A Nordic adventure: Finland

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

The wilderness reigns supreme in Finland, a Nordic country covered in forests and lakes in northern Europe. With 40 national parks reaching from north to south, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to partake in. From bird watching to fishing, Finland has an excellent lineup of ways to connect with nature for outdoor enthusiasts.

For an up close and personal meeting with the hearty animals that are built to survive the arctic weather, visit the Ranua Zoo, the world’s most northern wildlife park in the village of Ranua. Open daily, this zoo features 50 arctic animal species. The animals are housed in large enclosures that are as close to their natural environment as possible. This zoo has polar bears, wolverines, manulis, owls and much more.

If you are planning to stay in the area, Ranua Zoo offers campsites for both RVs and tents. Amenities include kitchens, barbecues, saunas, showers, washing machines and a playground. This is a neat little spot to stay, as there are nature trails right off the campsites. along with guided hikes, fishing and canoeing. 

About an hour north of Ranua is the “official” home of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi. After being almost completely destroyed during World War II, it has been rebuilt and is now a modern city and the capital of Lapland. Since 1985, Santa has had an office in Rovaniemi. Legend has it that his real home is in Korvatunturi, which is a secret location, and thus he needs an extra office where he can meet his customers. Santa is available every day of the year at the Santa Claus Village and happy to listen to what all the children want for Christmas.

When planning a trip to the arctic, a dog sled ride is the perfect activity. If you make it to Finland in the summer, you can still enjoy the huskies that pull the sleds, minus the snow. At Bearhill Husky, you can go on a summer excursion with the dogs. You’ll get the chance to walk along the kennel’s private coastline with the dogs and see the working kennel. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about how sled teams work and function, without getting frostbite. If you do have the opportunity to visit in the winter, you can be in charge of mushing your very own team of dogs! 

All that fresh air will certainly work up quite the appetite. If you want something quick and easy that you know everyone will enjoy, head to Kauppayhtiö. This burger and pizza place also has wings and salads. If you’re feeling daring, try a reindeer burger with thyme mushrooms, lingonberry mayo, vinegar cucumbers, red onion compote and arugula. You certainly won’t find that on an American burger menu!

For some outdoor family fun, head to Lake Saimaa and stay in a fishing cottage. While there, you’ll be able to go on a fishing trip with Jari Käyhkö, owner of Old School Trolling. This trip is best for fishing groups of 4-6 people and is family friendly. The cottage is located near a pond and river that is good for angling and pike spinning. The lake is best for spinning and trolling zander, pike and perch. If you want to swim, the pond has a sandy shore that is perfect for both children and adults. Take the guesswork out of where to stay and what to do on this trip. The cottage is equipped with kitchen items, a living room, two bedrooms, an indoor sauna and a bathroom. You’ll be able to cook your own food and save some serious cash. What more could you possibly need?

Whether you come for the frozen tundra in the winter or for a chance to get closer to nature in the summer, Finland is a fantastic place to spend your time outside. The wilderness is a great place to hike, bike, fish or even find some new furry friends at the zoo. Don’t forget to pay Santa Claus a visit while you are there, as he’s likely to get lonely in the off-season months!

 

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