winter wonderland.
Read on to find out which activities should be top of your bucket list on your next trip to Finland.
Tip: Book your trip with Norwegian and earn CashPoints on your flight to Finland and your hotel. And don’t forget, you’ll earn CashPoints when booking your excursions and activities through GetYourGuide.
Note: Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the availability of the activities could be affected. Remember to check current travel restrictions before booking travel.
1. See the Northern Lights or Midnight Sun in Lapland
Finnish Lapland is one of the best places in the world to catch the spectacular aurora borealis. Here, the ethereal dancing lights are visible on roughly 200 nights a year, although your chances of spotting them are much higher when visiting from September to March.
Rovaniemi is right by the Arctic Circle and is one of the most popular places to chase the Northern Lights in Finland. Here you’re spoiled for choice on ways to hunt for them, from snowshoeing to cross-country skiing.
How about searching for the aurora from a sleigh? You’ll be driven by snowmobile across a frozen lake and into the snowy forest where you can enjoy some nibbles and hot drinks around a bonfire under the open (and hopefully aurora-filled) skies.
Heading to northern Finland in summer? Then you’ll surely experience the magical Midnight Sun. After the long and harsh winter, the 24 hours of daylight that spreads across the northern regions of Finland from May to August is a breath of fresh air, and makes for the perfect backdrop for a nocturnal swim in one of Finland’s thousands of lakes.
2. Meet the real Santa Claus in Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi isn’t just an enchanting land of snow-covered forests, frozen lakes and vast expanses of tundra. It’s also the ‘official’ hometown of Santa Claus, who lives in Santa Claus Village with his reindeer, huskies and elves.
While this St. Nicholas-themed amusement park makes the ideal pre-Christmas holiday destination with the kids, it’s actually open to visitors all year round.
Packed with fun things to do, from writing letters in Santa’s Post Office to making gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus, a pit stop at this Arctic adventure world will create some unforgettable memories for all the family.
3. Sleep in an igloo
Staying a night or two in a frozen wonderland beneath the stars is undoubtedly one of the coolest things to do in Finland (literally). The northern regions of the country have plenty of unique accommodation on offer, from igloos and ice hotels to Arctic treehouses and cosy cabins.
Head to Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, for example, and you can take your pick of awesome places to stay. Choose a glass igloo where you can snuggle up with your other half and watch the Northern Lights dance above you from the comfort of your bed, or a Kelo log cabin with a private sauna, fireplace and glass roof. And if you really want to go all-out, then one of the snow igloos gives you the chance to sleep in sub-zero temperatures.
If the last option takes your fancy, check out Lapland Hotels SnowVillage in Kittilä. Here you can enjoy a magical world of ice and snow which is rebuilt each year and includes ice sculptures, an ice restaurant, an ice bar and a snow hotel where you can spend the night in a decorated snow suite, complete with thermal sleeping bag.
Tip: Like the sound of these unique places to stay? You can also get a good night’s sleep in these 12 incredible hotels in Norway.
4. Enjoy a sauna in a weird place
Did you know that ‘sauna’ is actually a Finnish word? When visiting Finland, it becomes clear – the Finns are mad about saunas. You’ll find them all over, from the usual places like homes and sports centres to more unusual spots like in libraries and ice-hockey stadiums.
While you’re visiting this curious country, why not try out the world’s first fast food sauna at Burger King Helsinki or the gondola sauna at the Ylläs ski resort?
5. Marvel at the tallest lighthouse in the Nordics
The trip to Bengtskär lighthouse on the southernmost island off the south coast of Finland, is an experience to remember. The tallest lighthouse in the Nordics is a sight to behold as it rises 52 metres above the sea and dates back all the way to 1906.
Five lighthouse keepers and their families used to live on the island at the beginning of last century, and the towering lighthouse managed to survive a gruelling attack by the Russians during WWII.
Now it’s a popular attraction in Finland, and aside from enjoying exhibitions, breathtaking views and a bowl of Bengtskär’s traditional fish soup, visitors can also choose to stay overnight on the island in one of the six rooms which were once the families’ apartments.
6. Explore Suomenlinna Fortress
The sea fortress of Helsinki is a must when visiting Finland. Just a short ferry crossing from the capital, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the country’s most popular attractions.
Suomenlinna was built in the 18th century across six islands. A hundred cannons, countless tunnels, six kilometres of walls, and various parks make up this fortress which once helped to defend Sweden, Russia and Finland in turn.
Today, you can enjoy lots of activities here from guided tours of the fortress and museums to picnics and strolls in the many green spaces.
7. Ride a reindeer or husky sleigh
One of the best things to do during winter in Finland is to take a ride on a reindeer sleigh or try your hand at a spot of mushing (husky sledding). Gliding through the snowy forest on a wooden sleigh is a truly magical experience. And if you’re visiting in summer, you can still enjoy a visit to a reindeer farm.
Head up to Finnish Lapland (where the number of reindeer is around the same as the number of people!) and you’ll find a plenty of places that offer these unforgettable excursions. Here you can also learn more about the indigenous Sámi people, for whom reindeer herding is a central part of their culture.
Did you know? The Northuldra characters in Disney’s Frozen II are actually based on the Sámi, and representatives from the people collaborated on the film to make sure their culture was portrayed in the right way. Find out more in our post on the real-life places that inspired Disney’s Frozen movies.
