After visiting the beautiful Scandinavian country of Finland earlier this year, I decided to compile a list of what to expect when visiting Finland in the winter months if you’ve never been before. This is my short, sweet but hopefully informative list – enjoy!
Expect sub-zero temperatures
Although I knew it would be cold in Finland, nothing could have prepared me for just how cold it was!
We visited Ruka, Finland in the first week of January and average temperatures throughout the week were -26 degrees Celsius. Brrr…
Being from the UK, snow is a very rare occasion for us and our winters are mostly mild so this was certainly a shock to the system, although a truly wonderful experience. I enjoyed wrapping up in many layers and playing about in the snow – especially just after Christmas!
However, be prepared to wear thermal gloves at all times, thermal underwear, plenty of layers and snow boots. If you’re planning on doing some skiing in Finland whilst you’re there, check out my ski clothes/equipment checklist.
Expect to pay high prices for alcohol and food in supermarkets
When eating out, the food is actually fairly moderately priced (depending on where you go, of course). We found ourselves paying around €25 for a reindeer steak (a Finnish delicacy) and about €3 per drink. This was within the small ski resort of Ruka in Northern Finland.
However, be prepared to pay much more in supermarkets! Average prices of local cheese can be around €7, and expect to pay close to €1.20 for 1 litre of milk. During my travel planning, I found this really helpful website to help put costs into perspective (although for Helsinki rather than Ruka). This image also helps to show average costs:
We were pleasantly surprised at how cheap Glögi was to buy out in Finland though. We paid about €3 for a litre and it was delicious whilst sat in front of our log fire. For those of you who don’t know, Glögi is a kind of mulled wine and is very popular in Finland. Safe to say that we kept coming back for more!
Expect to meet friendly locals
During our stay in Ruka, Finland, we found the locals to be most charming and ever so friendly.
We had doors held open for us, plenty of smiles and warm hellos when entering any bar, shop and restaurant. This was certainly one of my many fond memories of Finland during our stay here.
Expect to act like kids in the snow
If, like us Brits, you don’t see deep snow very often, then be prepared to act like a big kid every few minutes!
We took to the slopes as can be expected, however, we also found ourselves sledding hills onto frozen lakes, throwing snowballs at one another and going for reindeer sleigh rides!
Now, I must tell you – the Finnish take their sledding very seriously indeed. Our snowmobile instructor (more on that later) taught us “how to sled properly” to quote him. According to his instruction, you must keep your arms in the air throughout the ride, and use your lower body to shift left and right whilst whooping very loudly all the way down! That was his advice, and I’m sticking to it!
Expect dark mornings, afternoons and evenings
With being so far north of the equator, you should expect much shorter days than you may be used to, and thus, much darker days.
In Ruka (January 2016), the sun was rising at about 10am and setting between 2-2.30pm. If you’re anything like us, the daylight dictates your sleeping patterns. We found ourselves having to set our alarms at 8am everyday.
I must confess that the darker days did help to offer a magical atmosphere during our stay in Finland though. Imagine the setting: fresh, crunchy snow; sparkling snowflakes falling; deep, dark sky; cosy log cabins and evergreen fir trees all around. If that doesn’t get you wanting to visit Finland, then how about a couple of pictures instead?
Expect unique experiences
There are many extraordinary traditions in Finland, which will help you have unique experiences that you won’t forget for life!
Fancy a relaxing reindeer sleigh ride?
How about hopping onto a snowmobile and whizzing across frozen lakes?
Or try a spot of husky sledding!
Whatever you decide to do in Finland, I can promise that you’ll have a magical time there and many memories will be made. From friendly locals to picturesque settings, expect to have the trip of a lifetime!
Have you been to Finland? Where did you go? What did you see? Share your tips, memories and comments below…