Winter is coming, and with temperatures plummeting and the days getting darker and darker, we know you might already be thinking of your next sunny getaway – preferably somewhere in the warm, tropical Caribbean.
If you’re looking to beat the winter blues, there’s truly no better place than Cancun and its glitzy resort zones.
If freezing temperatures don’t faze you, however, you’re more the cultural type, and you’re actively looking for a white winter in a unique destination farther away from home, then it’s maybe this incredible Nordic country where you should be headed:
Why Nordic Finland Is Incredible In Winter
Located in the far Northeast of Europe, Finland is one of those unusual countries that are, in fact, best experienced in cold weather.
While summers in the Nordic states are pleasantly warm, and you certainly don’t feel as if you’re going to get frostbitten if you step outside for longer than five minutes in June, there is truly nothing like Finnish winters, when snow blankets Scandi-style towns, the Northern lights dance in the pitch black night sky, and sauna culture is at its peak.
Finland may be a great year-round destination, but as unusual as it sounds, it truly comes alive in the colder months.
Helsinki Is Perfect For Solo Traveling
Helsinki may not be the most obvious pick for a European city break, particularly in winter, when most Americans who are traveling across the pond are flocking into Spain, Portugal, and just warmer destinations in general.
A less-known fact among country hoppers in Europe during that time of year is that there is nowhere better to feel that cozy Christmas atmosphere than the overlooked capital of Finland.
The jewel of the Baltic is the proud home to the Helsinki Christmas Market, one of Europe’s oldest and largest, where tourists are welcome to sample reindeer meat, salmon pastries and savory pancakes, and other Nordic delicacies they can’t find easily in the imports section of their local market back home.
Strolling colorful Huvilakatu Street with an Espresso Café caramel hot chocolate in hand, they will have some souvenir scavenging to do in the numerous Christmas shops, as well as stately Scandi-style buildings to admire.
Other sights to see include Helsinki’s Christmas tree, lit up ceremoniously every year at Senate Square, the city’s striking whitewashed cathedral, and the Jugend-Art Noveau central district.
See The Northern Lights In Lapland
Finland may not be every American’s go-to pick for some Northern Lights hunting, with Alaska and Iceland easily taking the lead in bookings, but it still stands among Europe’s top aurora sightsing hotspots.
More specifically, the historical ethno-region of Lapland, which sits mostly north of the Arctic Line, close to the borders with Sweden and Norway, is your best bet at witnessing the elusive light show.
Lapland is best known for its indigenous culture, as it is home to the Sami people, a group of historically nomadic people who have lived in the challenging environment for over 10,000 years, a rich cuisine, and of course, breathtaking Arctic nature.
Traveling in Lapland, you will be met with sweeping views of picturesque frozen lakes, painting-like, and brightly-painted, solitary houses set against the dramatic background of snow-blanketed pine forests.
Popular activities include dog-sledding in the snowy hinterland while chasing the aurora, and visiting traditional Sami settlements and camps.
Tourists also have a plethora of unique stays to choose from visiting Lapland, from resort spas in Rovaniemi, the regional capital and largest city, to remote igloo hotels located in deep Lapland, under the dancing lights.
Oh, and in case you weren’t aware, Lapland is where the legend of Santa Claus originates from.
Needless to say, the good-hearted bearded Northern man is celebrated all around the frosty hinterland, with local homeowners decorating their wooden porches with Christmas adornments in anticipation of his arrival.
Santa Claus Village, a winter theme park a short 7-minute drive from Downtown Rovaniemi, home to Santa's office, house of snowmobiles, and traversed the actual Arctic Circle line, makes Lapland all the more a bucket list destination.
Experience The Finnish Sauna At Its Peak
Finally, winter is the absolute best period to dive into Finland’s sauna culture. The practice of sauna was, after all, invented in the territory of modern-day Finland several centuries ago.
An immaterial cultural heritage recognized by UNESCO, the Finnish sauna is the country’s top tourist activity, and it seems to be as inherent to Finnish nation-making and psyche as a national anthem, a flag, and a national language would be.
In every residential building you enter, every home, every flat, you will find an embedded home sauna, not to mention the hundreds of public saunas scattered over large cities like Helsinki, Tampere, and Turku.
@loylyhelsinki Finns do love their Sauna💙 We love Sauna’s at Löyly also – thats why we got 4 different ones 👀 ##löylyhelsinki##loyly##helsinki##sunseasauna##Finland##Suomi##fyp##sauna##saunatime ♬ original sound – kardashianshulu
The concept of a Finnish sauna involves taking a dip in the ice-cold Baltic Sea – hence why winter is ideal for visiting Finland – and rushing back inside into a steam room to seek some comfort from the bone-chilling cold.
It’s the extremities on both ends of the experience that make it worthwhile: you’re either feeling too warm being cooked alive in a 100-degree cubicle, or you’re standing outside where strong Northern winds are blowing – a pint of draft black beer in hand to keep you warm and more cheerful, of course.
And believe us when we say it feels amazingly rejuvenating, and it’s the best feeling when you step into a fuming sauna after being out in the cold, and vice versa.
How To Get To Finland This Winter
This winter, Finnair is offering nonstop flights to Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport (HEL) from Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and New York-JFK, making it easy for Americans to reach the Nordic country.
If it’s a multi-country trip you’re thinking of, you’ll be glad to know Helsinki boasts flight connections to several popular European winter destinations, including Paris, London, Prague, and Budapest, as well as ferry connections to at least two other countries: Sweden and Estonia.
Traveling by ferry between Helsinki and Tallinn, the medieval capital of Estonia, takes only two and a half hours, making it a feasible day trip for tourists staying longer in Helsinki.
Combining Finland with a trip to fellow Nordic country Sweden, Americans can hop on the overnight Tallink ferry, traveling for a total duration of 18 hours, and calling at the cruise port in Stockholm, where they can also board return flights to the States.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.