Lakeland

photo © Discovering Finland

The region of Finland known as Lakeland, stretching from Kuhmo and Kajaani in the north to Savonlinna and Tampere in the south, was formed by glacial melt at the end of the last Ice Age and is the largest lake district in Europe. With more water than land, it is hardly surprising that Finnish Lakeland is a natural paradise, not just for anglers but for all who love pure, clean waters. The many towns and cities in the region that have developed next to the lakes and rivers here are diverse and full of character, joined by meandering roads through forests and cultivated farm lands.

In the northernmost part of Lakeland lie Kuhmo and Kajaani. Kuhmo is best known in Finland for being a focal point for Karelian culture and the Kalevala, the country’s national epic, and for the Kuhmo Festival of Chamber Music. Kajaani lies on the Oulujoki river, southeast of Lake Oulujärvi, and is famed for its fishing and for the beauty of the surrounding region.

Imatra is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, a wilderness waiting to be explored, with five nature trails, the Imantrankoski rapids, and the nearby Kruununpuisto Park. To the southwest, Lappeenranta’s easy-going Karelian locals are among the friendliest in all of Finland, with an obvious love for music. Within the grounds of the Fortress of Lappeenranta you’ll discover a wealth of historical sites to visit, including the South Karelia Art Museum, the Museum of South Karelia and the oldest Orthodox church in Finland.

In Central Finland are the towns of Iisalmi, Kuopio, Varkaus and Jyväskylä. Among Iisalmi’s unique attractions are the the Runni Health Spa, which has the historic wooden channel of Saarikoski, and the Neulatammi natural massage streams, and the Olvi brewery. Surrounded by lake Kallavesi, Kuopio is an ideal travel destination for nature lovers and those seeking quiet relaxation without being too far from a thriving urban centre. It also boasts three highly recommended ski centres in Tahko, Kasurila and Puijo, as well as providing plenty of water based alternatives in the summer, such as sailing, wind-surfing, jet-skiing, and water-skiing. Varkaus is especially popular with nature lovers and outdoors enthusiasts who enjoy its easy access to the National Parks of Kolovesi and Linnansaari, whose islands are home to the endangered Saimaa ringed seals, and Kämäri island and Ämmäkoski rapids within the town which are ideal for quiet exploration and fishing. Lying in the heart of Finland, Jyväskylä is known to Finns as the City of Light, thanks to over 60 illuminated sites, including the impressive Kuokkala bridge. It is also home to the Petäjävesi Old Church, dating back to 1765, and the Oravivuori Triangulation Tower, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The capital of North Karelia, Joensuu is famed for the Ilosaarirock Festival. Further south, Savonlinna is famed for its annual opera festival, held in its medieval castle. It lies close to the national parks of Kolovesi and Linnansaari, being home to protected Saimaa Seals, White-backed Woodpecker and Corncrake.

Mikkeli is renowned for its lakeside cottages and is one of Finland’s most popular family holiday destinations, having the country’s finest water and adventure theme park in Visulahti. It is also packed cultural calendar features. Tampere boasts at least a dozen museums here and is recognised as the centre for theatrical arts in Finland. It is also home to Särkänniemi, one of Finland’s best loved adventure parks.