Before visiting Finland, you should learn a little the history of the country. From 1104 to 1809, Finland was ruled by Sweden. This has had a great impact on both culture and traditions. Street names and road signs are still written in two languages. And residents of some regions, such as the Åland Islands, fully speak Swedish.
As a result of the last Russo-Swedish war, Finland passed to the Russian Empire on the basis of autonomy from 1809 to 1917. Russian tsars improved infrastructure and the economy, but at the same time introduced censorship and secret police. Most of the beautiful, historical architecture that you will find primarily in Helsinki was built during this period.
Due to the growth of the nationalist movement, Finland’s autonomy was severely limited in 1899. This caused even greater resistance of the population and mass strikes. On December 4, 1917, shortly after the October Revolution in Russia, Finland proclaimed a declaration of independence. Due to the lack of government, a civil war broke out in the country, though representatives of the bourgeoisie quickly defeated the reds (communists).
The strongest test in the modern period of history was waiting for Finland in 1939. The strengthened USSR signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Hitler Germany, thereby dividing the spheres of influence in Europe. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland, starting the Second World War, and after 3 months the USSR attacked Finland.
Despite the military power of the Soviets, they could not capture the entire territory, losing five times more soldiers. The result of the war for the Finns was the loss of 11% of the territory. In the USSR, goverment preferred to forget the war by deleting it from the press and books, and wounded soldiers were not considered veterans. A year later the Great Patriotic War began and everyone forgot about the Finnish campaign.
For residents of the former USSR, Finland is the best example of how a country could develop if the Red Revolution did not take place in 1917.
|Map of Finland ©GEOATLAS
Why go to Finland
Before visiting Finland we identified what we want to see:
- towns with wooden architecture and wooden lodging for the night
- Santa Claus (Yolopukki)
- national nature parks
- the legacy of the Russian Empire in Finland
- New urban areas and infrastructure typical of Scandinavia
It is worth saying that all the main attractions and interesting cities are located in the south of the country, and in the north we found just a few interesting places. The distance between north and south is significant.
|Our route in Finland ©Yuriy Buriak
Day 1 - Aland Islands, Rauma
We traveled by ferry from Sweden with a stop on the Åland Islands. In Finland, we spent the night in Rauma, a town with wooden architecture.
|Rauma ©Yuriy Buriak
Day 2 - Devil's Nest, Oulu
Stopped by to see Devil's Nest, the deepest ground erosion in Europe. Then arrived in Oulu, a large city in the northern part of the country.
|The Devil's Nest (Jalasjarvi), the deepest ground erosion in Europe ©Yuriy Buriak
Day 3 - Zoo in Ranua, Rovaniemi and Santa Claus Village
In the morning we went to the northernmost zoo in Finland in Ranua, then to Rovaniemi. And spent the night in the world-famous village of Santa Claus.
|Santa Claus Village ©Yuriy Buriak
Day 4 - Salla Reindeer Park, Oulanka National Park, Ruka
We went to the east of the country, to the border with Russia. Visited the deer park in Salla and Oulanka National Park. Spent the night in the Ruka ski resort in a wooden hut.
|Salla Reindeer Park ©Yuriy Buriak
Day 5 - Kuusamo Predator Center, The silent people art object, Koli National Park, Savonlinna
Due to the full hotel in the Koli National Park, this day was the longest journey. Visited Kuusamo Predator Center, the Silent people art object and walked in the Koli National Park. Spent the night in Savonlinna on the lake, and walked around the city the next morning.
|Koli National Park ©Yuriy Buriak
Day 6 - Punkaharju National Park, Veijo Ronkkonen Sculpture Garden, Korpikeidas Contact Zoo, Helsinki
We drove through the lakes in the Punkaharju National Park, visited Veijo Ronkkonen Sculpture Garden and fed the animals at the Korpikeidas contact zoo. Then reached Helsinki, where we spent two nights.
|Punkaharju National Park ©Yuriy Buriak
Day 7 - Helsinki
Full day in Helsinki.
|Helsinki ©Yuriy Buriak
Day 8 - Helsinki
Before lunch, we walked around Helsinki, then took a ferry to Tallinn.
Roads in Finland
We traveled by car and drove more than 2,000 kilometers around the country.
The roads do not have tolls, dipped beam is mandatory. Four-lane tracks only in the south. Despite the fact that the quality of the roads is quite high, in the north there is small gravel in many places. Finns do not pay attention and drive fast there. Because of this, we came home with a windshield broken in two places :( It seems that all Finns are relatives of Mika Hakkinen.
Some attractions can be reached only by dirt roads. Also be careful with the deer, they freely run out onto the road.
|Salla Reindeer Park ©Yuriy Buriak
In the north, the roads are mostly empty and comfortable, even despite the two lanes. Of course, after Germany, it was difficult for me to travel 400-500 kilometers on a two-lane road in Finland.
There are many cameras, but each one has a warning sign. Therefore, despite the limit of 80 km/h, in many places Finns drive more than 100.
Ther paid parking was only in Helsinki, in other places we found free parking without any problems.
https://www.visitfinland.com/ - travel portal of Finland
https://www.visitaland.com/ - tourist portal of the Åland Islands
https://www.myhelsinki.fi/ - Helsinki travel portal
https://en.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi/ - weather forecast
https://www.helsinkicard.com/ - Helsinki discount card
https://www.lomarengas.fi - cottages
https://santaparkarcticworld.com - Santa Claus Park
https://www.ski.fi/ - Finland ski resorts
https://reittiopas.hsl.fi/ - route planner in the Helsinki area
https://www.vr.fi - railways
https://www.matkahuolto.fi/ - buses around the country
https://www.koivistonauto.fi/ - buses around the country
https://www.alandstrafiken.ax/en - ferry to the Åland Islands
https://www.tallink.com/ - ferries to Finland
https://www.tallinksilja.com/book-a-cruise - ferries to Finland
https://www.vikingline.com/ - ferries to Finland
https://www.finnlines.com/ - ferries to Finland