Prior to visiting Finland in 2013, I thought of the country as a winter destination. Travel pamphlets and brochures had conjured up images of glass igloos where you could watch the aurora borealis from your bed, tall pines with sagging branches covered with clumps of snow, and a bearded Santa calling Lapland home.

Then I visited in the summertime and discovered a destination completely different from what I had previously imagined. Finland surprised me in the best way possible and it’s a country that I’ve been happy to revisit since. Here are just a few reasons you should consider visiting in the summertime:

Making the most of summer

One thing that I admire about cities that endure long winters, is that they don’t waste one minute of their summer, and the Finnish capital lives up to that. Locals are out enjoying their meals al fresco, biking instead of driving, and flocking to the beaches for a cool and refreshing swim. In Helsinki‘s Market Square you can feast on smoked salmon and roasted potatoes from street vendors, the lawns of Esplanade Park beckon for picnics, and the Espa Stage always has a full set featuring a mix of fresh home-grown talent and established musicians. For more ideas, you can check out this handy guide of things to do in Helsinki in the summertime.

Island hopping around the archipelago

Finland’s Southern Archipelago is made up of thousands of little islands and islets, and the best way to discover these is by getting out on the water. If you’ve ever wanted to try sea kayaking, you won’t find a better place than this. The waters are very calm and there is so much wildlife to discover. During the summer months it’s quite popular to go sea kayaking because the sun stays up so late. Kayaking out around sunset and then returning under the light of a full moon is a pretty cool experience. Just make sure you are with experienced guides who know the routes well so you don’t lose your way.

Long days under the midnight sun

One of the unique aspects of Finland’s summer tourism is that you get to enjoy really long days. At the height of summer in the capital, the sun rises just before four in the morning and sets at almost 11 at night. Now keep in mind that Helsinki is at the bottom tip of the country, which means that the further north you travel, the longer the days get. If you were to travel all the way to the northern part of the country, there would be places where the sun would stay up all day. Imagine everything you could do with so many daylight hours!

Free camping thanks to Every Man’s Right

When it comes to encouraging healthy living and spending time outdoors, Finland is leading the pack. The country is known for ‘Every Man’s Right’, a practice that allows anyone living or visiting Finland to enjoy nature to the fullest. This means that anyone can temporarily pitch a tent and camp out anywhere in the country (the only rule is that you must be within reasonable distance of people’s homes), anyone can freely pick berries and mushrooms for consumption (so long as these are not protected species), anyone can fish in bodies of water with a rod and line, and likewise, anyone can swim or bathe in these same waters. Now let’s take into account the fact that the country has an estimated 13,000 trees for every Finn, and that’s the perfect recipe to enjoy Finland’s summer weather.

Lots of music festivals

Like I mentioned earlier, summer in Finland is short and sweet, and that means they pack a whole lot of music festivals into a very short amount of time. You have Blockfest for hip hop, Flow Festival for a mix of old school and indie bands, Summer Up for rap, and so many others. Whatever your taste in music, chances are you’ll find an event that caters to your ears.

Have you ever been to Finland in the summer?