Best time to visit Finland – the four seasons

Autumn colors paint the Lapland landscape in mid-September. Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, Kilpisjärvi, Finland. Photo: Ville Palonen

Finland has four clearly distinctive seasons. But because Finland is quite large – the distance from Helsinki on the south coast to the northernmost part of Lapland is more than 1,000 kilometers – the seasons change at slightly different times in different parts of the country. For example, April is spring in the south but winter in the north.

The Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic brings its own mix to Finland’s climate by raising Finland’s temperatures higher than in other equally northern regions. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Lapland isn’t as cold as Siberia.

In this article we explain about seasons in Finland and recommend some of the most interesting travel destinations for each month.

Winter in Finland

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Husky safari near Levi, Lapland, Finland. Photo: Ville Palonen

Finland’s winter is cold, snowy and dark. The length of daylight in the south is only a few hours, and in Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t rise for weeks.

In present times of climate change, Christmas is often snow-free in Helsinki – we Finns call it Black Christmas. A proper winter in southern Finland begins January and continues until March. 

The best winter destination in Finland is Lapland. In the north, winter begins as early as November, when the first snow falls on the ground. 

December – visit Santa Claus in Rovaniemi

In Lapland, December is full winter: temperatures are freezing and there’s enough snow for all kinds of winter activities. 

December is the peak tourist season in Lapland, especially in Rovaniemi, where people arrive from all over the world to meet the most famous Finn, Santa Claus. Rovaniemi is a popular travel destination for a good reason, as you can find all the best experiences of Lapland in this small town. In addition to Santa, you can experience reindeer, huskies and snowmobiles in only two or three days. 

Read more: Rovaniemi – Gateway to Finnish Lapland

January and February – the best time to see Aurora Borealis

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Northern lights above Inari, Lapland, Finland. Photo: Ville Palonen

January and February are the coldest and darkest months. On the north side of the Arctic Circle the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, although that doesn’t mean it is pitch dark in the middle of the day. The light of polar night is magical bluish twilight, an experience in itself.

Midwinter is the best time to see aurora borealis, the northern lights, and there is no better place for watching them than Lapland. Northern lights can be spotted by chance, but weather forecasts show probabilities for auroras in different regions. Northern lights occur at an altitude of 80-100 kilometers, so it’s not possible to see them in cloudy weather. Usually the best time to see the aurora borealis is in the evening before midnight.

March and April – perfect time for winter activities in Lapland

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Kiilopää fell is easy to reach by snowshoes in winter. Urho Kekkonen National Park, Finland. Photo: Ville Palonen

In March the days get brighter. Daylight hours stretch around the clock and temperature climbs up from horribly freezing numbers. During Easter, the ski resorts in Lapland are sometimes so warm that you can enjoy the sun at the slope bar without a jacket – at least for one beer.

In March and April it’s time for the most amazing outdoor weather. This is the best time for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and fat biking on the snow. There are several large ski resorts in Lapland (Levi, Ylläs, Saariselkä, Pyhä) with ski lifts and comprehensive equipment rental services.

Read more: Lapland in Winter – Best Winter Activities

Spring in Finland

Spring advances at a different pace in the north and south. While people still go skiing in Lapland at the end of April, the snow in the south has melted long ago. The days are long and bright everywhere.

May – nature awakens

May is the worst time to visit Lapland, at least if you want to enjoy the great outdoors. As the snow melts, the ski resorts close their lifts, but on the other hand, the melting waters make ground so soft and wet that it’s not worth going on a trek just yet.

Instead, in Southern Finland, May is an excellent month. Spring is already long and nature has woken up: birch buds blossom and white wood anemones cover the ground.

The best outdoor destinations in Southern Finland in the spring are Nuuksio National Park and Repovesi National Park. Both are small and suitable for day trips for the whole family. It’s not worth going on an overnight hike in May, as the nights are still quite chilly.

Read more: Day Hikes in Finland – 8 Best Short Hiking Trails

When nature awakens, Finnish national animal, the brown bear, also wakes up from hibernation. In the Kainuu region, Martinselkonen Wilderness Center, it’s possible to see adult bears as early as mid-April. The little cubs, adored by nature photographers, won’t come close to the bear safari hides until June.

Read more: Bear Watching in Finland – Guide to Bear Safaris

One of the recommended destinations for spring is the Åland archipelago. In May, the fiercest tourist season has not yet begun, but there is a special treat available: Åland is known for asparagus, and in May the asparagus season is at its best.

Summer in Finland

According to a popular proverb, the Finnish summer is short but at least there’s very little snow. Fortunately, the joke is not true. Especially in Helsinki and elsewhere in Southern Finland fine summer weather lasts up to four months from May to September.

In Lapland, the season is shorter: the actual summer months are July and August.

June – summer cottage season begins

June is an excellent time to visit Turku and drive around the Archipelago Trail; Finns’ summer holidays have not yet begun, so there is space on ferries and hotels. 

Renting a summer cottage in June is also a good idea, as the cottage season for Finns doesn’t begin until Midsummer.

Midsummer Festival, celebrated in late June, is the biggest holiday of the whole year alongside Christmas. Midsummer lasts for a long weekend (plus a couple of days of hangover), and by far the most popular way to celebrate it is at a cottage with family and friends. The cottage itinerary includes sauna, barbecue and drinking.

Read more: Summer Cottages and Cabins in Finland – Guide to Finnish Cottage Life

July – the best time for road trips

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Road runs through Punkaharju isthmus, Finland. Photo: Ville Palonen

July is the warmest month in Finland. Since July is a holiday month for most Finns (yes, the annual summer holiday is often full four weeks!) Helsinki and other larger cities resemble ghost towns. Instead, the Lakeland region and Turku archipelago are pretty busy. You can explore both by renting a summer cottage or going on a car trip.

