The northern regions take up a vast portion of Finland: one third of the country lies north of the Arctic Circle. It’s sparsely populated, with small communities often separated by long distances and little of anything in between besides tundra-like plains or dense forest. The coast of Ostrobothnia is affluent due to the adjacent flat and fertile farmland; busy and expanding Oulu is the region’s major city, though it maintains a pleasing small-town atmosphere. Further north is the remote and wild territory of Lapland, its wide-open spaces home to several thousand Sámi, who have lived more or less in harmony with this harsh environment for millennia. Up here are two good bases: the buzzing town of Rovaniemi and, further north, the quiet village of Inari, Lapland’s de facto capital and a great jumping-off point for trips to the rest of the region; there is an extensive bus service and regular flights from Helsinki. Make sure you try Lappish cuisine, too – fresh cloudberries, smoked reindeer and wild salmon are highlights.
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