Have you ever been to Finland? Until this weekend away I hadn’t and it seemed like a great place to go to disconnect and be in nature. It turns out that the Finns appreciate this highly and so the weekend ended up being a cultural experience too, but in relative comfort.
I went with Flash Pack on the first time they’ve run this trip, which makes me an Insider (don’t worry it’s not exclusive!). This meant we got a small discount as it was the first time they were testing out the trip on actual customers, so please bear this in mind.
So on to country #60: Finland:
A Flashpacking Weekend in Finland
Arrival in Helsinki
I flew from London Heathrow with British Airways to Helsinki, arriving at 4:20pm. I managed to meet up with a couple of the other Flash Packers at Heathrow, so we hung out before we got the flight. On landing we found out that the plane that was an hour before us was delayed, messing up the planned transfers slightly. But soon enough we were off in a private mini bus to check into our hotel…
Staying in a former Prison
Yes our hotel was a prison in it’s former life! Now this isn’t the first converted prison I’ve stayed in (the first was a hostel in Ljubljana). However the rooms we stayed in were very comfortable. My room looked like it was in the old administration block – think high ceilings, decent windows etc. They were luxuriously appointed – we had a chaise loungue in ours! And the bathroom was a decent size and stocked with toiletries, important if you pack hand luggage only.
They had preserved some of the original cells, one group cell and one solitary confinement cell, in the basement restaurant area.
The hallways still had some of the original features also. I’m not sure if different parts of the hotel had different features in the rooms though.
My hotel in Helsinki – a former prison! Luckily our rooms were not cells but instead very plush! . Swipe ➡️ to see more of the original jail features and the isolation cell which is preserved in its original state 😮 . This was night 1 of my @flashpack weekend in Finland . #flashpack #flashpacking #hotelkatajanokka #prisonhotel #formerprison #helsinki🇫🇮 #finland🇫🇮 #whatskatiedoingblog #flashbackinsiders #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers
We didn’t have long in our room before we were headed out for our dinner and drinks. So it was a quick change for me and then back downstairs to meet the group and our guide Marko.
Dinner at the Brewery
Our first night dinner was a beer and food tasting one at Bryggeri brewery. It was certainly popular on a Friday night when we turned up after 6pm. They have a courtyard out back with outdoor seating that was popular despite some light rain. However we were seated in the downstairs restaurant. Top tip if you are a big group would be to pre-book, they were very busy, which meant slowish service.
Beer and food pairing
Our meal started with a beer and food pairing selection. Four different beers with four different foods, all Finnish:
- Smoked whitefish paired with a pilsner
- Smoked reindeer served with a porter
- Local cheese served with a pale ale
- Hummus (ok maybe not Finnish!) paired with the very strong dark ale
By the time we had all been served our starters we were starving and fell on the food. Unfortunately I didn’t pace myself as the main and dessert was yet to come!
Our first night’s dinner in Helsinki! . We ate at Bryggeri brewery & restaurant and started our meal with their pairing platter: From left to right was the smoked white fish, paired with pilsner; smoked reindeer paired with a porter; local cheese paired with the pale ale and humous paired with a very strong (7%?!) dark ale. . Swipe ➡️ to see the next courses of steak with Finnish new potatoes and a chocolate dessert served with cherries and flowers, as well as some of the tanks where they make the beer onsite. . #helsinki🇫🇮 #flashpack #finland🇫🇮 #flashpackinsiders #whatskatiedoingblog #byggeri🍺 #brewerydinner #beerpairing #localfood #finnishfood #smokedreindeer #localbeer🍺 #madeonsite #smokedwhitefish #localcheese
The rest of the meal
The main was a beautifully cooked steak with Finnish new potatoes (they were very keen to point out Finnish potatoes for some reason 😉 ). On my table we ordered a bottle of wine to share with the steak, which was lovely.
