While Prince Harry is galavanting around enjoying his post-engagement buzz, his brother is hard at work on Royal business. Well, he’s in Finland.
And who wouldn’t want to be in Finland? It can lay claim to being one of the greatest countries on the planet. Here are 17 reasons why.
1. It’s the safest country on Earth
According to the 2018 Travel Risk Map, which assesses the world across three categories – medical risks, security and road safety – Finland has the lowest overall threat level. A lovely place to hunker down and hope everything just blows over.
2. And the most eco-friendly
Finland has tremendous green credentials. In fact, it ranked top in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, which handed Finland a rating of 90.68, beating its nearest rival Iceland (90.51), and neighbour Sweden (90.43). The report, commissioned by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said: “Finland’s goal of consuming 38 per cent of their final energy from renewable sources by 2020 is legally binding, and they already produce nearly two-thirds of their electricity from renewable or nuclear power sources.” Nice one, Finland.
3. Nowhere in Europe has more trees
Finland has more forest per square mile than any country in Europe, and the 11th most in the world. It’s amazing there’s room for anything but trees, to be honest, as the nation is 73 per cent firs, birches and oaks (that’s nothing compared to Suriname, top of the list, which is 95 per cent forest).
4. It’s capital couldn’t be greener
Helsinki has embarked on an ambitious project to make motor vehicle ownership obsolete by 2025. Harnessing the power of new technologies, the authorities want to create an on-demand public transport system that will be so good nobody needs a car. As with other Scandinavian cities, Helsinki long ago promoted pedal power as a way of getting around. The city now has 2,400 miles of cycle lanes, which have been enthusiastically embraced by locals.
5. There are 179,584 lakes
Finland’s nickname is the Land of a Thousand Islands. Pah. The nation boasts a few more than that; 179,584 to be exact, making it second only to Sweden in the global island ranking.
6. Including western Europe’s second biggest
Not the biggest. That’s Lake Vanern in Sweden, of course. But at 1,700 square miles in surface area, Lake Saimaa is still remarkably big – certainly the largest of those that dot the Finnish landscape. It is home to the Saimaa Ringed Seal – although you will be lucky to spot one of these endangered freshwater beasts. They number a mere 320 in total, and are only found in the lake. Still, you can take a pair of binoculars and try. The waterside is most easily reached via the small city of Lappeenranta – 140 miles north-east of Helsinki.
7. It’s a tolerant place
According to The Legatum Prosperity Index, which ranks countries according to a range of criteria, including personal freedom, based on access to legal rights, freedom of speech and religion and social tolerance, Finland is the ninth most tolerant nation in the world. The UK is 15th.
8. With enviable gender equality
The above might explain why it’s also one of the best countries in the world for gender equality. Finland ranks third, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, behind only Iceland (first) and Norway (second).
9. Santa lives there
Tolerance and gender equality are great, but Finland also has Father Christmas. He lives in Lapland, of course, and can be visited all year. Lapland is arguably the real Finland – a wilderness region that is home to the nomadic Sami and their reindeer. In summer there are great hiking trails and white water rafting. In winter you can ski, go ice fishing, snowmobile along forest trails or mush a husky dog team.
10. They really appreciate good coffee
It seems the Finnish live their lives by some pretty admirable guiding principles, but that’s not even the half of it. Arguably more important is the fact that the Finns consume more coffee than anywhere else in the world – 12kg per capita per year, a hefty 2.1kg more per head than Norway, in second place.