Finland is a large country, and temperatures can vary a lot from North to South. During peak winter, it can reach -40°C in the North, but also -30°C in the Southern parts. The coastline is typically a bit warmer.
In the North, polar night is a thing – here you won’t see the sun for a few months at all! It does get a little brighter during the hours around noon, but the sun remains set.
Southern Finland has sun and proper daylight, on good days between 10:00 and 16:00. It’s not as bad as you’d think. Local weather forecast always mention the daylight hours as well.
Kaamos, a phenomenon of prolonged twilight in the winter, is exclusive to regions above the Arctic Circle. In Utsjoki, near the northern border, it lasts almost two months!
Despite being the darkest period of the year, Finnish Lapland’s proximity to the Arctic Circle results in a twilight glow, as the sun remains below the horizon, a magical soft light.
Southern Finland, though lacking a polar night, still sees very short daylight hours, with Helsinki’s shortest day lasting less than six hours.
So hard to decide. Here are some options:
Helsinki: The capital city of Finland is a vibrant urban center with plenty of winter charm. Explore the Christmas markets, visit the Helsinki Cathedral, enjoy traditional Finnish saunas, and take a stroll along the frozen seafront.
Lapland: The northern region of Lapland is a winter wonderland. Rovaniemi, the “official” hometown of Santa Claus, offers Santa-themed attractions, while Levi and Ylläs are great for downhill skiing. These are arguably most popular with tourists from abroad.
Kuusamo and Ruka: Located in northeastern Finland, this region offers excellent opportunities for winter sports like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. The Ruka ski resort is a popular destination for downhill skiing and one of the regions preferred by locals.
Kemi: Kemi is known for the SnowCastle, a massive snow and ice fortress built each winter. You can stay in ice rooms, dine in an ice restaurant, and enjoy various winter activities like icebreaker ship tours – which is one of my all-time favourite winter memories.
Tampere: This city in southern Finland is known for its beautiful lakes, and in winter, it offers ice skating on natural frozen lakes. You can also explore the cozy cafés and restaurants along the Tammerkoski Rapids.
Turku: In this historic city, you can enjoy the Christmas market, visit the Turku Castle, and explore the beautiful archipelago. The nearby island of Ruissalo is a serene spot for winter walks.
Oulu: Oulu, a city on the Gulf of Bothnia, is known for its winter festivals and outdoor activities, including the Nallikari Winter Village, snow sculpting contests, and the Air Guitar World Championships.
Lakeland: Finland’s Lakeland region is beautiful in winter, with frozen lakes and forests. Try ice fishing, go for a winter hike, skate on the frozen lakes, or simply enjoy the tranquility of the winter landscape. It’s the best place for a calm trip and winter wellness. My favourite place.
It sounds stupid, but it is a lot about the mindset (you might call it sisu). If you hide away from the winter and choose to hate the darkness and the cold, you will also not have a good time. Here are some tips:
Mostly reindeer (in Northern Finland) and moose. Bears hibernate in the winter. Lynxes are also out but not common to spot.
Yes! The first lakes freeze already in October.
Both the seas and the lakes in and around Finland freeze thick and far out. In Helsinki, you can expect the sea to freeze in February, in area of Kemi, the icebreakers are out from December to April to break the ice for other vessels.
Note: NEVER go on the ice alone or unless you are absolutely certain that it is extremely thick and frozen thicker than 20cm at least. Always inform someone who knows where you are if you are planning an icy excursion.
Yes! It’s popular and easily accessible. On most natural tracks you will need your own skates though.
In the Helsinki area, you can find maintained skating tracks and their condition information on the Outdoor exercise map (both natural and articifial).
The “blue moment” is a significant and magical phenomenon in Finnish winter photography. It refers to the brief period during the winter when the natural light takes on a unique, deep blue hue, creating a stunning and serene atmosphere.
This phenomenon occurs during the twilight hours, typically in the late afternoon or early evening when the sun is just below the horizon.
“Kaamos” refers to the polar night, a period during the winter when the northern parts of Finland experience an extended period of darkness, typically from late November to early January.
It occurs in Northern region where the sun does not rise at all, all though it is commonly referred to the very dark period in the year, also further South.
Absolutely! The glass igloos are probably the most famous, along with the snow- or ice hotels. Here are a few options:
You can find Christmas markets all around Finland, not just in the bigger cities. The Helsinki Tuomaan Markkinat is famous and has developed into one of the nicest ones around.