Then we still had dessert! The amazing chocolate and cherry dessert went down very well, I probably didn’t need to eat it all, but I couldn’t help myself.
Then unfortunately JC decided to introduce us to the local Finnish licorice liqueur – yuck!! This was definitely not to my taste, but when in Finland…..
Walking back to the hotel around 11pm, we were amazed at how light it was out. The sun only set at 10.45pm the week we were there, so magical and light. And thank god for the black out curtains!
First night in Helsinki – no filter! . 11:15 at night – almost full daylight despite the sun finally setting around 25 minutes earlier! . ❓have you ever been this far north in the summer❓ . #summersun #helsinki🇫🇮 #finland🇫🇮 #flashpack #adventurebreak #fulllight #lightallnight #midnightsun #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #whatskatiedoingblog
The next day I had a light breakfast (I was still so stuffed from the previous night’s dinner!) and then we all jumped on a mini bus. We were taken to Nuuksio National Park, about a 45 minute drive outside of Helsinki. On arrival we left our bags in the equivalent of a Scout hut (I’m not sure how else to describe it..)
Then Marko introduced us to his wife, Nina who was helping with the guiding.
After one night in Helsinki we headed out to Nuuksio National Park for the active portion of the flashpack weekend to start. . With national parks and wilderness on their doorstep (45 mins drive), it’s no wonder that Finns spend a lot of time out in nature – in fact it’s their right to camp pretty much anywhere in the country . #flashpackinsiders #flashpack #finland🇫🇮 #nuuksionationalpark #forestsandlakes #finnishnature #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #whatskatiedoingblog #haukkalampi
We started off with a hike around Nuuksio, where Marko and Nina introduced us to lots of amazing facts about Finland. For example Nuuksio National Park alone has 40 lakes in it. In the whole of Finland there are around 184,000. That’s lots of lakes! A lot of the land is covered with trees and forests too and the Finnish love getting out into nature. In fact its part of their rights – you can camp anywhere in Finland. You just have to be respectful and ask before lighting a fire if you are on someone’s land.
Our first activity in Nuuksio National Park was a hike! Swipe ➡️ to see my time lapse video of ‘rush hour’ in Haukkalampi 😂 . We saw 3 or 4 of the 40 lakes in Nuuksio National Park – did you know that Finland has approx 184,000 lakes? (But no mountains!) 🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲 . #finland🇫🇮 #flashpack #flashpackinsiders #nuuksionationalpark #haukkalampi #hiking #ourfinland
After our hike we headed back to the hut, where the local cafe was cooking us up some lunch. Either this took longer than expected or we were back from the hike early, however we did have to wait a while before it was ready. But hanging out on the pontoon in the sun meant this wasn’t a bad place to wait.
Lunch was another typical Finnish dish – salmon and potato soup. And boy was it tasty! Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture, but it was served with fresh bread and proper butter. Afterwards there was time for coffee and cardamom buns – my favourite!
I didn’t get a shot of the fantastic Finnish salmon and potato soup we had for lunch on our flashpack adventure in Nuuksio National Park – it got wolfed down as we were starving post hike! . However I DID manage to take a shot of this gorgeous cinnamon/cardamom bun and our post lunch coffee!! 😍 . The dough was so light and beautiful – flavoured with cardamom and then sprinkled with cinnamon on top – perfect with a cup of coffee! ☕️ . #finland🇫🇮 #whatskatiedoingblog #haukkalampi #flashpack #flashpackinsiders #nuuksionationalpark #cardamombun #cinnamonbun #coffeetime #finnishfood
Stand up paddle boarding
After lunch, where I regretted eating so much of the delicious soup, we did paddle boarding. Luckily for us Nina is a paddle boarding instructor and gave us guidance on how to get going on the boards. She also gave us instructions on getting around the lake. This included staying away from the private jetties, in case any nude sunbathing Finns were using them (it was the weekend!).
