The Lakeland region of Finland is a fitting name as it has more water than terra firma. The clean, sparkling water of the region’s many lakes reflects the blue skies and birch tree forests with crisp detail. There is an average of 40 lakes per 100 square kilometers and almost 60,000 lakes in total. This is a stunning part of the country to drive through, camp, hike, and explore. Lakeland is the perfect place to get outdoors! Rent a traditional Finnish cottage, relax in the sauna, spend some time exploring the towns, canoeing the lakes, and hiking in the lush forests. A trip to Finland is about getting in touch with nature and discovering its rich beauty.
Prime season for Lakeland is mid-June through August. Before picking a time, take a look at a calendar of events. There are many festivals held throughout the summer, including many music festivals. One of the largest is the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Flights will take you directly into Helsinki international airport. From here, I recommend renting a car. Public transit in Finland is outstanding and there are trains and buses that run into Lakeland. I personally prefer the freedom of having my own vehicle. It comes in handy if you’d like to visit different towns or explore numerous areas of Lakeland without wanting to rely on the bus timetable. Automatic and manual vehicles are widely available at the airport, but rental costs and fuel costs are high.
There is nothing more Finnish than sauna. Sauna is a Finnish word that has been carried through to all languages. The Finnish pronounce this as “sow-na.” Most cottages in Lakeland are equip with either a traditional wood sauna or an electric sauna. Inquire with whoever you plan on renting with to ensure there is access to a sauna and some guidance on how to properly work the stove. It is well worth it! There are a few public saunas in this region including a smoke sauna in Kuopio.
In the summers, afternoons are spent going between the sauna and jumping in the cool lakes. Other popular activities are hiking and berry picking. There are many hiking options that can be found on Finland’s National Parks website. All are incredible! Lake Saimaa is the largest lake in Lakeland and host to many summer activities including canoeing, exploring it’s two national parks (Linnansaari and Kolovesi), and the large steam cruise ships. These steam ships will take you to various towns along the lake including Savonlinna, Lappeenranta, Kuopio, and Varkaus. These ships are a great way to see this part of the country offer a different perspective on the landscape.
Located right on Lake Saimaa, this little city is a great place to stay in Lakeland with its easy access to the steam boats and hiking trails. Be sure to explore Linnoitus. This is a hilltop fortification that was started by the Swedes and finished by the Russians in the late 18th century. If you’re a history buff, check out the multiple museums in this area including South Karelian Museum, Cavalry Museum, South Karelia Art Museum, and the Orthodox Church built in 1785. There are also multiple galleries and craft workshops. While here, check out Kahvila Majurska, a bakery offering delicious cakes, breakfast, and lunch.
The drive to Savonlinna is said to be one of the most beautiful in Finland. As you drive towards the town, you’ll see lake on both sides of the road and the large castle loom up before you. This is truly a beautiful town set on islands between Haapavesi and Pihlajavesi lakes. The best time to visit is during the activity of the festival.
While here, be sure to explore the castle Olavinlinna and stroll through the surrounding area. If you have time, wander over to the other side of town and cross the bridges to the island Sulosaari. This island is mainly nature trails, beautiful views of the lake, and lots of wild blueberries. There is a small cafe on this island known for its delicious waffles.
An absolute essential in Lakeland, is renting a cottage on one of its numerous lakes. I rented a lakeside cottage through AirBnB in Juva, about 25 km north of Mikkeli. There are many cottages that can be rented through AirBnB or local rental agencies. Make sure the cottage has a sauna or access to one (this is fairly common!). My particular cottage had a lovely new electric sauna in the cottage itself as well as a traditional wood sauna closer to the lake shore. My time here was spent lounging in the sauna, swimming and boating on the lake, and just relaxing and enjoying the surrounding forest.