July is the most popular time to take a thorough road trip. In addition to the warm and sunny weather many small towns have lovely summer cafes, which are only open during the holiday season.

Read more: Driving in Finland – Tips and 4 Best Road Trips

July is also a time of major festivals. Among others, Ruisrock, Savonlinna Opera Festival and Kaustinen Folk Music Festival are held in July.

Read more: The Best Festivals of Finland

August – Helsinki Festival weeks

Finns end their summer holidays at the end of July, although the summer weather continues throughout August. August is an excellent time to rent a summer cottage, as there is more choice than in July and the prices are a bit cheaper. At a cottage it is definitely worth visiting a nearby forest to pick blueberries and chanterelles.

In addition to cottages, August is the best time for a city break in Helsinki. The reason is that when the weather is fair – and the people of Helsinki are not on holiday somewhere else – the Finnish capital is at least for a moment full of lively and laid back urban vibe.

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Helsinki Cathedral and Market Square. Photo: Scanrail1 / Shutterstock

The best time of the year to visit Helsinki is late August, when the Helsinki Festival is celebrated. For 2-3 weeks, various art events are organized around the city: classical music, world music, theater, contemporary dance and the new circus, film screenings and, of course, events for children. The Helsinki Festival culminates in the carnival-like Night of the Arts, when the streets and parks of the city center are bustling with art performances and the museums are open free of charge until late into the night.

Read more: Helsinki and Southern Finland – Travel Guide

Autumn in Finland

In Finland, autumn is considered to begin in September, although in fact the summer weather in the south will continue until the end of September. In the north, on the other hand, the change in the season is clearly noticeable as early as the beginning of September. That’s why the best place to enjoy early fall is without question Lapland – and the farther north, the better! 

September to October is also the season for mushrooming and berry picking. In autumn, the lingonberries ripen practically everywhere, while the most sought-after mushroom is funnel chanterelle (a.k.a. yellowfoot).

September – autumn leaf colors in Lapland

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Saana fell near Lake Kilpisjärvi, northern Lapland, during autumn foliage. Photo: Ville Palonen

In September, Lapland’s fell scenery is at its most beautiful. After the first cold nights the plants – birch trees, bushes and shrubs – start changing their color from green to yellow, orange and red. The view is most magnificent in the treeless fells of Northern Lapland.

Autumn foliage lasts for a couple of weeks, but when does it actually start? No one can answer this for sure, but in a normal year, autumn foliage is at its best in northern Lapland in mid-September and a little later in southern parts. In October, it might already be snowing on the fells, so definitely the best time of the year to hike in Lapland is around mid-September.

In addition to the colorful scenery, hikers get to enjoy a rare treat: thanks to the cold nights, mosquitoes and other annoying insects have vanished! On the other hand, during the short and intense season, there are much more hikers than usual. Compared to many other countries, however, Finland’s “congested” hiking trails are downright deserted.

The best destinations for autumn hiking are Lapland’s wilderness areas such as the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area and national parks like Pallas-Yllästunturi and Urho Kekkonen National Park.

Read more: Trekking Trails in Finland – 3 Best Multi-Day Hikes

October – beautiful time to visit Eastern Finland

In October, the autumn is already beginning to pass in Lapland, and in the north the day is beginning to shorten rapidly. The best landscapes can be enjoyed in Eastern Finland, where autumn colors do not arrive until October.

Finland’s most famous national landscape, Koli, is one of the undisputed outdoor destinations in Eastern Finland. Koli is quite a convenient autumn destination because in good weather it is only a 10-minute walk to the best viewpoint – but if bad weather strikes, you can enjoy the scenery from the jacuzzis of Koli Break Sokos Hotel’s lovely spa.

In October, excellent holiday destinations are also the cities of Southern Finland – Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Porvoo – which are absolutely stunning in beautiful weather. And on a city break you can always spend a rainy day in a museum or restaurant – or get to know Finnish sauna culture in one of the many public saunas.

November – the worst month to visit Finland

November is considered the worst month in Finland. And we have to admit: it’s true. November is dark, cold and wet. Sure, there are some absolutely wonderful sunny days, but they are short and scattered. In Helsinki, the darkness of late autumn is emphasized by the fact that there is rarely snow on the ground.

No wonder the international start-up event, Slush, had their commercials in Helsinki airport read: “Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November. Except you, you badass. Welcome.”

So, the question is: what should one do in Finland in November? Here are a couple suggestions:

Enjoy the urban culture. In November nobody should feel bad about not enjoying the great outdoors, after all it’s dark and wet. We recommend you to head to a museum, restaurant or a rock club – or all of them!

Visit a sauna. Finland has many excellent spas, some suitable for couples and others water parks for the whole family. Bigger cities have traditional and modern public saunas, where anyone can try the sauna easily and safely.

Read more: Sauna in Finland – the Ultimate Guide to Finnish Sauna Culture

Go to Lapland. There’s a very good chance that winter has already arrived in the north. November is a good month to see the northern lights, and it’s guaranteed to be more quiet and calm than the high season in December.

Map of Finland’s best travel attractions

The map below shows the best tourist sights, museums, family attractions, hiking trails, outdoor activities, wildlife safaris and ski resorts of Finland.

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Ville Palonen (born 1976) is a freelance photographer and travel writer who loves mountains, wildlife and road trips. He has visited 80 countries and travelled in adventurous destinations like Amazon, Himalaya and Borneo. In Finland Ville spends his time photographing, hiking, fishing, hunting and mushrooming. Ville's favourite destinations in Finland are treeless fells of Lapland and wild parts of East Finland.


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