Wedged between Russia in the east and Sweden and Norway in the west, Finland is one of the least densely populated countries in Europe with only 16 people per square kilometer on average. Its geography is marked by vast boreal forests and by an abundance of lakes – depending on the method of counting, there are more than 185,000 and there are almost 100,000 islands in them. From south to north, Finland stretches over more than 1,100 kilometers and roughly a third of its total area lies inside the Arctic Circle.

Finland has only declared its independence in 1917, when it broke from the Russian Empire after the October Revolution. The country quickly turned its back on the former rulers, fighting the Soviet Union in World War II. The Swedish however, under whose rule Finland stood for more than 500 years, have left more distinctive marks on the country. Swedish is still an official language and Swedes make up a sizable minority of the population.

With the Baltic Sea’s Gulf of Finland in the southeast, separating the country from Estonia and the Gulf of Bothnia n the west, more bodies of water shape Finland’s culture. The country still has a strong emphasis on rural living and on connecting with nature. Many residents living in the urban centers have a small cabin in the woods or at one of the lakes where they spend parts of the summer.

Thanks to its abundance of natural features, Finland gets a lot of outdoor tourism particularly visitors looking to hike, ski, kayak or fish. Lapland attracts a majority of these travelers as the region also offers excellent opportunities to watch the northern lights throughout large parts of the year. The area’s capital, Rovaniemi, located at the Arctic Circle, also styles itself as the home of Santa Claus.

The capital Helsinki, located in the southern half of the country, is another interesting destination that treats visitors to great examples of the Finnish cuisine and has sights such as the Cathedral or the Suomenlinna fortress on several connected islands near the city. The former capital, Turku, is a seaside town that’s also well known as a culinary destination and is sometimes called the “Paris of the North”.

PopulationAreaCurrencyEU memberSchengen area
5,614,600338,145 kmĀ²Euroyesyes

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