From low-key birdwatching to high-adrenaline dogsledding and off-road biking, there’s fun for every travel style under the midnight sun.
Finland delivers big in the winter magic department, but summertime in this Nordic gem is just as spectacular. Warmer weather sends nature-loving Finns running outdoors to soak up the country’s lush natural landscapes, and summer activities span the adventure-travel spectrum, from island-hopping by ferry to biking across Finnish Lapland or teeing off at 12 a.m. under the Arctic Circle’s endless polar days. Finland’s beloved sauna culture reigns year-round, remaining the essential activity for recharging after a day of peak fun.
The season kicks off with the Midsummer holiday, held on the Saturday nearest the June 21 solstice, when locals gather for barbecues and bonfires at private lakeside cabins or retreat to the islands surrounding Helsinki, such as Seurasaari or Suomenlinna, for peaceful picnics. That outdoorsy spirit perseveres throughout the summer and beyond, for as long as nature allows. Very few areas across the country are off-limits, thanks to Finnish Everyman’s Right – this freedom to respectfully roam, forage, and fish in natural areas means travelers can hike, kayak, or set up camp just about anywhere. Here, a few of our favorite Finnish summer activities for every level.
Finland’s freedom to roam includes its many waterways.
Go Wildly Low-Key
Finland’s 41 national parks show off the country’s natural beauty, free of charge. At Nuuksio National Park, a 35-minute drive northwest of Helsinki, travelers can spot the adorable Siberian flying squirrel in one of its last habitats. To spy the creature, hikers should turn their eyes skyward along the park’s largely flat, mile-long Punarinnankierros Trail or on the moderate, 2.5-mile Soidinkierros Trail, which winds through marshlands and old-growth forests.
For avid bird-watchers, Virtuoso travel advisors can arrange early-summer guided excursions in search of eagle-owls and great gray owls around coastal Oulu, seven hours north of Helsinki on the Gulf of Bothnia, which separates Finland and Sweden. Travelers hoping to spot bigger game can take a wildlife-watching tour through northern Lakeland's forests, home to elk, bear, lynx, wolves, and wolverines.
Leisurely vibes permeate the national parks and cozy cottages in the massive, central Lakeland district, home to 188,000 bodies of water. For a mellow introduction to the aqueous landscape, ask your Virtuoso advisor to arrange a steamboat cruise on Saimaa, the region’s largest lake. You might spot a rare Saimaa ringed seal while breezing past the fifteenth-century, turret-topped Olavinlinna fortress – one of Finland’s few medieval castles.
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Lake Saimaa highlights: steamboat cruising and the Olavinlinna fortress.
For Midnight Sun and Northern Lights
The northern Lapland capital of Rovaniemi is best known for its Christmas charm, when the region only sees two to six hours of daylight, but its summer days literally never end. The sun stays above the horizon from May through July, and many popular winter activities are available (or modified) for warmer weather.
“Time a visit to Finnish Lapland, above the Arctic Circle, over the summer solstice,” says Virtuoso advisor Jessica Avery. She recommends cycling, including fat-tire biking; trail walking with huskies; and even dogsledding – training wheels allow for excursions even without snow on the ground. Virtuoso advisors can also arrange cultural experiences with Lapland’s Indigenous communities, such as hands-on lessons with a twelfth-generation Sámi reindeer herder, who demonstrates how the winds guide the animals’ movement, then shows visitors how to feed some of the herd.
Lapland’s reindeer stick around all summer.
Summer activities extend across Finland’s northern regions. In the Arctic Circle Hiking Area, just north of Rovaniemi, rushing rapids and towering Finnish spruce – known as the tree of wisdom in local folklore – line the quarter-mile Vikaköngäs Shore Trail, and birdsong fills the pine and spruce forests above the five-mile Mire Trail. Lapland tee times include daylight or midnight (sometimes both) at the 18-hole Santa Claus Golf Course in Rovaniemi or the 9- and 18-hole courses at the riverside Levi Golf, two hours north.
When dark skies begin to return in late August and September, travelers can chase early glimpses of the northern lights, with less bundling up than winter expeditions require. For the best chance to catch this elusive light show, ask your travel advisor to arrange for an overnight in a northern forest cabin.
From Sisu to Sauna
While high-adrenaline pursuits tend to get hearts racing for a few exuberant moments, Finnish culture leans more into sisu, which roughly translates to a hardy resilience. Find your own version of sisu along the 50-mile Karhunkierros (“Bear’s Trail”) in northern Lakeland’s Oulanka National Park. Travelers can swap hiking for kayaking or canoeing sections of the route, which crosses over hanging bridges and passes numerous canyons and waterfalls. Those seeking additional time on the water can upgrade to a surface-skimming Jet Ski on Lake Saimaa or a chartered sailboat off the southern coast.
Sweat it out in a traditional Finnish sauna.
The Finnish conclusion to an adventure-filled day: Soothe tired muscles by turning up the heat. Lakeside cabins and villas include private saunas for the exhilarating ritual of alternating 160- to 230-degree heat with a cooling dip in a lake, repeated as frequently as possible. In Helsinki, travelers can sample an urban sauna experience at the new waterfront Löyly. complex, taking intermittent breaks to wade into the Baltic Sea between public or private sauna sessions.