The world's biggest travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet, has placed Finland among its three top countries to visit next year. In its annual ranking published on Tuesday, the independent-travel authority named Canada, Colombia and Finland as the most interesting destinations for 2017. Rounding out the top 10 are Dominica, Nepal, Bermuda, Mongolia, Oman, Myanmar and Ethiopia.
"We're sure that this ranking will have an enormous effect on tourism, says Paavo Virkkunen, Executive Vice President of Visit Finland. He points out that Lonely Planet is oriented toward travellers who want to independently arrange their own off-the-beaten-track trips, and that Finland is ideal for such travel.
Canada and Finland are both celebrating anniversary years, honouring 150 and 100 years of statehood respectively. Lonely Planet promises tourists a feast of special centenary events, "everything from al fresco concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage-travel-poster exhibitions".
It also notes that Finland will next year inaugurate the new Hossa National Park, east of Oulu. Now designated as a Hiking Area, it boasts ancient rock paintings, historic buildings and popular fishing lakes.
Indeed, the guide company lists hiking in northern Finland's national parks at the top of its "Top Experiences in Finland" – followed by sledding and snowmobiling in Lapland, design shopping in Helsinki, then the Savonlinna Opera Festival, held each July at a castle in eastern Finland.
Winter sports and boho bars
Among other major events, the publisher points to the Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti next February and March, followed by the World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki in late March and early April.
Also in the capital, LP suggests familiar landmarks such as the Suomenlinna maritime fortress, Senate Square and the Lutheran Cathedral, the National Museum and the Kiasma contemporary art museum, as well as lesser-known places such as Café Succès, Juuri restaurant and the "cool speakeasy Liberty or Death" and "the emerging arts scene" and "boho bars" of Kallio.
"Helsinki has already done an excellent job in promoting individualised urban travel," says Virkkunen.
Stopping off in Lapland
He cites the new Löyly public sauna, the Allas outdoor swimming pools beside Helsinki Harbour and grassroots culinary events such as Restaurant Day. Such days when anyone can open a pop-up eatery anywhere without bureaucratic red tape have been held four times a year in Helsinki since 2011, with the idea spreading to 75 countries. As of this year, Helsinki's main Restaurant Day will be held on the third Saturday of May.
Virkkunen also notes that this winter there will be direct flights to Finnish Lapland from Germany and Britain, and that growing numbers of Asian tourists are adding a side trip to Lapland when flying via the Helsinki hub.
Founded in 1972 by an Australian backpacker couple, Lonely Planet is now headquartered in the US after being sold by the BBC three years ago.