Finland attracted over 4 million tourists in 2005, with most coming from Sweden. The value added by tourism is about 2.4% of the Finnish GDP, and provides around 60,000 jobs.
The Nature and the Finnish Summer The Nature and the Finnish Summer The summer is marked by long days in Finland, especially in the far north where the sun does not set at all. Tourists can go fishing and canoeing. There are several large lakes, including lakes Saimaa, Inari, and Päijänne. Walking is quite a popular activity in the summer. There are no high mountains in Finland, so climbing is somewhat limited. The highest mountain is Halti near Enontekiö. Halti is 1328 metres high.
Finland is famous for its many lakes, nearly 200,000 of them, not including the small ones. Finland is also known to have the best water quality in the world, and green deep woods and forests around the sea, rivers, and the waterways. In Finland, tourists can sit on the shore of a lake, fishing, watching reindeer or moose and enjoying silence.
Alcoholic drinks form an important part of the Finnish culture. When travelling through Finland it is imperative to try national favorites like: the national vodka Koskenkorva, the liquorice flavored Salmiakki Koskenkorva, and a mixture of vodka and sparkling wine that can be roughly translated into English as the "Bitch slammer".
In wintertime Finland provides excellent opportunities for cross-country skiing and some for alpine skiing too. Many of the popular ski resorts are situated north of the Arctic Circle in Lapland, but there are exceptions like Kuusamo in the northeastern part of Oulu Province.
Santa Claus is commonly known to live on Korvatunturi in Finland. In the town of Rovaniemi there is the Santa Claus Village for tourists to visit.
In the winter there is a large snowcastle with an Ice hotel built every year in the northern town of Kemi. Rovaniemi is a place from which to see the Aurora Borealis or Northern lights. Tourists in the north of the country in winter often enjoy trips in reindeer sleighs with Sami drivers, or in dog sleighs. It is also possible to ski, with downhill resorts at Saariselkä and Levi, and many cross country ski tracks throughout the northern part of the country. Ice hockey is a popular sport in winter, and it is possible to go ice yachting, or ice skating on the ice. Most lakes are also frozen, so ice fishing (pilkkiminen) is quite popular.
The Finnish language has a reputation for being difficult to understand and learn. However, many Finns are very fluent in foreign languages, such as English. Swedish is an official language and therefore widely spoken. Many Finnish people speak German as well.
Helsinki, Finland's capital and largest city, receives many visitors year-round. Other popular tourist destinations within Finland include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Kuopio and Porvoo.
The Finnish rail system is called VR. It offers InterCity and express trains throughout the country, and the faster Pendolino trains connecting the major cities. There are very large discounts (usually 50%) available for children (7-16 yr), students, senior citizens, and conscripts. There are international trains to St. Petersburg (Finnish and Russian day-time trains) and Moscow (Russian over-night train) in Russia. Connections to Sweden are by bus due to rail gauge differences. It's possible to take the Silja and Viking Line ferries from Helsinki to Mariehamn in the Åland archipelago, Stockholm (Sweden), and Tallinn (Estonia). There are about 25 airports in Finland with scheduled passenger services.
Finnair, Blue1 and Finncomm Airlines provide air services both domestically and internationally. Helsinki-Vantaa airport is Finland's global gateway with scheduled non-stop flights to such places as Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Nagoya, New York, Osaka, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Helsinki has an optimal location for great circle airline traffic routes between Western Europe and the Far East. Hence, many foreign tourists visit Helsinki on a stop-over while flying from Asia to Europe or visa versa.