Cycling in Saimaa
Southern Karelia is home to numerous cycle routes that gently wind their way through Saimaa, the country’s largest lake network. There are tens of kilometres of shoreline cycle routes, with more being added every year, meaning water is always close-by and that there is no shortage of beauty spots to stop off for a break.
Finland’s most beautiful cycle trails
The stretch of road running from the centre of Lappeenranta to the village of Taipalsaari is one of the most popular and most recommended routes in the area – it is even considered to be one of the country’s most beautiful roads. The route is not particularly long, just 30 kilometres there and back, but detours can always be made into the local countryside if you need a more demanding challenge.
The journey starts by the water
It can be hard tearing yourself away from the fabulous smell of the sweet factory at the start of the route, but it’s worth heading down to the shoreline trail and on to the historic barracks area. The Sunisenselkä shoreline is part of the town’s ancient setting. From the shoreline trail, the route joins the cycle path to Taipalsaari.
Lots of bridges over Saimaa
The first recommended place for a break is after about seven kilometres, where the route goes up Linnavuori hill on the island of Kuivaketvele. On a clear day, it’s a great observation point with views stretching across the vast Lake Saimaa. A little further on, the Kirjamoin Bridge is another place from which to fully appreciate the scenic countryside.
The route continues to Toijansalmi, where a traditional cable ferry once used to run until it was recently replaced by a towering 23 metre bridge. From the bridge, the views of the lake open out before you. If you fancy a swim, this is the perfect place because there is a beach beneath the bridge.
A kilometre from Toijansalmi is the Hostel Mansikka (meaning ‘strawberry’), which is very popular with cyclists thanks to the excellent restaurant service offered by its Belgian owner.
As you continue, the cycle route gradually becomes more rural and you are also treated to sights such as the water pumping station at Vehkataipale and the locks between the lakes Pien-Saimaa to Suur-Saimaa – these locks are still winched open and shut by hand.
One more bridge
At 25 metres, Luukkaansalmi Bridge is the most impressive of all the bridges along the route. It offers amazing sights, such as the huge timber shipments heading to the paper mills, the busy boat traffic and a bird’s-eye view of the country’s most attractive golf courses.
From Luukkaansalmi, it’s another 5.5 kilometres back to town. It’s worth mentioning that you should stick by the water’s edge and take the shore road via Myllysaari and the harbour.