It may be short, but with perpetually long days and mild to warm temperatures, summer in Finland is certainly inviting. While many Finns head to their lake or seaside summer cottages, the historic cities and regional centers host a wide variety of events, including outdoor musical, theatrical and dance performances, free concerts and food festivals. In the north, including Lapland, skies stay bright almost all night, extending the hours you can play and discover. Even in the south, in Helsinki for example, the sun rises at 4am and sets after 11pm. Aside from endless lakes and islands to discover, hiking through pristine forests and indulging in delicious fresh seafood, Finland is home to some of the world's best spas and saunas (my personal favorite statistic is that there are almost as many saunas as there are cars in Finland -- 1.7 million versus two million)
Scantours (tel. 800/223-7226; www.scantours.com) offers a selection of land-only independent and escorted tours of Finland and surrounding countries. Their four-day Bear Watching & Spa Tour which combine a wilderness experience with a stay in a first class spa hotel with its own championship golf course. This trip begins and ends in the city of Kajaani in Eastern Finland and is priced from $996 per person based on double occupancy for departures from now until August 13, 2007 or $932 from August 13 to September 16, 2007. These rates include Kajaani airport transfers, two nights' hotel accommodations at Holiday Club Katinkulta and one night at a bear-watching hide spot, services on an expedition guide, daily breakfast and entrance to the pool and sauna complex. The over-night bear watching hide is equipped with chairs, sleeping areas and toilets plus a sleeping bag (evening snack are provided). Although bear sightings cannot be guaranteed, they are probable, as are sightings of other animals including wolverines, fox and elk. The following morning participants will be transferred to Wild Brown Bear Lodge for a sauna, shower and breakfast. At Holiday Club Katinkulta, guests can indulge in the spa services, canoeing, hiking, horse riding and golf.
The seven-day independent Island Hopping by Bike tour visits the main islands of the Turku archipelago including Turku, Kustavi, Inio, Korpoo, Nauvo and Naantali. The tour begins in Turku, a two-hour train ride from Helsinki. You will cycle an average of 30 miles per day, visiting historic seaside towns and harbors. The trip includes six-nights accommodations (one in Turku, two in Kustavi, two in Nauvo and one at a Spa in Naantali), daily breakfast, two dinners, detailed itinerary and maps, a 21-speed Hybrid bicycle (plus repair kit, helmet and pump), ferry transportation between islands and luggage transportation between hotels. The tour departs on June 30, July 7, 14, 21 and 28 and August 4 and 11, 2007 and is priced at $1,297 per person based on double occupancy (add $401 for single supplement).
Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has the following independent Finland getaway vacation options:
Finland Fly and Drive is a seven-day package priced from $1,319 per person based on double occupancy (or $1,179 for four people traveling together) from now until September 9, 2007 (with lower prices in the fall and winter seasons). The trip includes round-trip airfare from New York to Helsinki, seven-day Hertz car rental with unlimited mileage, local taxes and airline fuel surcharges.
The seven-night Fascinating Finland by Train Special features round-trip airfare to Helsinki from New York, airline fuel surcharges, three nights at the Hilton Hotel Kalastajatorppa in Helsinki, one night's accommodation at Hotel Rantasipi Aulanko in Hameenlinna, two nights at Scandic Hotel Rosendahl in Tampere and one-night at Sokos Hotel Hamburger Börs in Turku, breakfast daily, train tickets for Helsinki to Hämeenlinna, Tampere to Turku and Turku to Helsinki, boat tickets from Hämeenlinna to Tampere, admission to the Visavuori Museum during the lake cruise and a 48-hour Helsinki Card for 48 hours offering free public transport and attraction admissions. This trip is priced from $2,019 per person for travel until August 15, 2007.
Add $30 from Boston, $50 from Washington DC, $110 from Miami, Chicago, Detroit or Houston and $210 from Atlanta, Los Angeles or San Francisco for either package. The purchase deadline for both these packages is June 21, 2007.
Spas and saunas are so entrenched in the Finnish culture that visiting the country without indulging in their favorite national past-time would be unthinkable. Most hotels and swimming pools have sauna facilities but to experience a more realistic and traditional sauna, try visiting a site like Muurame Sauna Village (www.muurame.fi) near Jyväskylä in south central Finland, about 110 miles from Helsinki. The Village provides an overview of the sauna tradition in Finland and features a unique exhibition area displaying the construction history of the Finnish smoke sauna from the early underground saunas to the versions of the 1950's. The area contains 30 smoke saunas from various parts of the country and admission is $6 per adult. You can fly or take an express bus to Jyväskylä with travel tips available at www.yrittajanaiset.fi.
To try a traditional sauna, you can also visit the Kuopio region in Eastern Finland, approximately five hours by train from Helsinki or a short flight. This region is home to numerous towns and villages boasting genuine wood-heated chimneyless smoke saunas. One of the biggest smoke saunas in Finland is located in Rauhalahti by Lake Kallavesi and at its authentic lumberjack lodge, Jätkänkämppä (www.rauhalahti.fi) traditional Finnish evenings are held in summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays to complement sauna bathing with accordion music, a singsong, dancing and traditional food. The Spa Finland website () provides links to 39 individual spa resorts located throughout the country.
There are dozens of festivals taking place this and every summer throughout Finland. A few festival highlights include Jazz on the Beach (www.rajatsi.fi) from July 26 to 28, 2007, the Jyväskylä Arts Festival (www.jyvaskylankesa.fi) from July 10 to 15, 2007, Savonlinna Opera Festival (www.operafestival.fi) from June 29 to July 28, 2007, Turku Music Festival (www.tmj.fi) from August 10 to 19, 2007, Midnight Sun Jutajaiset (www.jutajaiset.fi) from June 22 to July 1, 2007 and the Helsinki Festival (www.helsinkifestival.fi) from August 17 to September 2, 2007. For listings of local events and festivals, visit www.festivals.fi.
Travelocity (tel. 888/872-8356; www.travelocity.com) offers round-trip summer airfares to Helsinki flying with Finnair including non-stop flights from New York from $1,120 during the month of July, including all taxes and fees. From Boston on Finnair, prices start at $1,171, again including all taxes and fees.