Finland knows how to be happy. The country has been ranked as the world’s happiest country in official UN rankings six years in a row.
While the report is based on life expectancy, GDP, corruption, social support and generosity, the country’s beautiful natural environment could also have something to do with it.
Finland is Europe’s most forested country and around 75 percent of the country is covered by forest. There are 30 indigenous tree species in the Scandinavian country and barely any non-native trees grow in Finland.
Even though the country’s lumber industry is an important sector of the economy, there’s a huge focus on sustainability and Finland’s tree coverage has actually grown over the last few years.
Spending time in a forest can have huge benefits for mental wellbeing and could contribute to Finland’s impressive happiness rating.
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The Japanese practice of forest bathing encourages people to de-stress and connect with nature. ‘Shinrin-yoku’ or forest bathing is believed to decrease stress levels and raise a person’s mood.
With more than 40 national parks to choose from, selecting a forest to explore in Finland can be a challenge.
Kintulammi forest is located in the north of Finland and covers 20 km of land. It’s a popular area for hiking with several marked routes to explore.
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Tourists flying into Finland’s capital, Helsinki, also won’t be far away from a forest. Just 40 minutes outside the city, Sipoonkorpi National Park has a popular 1.4km trail through the forest.
Walkers are also allowed to forage for free in Finland’s forests. During the summer and autumn, tourists might find berries and mushrooms to pick. Make sure to check the guidelines before doing so as there are rules over which species can be picked and consumed safely.
Under Finland’s Everyman’s Right law, everyone is allowed to walk, ski, cycle or horseback ride freely through the country. Tourists also have the right to camp where they like as long as it’s a reasonable distance from private property.
There are rules to ensure that Finland’s natural environment and wildlife are protected so make sure to check the guidelines before setting off on a hike.
Inexperienced hikers should be sure to stick to guided trails and everyone should check the weather forecast before setting off.
Not into forests? How about visiting one of Europe’s most festive cities which has more than 100 Christmas markets?
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