Alex Roddie reviews a fantastic new English-language guidebook to walking, backpacking and ski touring in the Finnish backcountry.

Scandinavia is becoming ever more popular amongst British hikers, but finding reliable information in English can be a challenge. Jouni Laaksonen’s new guidebook aims to break down the barriers by offering an accessible introduction for people unfamiliar with the country. The book – which is attractively designed with dozens of colour photos, diagrams, and topo maps – starts with a detailed introduction looking at the big picture, showing the reader why they might want to visit Finland. It’s clearly aimed at foreign visitors. Subjects such as Everyman’s Rights, Finnish hiking culture, the hut network, seasonal considerations, skills, terrain and more are discussed in considerable depth. There’s also a very handy quick intro to the best areas to visit if you’re after certain kinds of experience (lakes and islands, ancient forests, seeing wild animals, and so on).

The introductory section makes for a great book in its own right and really is very well laid-out. After reading it, as a backpacker with experience of Norway but none of Finland, I felt considerably better informed. Many of my questions had been answered, including some I wasn’t even aware I’d had! There are plenty of interesting stories and anecdotes sprinkled throughout too, and an extensive section on winter travel. This really is guidebook writing at its best.

The rest of the book is dedicated to different areas, including a number of suggested tours. These chapters include sections on local nature, points of interest, cultural history, travel and access, trails, and more. There are also detailed full-page maps and a little on winter ski-touring possibilites. Although you’ll need dedicated maps for hiking the routes, this does make planning very convenient.

Overall, this is one of the best guidebooks I’ve seen on backpacking in Scandinavia. If you’re a British hiker looking to head to Finland for the first time, it should be considered essential reading – and even veterans will learn a thing or two. Highly recommended.

Hiking in Finland by Jouni Laaksonen is published by Karttakeskus. For an overview of the book, and a list of places to buy, check the author’s website: