Finland is the wildcard of European tourism - well away from run-of-the-mill itineraries and with an abundance of natural attractions. Relatively few travellers from China make it to Helsinki and beyond - around 135,000 per year from the mainland and Hong Kong, according to recent statistics. However, those who do head well away from the beaten track will find themselves exploring a natural wonderland. Whatever the season - and there are distinct differences in temperature between spring and autumn, summer and winter - Finland's got something to attract outdoors fanatics and nature lovers. "Finland is not mainstream, but it is a unique destination at the entrance to Europe, with a peaceful lifestyle and friendly people," says Visit Finland's planning manager Sini Markoff. For a start, Finland is a cyclist's heaven. The roads are mainly flat with some gently rolling hills and - best of all - very little traffic. The scenery varies from lakes and forests to peaceful farmland and small villages. Besides traditional forest trails, there are more exciting routes - extensive boggy areas that are a great challenge for off-road cyclists. As with all excursions in Finland, guided tours and self hire are available. More adventurously, sailing through the ice pack aboard an icebreaker is exhilarating. The excursion begins with a snowmobile ride out to the ship. Passengers can also try floating in a waterproof thermal suit among gargantuan ice blocks. Ice swimming is one of Finland's more extreme natural activities. The pleasure of immersing yourself in icy water lies in getting out - when warmth surges through your body once again. Although lowering yourself into the water requires a soupçon of courage, the initial shock and momentary loss of feeling in your legs soon pass. Back on dry land, your circulation kicks in and your body starts to warm up - it's an experience that's just not available anywhere in Hong Kong. For "armchair travellers", there's nothing like cruising through silent, snow-covered wilds aboard a sled. A tour through the forests pulled by a team of dogs or reindeer is a truly unique northern European experience. For many people, a dog sled is the only real way to travel in the wilderness. Finland's salmon rivers offer fly-fishing enthusiasts marvellous opportunities to catch record-breaking fish among breathtaking landscapes. And if fishing's too staid, there's always the option of going white-water rafting on the country's many rivers, which provide white-knuckle rides. Come October, the ski resorts in Lapland can cater to every sort of downhill enthusiast, with children's runs, black slopes, snow parks and backcountry exploring. The high season runs from February until the snow melts away in early May. One of the best aspects of Finnish skiing is the pleasant and relaxed ambience, which is in sharp contrast to other parts of Europe, where there may be free-for-alls in the lift queues or kamikaze-style overtaking on the slopes. Finland also boasts some 37 national parks that encompass some of Europe's last unspoiled wilderness regions - perfect for short hikes or longer treks with camping overnight in the great outdoors.