Finland's population figures increase very slowly. The contribution of natural population growth to the increase is falling and net migration is replacing it as the factor with the strongest effect on population growth. Finland, formerly a source of emigrants, is now becoming a destination for immigrants.
Population 5.3 million
- 15,7 inhabitants per square kilometre
- 71% live in towns or urban areas, 33% in rural areas
- principal cities: Helsinki (564,000), Espoo (235,000), Tampere (206,000), Vantaa (189,000), Turku (175,000) and Oulu (130,000)
- about 1,25 million people live in the Helsinki metropolitan area
- Finland has a Sami (Lapp) population of 8,700
Finland’s landscapes are a glorious variation on the theme of forest and water, where the comforts of modern life are never far away. Yet each region has its distinct character, from the wilds of Lapland to the inspiring lakes of the east to the archipelagos of the south-west and the lively attractions of the capital, Helsinki.
Finland is much more than just snow and Santa (though, of course, the real one does hail from Finnish Lapland). Nokia mobile phones, Sibelius are what may spring to mind but there’s more to Finland than this. With just a population of around 5 million people, the economy is strong (the Euro is used), the standard of living is high and when you next have an X ray or scan at a hospital, there’s a good chance that the equipment will be Finnish: this country is a world leader in technological research.
The capital, is usually just a 2½ hour flight from London (closer than you thought?) with around 500,000 people. Easy to get around on foot or using the excellent tram service. This is a seaside city stretching out to pretty islands where green expanses are never far away. Café society springs to life in summer when people sit and watch the world go by surrounded by many architectural styles from art nouveau to functionalist: coffee, of course, is served in stylish, designer chinaware on beautiful fabrics – names such as Iittala and Marimekko are world famous. City sightseeing, the old steam train journey to Porvoo, a cruise through the archipelago, a night at the Opera, it can all be easily achieved in a short break. There are boutique hotels, designer hotels, grand hotels and private apartments for all budgets (most hotels have saunas of course – part of Finnish culture).
Finland’s capital city offers a magic all of its own when winter drops its silent white mantle across the streets and buildings. There is ice on the harbour, and snow on trees and statues. A hot chocolate at a bar near the marketplace, or a café surrounding Kaivopuisto Park is sure to be very welcome as you breathe the clean winter air and plan an active excursion.
Just a short train or bus ride away are the ski centres of Serena and Messilä. Here you can choose from a good range of downhill slopes, or strap up your cross-country skis and enjoy an energetic circuit of the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Finland activities, sailing in the waters of Southern Finland
Finland’s South and those amazing Åland islands:
This is the area to see pretty wooden towns (the elegant villas of Hanko used to be the summer haunt of wealthy nobility from St Petersburg), islands and more.
There are 6,500 islands in the Åland archipelago (Finland has over 20,000 islands in total) and being flat, this is a cyclist’s paradise. There are boats of all types for hire from an hour to a week, Finland’s oldest churches dating back to the 12th century and some great island restaurants serving fabulous crayfish buffets and barbeques. Turku on the south west coast is the oldest city in Finland and the former capital. In 2011 Turku will be the European City of Culture. Along the coast in Naantali is home to the famous Moominworld theme park.
There are all kinds of winter adventure opportunities. Hills rise above the forested landscape to provide fun and adventure for an afternoon’s downhill skiing, while there are also many opportunities for kick-sledding, tobogganing, horse riding and ice fishing. Activities are easily accessible from the city centres, meaning you can arrange a winter break of your own in southern Finland that’s excellent value for money.
The West Coast:
Extending from the UNESCO listed old town of Rauma in the south to Oulu in the north, this is an area of fabulous beaches, sand dunes, bridges and lush pastures where an untouched wilderness touches the sea. Pori is a cultural town hosting festivals (annual jazz festival attracts visitors from all over the world), sporting events, markets not to be missed. Rauma is the largest complete wooden town in the Nordic countries and is famous for lace making. Pori has a fabulous, sandy beach called Yyteri. Sleep sensation? then spend a night in the tower of the Kylmäpihlaja lighthouse and wake up to breathtaking views. The Vaasa region is a cocktail of Finnish and Swedish cultures among small villages and old wooden towns. The Kvarken Archipelago is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and this is the area where land is uplifted as land rises up from the sea on average 8 mm every year. Take a cruise from Kokkola in central Ostrobothnia to the lighthouse island of Tankar and the Seven Bridges archipelago. Great shopping is to be had in Oulu, the largest city in the northern Nordic region and where the Turkansaari open-air museum is reached by boat along the Oulujoki river. Oulu is Finland’s city of technological brilliance – this is Finland’s own “silicone valley”.
The Great Lakes District:
There appears to be more water than land in the country’s south-east Lake District. During summer, the horizon seems to be one vast glinting mirror – truly breathtaking.
