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Picture: Click to ViewHelsinki, FinlandPicture: Click to View
There's something pure in the Finnish air and spirit that's incredibly vital and exciting. Although socially and economically it is in the vanguard of nations, parts of the country remain gloriously remote; with the trendsetting modern capital of Helsinki counterbalanced by vast forested wildernesses in the north and east, like Lemmenjoki National Park and Oulanka National Park. These wilds are perfect for treks among the pines and lakes in summer. And who'd have thought that so far north you could have such a summer? It's a golden, sunny season when Finland bursts into life with an explosion of festivals, good cheer and optimism. It's a time when the towns are buzzing, but it's also a time to head for the lakelands of Mikkeli & around and Lappeenranta. Sit on the veranda of a waterside wooden cottage and watch the summer sun shining low over the trees, and you'll have experienced one of Finland's ultimate treats; a real Nordic peace that eases the soul.
Winter, too, has a special charm here, and the best way of banishing those scary subzero temperatures is to get active. Every type of skiing and more goes on for months, but how about chartering a team of dogs or a snowmobile and heading out on a trek across the snowy wastes, lit by a beautiful, pale, winter sun? Catch the aurora borealis after your wood-fired sauna and you'll feel blessed by the universe. The Sámi, many of whom still make a living from the reindeer roaming the awesome Lapland expanses, once believed the northern lights to be the snow beaten from the tail of a giant fox spirit.
Finnish towns, too, have much to offer. Whether cosy wooden churches, avant-garde design, quirky museums or passionate Finnish rock music are your thing, you'll find them in abundance, as well as cafés warm with the smell of baking cinnamon, and boisterous nightlife - the latter particularly in chic, cultural Helsinki.
Best of all, Finland is full of Finns, who tend to do their own thing and are much the better for it. Independent, loyal, warm and welcoming - they are a memorable people in an inspirational country.
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