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Driving Directions Finland

FINLAND is a north European republic with about a third of its territo­ry lying within the Arctic Circle. A Scandinavian country of forests, lakes, and islands shares borders with Sweden in the northwest, Norway in the north, and the Russian Federation in the east. Its coastline lies along the Gulf of Bothnia in the west and southwest and the Gulf of Finland in the south. Both of which are arms of the Baltic Sea. Some 30,000 islands and islets line Finland’s coast, with the densest concentration in the southwest and south. The most important is the 6,500 Ahvenanmaa or Aland Islands, which lie in the Gulf of Bothnia between the mainlands of Finland and Sweden.

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Most mainland Finland consists of a low-lying, rolling plain or plateau, which becomes more hilly towards the north. Mountains are found only in the extreme northwest where a “finger” of Finland projects into Norway and Sweden‘s mountainous spine. There are thousands of lakes in Finland – 187,888 counted – and many rivers and streams. Lake Saimaa, in the southwest of Finland, is the most extensive lake system in Europe. Finland has an efficient transport system that uses canals, roads, rail, and air services.

Finnish Lapland in the north of Finland lies within the Arctic Circle and is home to the Lapps or Saami people’s population. This is a peat bog region with tundra-type vegetation, including mosses, lichens, and scrub birch. Much of Finland’s rest is covered by the forests that occupy about 70 percent of the land area. Coniferous species, such as fir, pine, and spruce, predominate, but birch and some other deciduous trees can also found. Finland’s large tracts of forest and wilderness areas with few human inhabitants are home to a good variety of north European wildlife such as wolves, lynx, bears, Arctic foxes, Arctic hares, elk, deer, and the more familiar (although now mainly domesticated) reindeer.

Finland is known as “the land of the midnight sun” because, in the far north, there is continual darkness for two months in the long cold winter and the same period of continual daylight in the short Arctic summer. During winter, snow cover lasts for seven months in the north and three to five months in the south, but summer temperatures can be warm to hot. Precipitation falls all year but is generally greater from July to December. Finland is largely self-sufficient in food and produces a surplus of dairy products. Most crops are grown in the southwest of the country. In the north, reindeer herded and forests yield great quantities of timber for export. Just under 20 percent of the country’s electricity was supplied by hydroelectric power stations in the early 1990s. Major industries are involved in the production of timber products, wood pulp, paper, and machinery. Shipbuilding has developed due to the country’s great need for an efficient fleet of ice breakers.

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Finland is a generally low-lying country. The terrain is close to sea level in the southern half of the country, rising north and northeast. Nearly the entire northern half of Finland, including its most elevated terrain, belongs to the larger region known as Lapland, which stretches across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, lying largely within the Arctic Circle. It is one of the coldest zones in Europe and is home to such wildlife species as tundra reindeer. The easternmost part of Finland is called Karelia, where native brown bears roam. Part of Karelia was ceded to the Soviet Union at the close of World War II.

Finland is located northeast of the Baltic Sea. At some points, only a narrow strip of land in Norway separates Finland from the Barents Sea to the north, and some of its rivers drain northward in that direction.

Did you know about Finland?

The two bodies of water bordering Finland – the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia – can freeze over entirely for months at a time due to frigid winter temperatures.

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