Seasonal Planning for Finland Travel
Given its northern latitude, straddling the Arctic Circle, Finland experiences extreme winters and a dramatic change in seasons, each of which has its appeal. The country also spans more than 720 miles (1,160 km) of latitude, so Helsinki (on the Gulf of Finland in the south) has a climate far milder than Lapland in the far north. Hence, Finland is a year-round destination, with a perfect activity or attraction for any time of year.
The two high seasons are the short and mild to warm summer months (June-August) and, perhaps surprisingly, mid-winter for the Aurora borealis (Northern Lights), snow sports and activities, and Christmas (after all, Santa Clause lives in Rovaniemi, in Lapland). To beat the crowds and enjoy some pleasant hiking weather, visit Finland during late spring or the tail-end of summer when you'll also be able to enjoy some of Finland's music festivals and other events.
In late spring and throughout summer, the landscape is at its greenest, and the days at their longest—midnight in most of the country is still lit by twilight. You may see the Aurora borealis any time from August through April, but displays are at their showiest during winter months, when you can also partake of cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and a magical reindeer-sleigh ride. Plus, a steaming Finnish sauna never feels so good as when savored amid Finland’s snowy winter wonderland.
|Seasons||Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|Spring (Mar-May)||Wildflowers and wildlife appear, especially in the south; low- and shoulder-season, with fewer visitors and lower prices||Northern Finland is still snowbound||Winter sports in Lapland||Käsivarren and Tarvantovaara Wilderness Areas, Tampere, Porvoo, Arctic Sauna World in Muonio|
|Summer (Jun-Aug)||Long days with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures; lots of cultural festivals||High season with high prices; mosquitoes in northern Finland||Outdoor activities; Archipelago Trail around the Turku Archipelago; picking cloudberries in Lapland; cultural festivals||Helsinki, Lakeland, Inari, Turku|
|Fall (Sep-Nov)||Fall foliage; low prices; Christmas markets; Aurora borealis||Cloudy and rainy||Fall foliage in Lapland; Christmas markets; Exploring Helsinki & Helsinki Festival||Lapland, Lakeland, Helsinki & other major cities|
|Winter (Dec-Jan)||Aurora borealis; plenty of snow for winter sports and activities; Christmas||Very cold and snowy; short daylight hours||Christmas with Santa; sleigh rides, dog-sledding, skiing & other winter sports||Lapland, Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Saariselkä|
Spring in Finland (March to May)
March technically marks the first month of spring, although conditions are still decidedly wintery. With the spring equinox (March 21), days get progressively longer, and the extra hours of sunlight make this perhaps the best time of year to enjoy snow sports without the crowds of December. The warming weather melts some of the snow in southern Finland, although the average temperature nationwide in March is still a cold 27°F (-3°C). Other than popular ski towns such as Rovaniemi or Levi (where reservations are still recommended), accommodations are at their cheapest nationwide.
By April, life rebounds after a long hibernation, and cultural events reappear on the calendar. The nationwide average temperature rises to 38°F (3°C), although in no other month is the difference between north and south quite as evident: while spring flowers bloom in southern Finland, the freezing north is still smothered in snow. Many ski resorts remain open, but ice skating on thawing lakes and other outdoor winter activities become dangerous. Easter sees an uptick in domestic travel to popular resort towns; otherwise, April isn't a busy time for travel, and accommodations are bargain-priced.
May—a delightful month to visit Finland—finally feels like spring, with fairly long days, even if the weather may still be cool. The nationwide temperature averages 50°F (10°C) in May, but most snow has melted, and the midnight sun barely dips below the horizon in Helsinki. This is shoulder season and a great time to visit if you wish to avoid the busier, higher-priced summer yet still enjoy fair weather and long days.
Events in Spring
Aurora borealis, nationwide. The flickering colorful lights of the Northern Lights can still be seen throughout Finland in spring.
Easter, nationwide. Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in Finland, and Easter is celebrated as much for auguring the coming spring as it is a religious festival. Children dress up as witches and carry willow buds.
