Finland, Europe's wintery wonderland
A sparsely populated land in Europe's deep north, Finland exudes a wintry magic. Covered in dense pine forests, Finland's icy still landscapes will captivate you with their eerie grandeur. Unique in Europe, the frozen charms of Finland include polar night - where the sun is not seen for days, weeks or even months - and summer nights, where sunsets are replaced by a pervading light which bathes the forests and cities in a soft glow.
One of the world's most socially progressive countries, with an extensive Nordic-style welfare system, Finland's has an attractively high quality of life. The small, affluent population hugs the chic urban centres, while the snow-covered rocky peaks overlooking the pebbly shores of deep lakes are popular weekend jaunts.
Flights to Finland from London take you into Helsinki Airport, which is a short distance from the capital city of Helsinki. With a distinctly Russian feel, its great cathedral recalling St Petersburg's grand architecture, Helsinki is a city of cool elegance. A walk along the pristine harbour reveal brightly coloured buildings and stylish boats, as trendy cafés face artistic communes and cutting-edge art galleries. Indeed, you'll quickly discover Helsinki is a delightful mix of picturesque charm and avant-garde swagger.
Take a daytrip out to Suomenlinna, an 18th-century fortress from the Russian era that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An enchanting complex, you'll find venerable old buildings offering stunning vistas of the Gulf of Finland.
Food and drink
Finland has a rich culinary heritage, combining traditional Finnish cuisine with a contemporary twist. Helsinki's Figaro serves delicious Scandinavian fare - including freshly caught fish - in a sophisticated setting. Promising hearty dishes full of wholesome flavours, Kummiset is a local favourite with Helsinki's social scene. Sour milk is a popular beverage, while pale beers such as koff and olvi dominate.
History and architecture
For the adventurous, the frozen wonders of Lapland - the fantastical home of Santa Claus - are a must-see, with reindeer and traditional folk dress to enjoy. Elsewhere, Helsinki's vividly white cathedral is a magnificent sight, while the Petäjävesi Old Church is a World Heritage Site displaying the age-old techniques of carpentry that has produced a church of astonishing, earthy beauty.