As one of the only countries within the Arctic Circle, a tour of Finland makes for an exciting and unique vacation. From its hip and beautiful cities, like Helsinki and Tampere, to its stunning icy landscapes, the country offers a lot of memorable activities for travelers. You can see the Northern Lights or go for a steam in a Finnish sauna -- all on the same day.
Planning a Finland tour involves deciding what activities you absolutely must do and deciding how much you're willing to spend. You should make sure to pack the proper supplies ahead of time including harsh weather shoes and clothing. A little planning will go a long way in making your trip to Finland a success.
Finland's major cities feature a wonderful blend of traditional Scandinavian and Russian culture, where the furniture is simple and modern but Russian pancakes (blinis) are a treasured delicacy. City tours will give you background and context on the architecture throughout the cities like Helsinki. Helsinki sits on the coast, so a Helsinki tour might also involve a boat ride on the harbor.
Another popular city destination in southern Finland is Tampere, where tours include the many city museums, like the Vapriikki Museum, or a bird's eye view of the city from the Pyynikki observation tower. Almost no experience is quite as Finnish as going to a sauna in freezing temperatures at Rauhaniemi Beach, so ensure that your tour includes this kind of activity, even in the winter!
In northern Finland, nature tours allow you to immerse yourself in untouched nature in places like Oulanka National Park. The park is traversed by two large rivers, which creates many opportunities for canoeing, rafting, and even paddle boarding. Whether you're enjoying the rapids from the water's edge or from a tumbling raft, you'll feel rejuvenated by the purity of the park's air and your stunning surroundings. Your tour guide can also take you to the remote natural spaces where you're most likely to have moose and reindeer sightings.
Given that part of the country is in the Arctic Circle, winter activities are a great reason to tour Finland. Ski tours are popular in Finland, where you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding in any of the country's numerous ski resorts. Tours can accommodate you whether you're a first-time skier or a seasoned pro.
Finland is famous for its epic Arctic accommodations that allow you to sleep under the stars and see the Northern Lights in a clear igloo. Northern light-watching tours will take you to prime viewing spots for the incredible light phenomenon, and can include camping. That's just the tip of the iceberg in a place where you can also enjoy snowmobile rides, reindeer safaris, and ice fishing.
Planning Your Trip
There are a lot of exciting things to see and do in Finland, so planning your trip and building anticipation can be half the fun. To get the most out of your trip, it's important to consider the time of year and your own personal interests when picking the right Finland tour.
Best Time to Visit Finland
The best time to see the Northern Lights is from late August to April, though snowstorms in the dead of winter can make visibility difficult. That's why spring and fall are perfect for visiting Finland. You will avoid the harshest winter cold and still have plenty of fun outdoor activities in the snow. However, the Helsinki archipelago has over 300 small islands you can venture out to by ferry, so don't discount summer either.
What to Look for in a Tour to Finland
Finland is large and has a lot to do both in the south and the north that you probably don't want to miss. You should consider the amount of time you have and decide whether you want to spend more time exploring the natural wonders in the Arctic Circle or the cities in the south. Some tours specialize in just certain areas, so you can explore the cities on your own, but still join a multi-day guided tour to the Arctic Circle.
Typical Tour Cost
There are a variety of tours available depending on your preferences and needs throughout Finland. Shorter excursions that are a few days long can be as affordable as $500. If you want a full 7-10 day guided tour of the country, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,200-$3,000, including transportation and accommodation.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
If you're going to Finland in the winter, you should prepare for harsh weather conditions. Snow boots and a weatherproof jacket are the two most important things to pack for your trip, especially if you plan to spend some time in the Arctic Circle. Other winter accessories like good gloves, earmuffs, or hand-warmers are a smart idea.
Though some of the activities you'll encounter on a Finland tour require a lot of gear, including snowshoeing or rafting, these items are typically included in the price of the excursion or can be rented for a fee. Even if you're camping, you can save a lot of hassle and money on luggage fees by renting gear once you arrive in Finland. Check to see if your tour provider includes gear or charges an additional fee -- that can really make a difference in the overall cost of your trip!
Other Tips for Travel in Finland
Saunas are an important part of Finnish culture, so no matter what time of year it is (especially if it's winter), you don't want to miss out on partaking in this national pastime. Sweating out your body's toxins on a snowy day will leave you refreshed, and it's a unique cultural experience you won't soon forget.
Finns can be reserved with foreigners, but that doesn't mean they're being rude or unfriendly. It's not uncommon to enjoy long silences in friendly conversation. Unlike back home, that's not considered awkward in Finland.
Health & Safety
You won't find many threats to your health in Finland. The food and water are just as safe to consume as what you'd normally eat and drink back home. Special vaccines are not required to visit the country, though it's always a good idea to be up-to-date on routine vaccines including the flu shot. If you plan to spend time in the Arctic, be prepared for things like colds or general malaise that may result from sudden exposure to extreme temperatures.
Finland is considered relatively safe and violent crime is very low. You may want to be aware of your belongings, since pickpocketing and petty theft can occur, especially in areas frequented by tourists. If you're going out into remote areas of the country, you should be aware of weather hazards, including icy roads and heavy snowfall. Pay attention to local news about weather updates and outdoor conditions that could create a safety hazard.