Karen joined a group of her fellow Guides, who went off to explore some of our popular Finnish resorts and the wonderful country itself. Here she tells us about the highlights of her trip.
I have just returned from an amazing seven-day stay in Finland. Magical memories were made, and it was a welcome change from the sun holidays I normally take. I travelled with three of my colleagues and upon landing in Helsinki, we were all so excited. Bright sunlight at midnight? Surreal!
The following day we did a two-hour walk/ride around Helsinki City, which was made easier by hopping on and off the tram at various places of interest, taking in the breathtaking views. We stopped for lunch in the square to set us up for the seven-hour drive to our resort in Vuokatti.
You can opt to catch a connecting flight from Helsinki to Kajanni and drive the 28 miles from there, but we decided on the scenic route and I'm sure glad we did. Our two drivers made the journey easier, but I never once tired of the scenery, with birch trees and lakes interspersing our journey.
Our first resort was Holiday Club Katinkulta (2247), an RCI Gold Crown resort. Whether you are a couple looking for something different or a family with kids, this resort ticks all the boxes. Each apartment features a fully-fitted kitchen, a BBQ on your deck, laptops with Wi-Fi, and even your own sauna. You'll also find bikes for your leisurely enjoyment, perched right outside your door. Catering for romantic couples, the resort's studio apartments for two are directly on the lake, with your very own rowing boat provided free of charge in the summer period.
With an Angry Birds Activity Park, a beach, and a whole host of activities from bowling to golf - you're unlikely to get bored at this fantastic resort.
Holiday Club caters for all tastes, with everything from snacks on the go to sit-down meals. My favourite was the Classic Pizza Restaurant which was amazing value, at just €90 for a dinner for four plus a good bottle of white wine. If you fancy a few beers in the evening, drop into O'Leary's sports bar onsite and, if you still have some energy left, finish the night off at Night Cat, the spa hotel's very own nightclub.
The pool and spa were a welcoming sight one morning and I embraced the experience of a traditional Finnish sauna. I loved it. After a little spa time, there are also three golf courses onsite with one especially for kids, should they wish to play with mum or dad. The Finnish people think of everything!
I highly recommend restaurant Kippo, which is only a five-minute drive or a ten-minute cycle from the resort. It offers delicious Nordic food with a reasonable price tag of around €190 for four, including wine and reindeer steak for the epicurious.
A three-hour hike with huskies was the perfect way to work off our meal or for something more sedate, a seven-hour bear watching tour in the woods is the ideal remedy. I highly recommend both, but hiking with huskies was my favourite family-friendly attraction. Upon return to base, our guide had an open fire blazing, and we chatted while cooking sausages on skewers - luckily we'd worked up another appetite!
Bear watching was equally unforgettable. I thought I would find sitting in a wooden hut for hours frustrating, but honestly I would happily sit there again to watch these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. I loved the organiser's policy too, if you don't see any bears - you don't pay!
I enjoyed every minute of our four days in Vuokatti. We were all sad to leave, but we were on another mission - to experience the city. We packed up on Saturday and headed for Tampere, a six-hour drive south, with some spectacular look out points along the way.
Our second stay was at Holiday Club Tampereen Kylpyla (2937). It is located in a century-old cotton mill which has been renovated and modernised, while retaining its history and charm. The resort is situated in the Lapinniemi district, surrounded by a stunning lake. Local buses run regularly between the spa resort and Tampere city centre, though we chose to cycle and walk everywhere to be able to truly revel in our surroundings and explore at our own pace.
Tampere is a beautiful city, approximately 90 minutes from Helsinki and sandwiched between two lakes. Wander around or grab a bike from the tourist office and explore all it has to offer. We took a guide map and walked for hours through the streets and parks admiring the city's beauty and brushing up on its history along the way.
Seven days, 800 miles and two completely different experiences later, I can honestly say Finland did its best to impress. Stunningly beautiful and something for everyone. Finland, I will be back!
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