By Briana Seftel
Known as the "Land of a Thousand Lakes," Finland is a country in Northern Europe known for extreme beauty, eco-friendly cities and peculiar sports. With some of the happiest people in the world, a vacation to Finland is bound to be finntastic. Here are just a handful of reasons why Finland is one of the best places on Earth!
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1. It has the Northern Lights & Midnight Sun
Finland is one of the best places to spot the elusive Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis). From September to March, travelers flock to the wilds of Finnish Lapland to catch shocking rays of yellow, green, pink and purple. It's estimated you can see the Northern Lights here 200 nights a year - that's practically every day in winter! From May to August, you can expect 24-hour sunlight (they don't call Finland the Land of the Midnight Sun for nothing).
2. It's home to truly odd sports
A pair of rubber boots will certainly come in handy in Finland, as the country sees its fair share of rain. However, that's not the only reason Finns own rubber boots - they also use them for sport! Only the best boot throwers can compete in the annual Bootthrowing World Championships in Kinnula. There's also competitions for wife carrying, mobile phone throwing, mosquito squashing and swamp soccer.
3. There are some 70,000 islands and 187,888 lakes
Finland's stunning coast boasts the largest archipelago in the world, with some 70,000 islands. It also has around 188,000 lakes including the 1,700-square-mile Lake Saimaa, home to one of the most endangered species in the world, the Saimaa ringed seal. Come summer, you can expect to find the Finns enjoying swimming, fishing, canoeing, rowing and sailing.
4. There are 35 ways to say you're drunk
Yep, and there's a even a Finnish word for getting drunk at home in your underwear: kalsarikännit.
5. Santa Claus and his reindeer live here
Head to Lapland to meet the real Santa Claus. Although originally from Korvatunturi, the cheerful man in red now resides in Rovaniemi, where he greets visitors all year round. The capital of Lapland is also home to more reindeer than people. Visit a reindeer farm or get around by reindeer sleigh ride.
6. Roam freely anywhere in nature
There is a Finnish term, Jokamiehen Oikeus, which translates to "everyman's right." It guarantees public access to most outdoor lands and bodies of water for recreational purposes, meaning you can roam freely just about anywhere. Forage for mushrooms and berries or breathe in the fresh air as you explore Finland's vast forests.
Fun fact: Over 70% of Finland is covered in forest, more than any country in Europe.
7. Saunas, Saunas, Saunas
There are more than three million saunas in Finland - that's more than one sauna for every other person! Saunas are a huge part of Finnish culture and most Finns go to a sauna multiple times a week to cleanse the body and mind. There is even a Finnish motto that says "a house without a sauna is not a home."
8. They really love milk
The Finns love milk. They consume one of the highest amounts of milk per capita in the world. In fact, Finland’s passion for dairy can be traced back to 2500 BC. The milk aisle in Finland is much more than 1% and nonfat. Try piimä (similar to buttermilk) viili (curd milk) and rahka (a fermented milk product similar to firm yogurt).
9. You can become an air guitar champion
No musical talent required. Every year, thousands gather to show off their sweet moves and epic faces at the Air Guitar World Championships in the city of Oulu. According to the ideology of the Air Guitar, "wars would end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear, if all the people in the world played the Air Guitar."
Perhaps no other word embodies the spirit of Finland better than sisu. The Finnish word doesn't have a direct translation, but can best be described as "extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity."