Finland Discovery Guide

Overview

The Nordic country of Finland lies to the north of Europe, bordered by Russia, Sweden, Estonia and Norway. Although it is in the top ten largest countries in the continent, its population is one of the lowest. This is mainly due to the extreme climatic conditions of the country- the reason why the majority of the people are based to the south. There are two official languages namely Finnish and Swedish, the former being of Finno-Urgric origin. Historically, Finland was integrated in Sweden and was afterwards a part of Russia before becoming an independent country after World War 1.

Thinking of Finland may make you think of yodeling and snow storms, but this country is rich in culture and sophistication. This Nordic country has plenty of water access, with the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Finland, and the Gulf of Bothnia butting up to her shores and the Aland Islands off the southwestern coast forming an autonomous province of the country. It is the most sparely populated country of the European Union, and according to an independent survey is the sixth happiest country in the world.

Geographically, Finland is home to more than 180, 000 lakes and islands and has some of the largest lakes in Europe. The flat landscape is mostly characterised by coniferous forests, with temperate forests occupying a small area in the extreme south of the country. Because of the abundant availability of habitats, there is diversity in fauna life with more than 60 species of mammals, 250 of birds, 73 of fish and 11 of reptiles and frogs. The most common animals include elk, gray wolf and reindeer whilst the brown bear is the national animal. Finland is home to rare species of the Golden eagle, artic fox, flying squirrel and the saimaa ringed seal which are just some of the animals which were in danger of extinction due to excessive and uncontrolled hunting. However since the 21st century, there has been an improvement in their population numbers due to the introduction of national parks for conservation. This has especially saved the Saimma Ringed Seal whose numbers have been down to a few hundred. This species of lake seal is one of the 3 found in the world, and only Saimma Lake is its home.

The winter season can last for up to 7 months in Finland. In the southern part of the country, the land is covered by snow for a third of year whilst in the northern parts for two-thirds of a year. Twenty-five percent of the country is above the Artic Circle. An uncommon phenomenon in the rest of the world, midnight sun, can be experienced. During summer, it is common for the sun not to set for seventy-three days whilst in winter, it does not rise for 51 days.

Because the country is nature based, tourism plays a role in the economy. There are 35 vast conservation National Parks. Cruises can be taken to some of the numerous islands and cities along the coast in the Baltic regions. Lapland, in the north, is home to a popular figure- Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) and atmospheric fluorescence in winter. Other tourist activities include skiing, fishing, bird watching, hunting, hiking cruising and yachting. The Savonlinna Opera Festival held in Olavinlinna is quite popular in Finland. The architecture is renowned worldwide, with Eliel Saarinen and his son, Eero, being the most famous architects. Some of the notable buildings include the National Museum of Finland. The country is also well known for Formula One racing and rally drivers producing the finest in the world. The country has the best ski jumpers and some of the best alpine skiers.

The History
Finland was originally settled by humans over ten thousand years ago as testified to by prehistoric cave paintings and other amazing evidence. Pottery has been recovered from some of the hunter-gatherer societies that lived in the area for centuries, and you can watch the development from Stone Age tools to agriculture in the third millennium BC.

Finland has long had association with the Kingdom of Sweden including a First and Second Swedish crusade to Finland, the second of which led to the conquest of the country. Christianity, already present in missionaries and verifiable artifacts, was brought full-scale to the country by the conquerors, as well as the Swedish language, which became the language of the nobility.

Finland remained under Swedish rule until March of 1809 at which time Russian Emperor Alexander I conquered the country and set it up as a semi-autonomous Russian Duchy. The Finnish language began a resurgence at this point, and the Duchy began to develop her national pride again. In December of 1917, Finland declared her independence and has been her own country again for almost a hundred years.

The Land
The climate of Finland may have some of that subarctic chill in the north, however the southern part of the country is actually rather temperate. The country is near enough to the Gulf Stream to be warmed by the waters therein, lending a warmth to the usually frigid latitude. If you are interested in experiencing something of the midnight sun, head to the northernmost point of the country where the phenomenon keeps the sun up for 73 consecutive days in the summer and down for 51 in the wintertime.

The warm summertime climate attracts many international fairs and festivals as well as markets and performing arts. The wonderful summer days and nights lend themselves to activities from golf and hiking to fishing, kayaking, and yachting. Hunting is also popular with moose, elk, reindeer and hare aplenty for interested hunters.

In the wintertime, many tourists are attracted to the country to enjoy the enormous Christmas festivities and to spend time skiing, sledding, and Nordic walking. Finland hosts Santa’s Post Office, and is regarded as the homeland of Santa Claus, making their Christmas national pride a thing to see! Another beautiful spectacle is the Aurora Borealis, which can be seen from the northern parts of the country and which draws many tourists from all over the world every year.

Fun Facts
Finland was found to be the most democratic and least corrupt country in the world as of 2006 by the World Audit study. Perhaps this has something to do with the election of the first woman president in Finland in the year 2000.

Finland ranks at the top in the education category according to the PISA study.

Nokia, the world’s leading mobile phone company, calls Finland home.

Reporters Without Borders has ranked Finland number one since 2004, tying it with several other countries for the top spot.

Save the Children has ranked it in the top three countries since 2004 for their State of the World’s Mothers survey.

It is easy to see that Finland is a fascinating country with a rich history and a culture that has hung on through centuries of subjugation by neighboring countries. You will be delighted by the activities and cultural festivities all year long no matter when you choose to visit. Enjoy your trip!

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