Being from the second-coldest country in the world, if there is one thing us Canadians know, it’s winter. (Basically because we have no choice.)
I will admit that while spending most of my years in the frozen north, I was the one to dive under blankets near a fireplace at the first sign of snow unable to re-emerge until spring. I was anti-winter and never really learned to appreciate it. In fact, I didn’t believe that enjoying winter was even possible.
And then I went to Finland.
I must divulge that the Finnish do have it easier than us Canadians. Despite the fact that the country sits farther north, their temperatures are much milder thanks to a warm gulf stream. And forget the crazy bitter winds that so many of us Canucks are used to, barely a breeze crosses their country. Instead, picture piles of gorgeous snow, a constant golden hour glow to the sky and sightings of the northern lights that are almost guaranteed in the north. That’s Finland.
So instead of a jaunt to the southern hemisphere to break up winter, consider taking a trip to visit Finland and enjoying these incredibly unique activities:
Ride an Ice-Breaker
Finland is one of the only countries in the world where it is possible for all harbours to be frozen at once, and thus a fleet of ice-breakers is employed to maintain shipping routes. One of these, called Sampo, was built in the 1960s and was bought decades later by the town of Kemi to host tourists. Ride out of the Bothnian Bay crushing ice as you go, and then take a dip in the chilly waters (wearing an impermeable survival suit) to bob with the giant ice cubes recently smashed up.
Sleep in a snow castle
Also in the small town of Kemi is the largest snow fort in the world! The Snow Castle, built in just a few weeks to be opened by the end of January each year, also includes a Snow Restaurant, Snow Chapel and Snow Hotel.
Everyone knows that old Saint Nick lives in Finnish Lapland! His village is near the town of Rovaniemi, when you visit in the Christmas off-season, he is available to meet his fans daily.
Ride a reindeer sleigh
After meeting Santa, get to pretend you are him by taking the reins of a reindeer sleigh and learn all about these incredible creatures. Did you know that their skin is natural goretex, and that the only way they release body heat is through their mouths? Oh, and they are also a popular menu item and really tasty too. (But don’t tell Rudolph I said that.)
Take a swim
We call it a “polar bear dip,” but the Finns might just call it a regular Tuesday. Winter swimming is a hobby enjoyed by hundreds of thousands across the country for the incredible health benefits that it brings. Coupled with some time in their abundant saunas, it’s not a bad way to spend a Tuesday once you get used to it.