Let’s admit it – when we think of Finland, summertime travel isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. Before I travelled to Finland last summer, I associated the country with the northern lights, Santa Claus, the snow-covered trees of Lapland, and cute reindeer. Am I far off the mark? Not necessarily as that does paint a partial picture of Finnish winters, however, there’s a completely different side of Finland to discover. I’m talking about summer in the coastal and archipelago regions!
Nature all around you
Finland is nothing short of idyllic in the summertime. I spent most of my time in the Kimitoön Islands located in the southwest peninsula. Out there it was nothing but the tranquility of nature. The drive over to Dalsbruk (Taalintehdas) took us through thick forest, past dark lakes, and when we finally reached our destination, we discovered a little slice of paradise in the form of cute cottages, fields in bloom, and tempting berry bushes. It was country living at its finest.
One of the things I enjoyed about summer in Finland was being able to browse the various farmers’ markets. How can you resist fresh hand-picked berries with vibrant colours like this? And the best part of the markets was that they didn’t just sell fresh produce – they also had stands cooking up meals which you could enjoy at a picnic table outdoors.
Long days and short nights
One of the benefits of visiting Finland in the summertime is that you get extremely long days! Because we were so far north in the hemisphere, the sun was always up by the time I woke up and it was always up when I went to bed. There were nights when I’d look at my watch and see that it marked 9:30 pm, and then I’d look out the window and marvel at the fact that I could still see the sun on the horizon. While my body found it a little bit tricky, I eventually adjusted and found that I was able to stay up later than usual because my mind was boggled by the fact it was still daylight.
A lighthouse and a home
One of the most unique places I visited along Finland’s archipelago region was a remote lighthouse located on a little rocky outcrop out at sea. The Bengtskär Lighthouse is the highest lighthouse in all of the Nordic countries, however, what sets it apart from the rest is that this place is also a home to a lovely couple. Paula and Per Wilson have the distinguished title of being the lighthouse’s keepers, and the only time they leave this peaceful abode is during the winter months when the waters freeze over preventing supplies from reaching the island. When asked if they ever get lonely out there, they explained they crave the serenity of their little lighthouse at sea.
Healthy picnics in the park
Finns are very health conscious and during my time there I took a lesson from their books. It was here that I discovered the magic of black rye bread with cream cheese and salmon. Easy to pick up from the local grocery store and best enjoyed outdoors!
Homebaked cakes in Högsåra
And I’m following healthy picnics with sugary treats! Yes, you’ve heard me talk about Högsåra before. The island happens to be home to Farmors Cafe – one of the best cafes in Finland’s archipelago region! – and I spent a wonderful afternoon enjoying their home-cooked meals. I journeyed here aboard a kayak and you wouldn’t believe how happy I was when my strenuous journey was rewarded with cakes, tarts, and cheesecakes!
My cottage in Dalsbruk was right by the water and it was the perfect place to spend the summer afternoons lounging around. While the water was very chilly by Southeast Asian standards, that didn’t take away from its beauty and you could see many people out enjoying it, either rowing their boats or jumping off their decks into the lake for a little polar dip.
A little Viking history
A fun little day trip was visiting the small island town of Rosala, which is home to a Viking village that showcases Finland’s history with the Norse sea-faring people. Here we got a lesson in Viking traditions – from the clothes they wore, to the weapons they used. My favourite, however, was the food! I was pleasantly surprised when we were ushered into a dimly lit dining hall for a true viking feast. We sat down at a wooden table where a bear skin eyed me from the walls and the aroma of a hearty soup wafted over from the serving table. On the menu that day was a thick white fish soup with potatoes and vegetables, and a side of black rye bread with salted butter. I went back for seconds. Simple yet delicious!
Crayfish and schnapps
While staying in Dalsbruk I was invited for a home-cooked meal and it was one of the quirkiest yet funnest meals I had. Throw a group of Finns, Danes, Austrians and Canadians together. Add a plateful of green beans which you eat by dipping in hot melted butter, another plateful of crayfish which you eat by ‘sucking the juices’, and a few shots of schnapps which we could only sip on if we sang along to ‘the song’. We may have been a mish-mash of characters, but we sure had a lot of fun.
Sea-kayaking around the islands
And last but not least, I couldn’t experience the Finnish archipelago and coastal regions without hitting the water. Led by out trusty guide Benjamin from Aavameri Open-Air Adventures, I kayaked for over 4 hours that day and got to see wildlife and enjoy the tranquility of the water. My body ached for days afterwards, but that was so worth the journey.
And that was Finland in the summertime – green, tranquil, and the perfect place to enjoy slow life. And the best part about discovering Kimito Island, is that it’s just a couple of hours from the capital of Helsinki, so you can easily take a little side trip.
Have you ever visited a winter destination in the summertime?
How did you like it?