Activity 2 in Nuuksio National Park with @flashpack was paddle boarding! . Swipe ➡️ to see the close ups of me trying not to fall off 😂 (I didn’t fall off – but did have a dip in the lake at the end) . ❓have you ever done stand up paddle boarding before❓ it’s surprisingly hard work when the wind is pushing you one way! . #flashpack #flashpackinsiders #finland🇫🇮 #haukkalampi #whatskatiedoingblog #nuuksionationalpark #standuppaddleboarding #sup #watersports #wateractivities #weekendbreak
I successfully managed to stand up on my board and not fall off, score! However at the far end of the lake the wind got up and made it very difficult to return, so I quickly worked up a sweat. Inspired by some of the others jumping into the water I had a controlled dip in off my board too. Very refreshing and it perfectly set me up for the next activity that afternoon:
You can’t go to Finland and not sauna! It’s one of the Finnish’ favourite pastimes. We did it very leisurely. Our hut came with a sauna – bonus, but it wasn’t quite big enough to all fit in at the same time. So we took it in turns, warming up and then cooling down. A few beers and my new favourite gin drink – Long Drink (or as we nicknamed it lady drink) meant that everybody relaxed quickly.
A sweaty selfie for activity 3 on our Finnish @flashpack adventure! It was a VERY typically Finnish one: SAUNA! . After a dip in the cool lake we needed to warm up In the sauna. We drank beer or what I’m holding – Long Drink the OriGINal from Hartwall (see what they did there?!) which got nicknamed by the group as ‘lady drink’ 😂 swipe ➡️ to see close up . I first heard about Long Drink at a midsommer party with the Finnish Embassy a few years ago – so it was great to finally taste it! It’s a bit like a Finnish paloma – a pre-mix gin and grapefruit soda – so totally up my street! . We did the sauna in a almost Finnish way (we wore swimsuits!), cycling in and out with drinks between, very leisurely, then some of our group decided to brave the mud to cool off in the lake (the pontoon doesn’t stretch out to open water… yet… so I ended up looking like a mud monster getting out 😂) swipe ➡️ again to see the pontoon and lake view – it’ll be fantastic when you can run out of the sauna and jump right in! . #finland🇫🇮 #haukkalampi #nuuksionationalpark #whatskatiedoingblog #flashpack #flashpackinsiders #sauna #longdrink #ladydrink #ginandgrapefruit #finnishexperience #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers
We had the traditional birch branches in the sauna, these are used to stimulate the circulation and make your skin feel great. I’m sure they are good on tired muscles too. Soon there were leaves everywhere as we whacked each other with the branches.
Cooling off the traditional way
A bit later we wanted to cool off in the lake and the more adventurous swam into the lake past all the water lillies. I joined in and boy was it muddy close to shore. Whilst the deep water was very refreshing, exiting through the plant roots was unnerving. As soon at the National Park has extended the jetty you will be able to jump right in and not look like a mud monster like me on the way out.
Whilst we were sauna-ing Marko and Nina headed to set up camp in a different (quieter?) area.
Looking after us whilst Marko and Nina were gone (and keeping us out of trouble) was Aarni from Pieni Ravintola (Little Restaurant). He soon had us involved in cooking our dinner on a wood fire. Luckily for us there was no foraging for ingredients and Aarni had brought all the utensils we needed. We whittled stakes to hold our trout on wooden boards by the fire to slow cook them. We chopped veggies, we mixed sauces, we made burgers and toasted buns.
