Discover a new side
of Finland

Discover a new side
of Finland

Thanks to social media, travelling is no longer just a private adventure but a shared experience. These projects give some lucky travellers and their followers a chance to view the surprising sides of Finland.

Thanks to social media, travelling is no longer just a private adventure but a shared experience. These projects give some lucky travellers and their followers a chance to view the surprising sides of Finland.

Text by Laura Iisalo.
Photos by Visit Finland and Jussi Hellsten/Visit Helsinki.

Mastering arctic wilderness

The darkest season in Finnish Lapland lasts for about 100 days. A daily glimpse of twilight sets a magical mood that has inspired filmmakers, explorers, and outdoor enthusiasts for decades. The combination of wild, frozen landscape, and breath-taking silence allows a sense of peace that is nearly impossible to describe. That’s why Visit Finland together with Finnair decided to organise a larger-than-life adventure that allows a group of brave-hearted winter novices to experience the magic of polar darkness firsthand.

Nearly 4,000 people around the world applied for the Polar Night Magic experience. Five lucky explorers from Japan, China, UK, Korea and Germany were chosen to begin their ambitious expedition with the intention of mastering the Arctic wilderness.

“This is the first time ever that a group of people gets to experience pretty much everything Lapland has to offer. They will learn many new skills and return back home with an experience they will never forget,” says wilderness guide Pasi Ikonen, who will be leading the team. With over 20 years of experience and an unsupported expedition to the South Pole under his belt, he is an expert on harsh polar conditions.

The three-month quest, which began in December 2015, is divided into 18 stages. During the first stage, the team members take on an apprenticeship with a blacksmith and learn how to make a traditional Finnish knife – a handy tool for what lies ahead. In the following months they are expected to climb frozen waterfalls, herd reindeers, dive into icy lakes, and hunt down the Aurora Borealis whilst surrounded by the magical polar darkness.

“The expedition will no doubt be demanding for the body and mind. None of the members have experienced winter for long periods of time, which is why we selected open-minded people who are in good physical shape,” Ikonen says.

A big chunk of the journey is completed by skiing or snowshoeing – undeniably challenging for someone who may have never experienced snow before. The course takes the team around Lapland. In between the physical tasks, they get their fair share of peaceful ambience by taking part in a silent retreat and learning to capture the beauty of it. Photos and videos will be shared on personal social media platforms and on a dedicated campaign website, which is updated weekly.

At the end of the adventure, the group will have accomplished something that only few can dream of. Not only will they have gotten to know the mysteries of polar magic, they will also have surpassed their own personal limitations and experienced the Arctic’s true nature.

“Spending three months with each other will make them a very tight-knit team and I’m pretty sure that these guys will form friendships that last a lifetime. The biggest prize will be the mental reward that comes from overcoming challenges together – they just don’t know it yet,” says Ikonen. Whatever the future brings, it will soon be revealed.

Join the adventure by following the hashtag #polarnightmagic or visit polarnightmagic.com.

Yuichi Yokota

Professional photographer Yuichi Yokota is originally from Yokohama City in Japan but lives in Tokyo. He is taking part in the Polar Night Experience.

Expectations

“I’m looking forward to experiencing Finnish nature, meeting people and trying the delicious foods. I really want to photograph the beautiful Aurora Borealis, but I’m also looking forward to diving into the icy sea.”

Favourite travel tip

“Try and get to know the local people living in the area because they are the experts and always give the best travel tips.”

The secrets of Helsinki

If Lapland is famous for its mystical aura, then Helsinki is the world’s best-kept secret. The latter is a comment that inspired Visit Helsinki to create a home-like hub for selected globetrotters to stay in whilst exploring the Finnish capital. Located in the heart of the city, the #HelsinkiSecret Residence will accommodate up to 100 guests during 2016. The first lot are already settling into their new home which is equipped with Finnish foods and design.

“The idea for the residence actually came from the social media influencers themselves,” says Visit Helsinki’s social media coordinator Elisabeth Heinrichs, who has been working with bloggers and other influencers for the past four years.

“We listened to their feedback and created a concept that allows them to come and stay in Helsinki long enough to really get familiar with the local way of life,” she says.

Heinrichs will be hosting the residents together with a network of Finnish influencers ñ local friends that help the guests discover the best cafés, galleries, happenings, and other secrets of the city. “Our guests are not interested in only viewing the usual sights and attractions. They want to see what’s off the beaten path,” she says.

The visiting residents are selected based on their social media engagement rate but anyone can apply for the wild card; every month one lucky traveller and a friend will be accepted to stay at the residence based on votes regardless of their social media presence.

Finnair is one of the main partners of the project. Follow the residents as they share the secrets of Helsinki using #HelsinkiSecret or visit helsinkisecret.com.

Local friends help the #HelsinkiSecret residents discover the hidden gems of the city as part of the project.

Teri Didjurgis

Travel blogger and consultant Teri Didjurgis lives in Austin, Texas, but spends most of her time travelling. She is one of the first guests to stay at the Helsinki Secret Residence.

Expectations

“I am looking forward to seeing the Helsinki architecture. I am also looking forward to experiencing many of the snow activities and Finnish traditions from the food to saunas, and the nightlife.”

Favourite travel tip

“Slow down! Take the time to explore your destination and discover the people, history, culture, and their way of life to learn from the country you are visiting.”


This article was first published in the January 2016 issue of Finnair’s monthly in-flight magazine Blue Wings.