Skiing, whether cross-country or downhill, is always popular, and there are opportunities from the Baltic coast in the south right up the northernmost hills of Lapland to enjoy this sport. Snowboarding, tobogganing, and snowshoe trekking are also great ways of getting out and about in the snow, but for those who prefer to conserve their energies there are plenty of snowmobiles available to rent, or even the chance to take a reindeer or husky-pulled sleigh ride.
The unique geography of Finland makes it one of the finest fishing destinations in the world: 10% of the country is covered by water, with 187,888 lakes and 647 rivers, and the coastline is over 1,100 km long, excluding islands and coastal indentations. Within these waters there are 67 species of fish, thriving in pristine waters, surrounded by some of the most beautiful and peaceful landscapes in Europe. In 2008, almost 300,000 foreign travellers went fishing during their vacation in Finland, making fishing the most popular summer activity amongst international visitors to the country.
Because Finland is one of the largest countries in Europe, and one of the most sparcely populated, there are literally thousands of square kilometres of unspoilt forests, fells, and islands where visitors can enjoy the incredible natural beauty that abounds. Trails snake throughout the country, and hikers can roam for days without meeting another person.
Finland is a natural wonderland with more trees than people, and more than 188,000 lakes, which provides a unique nature adventure playground for skiers, fishermen, watersports enthusiasts, and trekkers.
Finland has the highest percentage of people allowed to hunt in all of Europe, around 300,000 or 6% of the population. To hunt in Finland you are required to have a Finnish hunting card, a firearms licence, and hunting rights or permission granted by a land owner or a holder of hunting rights. In addition, in order to hunt deer or bear you must possess a certificate of a passed shooting test, and for certain species of game a hunting licence is required.
One of the best ways of experiencing Finland's unique landscapes and nature is on a horse riding holiday. One of Europe's last wildernesses, the country is covered with endless forests and lakes, and much of Finland is utterly unspoilt, making it ideal for horse riding.
There are numerous courses of championship standard, and over the past decades the country has hosted several Ladies' European Tour and Challenge Tour events, as well as European Amateur Championships, and the European Girls' Team Championship.
Although ice hockey is not the Finnish national sport, it is by far the most popular sport when measured by attendances and by national television coverage. Despite the country's tiny population, the Finns punch far above their weight on the international scene, and Leijonat (The Lions) are considered a member of the 'Big Seven', along with Canada, Russia, the USA, Slovakia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.
There is nothing that Finns have been so unanimous about as their sauna. This unanimity has remained unbroken for centuries and is sure to continue as long as there are children born in their native land, as long as the invitation still comes from the porch threshold in the evening twilight: 'The sauna is ready.'
- Maila Talvio 1871-1951
Considering Finland is 10% water (there are 188,000 lakes), it should come as no surprise that watersports and water based activities are so popular here. Off the coast of Finland there are an astounding 30,000 islands scattered among the archipelagos, making its coastal waters a haven for sailors and boaters, and cruises, both inland and offshore, are an excellent and convenient way of experiencing the country's unique beauty.
As beautiful as Finland is during the summer months, it is in winter that the country is truly enveloped in a magical charm. The forests of spruce, pine, and beech become laden with snow, lakes freeze over, everywhere a pristine white blanket covers the land, and the air is cold, fresh, and pure. Staying indoors and waiting for the thaw isn't an option for the Finns, and so they find a multitude of ways of enjoying the winter.
When most people think of Finland they picture a cold northern land, home to Santa Claus and his reindeer, and of the snow-bound arctic. However, there is another Finland, one that might come as a surprise to visitors. Although Finland is located in the northeastern corner of Europe, and endures a long and cold winter, it is also blessed with unusually warm summers where daylight lasts just as long as the winter nights. Towards the end of July in 2010 Finland recorded its hottest temperature, when the mercury reached 37.2ºC (99ºF) in the Karelian city of Joensuu.
The weather during Finnish winters being what it is, it should come as no surprise that most of the larger towns in Finland have excellent indoor sports facilities. Finland has a lengthy tradition of passionate amateur and professional sport, and consequentially the country has the very latest sports and wellness knowledge and technology, top-notch equipment and a vast range of activities, along with expert coaching and tuition if needed.
Finnish athletes tend to do rather well when there's an element of danger, as can be seen by the number of Finnish drivers who have won the World Rally Championship or have become Formula 1 champions, or when you consider their success in the sport of ski-jumping. The inherent fearlessness of the average Finn probably accounts for the number of excellent facilities across the country for those who like Extreme Sports.
Sport has always been important to Finns, and Finland is today one of Europe's leading countries when it comes to active participation. 60% of men and 64% of women engage in some sort of physical activity or sport at least twice a week, so it's no wonder that the country provides access to an extensive range of sports, or that there are so many sporting clubs and associations in Finland.