Finland is the most stable country as per 'The Fragile States Index 2015, Fund for Peace' and amongst the five happiest in the world according to the 'UN World Happiness Report 2016'. Besides, it ranks number one in criminal justice (worldjusticeproject.org) and is, as per the 'Environmental Performance Index', the greenest country in the world.

And that’s not all ~ this country has the best human capital (Human Capital Report 2015, World Economic Forum or WEF), comes second in gender equality (Global Gender Gap Report 2014 by the WEF) and is the third least corrupt country (Corruption Perceptions Index 2014, Transparency International). With all these laurels to its credit, it makes for an interesting country to discover.

With a population of approximately 5.5 million inhabitants, Finland boasts of 190,000 lakes. Though the country is the most sparsely populated in the European Union, it is also among the largest countries in Europe. Another contrast!

Says Dr Jukka Kalevi Holappa, Commercial Counsellor, Embassy of Finland, "People know Finland as the land of Nokia, the land of Santa Claus, and of Mika Hakkinen, of the Angry Birds created by Rovio and the Linux Kernel opensource operating system developed by Linus Torvalds. Finland is also known for inventions such as sms, xylitol chewing gum, wireless heartrate monitor and many others. For the Indian traveller, Finland offers a number of attractions: the Northern Lights, snow- related sports like reindeer and husky safaris, snowmobiles, a stay in an igloo, cruises, water sports, camping etc."

Nature's bounty is thoroughly enjoyed with more than 500,000 holiday homes for a population of just 5.5 million. Mushroom- and berry picking skills, passed from one generation to the next, are honed around these rural retreats. Winter swimming is a popular hobby and a dip in ice cold water is believed to have many beneficial health effects.

Finns love their saunas too. The country has more than three million saunas ~ more saunas than cars! Sauna Day sees family saunas open their doors to guests. Similarly, Restaurant Day, a food carnival invented in Finland, enables anyone to establish a temporary restaurant in their backyard or by the street and sell their specialities to passersby, for four days in a year. Finland has dozens of small breweries, which often sell their products only in nearby areas.

Helsinki, the capital, is a modern European city, where more than 450 years of history and tradition blend seamlessly with contemporary design and trends. You can go for a picnic on one of the archipelago islands or a walk in Kallio ~ known for its cool bars, cafes and boutiques or take a trip to Porvoo ~ Finland's second oldest city.

Finnish Lapland is immense. Kolari, a small municipality in Lapland, has fewer than 4,000 inhabitants, but the capacity to accommodate 35,000 tourists! This beautiful region invites you to experience the wilderness of extremes from twilight to the night-less night: you can doze off under the Northern Lights in a glass igloo.

The Coast and Archipelago invite tourists to island hopping and sea kayaking among 20,000 islands and skerries, diver and discover underwater trails at the National Park or even spend a night in a lighthouse island.

Finland saw 54,636 Indian travellers visiting the country in 2016. The objective for 2017 is to double the numbers. For the same, strategies such as promotion of the country amongst Indian tour operators and travel agents, direct B to C campaigns and collaborations with holiday clubs like Mahindra Holiday Club are being planned by the Embassy.

As someone once said, "As long you are in Finland, the actual place does not matter. I once told a friend that I would be happy just sitting on a lonely street ~ as long as it is in Finland."

Diplomatic Editor Ashok Tuteja ([email protected])