photo © Discovering Finland
From the breathtaking beauty of the archipelago of the south, to the mystical shimmering of the Aurora Borealis lighting up the skies in the north, Finland presents a rare natural paradise to charm and soothe the soul. Europe’s 8th largest country is also the European Union’s most sparsely populated, so it is no surprise that so much of this country remains untouched. Indeed, at 8.2% Finland has the highest percentage of protected areas in all of Europe, including 13% of all its forest area.
Finland rewards the explorer, it is a land of contrasts, of ever-changing landscapes. The seas around it are dotted with islands; Europe’s largest archipelago, the Åland archipelago, which lies between Finland and Sweden numbers some 6,500 islands. In total, there are a total of 179,584 islands off Finland’s coast. On the mainland the numbers are even more astonishing: 10% of Finland is water, there are 647 rivers and 188,000 lakes, including the fourth largest lake in Europe, with over 98,000 islands on those lakes. Some 69% of the country is covered in forestry.
Today, Finland is a destination of choice for nature lovers and outdoors sports lovers the world over. With 37 National Parks, 9 Hiking Areas, numerous areas of untouched wilderness, and over 20,000 islands scattered among the country’s archipelagos, Finland offers a wealth of choices for hikers and trekkers, cyclists and horse riders, canoeists and kayakers, fishermen and hunters. In Finland, getting away from it all is Everyman’s Right!
Jokamiehenoikeus – Everyman’s Right
Finns have a special relationship with nature in general, and with the natural world in which they live in particular, regarding it as nothing less than a treasure. In part, this relationship can be ascribed to their long history of being rural dwellers, until recently the majority of the Finnish population did not live in urban settings. This is reflected in the fact that there are no less than 465,000 summer cottages dotted along the many lakeshores, and that there are 750,000 boats in Finland. Their deep-rooted love of nature can be seen in the country’s liberal laws of access to the land, Jokamiehenoikus or ‘Everyman’s Right’, which allows everyone (Finn or visitor alike) to roam the countryside no matter who owns the land. With this right comes responsibility, and Finns are very careful not to damage or disturb the natural environment, or other people’s property, and show a respect for their environment seldom seen elsewhere.