Lakes play a major role in the Finnish way of life and culture, nowhere more so than in South Savo. A hot sauna with repeated dips in the lake is the highlight of Finnish summer evenings, and country dances at open-air dance pavilions in the golden light of the late-evening sun provide unforgettable memories. Saimaa offers more lakeside holiday cottages than any other body of water in Finland. Visitors can find their own peace and quiet at the cottage of their choice.
Lakes have also served as important year-round transportation routes for centuries. Ships began sailing the waters of Saimaa in the 16th century, and today it is possible to travel from one town to another aboard nostalgic steamships that offer scheduled services and cruises. It is also possible to travel by boat between Saimaa and the Gulf of Finland at the eastern tip of the Baltic Sea. In wintertime the frozen lakes offer ideal surfaces for tour skating and cross-country skiing.
Saimaa is famous for its great fishing waters, promising anglers rich catches in summer and winter alike. Traditional cuisine in South Savo also relies heavily on fish, especially vendace, a small whitefish that is often fried in butter. Another favourite traditional local food is the "lörtsy", a mouthwatering meat pie that is the mainstay of local markets in summertime.