Finns have a very close relationship with their natural surroundings and nature is always close by. Finland is a Nordic country situated in the Northern Europe. The Finnish environment is unpolluted and nature conservation has long traditions.
Finland is situated between the 60th and 70th parallels of latitude, making it the northernmost country on the European continent. A quarter of its area lies north of the Arctic Circle. Finland is bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway to the north and Russia to the east, with Estonia to its south across the Gulf of Finland. Forests cover about 75 per cent of the country. This makes Finland the most heavily forested country in Europe, with 20 million hectares under forest cover.
Bodies of water cover almost ten per cent of Finland and it is aptly known as a Land of a Thousand Lakes. There are approximately 190,000 lakes in Finland, which is more than any other country. Tap water in Finland is drinkable and of excellent quality with a fresh taste.
About 180,000 islands are scattered around Finland. Along the coast an estimated 95,000 islands form one of the world’s most complex archipelagos, and is Europe’s largest. This includes the self-governing province of the Åland Islands, which lie off the south-west coast of Finland.
The Finnish landscape tends to be mostly flat with some small scale variation. The greatest differences in altitude are in Lapland, Northern Finland, where the highest point, Halti (1,324 metres), is located.
Finland lies on the taiga forest zone that covers the entire northern part of Eurasia.
The forests typically contain only a small number of tree species. Dominant trees are Scots pine, Norway spruce and birch, although the forests are also dotted with aspen, alder and rowan.
The majority of the country’s animals are species typical of the boreal coniferous zone such as elk, and the national animal, the brown bear. Arctic fauna is found in the north and European fauna in the south. Examples of Finnish wildlife include the arctic fox, the flying squirrel, the ringed seal, wolverines and wolves – all of which are endangered species. Other rare species, such as the lynx, the golden eagle and the snowy owl are species found in Finnish nature.
The abundance of water is good for birds and fish. In the summertime, a large number of wetland and water birds breed in Finland, including many duck and wader species, and huge cranes. Finland has sixty-one native fish species, mostly freshwater.
The Finnish climate is milder than one would expect. The climate is affected by the presence of the Baltic Sea, vast lake areas and by the westerly winds, which bring air warmed by the Gulf Stream from the Atlantic. The result is average temperatures 6 to 10 degrees higher than at comparable latitudes elsewhere.
Temperatures in Finland can fluctuate over a range of more than 80°C in the course of a year. The climate is marked by cold winters with temperatures plunging to -20°C or lower and warm summers with temperatures reaching +30°C.
The sun can remain below the horizon for more than 50 days around midwinter in the north, only to shine day and night for more than two months in summer.
One notable effect of Finland’s northerly position on the globe is that the four seasons of the year are clearly distinct from one another. Autumn and spring are both short and the weather has its own beautiful features such as the striking leaf colours in September.
The mean annual temperature in the capital, Helsinki, is 5.3°C and the mean annual rainfall is 600mm.