Again, it entirely depends where you are! In Finnish Lapland, the first snow can come in October. Most would consider November to March the main winter months.
The Northern Light season starts in September and ends in April. So yes, I guess that’s winter! It’s a natural phenomenon that’s very hard to predict. On clear nights, you have a good chance to see them, the better the further North you are. In Helsinki for example, they can be seen rarely, but it is possible.
Snowplows and Snow Removal: Snowplows are a common sight on Finnish roads. These run according to a schedule to keep roads open and accessible as much as possible.
Sand: is used on roads to provide better traction. It are applied strategically to prevent slippery conditions. The use of salt is uncommon as it penetrates the ground, and can be a danger to wildlife.
Heated Pavements: In urban areas, heated pavements are used to prevent snow and ice accumulation on sidewalks and pedestrian areas. Famously used on the Aleksanterinkatu street in central Helsinki.
Railway Snowplows: Snowplows designed for railways keep train tracks clear. Trains are an important mode of transportation in Finland and need to operate smoothly in winter.
Snow Barriers: Snow barriers, such as snow fences, are used to prevent snowdrifts on roads and railways.
Winter Road Maintenance Schedules: Transportation agencies establish schedules for winter maintenance operations. High-priority routes and areas with heavy traffic receive immediate attention.
Emergency Preparedness: Finland is well-prepared for emergencies, such as severe snowstorms or icy conditions, to ensure that transportation can continue safely and efficiently.
Public Transportation: Public transportation systems, including buses and trams, are equipped to handle winter conditions. Timetables may be adjusted for adverse weather.
Airport Snow Removal: Airports have specialised equipment for snow and ice removal on runways and taxiways. This ensures that air travel continues to operate even during heavy snowfall. Helsinki airport is especially famous for their “snow-how”.
Ice swimming, also known as “avantouinti” in Finnish, is a popular and culturally significant winter activity in Finland. It involves taking a dip in icy-cold water, often in natural bodies of water like lakes or the Baltic Sea.
It has become more common in the last years, with public winter swimming spots installed all around Helsinki, for example.
Especially the icy dip after a hot sauna is a unique experience. I always encourage you to find the courage to do it once, so you know what it’s about. If you then don’t want to do it again, fair enough 😉
Why do people do it?
Absolutely, for me personally, the sauna is the best possible experience in the winter time. You will find saunas everywhere in Finland, you don’t have to look far. Bring your swimwear for public saunas, or go in the nude in private company.
It can be everything you want to be, from a luxury getaway to a grounding nature experience.
Traditional cabins are often without running water and heating, but you have a kamiina (furnace) to heat the space, or sometimes small electric heaters. You melt snow in the sauna, where you also wash yourself. It’s amazing and can bring you back to the importance of the simple things, but it is more effort.
Most modern cabins are equipped fully with everything to have an easy holiday break.
It depends on what you want.
When to Go Ice Fishing: The ice fishing season typically starts in late autumn or early winter when the lakes and water bodies freeze sufficiently, usually from December to April. The best time to go ice fishing is when the ice is thick and safe, ensuring the conditions are stable.
Equipment: To ice fish in Finland, you’ll need some specialised equipment. This includes an ice auger to drill holes in the ice, ice fishing rods and reels, and bait. Common baits used for ice fishing in Finland include worms, maggots, and small fish like minnows. Ice fishing shelters or tents are also used to keep warm and shield from the elements.
Ice Fishing Locations: Finland is known for its vast number of lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, making it an excellent destination for ice fishing. Popular ice fishing locations include the Lakeland region, Lapland, and various frozen lakes throughout the country. Local fishing guides or ice fishing tours can help you find the best spots.
Fish Species: You can catch a variety of fish while ice fishing in Finland, including perch, pike, whitefish, burbot, and more. Each fish species may have specific regulations, so it’s important to be aware of local fishing guidelines and catch limits.
Safety Considerations: Safety is of utmost importance when ice fishing. It’s crucial to ensure the ice is thick and safe to support your weight. Check the local ice conditions, listen to local advice, and follow safety guidelines to prevent accidents.
Warm Clothing: Dress warmly in layers, as it can be extremely cold on the ice. Insulated clothing, gloves, and winter boots are essential to stay comfortable during your ice fishing excursion.
Fishing Licenses: In Finland, fishing licenses and permits are typically required. These regulations help maintain sustainable fisheries and protect the environment. Make sure to acquire the necessary permits before you start fishing.