After our sauna the next activity on our @flashpack Finnish weekend was dinner…. and I mean wilderness cooking! Pic 1 is the Finnish product (see what I did there?! 😂), but swipe ➡️ to see how we made it! . Finnish trout, Finnish new potatoes, stir fried veggies and a sour cream, mustard and herb sauce made by my own fair hands. . Pic 2 – whittling sticks for the trout Pic 3 – impaling the trout on a wooden shingle 😂 Pic 4 – slow cooking the trout around the wood fire Pic 5 – veggie stir fry on top of the wood fire Pic 6 – decorating the table with woodland ferns Pic 7 – foraged blueberries Pic 8 – the finished table decoration . Big thanks to #pieniravintola for the cooking lesson! . #flashpack #finland🇫🇮 #haukkalampi #flashpackinsiders #wildernesscooking #openfirecooking #campfirecooking #finnishtrout #finnishpotatoes #foragedblueberries #cookinginnature #woodfire #nuuksionationalpark #femaletravelbloggers #slowcookedfish
We also made Napue gin and tonic cocktails and decorated the tables with ferns and classic Finnish napkins. I think we did a good job!
And as some of you have already asked (here’s looking at you Inka 😘) – what did we drink with our @flashpack wilderness feast? Well local Napue gin and tonic of course! . Made by @kyrodistillery in Northern Finland this more modern style gin is beautifully flavoured with locally foraged botanicals including sea buckthorn, cranberries and birch leaves. The the base spirit is made from rye and they aim to capture the essence of an early morning Finnish meadow. . We served it with rosemary and frozen cranberries (we didn’t have any ice!!) with @fevertreemixers tonic – it certainly went down well and the aromatic profile was complemented by the garnish – this is my kind of trip, travel & Gin! . #napuegin #napuegintonic #kyrödistillery #finland🇫🇮 #flashpack #finnishnature #flashpackinsiders #ginspiration #finnishgin #gincocktails #femaletravelbloggers #visitfinland #ourfinland #nuuksionationalpark #haukkalampi #travelandgin #whatskatiedoingblog #reGinned
Dessert was pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries and foraged blue berries that the girls had found in the nearby bushes. I can certainly say that I was stuffed after all that.
After dinner we hung out until Marko and Nina came back to show us the way to the campsite area. It was a lot longer a wait than we were told. I think it took them longer to put up all the tents for a full group, but we had plenty of drinks to keep us going! The 25 minute walk to the campsite was good to work off some of the food and we saw a beautiful sunset.
Reflection goals… Another beautiful picture of Finnish nature – the sun setting over a lake in Nuuksio National Park a 45 min drive outside of Helsinki My trip to Nuuksio was with @flashpack and was a great experience for my country #60 . #flashpack #finland🇫🇮 #finnishnature #sundaysunsets #whatskatiedoingblog #femaletravelbloggers #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #nuuksionationalpark #ourfinland
When we arrived at the campsite we saw all our tents strung up between the trees. It was quite exciting to see and to imagine what staying there would be like.
Our tensile tents – suspended from the trees! (Ps these photos were taken at 11pm at night!!) swipe ⬅️ to see more! . The tentsile tents are a good idea – like hammocks, but a bit awkward if sharing with a stranger as you both end up in the middle!!! Also there is no way you can change in them or keep luggage…. this is a case where a two man tent should only have 1 person!! . #flashpack #finland🇫🇮 #camping⛺️ #nuuksionationalpark #finnishnature #flashpacking #flashpackinsiders @flashpack #tentsile #suspendedtent #campingbuddies #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #whatskatiedoingblog
There’s my tent!
No filter necessary…. Just going to leave this ‘almost midnight sun’ picture here…. . #nuuksionationalpark #finland🇫🇮 #flashpack #finnishnature #whatskatiedoingblog #flashpackinsiders #flashpacking @flashpack #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers
As you can tell it was still quite light out, so we stayed up with more drinks and marshmallows around the fire. After all have you camped if you didn’t have marshmallows?
