As April arrives heralding the coming summer, those of us who spend most of our time under South East Asia’s skies might miss the fresh air and exciting seasonal activities back home in Finland. A host of outdoor activities including boating, cycling, fishing, and hiking all wait to greet Finnish citizens taking a break back in their own welcoming land.
Almost every sort of boating sport is catered for in a land with hundreds if not thousands of lakes and islands and tourists can enjoy the therapeutic solitude of these waters in any manner of boat – from small rowing dinghies to a full-scale sailing yacht or motor cruiser.
The exciting coastline of islands, bays and inlets brings out the adventurer in everybody, while the expanse of lakes offers relaxation in beautiful settings.
Routes are varied, mainly sheltered and suitable for both canoeing and kayaking. Canals and channels link many lakes and Finland’s long and relatively sheltered coast is also ideal for outdoor water activities.
Navigating among the Finnish archipelago with its hidden rocks where they are least expected requires concentration and possession of up-to-date sea and boating charts. However, the rugged nature of the islands and the irregular shorelines present wonderful challenges for all sailors, but anyone navigating alone needs to make various preparations if they are planning an expedition by sea.
The Finnish Maritime Administration produces charts for open sea sailing, coastal charts for coast and archipelago sailing, and special charts for harbour traffic. A series of nautical charts is produced particularly for boating enthusiasts.
Fishing is generally an all-season activity in Finland and especially in the summertime, Several fishing sites including lakes, archipelagoes and innumerable rivers teem with various varieties of fish tempting those who love to fish.
The most sought-after catches in river fishing are salmon, trout, grayling and whitefish. The more slow-running rivers are often also home to pike and perch. Fly-fishing and spinning from the shore are the most popular and most rewarding methods of fishing on the rivers while for sea fishing, along the unending coastlines and beautiful archipelago, some very rewarding spots for sea trout, pike, perch and pike-perch fishing can be found.
Fishing during the long bright nights of summer is another specialty in Finland. In June and July the whole country never gets completely dark and north of the Arctic Circle in Lapland and the extended nights begin in May. After a long day, the nights are an excellent time to fish for grayling and brown trout in rivers and a pike-fishing trip on a misty lake in the middle of the night is an experience unlikely to be forgotten.
Hiking and Cycling
In the glory of the summer sunshine the southern hills and some further northern corners became a big adventure playground as the hiking season gets underway.
In northern Finland tourists can hit the hiking trails, from the beginning of June. The season climaxes in September in a riot of magnificent autumnal colours. The forests thin out and become easier to traverse as you push further north and the vistas become more open. The treeless uplands are a veritable dream come true for those with the outdoors in their heart. The fabulous panoramas from the fells tell the whole glorious story – here is a land of untouched hiking heaven, stretching as far as the eye can see.
Good quality equipment is essential for a successful hike and remember, many of the trails run through uninhabited wilds where you may not encounter another human soul the whole day.
For safety reason, always carry a map, compass, some matches and snacks. Proper clothing is essential. Stout walking shoes are best for hiking, whilst rubber boots may be necessary off the trail and in early summer and late autumn.
Finland is ideally suited for cycling tours. The roads are generally relatively flat, with some gently rolling hills, and only the occasional steep climb. It is varied terrain without being too strenuous. In towns and cities, and on busier roads, special cycling tracks are common, so it is rare that you will need to tangle with traffic.
Scenery is varied: from lakes to forests, from peaceful farmland and small villages to the cycle tracks of the capital.
You can cycle around the islands of south-western Finland, taking ferries to hop from island to island. Or follow the inland waterways and farm landscapes on the Via Finlandia from Helsinki to Vaasa on the west coast, stopping off at some of the country’s best attractions along the way. Other thoughtfully constructed tours will ensure you keep “off the beaten track” and that you see a part of Finland you would not normally encounter.
Settling Into Sauna
After your busy activities, the wonderful Finnish tradition of the relaxing, exhilarating sauna awaits you, ready to revitalise and re-energise you completely when you return home to your lodgings or Hotel.
The sauna itself comes in various forms. The favorite is the wood-burning sauna, usually contained in a simple lakeside or seaside wooden hut, with a small jetty leading down to the water.
Try a smoke sauna. This involves trapping the smoke from the stove in the chamber, then scrubbing away the accumulated soot on the body by rolling in the snow. Sound perverse? Well, so might the concept of ‘avanto’ bathing whereby you skip from the sauna and insert yourself in a hole cut from ice in the lake or sea, before returning to the sauna to warm yourself up again. But just about everybody who has tried these activities will testify to the sense of physical exhilaration that the wonderful experience engenders!