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National Geographic publishes in 20 languages around the world. Who better to point you to the best places to see in their countries than the editors of our international editions? Each month a real insider reveals five must–see destinations.
Editor ThumbnailIf anything stands out as a challenge for editor Pia Korpisaari and her staff at National Geographic Suomi, it’s striking a balance between the layout requirements of the English-language edition and their own Finnish language. It all boils down to space. “Finnish words are, on the average, much longer than English words,” says the former interpreter and translator. “We try to avoid hyphenating, so translating titles, photo captions, and text set in narrow columns often presents a problem. But because Finnish allows a great deal of flexibility in word arrangement, we manage to find effective solutions.”

The team also has a good sense of how to attract the magazine’s readers. “We try to get them interested and keep them interested by producing articles on subjects they don’t read about very often in daily newspapers or other magazines,” Korpisaari says. Then the staff goes a step beyond by writing and translating to suit the Finnish way. “A lot of superlatives and adjectives sound pompous to Finns,” the editor says. “We tend to be very down-to-earth, practical, and quiet people.”

Those very traits are the reason Korpisaari was surprised when a British newspaper recently named Finland as Europe’s best travel destination, citing the friendly Finns. “Ten years ago most people took our silence as rudeness,” she says. “Maybe we’ve learned to open up.”

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Five Best Sub Header

The editor talks freely about her five favorite destinations in Finland, a land adorned with lakes and forests. Here are her picks:

1. Lakeside Summer Cottages

I don’t own a cottage at the moment, but my family had one when I was a child. I missed the Finnish tradition of spending summer holidays and warm-weather weekends at a lake cottage, so I rented one for this summer. Finland has hundreds of thousands of lakes. All of the major ones—and many of the smaller ones—offer cottages. Whether you spend time reading a good book, swimming, or rowing, the whole experience is designed for relaxation. At night, we go back and forth between the sauna and swimming in the lake. Then it’s time for a warm fire and perhaps a little sausage, all enjoyed amid the sounds of nature.

2. Vaasa
The influence of Swedes who settled in western Finland in the 17th century is still apparent in this city on the Gulf of Bothnia. More than a quarter of the local population and the majority of people in the surrounding countryside speak Swedish, which makes Vaasa the largest distinctively bilingual city in Finland. The heart of the town is very walkable and small enough to get around easily. Vaskiluoto Island to the west is connected to the town center by a bridge. The beaches and boating at the island are very popular among the Finns. Visitors will enjoy spending a day at Wasalandia, Finland’s smaller version of Disneyland, and Tropiclandia, a nearby water park and spa. The Hotel Astor is one of the nicest places to stay in Vaasa. The old building was beautifully restored about five years ago. All the rooms are different, and many of them have private saunas that give international guests a typical Finnish experience. And while you’re in Vaasa, plan to dine by candlelight at Gustav Wasa, a cellar restaurant that serves such typical gourmet dishes as salmon with your choice of fresh mushroom sauce or cranberry sauce.

3. Näsinneula Observatory Tower
At 408 feet (124 meters), this is the tallest observation tower in Finland. It dominates the skyline of Tampere, my hometown in the Lakelands region to the south. The revolving restaurant at the top offers spectacular views of nearby forests and lakes, and the food is quite good. Guests can try dishes made from typical meats such as reindeer and rabbit. Särkänniemi Amusement Park, the most popular in Finland these days, surrounds the tower. It features such attractions as carnival rides, a children’s zoo with domestic animals, a planetarium, an art museum, and the largest aquarium in the country.

4. Fiskars Village
Why can’t all industrial complexes look like this? This beautiful old village grew around the 17th-century iron and copper smelting plants that operated along the wooded shores of the River Fiskars in southern Finland. Today it is restored and functions as a center for art, craft, and design. Each year it hosts one of the largest arts and crafts exhibitions in the country, featuring top artists from Finland and around the world. Fiskars Village also presents an annual May Day bonfire and a summer folklife festival. Buildings that once housed plant workers are now home to a number of artists. The village also features several shops, restaurants, and hotels.

5. Cruising the Finnish Archipelago
Many small islands dot the southwestern coast of Finland, so archipelago cruises are very popular during the summer. Whether you cruise aboard a huge ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, Sweden, or take a short excursion in a small boat, the breathtaking scenery will help you forget all your worries.

Photographs by Buddy Mays, CORBIS  (left), Dave G. Houser, CORBIS (center), and Paul A. Sounders, CORBIS.

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