Mikkeli, Savonlinna and Varkaus sit on the shores of Lake Saimaa, Finland’s largest lake. Saimaa’s countryside is famous for its beautiful sparkling lakes, boundless green forests and rocky landscape. With tens of thousands of kilometres of shoreline and wild, forested archipelago, Lake Saimaa’s preserved natural beauty makes it a stunning destination adored by both the locals and visitors.
Lake Saimaa’s Ice Age heritage
Saimaa’s rocky landscape was carved and scarred by the last Ice Age. It’s easy to see, the sculpted bedrock exposed and visible throughout the countryside and rocky crags leaping out of the waters of Lake Saimaa. Finland’s maps show the tell-tale scraped marks of receded glaciers, and walking trails wind along sandy esker ridges with the lake a stone’s throw away on either side.
Lake Saimaa’s most famous inhabitant has also been with us since the Ice Age; the endearing Saimaa ringed seal. Critically endangered, Lake Saimaa’s ringed seal numbers only a few hundred and is unique in the world to Lake Saimaa. Seeing one sunning itself on the rocks or floating among the waves is a special moment, sure to raise a smile.
Boat trips and cruises offer the easiest option to get onto the lakes for the chance to see the seals and the beautiful surrounding scenery, as well as the Stone Age rock paintings of Astuvansalmi. Also check out the many outdoor activities in the area which will get you involved with the forests and lakes, from canoeing in the summer to snowshoeing in the winter.
World-class opera in Savonlinna’s castle
Finland’s town of Savonlinna is home to the world’s northernmost standing medieval castle, Olavinlinna. Raised in 1475, and seeing centuries of disputes between the Swedish and Russian kingdoms, its stone walls stand surrounded by the waves of Lake Saimaa near the centre of town. Open to visitors, Olavinlinna is a must-see attraction of the area. Nearby is the small old town of Savonlinna with its charming wooden buildings from a bygone era.
The castle of Olavinlinna is also host to the famous Savonlinna Opera Festival which draws audiences from all over the world. The opera takes place in the covered castle courtyard, performed by some of the finest musical and theatrical talent of Finland. Its quality and unique setting in the shoreline castle of Olavinlinna make it an experience you’re unlikely to forget!
Mikkeli is the largest town and brings some urban flair to the otherwise quaint rural region. With many activities, events, attractions and facilities, Mikkeli is well worth the visit. The beautiful gardens of Kenkävero and Mikkelipuisto meet the shores of Lake Saimaa, filled with blossoms and birdsong in the summer season.
Make sure to check out more information about what to see and do around Mikkeli, Savonlinna and Lake Saimaa as well as the best places to stay and eat in the area.