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Breathing the world’s cleanest air
Things to know about Finnish air and its benefits
6 minute read
A women is paddling in a lake landscape in Finland

Credits:: Jeremy Janin

Here are nine things to know about Finnish air and its benefits

What if we told you that one of the best things in Finland is invisible, abundant and totally free?

Take a deep breath and you’ll be filled with one of the most precious things on earth: fresh air. Finland has the cleanest air in the world. And no, that statement wasn’t pulled from thin air – it’s a proven fact.

As well as ensuring things like great habitats for Finland’s nature and clean food for foraging, clean air has plenty of health benefits for humans, from increased happiness to a good night’s sleep.

Woman is standing in a snow-covered forest while sun is shining
Credits: Jason Charles Hill

Finland has the cleanest air in the world

Air quality in Finland is the best in the world according to data released by the World Health Organisation, WHO. The level of airborne particles in Finland is on average 6 micrograms per cubic metre – the lowest level for any individual country. The information comes from measurements from 2,500 locations in nearly 100 different countries between 2008 and 2016.

Rowing boat on a lake smooth as glass
Credits: Marjaana Tasala

Finland’s vast forests play an important role

Finland has a lot of trees. Seriously a lot. Forests cover more than 75% of the land area of Finland. And what do trees do? Put simply, breathe. Now for the science bit: in the process of photosynthesis, the act of transforming sunlight into energy, trees produce excess oxygen which is then released into the atmosphere. More trees = more oxygen. There are over 40 national parks in Finland, Lemmenjoki and Urho Kekkonen national parks being the largest, where you can hike through this dense forest land and take lots of deep breaths.

People walking in a forest
Credits: Julia Kivelä

You can check air quality by looking out for beard moss

If you see beard moss growing on old trees, take a long, deep breath: this is a sign that the air is clean. Beard moss and other types of lichen are very sensitive to air pollution, especially to sulphur dioxide, so you’ll often find them in oxygen-rich areas. Unsurprisingly, there are more than twenty types of beard moss in Finland. You’ll recognise them from their distinctive threadlike stems that dangle from tree branches like tufts of hair.

Beard moss and a tit on a tree branch
Credits: Pentti Sormunen / Vastavalo

Clean air means cleaner food

Thanks to the clean air in Finland, you can eat many wild berries and herbs straight off the bush (be careful they’re not toxic, though – ask a local if you are not sure). These delicacies grow wild, nurtured by uncontaminated soil, clean air and fresh water, making them as fresh and healthy as possible. They are available for everyone to eat, from Michelin star chefs plating seasonal dishes to kids staining their hands blue from picking bilberries. As a visitor, you’re welcome to pick and eat whatever you forage and taste the freshness for yourself. Alternatively, there are plenty of restaurants doing exciting things with the season’s finest.

Women picking berries in a forest
Credits: : Julia Kivelä / Lakeland Finland
A handful of wild mushrooms
Credits:: Ilona Savola

You can see Norway and Sweden on a clear day

Imagine yourself on top of an arctic hill in Lapland. What do you see? Well, from Salmivaara Fell in Kilpisjärvi, for example, you can see the hills and mountains of three countries in one go: Finland, Sweden and Norway. As the air is clean from smog and other types of air pollution, the visual range can be up to 50 - 70 kilometres in dry weather. This is why there are so many rewarding views to drink in after any hike in Finland.

A woman looking at a landscape with a view of the forests and fells up to the horizon
Credits: Harri Tarvainen

Breathing has all sorts of health benefits – aside from the obvious

Clean and moist air is beneficial for your respiratory tract, In Finnish, we even have a word for getting some fresh air: happihyppely, which literally means “oxygen hopping”. But breathing clean air has also been linked to happiness. According to studies from China and Taiwan, which tracked moods expressed on social media against air pollution, good air quality actually makes you happier.

A child walking in a forest
Credits: Emilia Hoisko

Clean air helps you to sleep better

In Finland, parents put babies and toddlers outside for their naps, even in below zero temperatures. And yes, the babies sleep better and longer – great news for parents. Studies have confirmed what babies have sussed out: people feel better after sleeping in clean air with low levels of carbon dioxide. See for yourself and sleep alfresco with an overnight stay in a tent or hut.

A person in a hammock between two snowy trees above a snow-covered ground
Credits: Samuel Taipale

You can visit the exact spot where the air is the cleanest

N67°58.400' E24°06.939': these are the coordinates that will take you to the exact point where the air is cleanest in the world. According to the data provided by WHO, the world’s cleanest air is measured at Pallas, Lapland. There, the Sammaltunturi measuring station records the lowest numbers of air borne pollutants in the world. Of all the Finnish cities, the cleanest air can be found in Oulu.

An aerial view of the City of Oulu in autumn

Thousands of litres per day

On average, an adult breathes 11,000 litres of air per day. Which means you would breathe in 77,000 litres if you spent a week in Finland. What could be a better souvenir than a lung-full of clean air?

Two young women walking in nature at Suomenlinna fortress
Credits: : Julia Kivelä
woman sitting in a rowing boat in the sun
Credits:: Kai Kuusisto