Reindeer Racing Championships, Inari. Held on frozen Lake Inari, in far northern Lapland, this fun event is held in late March or early April.
April Jazz Festival, Espoo. Finnish and international musicians perform at this festival, held west of Helsinki over two weeks in late April.
Walpurgis Night & Vappu (Labor Day). Bonfires and street parties are de rigueur staples of the feast day of 8th-century Christian Saint Walpurga, held on April 31. It is usually combined with Labor Day celebrations.
World Village Festival, Helsinki. This festival celebrates Finland's multiculturalism through music, circus, dance, theater, and more and is held at the end of May.
Summer in Finland (June to August)
Finland's short-lived summer is idyllic, especially after the long, dark, and freezing days of winter. Days are long (nowhere gets dark at night during the summer months), making it ideal for outdoor activities. This is an excellent time to explore Helsinki and other major cities, such as Tampere. Finns leave in droves for the countryside (particularly Finnish Lakeland), where many smaller towns host summer cultural festivals. Hence, it's wise to reserve accommodations in advance (particularly in July), as hotels and cottages in the countryside are often booked out.
Although you might still find snow in some parts of Lapland, by June, most of the Finnish countryside is a lush green. Nationwide, the average temperature is a mild 59°F (15°C) but it can rise into the 70s°F (20s°C) in Helsinki and elsewhere in the south; as always, the north will be considerably cooler than the average. This is a peak month for travel as foreigners flock and, by late June, Finns take much of June and July off for their family holidays. You can expect to pay the highest prices for accommodations and car rentals in June and July (and into August).
July is the perfect month to visit if you seek warm weather and to enjoy nature at its most bounteous. This is the warmest month of the year (although slightly rainier than June), with a national average of 63°F (17°C). Temperatures in the south and central Finland occasionally rise into the low 80s°F (the high 20s to low 30s°C).
By August, summer is already winding down as temperatures cool and Finns return to school and work. Yet this remains one of the warmest months, with an average nationwide temperature of 59°F (15°C) and mainly dry weather—although slightly wetter than June and July. By the end of the month, the weather begins to feel autumnal, and nights are growing longer, yet this entire shoulder season month remains a great time to visit. As Finns vacate their holiday homes in the countryside, prices come down, and there are good deals to be had, although some tourist attractions begin to close by the end of August.
Events in Summer
Naantali Music Festival, Naantali. Spanning two weeks in early June, this classical and chamber music festival is held in Naantali. in southwest Finland.
Midsummer (Juhannus), nationwide. Finns celebrate this national holiday, held for the summer equinox, with all-night bonfire parties in the countryside.
Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, Kaustinen. Held over about five days in mid-July, this is the biggest folk music festival in Scandinavia.
Pori Jazz Festival, Pori. This week-long jazz festival is held in the western coastal town of Pori in early-mid July.
Flow Festival, Helsinki. Musical genres span the spectrum from folk to rock during this popular 2-3-day music festival held in mid-August; advance ticket purchase is advised.
Fall in Finland (September to November)
Autumn arrives swiftly in Finland, and September already feels fall-like compared to more southerly parts of Europe. September through November are the cloudiest and rainiest months. By September, the nationwide average temperature has cooled to 50°F (10°C), with northern areas being much cooler, as always. Still, being sandwiched between the summer heyday and winter snow sports, there are relatively few travelers, so you'll find great deals on flights and accommodation. Plus, September hosts some great cultural festivals, and it's the best time of year to catch the fall colors, especially in northern Finland.
As with September, October is prime time to catch the vibrant fall colors (notably in southern Finland), and the Aurora borealis now begin to dance across the night sky. The national average temperature falls to 41°F (5°C), with northern areas feeling quite wintery as snow begins to fall and daylight hours diminish. However, you can still expect around 12 hours of sunlight in Helsinki and elsewhere in southern Finland, where prices for flights, rental cars, and accommodation remain at the lowest of the year. In the north, the snow resorts and most other tourist attractions will still be closed.
