Lake Saimaa, the heart of Europe’s largest lake district, is famous for its striking natural beauty as well as its sanctuary of certain endangered species. Much too large to be taken in from one vantage point, by far the best way of seeing the lake is to get onto the water itself by boat. Cruises on Lake Saimaa, Finland, take out all of the hassle leaving you free to take in the sights.
Europe’s fourth largest lake, Saimaa in the summer is a tapestry of rich blues and vibrant greens. Its narrow straits lead into wide open waters which are scattered throughout with forest-covered islands and quiet beaches, and hemmed on all sides by boreal woodland and rocky cliffs.
Mikkeli and Savonlinna are the largest towns in the Saimaa region and offer instant access to the water via their harbours. As well as smaller boats for tours or hire, here you’ll find ships offering an endless selection of trips to suit your needs including short scenic cruises, chartered voyages for family or conferences, and evening dining.
Sightseeing cruises typically run for an hour or two and, during the summer season, run around ten times daily. Each ship will have different routes that may include trips into the archipelago or around the local town, such as to the back of Olavinlinna castle. From Mikkeli, for example, there are trips that go by Astuvansalmi, home to Stone Age settlements and rock paintings from up to 3000BCE, still visible today.
Some cruises on Lake Saimaa also offer direct routes to other towns, such as from Savonlinna to Kuopio. The route from Savonlinna to Punkaharju carries the opportunity of on-board accommodation and many cruises will have dining options available.
If you’d like something a little bit different, why not try taking a sightseeing cruise on Lake Saimaa by steamboat from Puumala in Mikkeli? Or how about an ecoboat? The stunning National Park of Kolovesi is protected from most forms of motorboats to preserve its natural habitats and wild species. The electronic ecoboat is able to bypass this restriction since it does not leave harmful chemical traces as other boats would, allowing you access to this beautiful area as well as many others.
Lastly, take a look at possibly the largest steam boat collection in Finland at the Savonlinna Provincial Museum. Its four ‘museum ships’ reflect the most important types to the area: The white-hulled passenger ship, Savonlinna, from 1903, once known as the ‘Saimaa Express’ for its speed; the resurrected steam schooner, Salama, from 1874; the only tarred steam boat in the world, Mikko from 1914; and the steam-powered tug boat, Ahkera from 1871. The boats are open to the public in the summer at Riihisaari dock during the museum’s opening hours.
Take a look now at what you’d like to see and what cruises in Finland and Lake Saimaa best suit you!