Northern Lights: Helsinki to Stockholm - Page 2

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Into the Blue: One of Finland's 187,888 lakes  (PhotoDisc)

Day 3-4: Helsinki to Savonlinna (330 Miles)
Next, drive north to Lakeland, and brave the world's largest "smoke" sauna in Kuopio, big enough to fit 60 people and heated by a wood fire. The Alvar Aalto Museum (Alvar Aallon katu 7; +358.14.624.809; www.alvaraalto.fi) in Jyväskylä honors Finland's most famous architect and designer. The town has several Aalto-designed buildings, including the museum itself. The topography outside of town is much like the rest of Finland, which is to say, incredible. More than 70 percent of Finland is forested, the highest national percentage worldwide, and the country has 187,888 lakes (10 percent of its entire area is covered by water), so canoeing through the wilderness is a national passion. Savonlinna is the perfect jumping off point for paddle excursions into Linnansaari National Park. Rent a canoe and keep an eye out for the extremely endangered Saimaa ringed seal. Bear and moose spotting are also common in this area.

Day 5-6: Savonlinna to Nordkapp (North Cape) (845 Miles)
Next, head north across the Arctic Circle and into Lapland, home to the indigenous Sami, the reindeer-herding people of northern Scandinavia. About 70,000 Sami live in the Arctic regions of Finland, Sweden, and Norway and herd the region's 250,000 reindeer. As you wind north, the forests give way to bare tundra and windswept plateaus, where the Sami are believed to have first migrated 10,000 years ago after the last Ice Age. Cross the border into Norway and drive to Nordkapp (or North Cape) on aptly named Meager Island (or Magory in the local tongue), the northernmost point on the European continent (actually, the true northernmost point is Knivskjellodden, less than a mile further north, but there's no roads and the hike is difficult). Up here, the sun just spins overhead and doesn't set from June to August. Built underground to minimize environmental impact, Nordkapp's visitor center has an unusual bar built into the 1,500-foot-tall cliffs overlooking the ocean. It's a tradition here to drink champagne and eat caviar, looking out towards the North Pole. Most of Meager Island is also a protected wilderness, so hiking and camping along the grassy trails is popular in summer. The complete lack of trees makes for sweeping, unobstructed views, although the wind can knock you flat.

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