This idyllic town in Northern Savonnia attracts outdoors enthusiasts, in summer and winter, who enjoy watersports and exploring nature, skiing and toboganning, as well as those seeking to simply relax and get away from it all. 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. The regions culture and history are well represented in the Iisalmi Cultural Centre, the Local History and Culture Museum, the Juhani Aho Museum, the Church Museum, and the Nature Museum.
Formed around 1627, Iisalmi is situated in Ylä-Savo, or Northern Savonia, at the headwaters of two major Finnish lake systems, the Saimaa and Päijänne. Iisalmi is a vibrant town surrounded by lakes, rivers, and hilly terrain. Historically, the area had great significance as a battlefield in the war between Sweden and Imperial Russia in the mid 18th century, and was the scene for one of the great Swedish victories, although eventually the war was lost and Finland was ceded to the Russians.
One of the most important historical sites in the town is the Karelian Orthodox Cultural Centre, which allows visitors to admire the frescoes, stained glass, statues, icons, and tsasounas which remained after the war. Nearby, you'll find the Church of St. Elijah which features paintings that cover almost 450 square metres, and are unique in Northern Europe.
Iisalmi has other unique attractions, like the Runni Health Spa, which has the historic wooden channel of Saarikoski, and the Neulatammi natural massage streams, and the Olvi brewery - the last great Finnish brewery which hasn't been bought out by a major international corporation. The Iisalmi Cultural Centre, The Local History and Culture Museum, the Juhani Aho Museum, the Church Museum, and the Nature Museum are all worth visiting, and between them give a fine overview of the history of the region and its most important citizens.
Located as it is at the meeting point of two large lake systems, Iisalmi is a haven for those who love the water in summer, and in winter the region boasts 200km of ski trails, and trails for snowmobiles. Although Paloisvuori Ski Resort is quite small, it does have some great tobogganing hills alongside the two main ski slopes, and is perfect for beginners. Not far from the town you'll find the Talaskangas Nature Reserve with over 12km of incredible trails through its marvelous scenery, and resident birds like owls, capercaillies, and woodpeckers, and mammals such as flying squirrels, wolves, bears, and even lynx. Or visit the Tiilikkajärvi National Park, known for its sandy beaches, nature trails, and canoing and kayaking options.
Nearby is the town of Sonkajärvi, which was once best known for the fine stone church there, but has recently gained an international reputation as the home of the World Wife Carrying Championships, one of the best humoured competitions held anywhere, and one which attracts more and more couples from across the globe every year.
Finally, no visit to this town would be complete without a visit to arguably the world's smallest restaurant, although getting a table might be just a little bit difficult!
The most notable attractions in the town are the Karelian Orthodox Cultural Centre, and the Church of St. Elijah which is close by, but for anyone fascinated with history then a visit to Koljonvirta, the battlefield from the war of 1808-09, is a must, especially for the multimedia show presented there. There are also the Iisalmi Cultural Centre, The Local History and Culture Museum, the Juhani Aho Museum, the Church Museum, and the Nature Museum to visit.
At the nexus of two of two of Finland's largest lake systems, Iisalmi is a haven for fishermen and lovers of watersports, and for those holiday makers who are seeking to experience more of nature. Winter attracts tourists to the nearby Paloisvuori Ski Resort, and to the 200km of snowmobile and ski trails.
Despite the relatively small size of the town, Iisalmi still manages to provide over 40 restaurants, cafés and bars within its boundaries, and further outside their are old manor houses that serve some of the best local Finnish cuisine in the country. Specialities are lake fish, and, depending on season, the berries and mushrooms unique to this part of the world.
Iisalmi has plenty of accommodation alternatives for tourists visiting the region; hotels ranging from luxury to economy, holiday villages and cottages by the lakes, and camping sites where all the best in modern conveniences are available, including showers, cafés, and the essential Finnish sauna.
Although Iisalmi is a relatively small town, there are plenty of shopping opportunities, especially for travellers seeking crafts and industrial art products, as well as some delightful ethnic shops dealing in third world design and crafts. All the usual department stores and shopping malls are also well represented.
Getting to Iisalmi by road is easy, it is well served by the main routes from Helsinki to the north of Finland. The nearest airport is Kuopio, less than two hours south, which has regular flights to Helsinki and other cities in Finland. There are also regular daily bus and train services to the town from across the country.