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  Life   Travel  28 Feb 2019  Chasing the Northern Star

Chasing the Northern Star

THE ASIAN AGE. | SEAN COLIN YOUNG
Published : Feb 28, 2019, 12:28 am IST
Updated : Feb 28, 2019, 12:28 am IST

If you are game for staying in glass igloos, ride a reindeer and catch the Northern lights, then Finland is the place to visit.

Northern Lights
 Northern Lights

Happiness although, a term which can be related by all, is ambiguous and subjective as it differs from individual to individual. According to the 2018 World Happiness Report it was found that the happiest country in the world is Finland. Not many know but this country also grabbed the top ranks for best education system.

What could be a more happy moment than to enjoy an Indian palate amid the boundless beauties of nature in Finland.  The country offers some of the world’s unique experiences of staying in glass igloos and snow hotels, unique nature activities like riding a reindeer, berry picking, kayaking, among others.

Moreover, Aurora Borealis can appear on 200 nights a year in the Finnish Lapland and who can forget Santa Claus who actually comes from Finland. These are experiences that one will never forget. The travel packages offer experiences that are both simple and extreme and can be embraced with all senses to the depths of the soul.

The four must visits in Finland are Helsinki, Lakeland, Lapland and Archipelago.

According to Nina Vaskunlahti, ambassador of Finland, the country has reinvented itself in just one short century – from a largely agrarian society into a high tech country. “Our national character and northern heritage have boosted us to the top of many kinds of country rankings from quality of life to clean air. Finland is one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries. Almost 80 per cent of the land is covered by forest and 10 per cent by water. So it’s no wonder that tourists are blown away by the sheer beauty of the Finnish landscape,” she says.

Data reveals the average growth of Indian travellers has increased by 13 per cent and the overall growth shot up to 320 per cent in the years spanning from 2000 to 2018. With 40 national parks, 188,000 lakes and over two million saunas There are seven UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Fortress of Suomenlinna in Helsinki.

In Helsinki one can definitely try and must walk in the cool neighborhood of Kallio, which has various kinds of bars and restaurants that would make one indulge in some gastronomical shenanigans. One can visit the local markets and try some lip-smacking delicacies like rye bread, salmon, sausage and pea soups, Karjalapaisti (meat stew) and much more.

Lapland is located at the north of Finland. The mystery behind Finnish folklore is deeply connected with Lapland. It is said that once you visit this place, you would never be the same. One can doze off under the Northern lights under the glass igloo. Forget writing a letter to Santa! See him up close and in person, sitting on his lap with a list (not a huge one though). To top it off, one can even ride with the huskies or the reindeers.

Lakeland is said to be a significant place as it is one of the important birthplaces of Finnish identity with deep green forests, rolling hills and the glittering lakes. A visit to the Savonlinna opera festival is a must. Engage on a forage for fresh berries and mushrooms in the forests. One can even rent a cottage here.

Coast and Archipelago are located on Finland’s west coast. Shaped by the Ice age, the Turku archipelago has 20,000 small islets. To add to it, wooden towns, historic manors and many stone churches, also there are lighthouses and ferries bridging islands.

The Santa Claus country is welcoming when it comes to solo women travellers, she says. “As far as Finland is concerned, we are an open society. It’s a society where trust prevails,” says Nina.

Sara Sodhi Juneja, country head - India, Visit Finland and a frequent traveller to the country says, “Finland received a very warm welcome in the Indian market with the arrivals growing by 15 per cent from India to Finland in 2018. We are focusing on developing Finland as an all year destination for Indians with the four unique seasons. With midnight sun in the summer, and the ephemeral allure of the Northern Lights in the winter, Finland possesses a wealth of rare beauty, and a truly distinctive ambience.”

It takes six hours from Delhi to fly to Helsinki. In summer, there are flights four times a week and in the winter there are daily flights.

There is a variety of Indian restaurants in Finland, Sara says adding, “Some of the Indian food we get there is better than what we eat here as the ingredients over there are so fresh.” The Indian restaurants are in the city centre at a walking distance and can be easily found.

Apart from the beautiful holiday destination, the home of Santa Claus, in recent times, its education system has also been titled as one of the best in the world — at all levels be it primary, secondary and tertiary, education is free.

When asked about how can India and Finland help each other in the field of education, the ambassador says, “We are happy to share our experience nd ideas.”

 She later advises that the best way the two countries can help each other out is by experiencing each other’s education system and understanding it.

Tags: world happiness report, northern lights, glass igloos