I was lucky enough to be invited on the FAM trip hosted by Visit Finland. Finland is not a country I’m familiar with, apart from knowing the capital is Helsinki and it’s the home of Santa Claus in Lapland! Over the course of the week I discovered there is so much more to this beautiful country.
After a smooth flight I arrived in Helsinki late afternoon and was whisked off to my hotel. The airport is roughly 30 minutes’ drive from the city centre or there’s a train station at the airport that goes straight to Central Station. Everything was very well signposted.
I was staying at the 4* Marski by Sandic which is a 5-minute walk from the station – a great location for exploring the city.
I was out early the next morning eager to explore the city. My morning was taken up with hotel visits but it is such a compact city that it was so easy to walk from one to the other. I visited the Helka Hotel, the Klaus K Hotel and the Hotel Lilla Roberts. Although each property had a very different feel, I was very impressed by all of them.
As the sun was shining, I headed down to the waterfront and stopped off for a quick lunch before taking in some of the sights.
The rest of the FAM group arrived that evening and we met our wonderful hosts over dinner and drinks.
After a hearty breakfast we set off on our guided city tour. We walked to the amazing Oodi Library which is way more than just a library – there are music studios, workshops for electronics, laser cutters, gaming rooms and much more. Next it was on to the Helsinki Music Center, home of the Sibelius Academy, and the Olympic Stadium where we went to the top of the tower for some spectacular views of the city.
Next it was time to board the Silja Symphony ferry for a tour of the ship and lunch. It feels more like a cruise ship than a ferry!
This particular one sails overnight to Stockholm but they also operate the Helsinki to Tallin route which is a 2 hour journey, ideal for a day trip or a multi-centre city break.
After a short walk to Market Square we boarded the ferry for the 15 minute crossing to Suomenlinna. The island is an 18th century sea fortress and visitors can walk around the islands walking trails and visit the museum. Our guide gave us a tour of the island and an insight into its fascinating history. The island is inhabited and there are several cafes and restaurants offering a variety of refreshments.
After a quick change back at the hotel we were off to the 5* Hotel Kamp for a tour and dinner. This luxurious hotel did not disappoint and its pavement terrace is the place to be seen!
It was an early start to catch our flight up to Kajaani in Arctic Lakeland. The flight is just over an hour and we arrived at our home for the night, Hotel Kalevala, Kuhmo in time for lunch. We were served a delicious menu of locally produced items which was more than enough to keep us going for the rest of the day. The hotel is right on the lake and so peaceful. The view from my room was stunning.
We were then provided with more hospitality when we visited Lentiira Holiday Village which has traditional cabin accommodation and a Finnish smoke sauna, as well as offering a variety of outdoor pursuits. We were also introduced to Pine Tar which is made from the sap of pine trees and is used in everything from ice cream to soap and insect repellant. It is definitely an acquired taste!
I was very excited about our next activity – bear watching! We settled into our bear watching cabin, home for the next 5 hours and waited patiently. When we spotted our first bears across the lake there was great excitement. However, once they disappeared it was a while until we saw more activity.
It was worth the wait though, as first a baby was spotted approaching our cabin. It came so close and we were all literally holding our breath as it padded around. We would have been happy with this but lo and behold another two adult bears appeared, closely followed by an Arctic Fox! It was amazing to see these beautiful animals in the wild.
By now it was 10pm and we headed back to the Hotel Kalevala where our host had switched on the sauna and prepared a ‘light snack’ – this turned out to be a full buffet including fish from the lake, local sausage, cold meats, cheese, bread, desserts….
Maybe it was the excitement of seeing the bears but after the sauna we decided to jump into the lake at midnight – it was freezing but beautiful.
We left this beautiful location and headed to Vuokatti where we were taken on a guided hike and got a fascinating insight into the area. We had incredible views of the forest and lakes.
Our final night was spent at Hotel Vuokatti Resort where again we were treated to the most incredible hospitality. Located by Lake Nuas and with a mixture of hotel rooms and apartments this is an ideal location to enjoy everything this area has to offer.
After another outstanding dinner we were back in the sauna and with panoramic windows looking out over the lake it couldn’t have been a better setting for our final evening and we couldn’t help but have one last dip into another freezing lake!
To find out more about Diane’s visit to Helsinki or if you are interested in a similar trip,
give the team a call on 0131 243 8098 or send us an email.