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Some say that it is the land of Santa Claus and Christmas; others think it a vast empty area of snow and ice. But the Republic of Finland is more than just a winter wonderland (though it is located all the way up in the deep north). This beautiful nordic country - bordered by Sweden, Norway and Russia - is a land of extremes: in summer, the sun almost never sets (leading to sightings of the midnight sun) and in winter, the sun almost never shines (but gives way to another natural luminescence, the Northern Lights). The eighth largest country in the world, Finland also boasts an astonishing 188,000 lakes that make up 10% of the country’s area. The remaining 90% is filled with acres upon acres of pristine forests, woodlands, mountains, hills and much more.

Finland’s unspoilt natural beauty manages to co-exist peacefully with its bustling developed cities, too - happening Helsinki, the country’s capital and the world’s northernmost urban area, is located just a stone’s throw away from some of the finest lakes and forests Europe has to offer.

Getting around Finland

With the country’s well-developed and efficient network of public transportation, getting around Finland isn’t difficult - but it may not necessarily be cheap. For those on a tight schedule, the fastest way to cover massive Suomi quickly is by domestic flight, but fares can be pretty steep. Otherwise, Finnish Railways (the country’s train network) and long-distance buses (called Matkahuolto or Onnibus) are also available.

What to see and do

No trip to Finland is complete without a visit to Finland’s Suomenlinna, the largest maritime fortress in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This sea fortress, built on a collection of separate islands, had an important role to play in the country’s history and is, in part, responsible for its current prosperity. Built in the 18th century by the Swedes (as Finland was a part of Sweden back then), Suomenlinna was constructed to protect the city’s harbor and to serve as a base for the military forces stationed in Finland. Over time, ownership of this maritime fortress changed hands frequently but it would be come to be used in the defence of Sweden and Russia as well as Finland.

Though no longer used for military purposes today, Suomenlinna continues to show the world what European military architecture was like back in the day. It also continues to fulfil its new roles as a tourist attraction and an amazing picnic spot beautifully.

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