This is the largest Lake District in Europe and a fisherman’s paradise. The area includes Tampere, a vibrant university town with the only Lenin museum outside of Russia and the oldest public city sauna in Finland, still working – named Rajaportti in the Pispala district of Tampere. Savonlinna with her awesome castle is arguably the most beautiful setting in the world for the famous summer opera festival, a night spent at Valamo, Finland’s only Orthodox monastery and the world’ largest smoke sauna at Kuopio – they are all here. The Karelia region has an untouched wilderness in addition to waters. The culture here is distinct where locals maintain traditions originating from the Russian Orthodox history. Trekkers in the north of the region often hear the call of elks. The Kajaani region has so many activities it’s hard to know where to start: bear watching safaris, quad biking, fly-fishing, cross country skiing. Roads are good and even in five or six days, a great deal of Finland’s Lake District can be experienced.
The shimmering water of summer is now a distant memory and the whole area becomes an exciting winter adventure playground. You won’t have to travel far to find quality downhill ski resorts, and of course the opportunities for cross-country skiing are just about limitless here. Additionally, there are snowmobile safaris to enjoy and a variety of winter adventures at holiday centres, many of which will be easily accessible from the region’s bigger towns and cities.
Better still, if you’re looking for something more luxurious and restoring, then a few days in one of the region’s spa resorts is sure to provide just the tonic you were looking for.
There is something exciting and mysterious about winter in Finland’s North Karelia region. Join an adventure on the doorstep of your comfortable hotel or cabin, and head out into the snowy countryside. Your guide may point out the footprints of hare or wolf, before choosing a suitable spot and getting a wonderful warming fire going. Here, as coffee warms and sausages cook, your guide invites you to gaze into the fire… what need is there of television, when you can see so much in the fire’s dancing flames, he says. And who are we to disagree?
On a practical note, there are all kinds of opportunities for winter adventure in this region. Stay in a cosy log cabin, or choose from an array of hotels and beautifully restored manor houses, where your hosts will ensure you get the very most from your visit.
Winter in Finland, husky safari in lapland
Often described as “the top of the world”, Finnish Lapland has a certain magic feel. More and more visitors are choosing to visit in summer attracted by the fabulous wealth of outdoor activities and sights, perfect for the whole family. Fells and mountains are perfect for bikers; the river system creates fabulous white water rafting, fishing and canoeing opportunities – even gold prospecting. Rovaniemi is the provincial capital and is right on the Arctic Circle. The real Santa Claus lives here and it’s home too to Arktikum, a superb museum that brings to life the whole story of the region. Husky safaris, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and endless winter sports – they’re all here.
Visitor number may have grown significantly in the past decade, but there’s still plenty of room for everyone. Choose the excitement and sophistication of a ski centre where adventure by day is matched by party action long into the night. Or go for something more rustic and quiet… a log cabin in the forest, with your own sauna and a real chance to relax and unwind. Adventures are always close to hand, and you’ll appreciate the excellent array of top quality safari companies whose imaginative weekly programmes can ensure there will never be a dull moment!
Climate in Finland
Spring:March-May is short and very sweet, an explosion of
growth and almost tangible optimism after the long winter. In Helsinki
and the south, the snow and ice starts melting midway through March,
while in the north it’s more stubborn and can linger right into May.
The psychological landmark for the arrival of spring
is May 1, or Vappu, a time of feverish celebrations across the country.
At this time the forests are carpeted with anemones and other wild
flowers, and the trees are bursting with fresh green foliage. In the
wake of the spring storms the lake and coastal waters are still chilly,
but the bravest bathers take their first dip.
Summer:June-August is Finland at its magical best, with
long light-filled days and an endless expanse of unspoilt lakes and
forests available as a massive playground for residents and visitors
The towns and cities thrive in summer, in spite of
the fact that this is when many Finns head for their lake- or seaside
summer homes or cruise the coastal archipelagos in their boats.
A particular exodus to the country takes place at
Midsummer, celebrated on the weekend closest to the actual solstice.
The best weather normally follows the Midsummer period, with
temperatures well up in the 20s and even 30s possible in July and
August. Visitors might find it hard to sleep in the summer months,
especially in the north, when the sun stays above the horizon for
The magic spell of the Finnish summer derives from
the reluctance of the sun to disappear below the horizon. The abundance
of light inspires a season of frenzied activity in the towns and
cities, and an unforgettable backdrop for countryside holidays.
Imagine reaching for your book at midnight and
sitting by a restful lakeside for a quiet read in clear daylight. Or
leaving a Helsinki nightclub to find the sun has risen before you have
had the chance to go to bed.
Around Midsummer in northern Finland, the sun does not set for several weeks.
In Utsjoki, for example, a single, long summer day lasts for over two
months. Even in the south, the ’night’ consists of a period of
prolonged twilight rather than real darkness.