8. Take a dip in a lake
Finland is home to more than 188,000 lakes, so it stands to reason that taking a swim in one of them should be on your trip’s activities list. Believe it or not, temperatures in some parts of Finland can reach over 30°C during summer, so cooling off with a refreshing dip after a long hike could be just the ticket.
We recommend heading to Lake Saimaa, known as the heart of the Finnish lake district. This is Finland’s largest lake, and the fourth largest in Europe, meaning there’s plenty to do in the area, from swimming and nature trails to spotting one of the rare Saimaa ringed seals – among the most endangered seals in the world.
9. Chill out at the SnowCastle of Kemi
For a unique experience on your trip to Finland, head up to the SnowCastle Resort in Kemi, part of SnowExperience365.
Every winter this incredible castle is rebuilt, complete with gorgeous snow sculptures, shining white pathways and fairy tale scenery.
Here you can also enjoy an Arctic adventure with an overnight stay in the castle’s SnowHotel or indulge in a delicious dinner at the ice restaurant, with the latter open all year round.
10. Go sailing around the Turku Archipelago
Once home to the capital of Finland, the Turku Archipelago is one of the largest in the world, encompassing over 20,000 islands, with more being discovered all the time.
So it should go without saying that if you’re visiting Finland during the warmer months of the year, a sailing trip around some of these islands makes for a pretty amazing day out.
From two-hour return ferry cruises to the recreational island of Vepsä to full-day trips around several islands, there are various different routes and trips you can choose from, and so many picturesque islands to explore. You could even opt to join in some romantic ‘pier dancing’ or stay overnight on board.
11. Take the kids to Moominworld
If you’re travelling to Finland with little ones in tow, then a trip to Moominworld makes for a great day out. Just half an hour outside Turku, this family-friendly theme park is relatively small but packed with theatre shows, workshops and adventure trails aimed at younger kids.
You’ll find Finnish-Swedish author Tove Jansson’s beloved Moomin characters all across the park, spreading the Moomin philosophy values of family, friendliness, respecting other people and nature, adventurousness, and security throughout all the shows and activities.
Tip: If you’re travelling to Finland with small children, then take a look at our post on how to fly with kids (and no stress) for some handy tips and checklists.
12. Discover the charm of Old Rauma
Rauma lies on the West Coast of Finland and its city centre, Old Rauma, is one of the prettiest towns to visit in Finland. Made up of around 600 wooden buildings, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest unified wooden town in the Nordics, making it a popular destination for Finns and visitors to the country alike.
The colourful wooden houses, charming cobbled streets and elaborate gates make Old Rauma the most picturesque setting for a summer stroll. But at Christmastime, the cosy cafés and traditional delicacies combined with the snow-covered market square and quaint town hall make Old Rauma seem like a true fairy tale land.
Tip: For an authentic Rauma experience, try some Lapskoussi – a lobscouse casserole of tender meat and vegetables. Find out which other Finnish delicacies to try like the salty liquorice, Salmiakki, in our post on weird Nordic foods you’ve probably never heard of.
13. Stand on the border of three countries
Have you ever jumped across three countries in the space of a minute? The northernmost tripoint in the world is Three-Country Cairn which marks the spot where the borders of Norway, Sweden and Finland meet.
You can easily reach Three-Country Cairn during the summer months with a boat trip by MS Malla, which runs from Kilpisjärvi village to Kolttalahti, or via the 11 km hiking trail through Malla nature reserve.
14. See Kummakivi balancing rock
One of the most unusual things to see in Finland is Kummakivi – aka ‘Strange Rock’. Quite an apt name for this huge stone balancing precariously on top of a small, rounded boulder, in the middle of nowhere.
Finnish folklore would have you believe the rock was placed there by a troll or a giant, which have a reputation of possessing supernatural powers and throwing boulders around. However, the more likely explanation is a bit more scientific; Kimmakivi was a boulder that was glacially transported during the last Ice Age.
Located within the dense Ruokolahti forest in Eastern Finland, it’s not a particularly easy place to find, but it’s worth searching for, even for the photo opp alone.
15. Embrace the great outdoors
Last (but my no means least) on our list of the coolest things to do in Finland is to explore the country’s wonderful natural playground, with no less than 40 national parks.
Finnish people love spending time in the great outdoors. And why wouldn’t they? The landscape is nothing short of spectacular. And thanks to what’s known as ‘everyman’s right’, you can roam the countryside freely (sometimes even on privately-owned areas), as long as you show it due respect.
This means in summer you can enjoy everything from berry-picking in the forests near Helsinki to hiking through the picture-perfect trails of the Pyhä-Luosto National Park in Finnish Lapland.
And if you’re visiting during in winter, then a spot of snow sports at one of Finland’s 75 ski resorts is a must, as they’re practically guaranteed to have snow for from October through to May.
Ready to go?
Whether you’re discovering the wonders of Finnish Lapland in the thick of winter or drifting around the thousands of islands of the Finnish Archipelago in summer, you’re guaranteed to want to return to explore even more of this incredible country.
What’s more, if you book your flights, tours, activities, and car rental through Norwegian Reward, you’ll collect CashPoints towards a discount on your future flights!