Lakeland lake-hopping: five distinct lakes in Finland

3 minute read
People standing on a hill by the lake.

Credits: Juho Kuva

From the land of a thousand lakes, here are the first five to visit.

The Finnish Lakeland is the largest lake district in Europe: a blue and green labyrinth of lakes, islands, rivers and canals. These waters offer wellbeing and activities all year round, like cottage life, summer cruises, fishing, paddle boarding and ice skating. Lakes and islands are entwined with one another, forming ridges and passageways to secret lagoons and hideaways – perfect for lake-hopping.

This is the Land of a Thousand lakes, but these are the best five for starting your journey – and falling in love. 

Credits: Juha Määttä

Lake Saimaa – the greatest of all

Combing the purest nature with world-class culture events and historical sites, Finland’s largest lake, Lake Saimaa, offers everything from gastronomy to scenic routes for cyclists as well as motorists. The Puumala archipelago route, for example, runs 60 km along the shores of Saimaa. For a different journey, hop on a steamboat from Savonlinna city. There, surrounded by water, sits the medieval Olavinlinna castle that hosts the annual Savonlinna opera festival.

To fully explore the area’s incredible nature, visit Linnansaari National Park, Kolovesi National Park or Saimaa Unesco Global Geopark, where you’ll discover the ancient rock paintings of Astuvansalmi. Lake Saimaa is also the home of the Saimaa Ringed Seal, one of the rarest species in the world. For a sauna by the lake and a great night’s sleep, head to the romantic Kuru Resort.

Credits : Julia Kivelä
Credits: Seppo Ulmanen / Vastavalo

Lake Pielinen – Karelian culture & iconic landscapes

Lake Pielinen is located in the easternmost part of Finland, North Karelia. The region has a unique culture, where eastern and western influences meet. To visit the Orthodox churches and to bathe in a Karelian sauna, head to Bomba. For a spa with a view over Lake Pielinen, try Break Sokos Hotel Koli in the Koli National park.

At Koli National park, the official Finnish National Landscape is just a short walk from ski slopes and amenities. The breathtaking view from Ukko-Koli hill over Lake Pielinen has been a great source of inspiration for artists and continues to attract Finns and travellers alike.

Credits: Harri Tarvainen / North Karelia

Lake Päijänne – a treat for nature lovers

The second largest lake in Finland, Lake Päijänne connects the cities of Jyväskylä and Lahti. Reaching 95 m down, it’s the deepest lake in Finland and supplies the capital region with much of its water.

Take a boat trip or rent a kayak at Päijänne national park to explore the pristine waters and many islands. The nature trail at Pulkkilanharju ridge, accessible by road, also offers incredible views. For a scenic car drive, try the 8 km-long Pulkkilanharju route along the narrow esker and islands connected by bridges. A short drive from there, you’ll find the idyllic Vääksy Canal milieu where you can watch the boats and ships on their way through the lock. Looking for unique accommodation by the lake? The Haasi Mirror Houses and Ilola Inn’s infinity pools will make you feel at one with the lake.

Credits : Janne Käyhkö / Visit Lahti
Credits: Visit Lahti

Lakes Näsijärvi & Pyhäjärvi – urban life and public saunas by the lake

Between the two majestic lakes Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi lies Tampere, one of the biggest cities in Finland. Tammerkoski rapids flow through the city centre, forming a backdrop for old industrial buildings, now repurposed as chic restaurants and museums. The region also has over 50 public saunas, many by the lake. Close to the city centre, you can walk up the Pyynikki ridge – the world’s biggest gravel ridge formed during the Ice Age. Pyynikki offers fantastic views over the two lakes as well as the Pispala area with colourful wooden houses.

There are plenty of places to hire canoes and kayaks. For paddlers who enjoy vast open tracts of water uninterrupted by islands, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi are the places to go. Peaceful rowboat trips or lake cruises are also available for enjoying the surrounding waters.

Credits : Laura Vanzo / Visit Tampere
Credits: Laura Vanzo / Kuuma Tampere

Lake Kallavesi – cruising through the scenery

Credits: Wille Markkanen

The city of Kuopio is built on the shores and islands of Lake Kallavesi. One of Kuopio’s main attractions as a summer destination is as a hop-on point for Lakeland cruises. During the peak season, as many as 20 daily cruises can be found on the expansive waters of Lake Kallavesi. Some of the passenger boats – such as the impressive M/S Ukko – were built in the late 19th century and carry almost 200 passengers.

During winter, the frozen lake Kallavesi is a great spot for tour skating – long-distance skating across wild ice. Kuopio hosts the annual Finnish Ice Marathon, an ice-skating event with a 12.5 km-long route along the shores of the city. The track is open between January and March, depending on weather conditions. After a day on the ice, warm your toes and enjoy the lake views at Kuopion Saana, a sauna and spa in Kuopio.

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