By November (the wettest month of the year), the national average temperature is 32°C (0°C), and winter is setting in, with cloudy, gloomy days and long nights. Although southern Finland feels autumnal in early November, the first snows usually arrive this month, while most of the north is already snowbound, especially above the Arctic Circle. By late November, snow resorts open, as do Christmas markets in some towns, but this is still the low season for travel and offers a good chance to take advantage of lower prices before the December tourist high season.
Events in Fall
SAMPO Festival, Helsinki. Held at the end of August/beginning of September, this puppet festival includes puppet troupes from around the world, with entertaining performances for children and adults alike.
Helsinki Festival. The largest multi-arts festival in Finland is held over two weeks in late August and early September. It features an international line-up of cutting-edge artists, dancers, and orchestras.
Loviisa Sibelius Festival, Loviisa. Named after Finland's best-known composer, Jean Sibelius, this chamber music festival spans several days in early September and is hosted by the small coastal town of Loviisa.
Arctic Weekend, Rovaniemi. In early October, the Arctic town of Rovaniemi becomes an epicenter of snow sports over three days in celebration of the onset of winter.
Helsinki Baltic Herring Market, Helsinki. Held in October, this week-long event dating back to 1743 features a boat race, old sailing boats, and a major market selling fish plus traditional Finnish crafts and products.
Winter in Finland (December to February)
Winter in Finland means freezing temperatures (January and February are the coldest months), heaps of snow, and minimal hours of daylight. It's also the best time of year to witness the shimmering Northern Lights, experience winter snow sports (needless to say), and visit Lapland, the mythical home of Santa Claus. There's no better place to spend Christmas or to experience the magical Nordic wonderland.
December marks the beginning of winter, although much of Finland has already felt wintery for one or two months. The national average temperature falls to 25°F (-4°C), but it's much colder in Lapland, where the sun doesn't rise in midwinter (Helsinki still gets a few hours of daylight). Yet this is a busy travel month: international visitors flock for Christmas, especially to visit the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland. At the same time, local schools break for winter vacation and Finnish families are close on the foreigners' heels. Hence, hotels fill fast, and prices are at a premium, so secure reservations well ahead of time.
For January, the national average temperature falls to 19°F (-7°C), with Helsinki being warmer and the far north considerably colder, with only about four hours of twilight and the sun still below the horizon. Prices fall from a Christmas peak as visitors who flocked to Lapland to meet Santa return home, but prices still remain high in snow-sports resorts and destinations popular for viewing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Elsewhere many places remain closed for winter.
The temperatures remain bitterly cold and the nights long in February, but this is among the best months of year to see the Northern Lights, go dog-sledding, or ride a reindeer sleigh through silent Arctic forests. Temperatures remain the same as January, and nights remain extremely long, although less so than January. Although you can see the Aurora Borealis throughout Finland, this is a popular month for travel in northern Finland to see the Northern Lights and (especially among Finns) for skiing and other winter activities. Book lodging well in advance in popular ski destinations, such as Rovaniemi or Levi.
Events in winter
Aurora borealis. The flickering colorful lights of the Northern Lights are commonly seen throughout Finland in winter (and potentially at any time between August and April).
Independence Day, December 6. Celebrated nationwide, this public holiday commemorates Finland's independence from Russia in 1917. A special service is held in Helsinki Cathedral, and homes and shops are adorned with the blue-and-white candles, decorations, and Finnish flag.
Christmas Day, December 25. You’d expect the land of Santa Claus to celebrate Christmas with gusto, and they do. Christmas markets appear in Finland's cities, Christmas trees are decorated, families visit cemeteries alight with glowing lanterns and then celebrate at home in anticipate of Santa’s visit.
Skábmagovat Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival, Inari. Held in January, at the end of the Polar night, in the far-northern Lapland town of Inari. It features films, documentaries, and TV programs by Sámi and other indigenous filmmakers.