|Civil war memorial|
Finland is not as bike friendly as Sweden or Denmark. There is a national bike route network but there is not much information about it on the internet. The routes are only marked on the 6 bike maps covering the whole of Finland. The route I took from Vaasa to Helsinki is called via Finlandia or National bike route 3. There is a very outdated guidebook for it with pictures of happy cyclists right from the 80s and town photos that look like a Russian Intourist advertising. Even the format is slightly too big for a standard handle bar bag. But although the tourist information in it was completely outdated the maps were accurate and a great help. In the field the bike routes are marked but the markers are not very consistent and so old and bleached out that you can hardly see them. Plus it seems to be a Finnish pastime to turn markers into the wrong direction. So a good (GPS) map is essential. Unfortunately the OSM based velomaps show the bike routes only partially but I hope that over time it will cover the whole Finnish bike route system. The Via Finlandia route was great. It almost completely keeps you off the main highways. I was usually cycling on bike paths next to highways, minor roads with little traffic or very good dirt roads, so I can highly recommend the route. But although there are plenty of bike lanes and paths in Finland they are in bad shape compared to Denmark and Sweden. Lots of potholes and at road crossings the curb very often has not been lowered so that you have to get off your bike or risk damage. I hardly saw any other long distance cyclists in Finland.
I highly recommend visiting a sauna in Finland. Every public swimming pool offers a sauna and entrance fee is about 5-6 € only. Usually men and women go naked, but in separate areas. Therefore you don't need a swim suit. There are plenty of lakes, too and designated swimming areas offer ladders for easier water access and/or nice sandy beaches. Maybe I was just lucky but the mosquitoes were not a big problem. They did not bother me at all while cycling and only became a nuisance in the evening when I set up my tent and tried to cook.
Despite the warnings in a German cycling guidebook I did not find cycling in Finland boring. Yes, there is a lot of forest and it all looks pretty much the same but there also are a lot of lakes and beaches for swimming, plenty of berries to pick and a lot of saunas to visit..... Just be prepared that Finland won't fit your typical Scandinavian image, find out about its history and you'll find it a fascinating country. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be back soon for a longer trip.