1. When is the best time for traveling to Finland?
The best time of year to plan your trip to Finland depends mostly on what you want to see and what you are willing to experience. If you love winter sports and would like to enjoy beautiful snowy landscapes of Finland, the best months would be February and March. These months the snow is deep enough to enjoy many Lappish activities, such as reindeer sledge riding, husky safaris, snowshoeing, skiing or cross-country skiing. This time of the year gives also great possibility to shoot snowy landscape photographs, that you probably have in mind when thinking about Finland.
What is important to know, is that other winter months like December or January have very short days with about 3 hours of daylight. That could significantly limit your daily activities. We have visited the country at the end of February and the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was sunny most of the time and snow was perfect to enjoy winter sports. Also the day was long enough to enjoy our trip to the fullest.
When it comes to summer months, most Finns take their summer holidays at the end of June and through July. One of the biggest public holidays in Finland is Midsummer, which is usually on the closest weekend to June 25th. Around these months you may expect the warmest weather but also bigger crowd in the countryside. On the other hand, cities are almost empty at this time of the year. During summer Finnish countryside is at its most beautiful state and perfect for cruises, fishing or berry-picking. What you need to be aware of before planning a summer trip, is that July is a month of midnight sun what is truly beautiful experience but on the other hand, it can make sleeping very hards as nights stay bright at this time of the year.
2. When is the best time to watch Northern Lights?
The truth is that Northern Lights are difficult to predict any further in advance than about one or two hours before it happens. What was surprising for me, is that there is no clear suggestion that any particular time of the year gives the greatest chances for Northern Lights to occur. In fact they can appear throughout the whole year. What makes the real difference is that summer months make the lights less invisible to your eye, especially during the Midnight Sun season when the sun does not set at all. Therefore it will be always easier to spot aurora during wintery months.
The months from January to March are most popular to search for Northern Lights because they bring long and really dark nights. These are the months I would advise you for your aurora hunt. Once darkness falls, the Aurora can be visible at any time so you can see it as early as 4pm or as late as 6am. To increase your chances of spotting Northern Lights you may want to read also my other blog post on How to Find and How to Photograph Northern Lights.
3. Is Finland really so expensive?
The answer to this question is unfortunately yes it is. Restaurants, hotels or taxis are significantly more expensive than in other European countries and budget traveling is not that obtainable. Moreover, on the top of standard travel costs you will be also willing to enjoy one of the fun local activities, like husky safaris, reindeer tours or snowshoeing tours. Each of these will cost you around 100 euro per person. Therefore I would place Finland among the most pricey destinations I had a chance to visit. Just to give you an insight here are some exemplary prices:
Dinner fro two in a restaurant: around 100 euro but can easily exceed that amount
Glass of table wine in a bar or a restaurant: 8-10 euro
15 km taxi ride: 50 euro or more if you use hotel transportation
Coffee: around 5 – 6 euro
The good news are, there are also tricks and opportunities to make this escapade cheaper. I have tested all by myself and they can significantly lower your spendings. You can find all the hints in my other blog post on 6 Smart Tips How to Travel in Finland for Less.
4. What to eat in Finland?
Nowadays you will get in Finland most of the food types you are familiar with. But to fully enjoy your trip I would advice you to eat like locals do. Believe me, Finns are fiercely loyal to their culinary roots and they really know what is good.
Some of the local specialities you should try:
Karjalanpirakka – known also as Karelian pies. Traditionally made with rye flour and filled with potatoes, rice or carrots. You may also get them in the supermarket but they will never be that good as when they are fresh and warm.
Kalakukko – very similar to karjalanpiirakka, but these are bigger in size and filled with fish.
Grillimakkara – big, fat sausages made for grilling and eaten usually with mustard. You can ofter find them around a campfires and cabins.
Ruisleipä – delicious rye bread, made from sour dough. You can find many varieties but the most popular and widely available is reikäleipa, meaning “bread with a hole”.
Reindeer meat – served in many forms like burgers, steaks or pulled meat. Most commonly accompanied by delicious mashed potatoes. This dish is eaten throughout the country in all seasons.
Thick soups – I loved them and I called them comfort soups as they keep you warm and full on cold days. My favorite one is made from smoked reindeer meat and potatoes.
Berries and made of berries products – berries that grow in Finnish forests are part of the traditional Finnish diet and you need to try these forests treasures too. There are different types of it berries like lingonberries, bilberries or cloudberries and they are used all year round in juices, pastries or liquors.
5. What kind of accommodation to choose?
I would divide the accommodation in Finland into four sections that you can choose from depending on your budget and expectations.
Luxury igloo hotels
Igloo Hotels are definitely among the most luxurious types of accommodation. This unique hotels give you the opportunity to watch northern lights right from your bed or witness beautiful sunsets and sunrises without leaving the warm dwelling. Despite the high price, they are also really great way of enjoying the Finnish landscape. We stayed in the Golden Crown Levi Iglut igloo village that offers outstanding accommodation in private glass igloos. All igloos are perfectly equipped with everything you may need and have their own bathroom with shower, toilet and kitchen with full cooking facilities and coffee machine. The interior is really cozy and makes you never wanna leave your little glass house. The basic igloo villa costs around 500 euro but the best view offer first row igloos that are more expensive and costs around 700 euro. This is the kind of the igloo we have rented and we were lucky to be placed in the igloo number 4 which offers the most spectacular view of all first row igloos.
Cabins are a great way of spending your holidays like locals do. This wooden huts are located in the woods and give you the best possibility to explore Finnish nature. The widest and best choice of cabins for rent you will find on local pages: Go Finland and Lomarengas. These two are the most popular among Finns. This type of accommodation makes the most sense if you travel in a group so you can split the cost. There are many of cozy cabins available for rent and they usually have a fireplace and a sauna.
Number of hotels in Finland is limited and you need to be aware that they are more pricy than in other parts of Europe. Especially if you take into consideration the standard you get for the price you pay. My recommendation would be to find a smaller place that offer better service and higher standard rooms. Try Aurora Estate which is a boutique hotel located near Ylläs area and is not only beautiful but also perfectly placed to enjoy local attractions.
Searching for cheaper accommodation in Finland it is worth to consider hostels. Try pets and eco friendly 7 Fells Hostel located 5 km from Ylläs Ski Resort and 52 km from Kittilä airport. It offers a hostel standard accommodation or a separate studio apartments with your own bathroom and kitchen. We paid 100 euro per night for the studio what is much cheaper than any hotel we have seen in Finland. A hostel standard room with 6 beds costs 28 euro per person.