The lake Saimaa region offers plenty to see and do, marvel at and shop for. By car you can easily and conveniently tour the sights and explore a large area in a short time. You can start your journey in Helsinki and continue towards Lappeenranta which is located about a 2,5 hour drive away from the capital city. The four cities in the Lake Saimaa region offer a wide range of attractions, events and interesting activities. Once outside the urban area, you can go for an energising excursion in the beautiful nature of the Saimaa region. You can also cross over into Russia at the three border checkpoints in Imatra, Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa, a visa is needed for the trips to the Russian side. Visa-free cruises are available only during the summer season from May to September.
The active summer in the Saimaa area is full of fun things to do. In the waters of Lake Saimaa, by far the greatest attraction is nature: the archipelago and lake scenery and the clear water. If you are lucky, you may even see a Saimaa ringed seal basking on a rock on a summer’s day. There is plenty to do for fishing enthusiasts on the waters of Lake Saimaa that occasionally offers really big catches. For nature travelers, the Saimaa area has plenty of trails to hike and walks of various lengths. The beautiful archipelago views along the cycling routes make the trip fly by and the many sights and cafés are great places for taking a break. Additionally you can choose from versatile activities such as cruises, golf, canoeing, floating, paraseiling and ATV safaris.
From Helsinki to Lappeenranta.................220 km
From Imatra to Lappeenranta......................36 km
From Imatra to Savonlinna........................125 km
From Savonlinna to Mikkeli......................104 km
From Mikkeli to Lappeenranta..................109 km
Lappeenranta is the regional centre of South Karelia, which shows in its range of activities and number of events. The Fortress of Lappeenranta, the Old Town, and the Pusupuisto Park (Kissing Park), are definitely worth a visit. The history of the fortress was deeply influenced by the Russian soldiers housed there, and their mark is still visible in the area. In the summertime, the Lappeenranta harbour is a vibrant area, its restaurants and cafes filling up with people who come to enjoy refreshments. The restaurant boats and harbour market in particular offer a pleasant experience to visitors. You can also rent bicycles, SUP boards and canoes in the harbour area.
The first thing visitors usually see when they arrive in Imatra is the impressive Imatrankoski rapids, which unfortunately will not be gushing this year due to repair work. The area is still worth a visit, as it is also home to Finland’s oldest nature reserve, the beautiful Kruununpuisto “Crown Park”. The arresting natural surroundings provide easy access to exciting giant’s cauldrons, Finland’s largest hydroelectric power station and the imposing castle hotel Valtionhotelli, constructed in 1903. Near the town centre you will find the Vuoksi Fishing Park, where you can fish for a fresh lunch yourself or enjoy a delicious portion of Finnish salmon soup.
Mikkeli is the regional centre of South Savo, known particularly for its bustling market place in the summer. The marketplace stalls have provided visitors with events and activities and delicious local food since 1744. Mikkeli also serves as the departure point for an excursion to Neitvuori, the highest lookout in South Savo, which gives great views of Lake Luonteri. The signposted hiking trails and the trail stations equipped with toilets and campfire places encourage visitors to head out. When in Mikkeli, you should also visit the Kenkävero area, which housed a vicarage until 1969. It was then converted into a restaurant, catering to some of Finland’s foremost authors and other prominent persons. You can still sense the traditional Finnish culture in the place, while enjoying a delicious meal.
The Savonlinna Opera Festival is reason enough to plan a holiday in Finland. The month-long festival attracts many people to the town, where visitors will find plenty to do from morning to night. Should accommodation in Savonlinna run low, you can also stay in Imatra, which is just a short drive away. The 2018 festival will take place from 6 July to 4 August. If your holidays do not coincide with the festival, Olavinlinna castle, the construction of which started back in 1475, is another great attraction in Savonlinna. Since it is hard to over-advertise the natural surroundings of Finland and Saimaa, we should also mention Linnansaari National Park. Home to the Saimaa ringed seal, this awe-inspiring island is located a 30-minute drive and a boat ride away from Savonlinna.