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.


The history and politics of Finland has been shaped by its location, wedged between Sweden to the west, Norway to the north and Russia to the east. The national character of the Finns has been further coloured by the water-logged landscape - the country is hemmed in by the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland and 10% of its landmass lies underwater. Finland has more islands than any other country on earth - 30,000 off the Finnish coast and a further 98,000 islands in its 188,000 inland lakes - and the Saimaa Lake system in the southeast of the country is the largest inland water system in Europe. By European standards, Finland is very sparsely populated. Around 69% of the country is covered by the pine forests that define the northern coniferous zone. In the south and southwest, the forest is mainly pine, fir and birch; in Lapland, in the far north, scattered dwarf birch forests give way to Arctic tundra. Most of the national forests are managed for timber, which is used for the manufacture of furniture, paper and fibreboards and for domestic heating and warming Finland's 1.6 million saunas. Finland's forests are said to be the most sustainably managed in Europe. Only 8% of the land is used for agriculture - more than 50% of Finns work in manufacturing or the service sector.

Time Zone

UTC/GMT +2 hours

Vaccinations (country)

You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. No special vaccinations are required for Finland. UK residents should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling. The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment (except in Switzerland) that becomes necessary during your holiday, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care. You can obtain an EHIC from the Department of Health by phone, online, or at the post office.