Finland Is the New Iceland, So Go Before Everyone Hears About It
In this day and age of Instagram FOMO, travel can be a competitive sport. If everyone you know is bragging about their trip to Iceland, we know how to one-up them: Head to Finland. From its surreal beauty to hard-to-beat stopover program, it has everything Iceland has and more.
IT’S CRAZY BEAUTIFUL
Sure, Iceland has volcanoes and waterfalls, but Finland is covered in emerald green forests and 188,000 lakes. In the summer, take a boat ride from Helsinki’s shores to one of the Baltic’s charming island restaurants, and be amazed to see the sun stay up well into the wee hours. During the winter months, the northern region of Lapland becomes a veritable winter wonderland (you can even visit Santa) with unrivaled views of the northern lights.
AND HAS A THRIVING DESIGN SCENE
Compared to Reykjavik (population: 216,000 ), Helsinki is a bustling, cosmopolitan center of 1.4 million. Soak up the local design culture at the Design Museum, where you can see the famed Finnish maternity package (yep, all Finnish babies are given a “starter kit” from the government) as well as beautiful blown glass from Iitala. You’ll probably want to live in Marimekko’s uplifting, sunny prints, especially when you learn how they’re made by hand during a tour of the factory. Don’t worry there’s an outlet store on the way out.
IT’S GOT ADVENTURES AND PAMPERING
Swimming, boating, hiking, skiing and even dogsledding can all be done on Finland’s varied terrain. But your most exciting adventure might be a traditional sauna experience. In the Pinterest-worthy environs of Löyly, you’ll first sweat in a room heated to 158 degrees. Then it’s time to plunge into the frigid Baltic. Trust us, after a few rounds back and forth, you’ll feel relaxed and refreshed (and maybe a little amazed at your courage).
BEST YET: IT’S AFFORDABLE
A typical meal in Reykjavik will set you back $29. In Helsinki, you’ll spend closer to $16. And for those $16, you’ll eat well. Helsinki’s home to delicious (and stylish) eateries like Yes Yes Yes! (vegetarian comfort food) and Latva (Scandinavian-influenced fine dining). Your hotel will also cost you about half what it would in Reykjavik, so do it up somewhere chic like the Art Deco Hotel Lilla Roberts, just steps from the Parisian-feeling Esplanadi Park.
STOPOVER PROGRAM? YES, PLEASE
Like Icelandair, Finnair has a hard-to-pass-up stopover program that lets you stop in Helsinki for up to five days on your way to or from European cities like Rome or Berlin. The stopover costs no additional airfare — it’s just a matter of time and planning — so consider this your excuse to spend two weeks in Europe.
IT MIGHT BE UTOPIA
In case you missed it, Finland was just named the world’s happiest nation in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. The official report cites Finland’s stability, safety and progressive government as factors in its joyfulness. We think the fact that it’s home to the world's only Moomin museum and an island for women only are also at play.