The best reasons to travel to the Saimaa region
Once you’re here, there’s loads to do; places to visit, attractions, activities and events. But why travel to Finland in the first place? Why travel to Saimaa, or the towns of Mikkeli, Savonlinna and Varkaus? Well, there are plenty of reasons to visit Finland and Saimaa.
Firstly, Finland has the largest lake district in Europe. An enormous 10% of Finland’s area is water due to its massive interior lake systems, one of the highest ratios in the world. One look at a map of the country shows how the lakes sprawl over the countryside through rocky, forested terrain sculpted by the last Ice Age.
Lake Saimaa itself is the largest of Finland’s lakes and connects several of the larger towns. Its sparkling waters are dotted with forested islands and peninsulas, a winding labyrinth with beauty only done justice by boat. Saimaa is also home to the critically endangered Saimaa ringed seal which numbers only a few hundred now due to climate change.
The scale of the northern forests of Finland are beyond anything that the more densely populated countries of Europe could dream of. Finland’s large area and low population mean that there is an enormous amount of space and freedom in the woods. Those who travel to rural areas like Lake Saimaa find a relaxed culture and calm countryside which offers a rare amount of peace, especially when staying in countryside summer cabins.
By law, Everyman’s Rights offer freedom to roam not only across public land but even private land where it isn’t a nuisance. You can camp where you want to, and gather wild growing foods like berries and mushrooms provided that you don’t harms plants or wildlife. There are even lean-to shelters with fireplaces and firewood maintained free of charge for your use. Finland offers respect to its visitors and expects it in return.
A unique attraction, Savonlinna is home to the most northerly standing medieval castle in the world. The castle Olavinlinna stands amongst the waves of Lake Saimaa, overlooking the shimmering waters and forested shoreline.
Olavinlinna castle also hosts the world-class Savonlinna Opera Festival each year. Set in the unique venue of Olavinlinna’s courtyard in the countryside of Lake Saimaa, the Finnish talent and quality performances draw audiences from around the globe.
Astuvansalmi rock paintings is a must-see attraction in Mikkeli region. The largest rock art site in the Nordics presents around 80 pictures, like human figures, moose, and boats as well as hand and paw prints. The curiosity of Astuvansalmi is the female figure holding a bow, often called Artemis of Astuvansalmi. The best way to see rock paintings is a Hop On Hop Off -tour.
Finally, there’s Finland’s dramatic seasons. Being so far north, Saimaa’s weather changes drastically throughout the year. The summer is one of sunlight with the sun glowing low even throughout the night. Long, warm days give way to a vibrant autumn, the millions of trees creating a rich mosaic of colour. Winter turns the blue lakes to ice that can carry the weight of cars, and covers every surface in thick, white snow.
Many who visit Finland end up wanting to stay after falling in love with its beautiful, matchless nature. Mikkeli adds culture and urban flair while Savonlinna’s historical old town fits the timeless aesthetic perfectly. So really, why would you not visit Saimaa in Finland?