Journey to Lake Saimaa, in the purest Finland: between saunas, bathing in lakes and foraging

The blue of the lake and the green of the forest. These are the colors on Purest Finland: these are the nuances of uncontaminated nature that enter you as soon as you land in this magical place and that you take home with you. Less touristy and well-known than other areas in this Scandinavian country Finnish lake area and especially South Karelia, is a destination to discover and be conquered by. It is hard to find another place so capable of instilling inner peace. It will be thanks to all the water in it Lake Saimaa, the largest in the regionbut also of walks through pine, spruce and birch forests, and this is undoubtedly also thanks to silence from which this area is permeated.

Many lakes, thousands of islands

Lake Saimaa from above (or even from Google Maps) confuses the eye: at a quick first glance, it cannot be said whether it is a single lake with many islands or a strip of land with many lakes in the middle. The guides confirm the first answer: In Lake Saimaa, the largest in Finland and the fourth in Europe, there is 13 thousand islands. But the inhabitants of these small forested atolls are only 80 and they move to the mainland by ferry, with their own boats and in winter – they tell us, but it would be fascinating to see it with their own eyes – ice skating on the frozen surface. We are very close to the Russian border, the nearest city is Vyborg, which before the pandemic was connected directly by train or ferry. On July 15, Russia opened its borders, but it is too early to understand whether what was the largest tourist market until a few years ago will return to being one. At the moment, the only trains we have seen running from the Russian border are those carrying the wood that Finland buys from the neighboring country. For the rest, the proximity to the country is not felt at all, and life goes on calmly as always.

Sailing in lakes, canals and locks

There are four important things to do when you reach this destination to understand it and live it: a sauna, a cruise, sleep in a cottage, go for a walk in the forest.

The first thing we do is a cruise. Leaving from the port of Lappeenranta which, together with Imatra, is one of the two main cities in the region we set sail for the first lock, called Mälkiä, of a long canal which would lead up to Vyborg. The navigation, which is done on M/S Camilla, a boat from the Karelia Lines company, lasts about two hours, during which it is also possible to have lunch on board (you eat well), but above all you start to familiarize yourself with the place . The eyes are drenched in the blue of the water and the green of the pine trees that cover the numerous islands, more or less large. There is nothing to be seen but a few small wooden houses built on the shore, some with a pier, some not. I am cabins, the most typical dwellings in Finland: some are first houses, others are species of buenos retiros where the Finns come to spend a few days, both in summer and in winter.

The Hossukan Helmi cabin, which can be rented to try many sports activities. It also has a sauna with a direct view of the pier leading to Lake Saimaa

Sleeping and staying in a holiday home is undoubtedly the most authentic way to get to know this country: there are all kinds. From the most spartan to the large, modern and with every kind of comfort. You can rent them for a night or even for a week, and that’s really the experience we can recommend to come into harmony with this place.

The Finnish sauna, everyone’s ritual

Many of the holiday homes that can be rented also have one available to guests sauna. But even if this was not the case, it is not difficult to find a place to experience what is a real ritual here in Finland. The sauna is part of Finnish culture. Let us tell you more Petra Karjalainen and her husband, the owners of the splendid hotel Pulse Asema. He is Finnish, she is Swiss and an interior designer, they bought this incredible land, where the old station and the railway workers’ houses were all around, to turn it into a very refined b&b, where the concept of luxury has nothing to do with the “usual” standards.

«The sauna has always existed – explains Petra – they are thousands of years that people in Finland have been using it. In the sauna we did everything: we also gave birth. You can say they were baths because the temperatures so high killed bacteria and disinfected ». The sauna ritual lasts approximately one and a half hours, during which sessions in the sauna alternate with baths in the lake. The temperature of the sauna varies from 70 to 120°C, while the temperature of the lake varies greatly depending on the season. And if you think all fins are tempered by cold winter temperatures, you’ll be surprised to discover that few dive into the icy waters in winter.

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