After a 2-day visit to Helsinki, with side trips, you can rent a car to see the two other major destinations in the country, the cities of Tampere and historic Turku. If time remains, you can use Turku as an embarkation point for the Åland islands for a 2-day visit.

Days 1 & 2: Helsinki : Gateway to Finland

Arrive in Helsinki in the morning if you can so you'll have more time for sightseeing and visiting the main attractions, some of which are in the environs. Check into a hotel for 2 nights.

Before the morning fades, visit the Ateneum Art Museum ★★ part of the Finnish National Gallery, spending at least 2 hours here.

After lunch, you can spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum with the biggest collection of historic buildings in the country. You can take a ferryboat from Market Square to reach this mini-archipelago in the Baltic.

Back in town, and if it's a summer night, you can head for the Linnanmäki Amusement Park 3km (2 miles) north of Helsinki. This is a fun fair for all ages, with splashing fountains, rides, restaurants, cafes, and theaters.

On the morning of the second day, you can pick up your pre-arranged rental car and explore some of the sights in the environs, which for many will be their first preview of the heavily forested Finnish countryside.

Heading out of town, drive 39km (24 miles) along E-79 north to Järvenpää where a signpost points to Ainola. This log-constructed building was the former home of Jean Sibelius, who lived here for more than half a century. Both Jean and Aino, his wife, are buried on the property. Finland's greatest composer created many of his major works here.

Return to Helsinki by lunchtime, and plan a second excursion in the afternoon to the historic town of Porvoo 48km (30 miles) northeast of Helsinki. Instead of driving, we'd recommend a summer trip aboard one of two boats that sail to Porvoo from Market Square in Helsinki.

Once at Porvoo, you can visit its late 13th-century cathedral and such attractions as the studio of Albert Edelfelt, one of Finland's most famous painters. Return to Helsinki for the night.

Day 3: Tampere

Leave Helsinki in the morning and head north along the expressway, E-79, following the signs to Hämeenlinna, a distance of 98km (61 miles). You'll pass forest-covered hills and meadows that eventually give way to open country dotted with lakes. Consider a luncheon stopover in Hämeenlinna: Finland's oldest inland town, founded in 1639, was the birthplace of Jean Sibelius. You can explore the old castle on the shores of Lake Vanajavesi.

After Hämeenlinna, continue northwest along E-79 into Tampere, 172km (107 miles) from Helsinki. Check into a hotel for the night in Finland's second largest city.

The city is built on a narrow isthmus between two lakes, and its attractions such as the Tampere Art Museum and Tuomiokirkko, its cathedral, are easy to explore. If it's summer, attend a night performance at the Pyynikki Summer Theater.

Days 4 & 5: Turku

In the morning of Day 4, leave Tampere and follow E-80 155km (96 miles) southeast to the historic seaport of Turku, the oldest city in Finland and its former capital. Check into a hotel for 2 nights and set out to explore the major sights, including the twin museums of Aboa Vetus ★★ and Ars Nova; Taidemuseo, the second major art museum in Finland, and Tuomiokirkko, the mother of the Lutheran Church of the country, dating from the 13th century.

On the morning of Day 5, while still based in Turku, take a summer boat ride aboard the S/S Ukkopekka to the town of Naantali, famous for its Old Town. Spend a day here, wandering and exploring, perhaps visiting Kulturanta, the stunning summer residence of the president of Finland.

Secure the makings of a picnic and enjoy it on the grounds of Moominworld, with a beach and several other attractions. Return to Turku for the night.

Days 6 & 7: Åland Islands

On Day 6, you can leave the port of Turku and take a seagoing ferry to Mariehamn, the capital of the Ålands, an archipelago lying off the west coast of Finland between Stockholm and Turku. The archipelago consists of 6,500 islands, islets, and skerries.

After arriving in Mariehamn, the only real town, check into a hotel for 2 nights. In the afternoon you can visit the Ålands Museum and the Museum Ship Pommern.

On Day 7, explore the other islands, which are connected by a series of bridges, causeways, and ferry services.

After a final night in Mariehamn, return to Helsinki for your ongoing transportation.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.