It’s not camping without a camp fire 🔥🔥🔥⛺️🏕 . There’s something mesmerising about the flames! . After our dinner we hiked up to our campsite in the trees and toasted marshmallows over the fire and continued to drink. . Given the late sunset in midsummer in June we were easily misled to thinking it was earlier than it actually was and ended up going to bed around 1am! . #camping⛺️ #campfire🔥 #flashpack #flashpackinsiders #flashpacking #nuuksionationalpark #finland🇫🇮 #finnishnature #whatskatiedoingblog #femaletravelbloggers #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram @flashpack
Despite the excitement of the tentsile camp (or maybe because of it….?) I didn’t sleep great. Too many drinks and a trip to the composting toilet in the middle of the night (even if it is twilight out!) meant an uncomfortable night. Due to the nature of the tents, any kind of movement inside the tent disturbed the other person sharing it. We both ended up in the middle by the end of the night, a bit too close for me!
Allas sea pools & goodbye Finland
The next morning we had a great breakfast spread back at the hut and the opportunity for one last activity in the National Park. Then we jumped in the mini bus back to Helsinki. We were dropped off at the Allas sea pools, where there was the opportunity for a swim, sauna and most importantly a shower!
This was a great end to a weekend and I went from the sea pools to the airport with some of the others to catch my flight. Unlike some people I didn’t have a dip in the Baltic sea…. (it was a bit too cool outside for that, I sat in the sauna instead)
Ok last Finland photo (at least until I’ve written up the blog!) This is how chilled and blissed you too could look after a day of exercise out in nature (walking and stand up paddle boarding), followed by sauna and lady drinks (😂 I mean Long Drink from @originallongdrink but we nicknamed it Lady Drink – check out my separate post on that!) Next will be some gin posts and a series on activities you can do in London! #finland🇫🇮 #finnishnature #forestsandlakes #flashpackinsiders #flashpack @flashpack @ourfinland #passionpassport #expediapic #travelblog #girlsvshglobe #travelust #wearetravelgirls #traveladdicted #soyviajera #mywandergram #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #femaletravelbloggers #nuuksionationalpark
The Flash Pack verdict
Having never done a Flash Pack trip before (but I have done plenty of group trips with other providers). I wasn’t sure how Flash Pack would be different.
It’s aimed squarely at me: Mid 30’s (OK I’m in denial!), with plenty of spare cash to splash on travelling, done the backpacking thing and more likely to pick a hotel over a hostel.
The main draw with Flash Pack is that the comfort level is high. They stay in 4-5 star hotels, (unless camping), a lot of extras are included and definitely good food and drink. However you still have to share a room/tent…. To me this is less Flash Pack (especially when it’s a stranger, however lovely they are). To be clear I’ve shared rooms like this on other trips, however we were on more basic trips, so a room for 2 felt like luxury compared to a hostel room for 8!
The tentsile camp was rustic, fine if you are expecting to camp, but for some reason I was expecting more glamping… Like a bigger tent (there wasn’t really space for our bags inside as well as us). This was a nice gimmick, it certainly got plenty of you asking about the tents suspended from the trees. However not the most comfortable of nights. If I was going to do this trip again I would consider getting my own tent, but I’m not sure if this would put too much strain on Marko and Nina to put them all up.
When I originally looked at this trip it definitely appealed, however the cost was high. Now that I know of the volume of drinks that are included, I kinda get this as alcohol in Finland is expensive. Having a chef and lots of things organised for you out in a national park is something that you can’t really do on your own or ‘on the cheap’. So whilst the cost of this weekend adventure in Finland was high, I didn’t really have to pay anything additional (some snacks, wine with dinnerthe first night and lunch on the final day).
Things that will improve
Obviously this being the first time they had done a full group, there were some timing issues that needed to be sorted out. I’m sure that this will be smoother on future trips, but also you need to learn to do things the Finnish way = laid back and relaxed!
Would I Flash Pack again?
The answer is definitely YES!
So where is my next Flash Pack trip? I couldn’t book with them for Oman, which was a shame but the dates didn’t work with the flights I could get… So now I’m waiting for them to come out with a trip to a destination I’ve not been to before. Could it be country #61?
EDIT: So the latest Guatemala and Belize trip looks enticing…. watch this space!