In Finland, the contrast between the seasons is astounding. Take the area around Lake Saimaa, for instance. A ski-lover’s paradise in winter, the landscape and climate are completely transformed come spring and summer, with plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in the sun.
An area of supreme natural beauty
Part of Finland’s appeal stems from its peerless natural wonders. The beautiful woodlands, rolling hills and endless waters that comprise its Lakelands have led to the region’s reputation as the heart of Finnish identity. The largest lake in Finland, Lake Saimaa is the epicentre of the Lakeland region. Its breath-taking landscapes are typified by unspoilt forests, natural lakes and islands. In the summer the almost other-wordly quality of the Saimaa area makes it Finland’s most magical region.
It is traditional at this time of year to rent a lakeside cottage. Saimaa Cottages has some beautiful, contemporary options that offer an authentic experience with modern conveniences. Such luxury cottages can be found throughout the region as well as smaller cabins for those who want to get back to basics.
The Finns are proud of the calmness found in the countryside, and even a short stay in a cottage offers the perfect opportunity to unwind. Typical activities include barbecuing, swimming, canoeing and boating. For those who would like to sample Finland’s seasonal food, Lappeenranta’s Wolkoff Restaurant & Wine Bar is a favourite; known for its adventurous gourmet cuisine, the chefs use local, organic produce to create Finnish classics with a twist.
Steam in a sauna
A stay in a lakeside cottage also gives visitors the chance to indulge in an essential part of Finnish culture: the sauna. Most Finns visit a sauna for the first time as toddlers, and continue to do so their whole lives. Estimates place the number of saunas in Finland at between two and three million, and unsurprisingly each lakeside cottage is home to one of these rooms. Relax in the heat of the sauna and then cool down with a refreshing dip in the lake. And if you’re staying in a hotel, saunas will also be part of the experience. Housed in a picturesque century-old building, Valtion-Hotelli has a spa with pools and a Jacuzzi as well as four saunas include steam, oriental and lavender versions.
Lake Saimaa in summer offers relaxation of a kind rarely found elsewhere, and once you’ve rested your mind and body and are ready for something more active, the region offers plenty of options.
Make the most of the unique setting with water-based activities. Go Saimaa and Saimaa Travel will guide you to the perfect cruise boat to ease you into life afloat, but for something out of the ordinary seek out Saimaa Adventures: from rowing and fishing to Stand Up Paddle Boarding, this company has a wide range of activities, from the obvious to the unusual. Kayaking is another wonderful pastime in the lakes; head to Linnansaari National Park and join a tour and you might be lucky enough to spot the endangered Saimaa ringed seal.
Explore the forests
Not that you have to get your feet wet to have fun. Unspoilt forests are waiting to be explored. Whether on foot or by bike, the Finnish concept of Everyman’s Right means that the country’s unparalleled natural landscape is free to be explored by everyone; all that Finns ask is that you respect their natural heritage so that it can continue to delight generations to come. Hiking tours and even camping trips can be found throughout the region (Saimaa Adventures is great for this too), and golfing enthusiasts are also catered for, such as at the Holiday Club Saimaa hotel which is home one of many courses in the Lakelands.
The Land of the Midnight Sun
Finland is not just the Land of a Thousand Lakes but also the Land of the Midnight Sun. Its far northern location means that in many places, the sun never completely sets in high summer, creating the phenomenon of Midnight Sun. With almost endless days, the night-time sunshine adds a magical quality. Our top tip for making the most of the light? Keep it simple and go swimming. From June onwards, the waters of Lake Saimaa change from icy to enticing, and gliding through the still waters under the Midnight Sun is an experience you will never forget.