Historically belonging to Sweden, this north European country was a part of the Russian Empire between 1809 and 1917. Finland joined the UN in 1955 and the EU in 1995. Its capital city of Helsinki and most of the centres of population can be found in the south of the country. The central part of the country is a bewildering pattern of lakes and islands (amazingly - more than 175,000 of each) and 75% of the land area is coniferous 'taiga' - a mix of unproductive forest and fens. The Arctic Circle crosses the country about 400 kilometres from its northern border with Norway and throughout the long winter months this northern wilderness region is snow-bound. Home to the indigenous, reindeer-herding Sami people, this part of Finland is a great place to see the Northern Lights and to experience a range of winter activities. Skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and husky dog sledding can be enjoyed within a week-long package. As an example of a more continuous snowshoeing holiday, the Bear Trail crosses the Oulanka National Park and is a hut-to-hut, husky assisted adventure.