Finland is a country of vast forests and extensive lakes interrupted by small towns and settlements that's ideal for summer or winter holidays. In the far north, the sun doesn't set for ten weeks in summer, while in winter it stays below the horizon for almost eight weeks. See itinerary ideas
Even the chic capital Helsinki, positioned on a rocky headland surrounded by the Baltic Sea, is sparsely populated compared with other European capitals. The city is a design and shopping hub with a great choice of restaurants and a lively nightlife. After a devastating fire at the beginning of the 19th century, the city was completely rebuilt on a grid of wide streets and neoclassical buildings modelled on St Petersburg, and today those neoclassical buildings are the backdrop to many interesting art nouveau, modernist and contemporary additions.
Turku, to the east of Helsinki at the mouth of the Aura River is the gateway to a stunning archipelago reaching into the Baltic Sea towards the autonomous Swedish-speaking Åland Islands. The Turku archipelago can be explored by kayak, or even by bike via a network of bridges and short-hop ferries, while thickly forested Åland includes some of the quietest and most remote islands in the whole of Scandinavia, accessible from the laidback capital Mariehamm.
Turku is also a great family destination, with the low-kitsch Moominworld theme park and Väski Adventure Island in easy striking distance. Finland's second city Tampere in western Lakeland is a starting point for sailing, salmon fishing and skating tours; and home to idiosyncratic attractions including the Spy Museum and the only permanent museum in the world dedicated to Lenin.
Finnish Lapland rivals Helsinki as the top winter destination, where activities include skiing, snowmobiling, reindeer or husky safaris, ice hotels and ice parks, Northern Lights viewing - and the opportunity to visit Santa and his helpers.
Some two million saunas are spread among the five million-strong population, and the national pastime of broiling in a sauna then jumping into the nearest body of icy water is an experience not to be missed. You will burn off calories, relieve stress, keep colds and flu at bay - and make a deep connection with Finnish nature and culture.
Finland's heavy spending on education, training and research over the last half-century has been a key factor in the development of a modern, competitive economy in which an advanced telecommunications sector - led by Nokia - has added to the traditional timber and metals industries. The country ranks consistently high in quality-of-life indices and polls, and this lively, engaging and fiercely independent country is attracting a growing number of visitors.