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Finland Tourist Guide

Finland

Finland has hundreds of thousands of lakes, islands and inlets from the Bay of Finland in Scandinavia, and a long land border with Russia. You are never very far from a body of water and sailing ? or just messing about in boats ? plays a big part in the vacation plans of Fins, and new opportunities for exploring the country by boat are being developed all the time. Amongst numerous popular inland waterways is the 45-mile Tahko Boating Route between Kuopio and the lively resort of Tahko. Lake Saimaa, the largest body of water in eastern Finland is linked by a 20-mile canal to Vyborg in Russia.

The capital, Helsinki, has grown around a natural harbour. The naval fortress island of Suomenlinna, across the harbour from downtown, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tampere is Finland's second city and is located in a labyrinth of lakes - 200 of which are within the city limits. The islands of southwestern Finland form the largest archipelago in the world - don't miss a visit to the lighthouses at Bengtskar and Borgberg, or the Rodeborg Viking Centre and the wooden church at Sarkisalo.

Much of the country is flat and covered in pine forests. Rocky outcrops reveal its foundation on granite. Finland's Lake District is in the south while the arctic wilderness of Lapland is in the north, where it can stay dark throughout the winter months. Summertime in Finland is filled with music and dance festivals ranging from jazz and home-grown and international rock music to folk and classical music. This is the homeland of the composer Sibelius, after all, and he worked for many years in a log house at Järvenpää, on the shores of Lake Tuusula.

Sauna is perhaps the only Finnish word to enter the English language, but in Finland it is an essential part of the way of life and social culture of the country. A true Finnish sauna is a lakeside cabin heated by a wood stove where you stimulate the circulation of the blood by slapping leafy birch twigs on the skin in between sessions of sweating and taking dips in cold water.

Throughout the Cold War years Finland was officially neutral but in practice this meant any criticism of the former Soviet Union - its major trading partner and market - was censored, and Finland acted as a buffer between western Europe and the communist empire.

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