Lapland is the ancestral home of the Sami people. This is the land of the midnight sun. The area covers about one-third of the total land mass of Finland and almost all of it lies within the Arctic Circle. There are large expanses of tundra, rounded hills, silent lakes, flowing rivers and some isolated birch trees. Summers are short and from October to May, snow covers the ground. Reindeer are semi-domesticated and roam freely across the land. Reindeer farming has been the traditional livelihood of the Sami. However, other Sami are now involved within the tourist or forestry industry. I am told that one of the typical delicacies/traditions of the region is buying a coffee at a bar, along with a couple of hard boiled eggs.
Reindeer farming is still a means to make a living for many Sami (Lapps). Semi-domesticated animals, the reindeer are allowed to roam freely over vast acres of tundra.
Northern Karelia shares a border with Russia. As a consequence of World War II, the southern part of Karelia was ceded to the Soviets. Thus, Karelia is regarded as a symbol of national patriotism. The Orthodox Monastery of Valamo, which was founded 800 years ago on an island in Lake Ladoga, was transferred to within the Finnish territory of Karelia where it now stands. If Lapland is the land of the midnight sun, then Karelia is the land of song. The musical instrument kantele derives from this region. The capital of the region is Joensuu. Nearby, in the Kuusamo area is the beautiful National Park of Oulanka with Koli Hill as its highest peak.
The Lake District
The main features of the central part of Finland are the thick, verdant forests and the thousands of lakes which make this part of the world unique. There are a variety and an abundance of waterways, rapids, and streams, where one can go canoeing, rafting, rapid-shooting, and sailing. Some of the most stunning national parks are located in this region.
Savonlinna has the beautiful Castle of Olavinlinna dating from 1475 where one of the most famous of Finland’s summer events is held—the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Kuopio is an important commercial town in this area and is located in some spectacular wooded lakeland scenery. This can be enjoyed best on an evening cruise on a restaurant boat. The best view of the town can be seen from the top of the revolving tower on Puijo Hill, which is open as a restaurant during the summer months (read more below under Kuopio).
This is the most populated area of the country. There are many historical reminders of this area’s past and its rich cultural diversity. Here you will find castles, fortresses, churches and historical cities, including Turku, the original capital of Finland (read more below under Turku). The cathedral in Turku is the country’s only medieval cathedral. It is a national shrine which has been rebuilt many times after fires and enemy attacks and has had great significance in the formation of a Finnish identity. Rauma, a 500-year-old village near Pori, is a world heritage site. The countryside is very gentle in this part of the country.
The restaurant at the top of the revolving tower on Puijo Hill in Kuopio offers fantastic views of the surrounding countryside, even at 11:00 pm.