Finland is a northern European country of four seasons for the discerning traveler, not a land of mass tourism. Summer season in Helsinki, winter at the skiing centers in Lapland and few happenings all year round temp enough people to make it a crowd, otherwise you can enjoy the space and silence in the pure northern nature. During the winter months you can have a skiing holiday or visit the Santa Claus and take a reindeer tour. Summer offers you a wide variety of activity from trekking to urban holidays, or you can simply relax at a hidden summer cottage with a sauna near a lake. Besides the mainland with vast forests and thousands of lakes separated by few agricultural and urban areas, the Baltic Sea with widespread archipelagos offers plenty of possibilities for sailing and fishing. Helsinki and few other places are worth of visiting throughout the year. Finland has a high standard of living, comparable to Scandinavian countries, facilities are good and especially the telecommunications are next to none in the world.
With an area of 338,000 square kilometers, Finland is the seventh largest country in Europe, located between Sweden and Russia. The Gulf of Finland separates southern Finland from Estonia and in the north Norway isolates Finland from the Barents Sea. Boreal forest cover two-thirds of Finland, one third of the country lies north of the Arctic Circle. Post-glacial lakes are a dominant feature, if marshes and bogs are also counted water covers about 10% of the country. Most of the country is relatively flat with few hills, the highest point of Finland, Halti in Lapland, rises 1328m above sea level. Finnish flora is rich and varied during the warm period between late May and September. The most common mammals in the forests include elks, foxes, lynxes, lemmings and hedgehogs, but also brown bear exists. Reindeer is a very common sight in the northern Finland, Lapland. There are over 300 species of birds including black grouse, whooper cranes and birds of prey, such as ospreys. With climate, Finland is more favored than most areas in the same latitudes, like Alaska. The average temperature in Helsinki is -3.1 °C (26.4 °F) in January and +20.5 °C (68.9 °F) in July. The summer months from July to August are generally warm, the midnight sun does its thing, but the nights can be chilly, and during the winter you should always take warm clothing with you.
Finnish language is different from the Indo-European languages; it belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages together with Estonian and Hungarian. Language is not much of a problem in Finland, however, because most Finns know some foreign language and many of them speak several. English is the most widespread foreign language and Swedish has the special status of being the country's second official language, German, French and Russian are not uncommon at the bigger towns and tourist centers. The five million Finns themselves may appear reserved at first, but they'll show the friendly face soon after first contact, especially if you show interest in the local culture like sauna.
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