The Lakeland area of Saimaa, Finlands largest lake, is easily one of my favourite destinations in Finland. Winter in Saimaa and around the city of Savonlinna is right for those who seek to reconnect with nature and focus on well-being while being active. Saimaa is stunningly beautiful, there are countless possibilities on how to spend your time. Tour skating on frozen lake Saimaa has been a dream of mine for years, and this time it sadly didn’t work out because of the weather and ice conditions – all the more reason to come back!
Järvisydän (translates to the Lake heart) is a spa and hotel in the heart of the Saimaa region, and for me it’s maybe one of the most amazing destinations for a winter trip. You have it all: the frozen lake at your door step, the spa with its pool, sauna and possibility to ice-swim. All that in addition to a variety of accommodation options, from the Kota scenery suites we stayed in last summer, to the Panorama suites with a private jacuzzi and stunning forest views, to a hotel and large villas. The spa really is quite something and I highly recommend a winter stay!
I had been to Oravi village 10 years ago on my first summer roadtrip through the area, and I was so happy to return! This is another great place to enjoy the stunning nature around you and explore the National Parks Linnansaari and Kolovesi, be active outdoors in the nature (in the winter famous for tour skating). You can also try something wild and fun such as ice floating in a wetsuit amongst the ice shields. See all their winter activity offer here!
I loved staying here: this is a lovely place to embrace the basics and find your focus, really enjoy the incredible variety of activities in Finnish winter. The hotel has a lovely sauna space, just perfect after a long day out in the frozen nature. The apartments are a great way to also spend a longer time – and are a great budget option – the small kitchen is enough for some simple meals, and you can get groceries from the small village shop that is open year-round. See the accommodation at Oravi here!
A hike to Linnansaari across the frozen lake was about 5 km (there’s also the possibility to ask for a ride with the snowmobile from Oravi), and it was a bright and beautiful day. Besides a cozy break by the fireplace, I highly recommend a visit to the Linnansaari Croft: on the main island of the National Park (Linnansaari Island), has been restored for visitors to enter into the traditional self-sufficient way of life of the inhabitants in the old times. The buildings, slash-and-burn fields and small meadows are maintained to resemble the landscape in the 1930s.
I loved staying here: this is a lovely place to embrace the basics and find your focus, really enjoy the incredible variety of activities in Finnish winter. The hotel has a lovely sauna space, just perfect after a long day out in the frozen nature.
The most recent addition to the luxury segment in Saimaa is the private Kuru resort – with forest and lake view villas with a minimum stay of two nights, so you can really disconnect. And that’s what you’d go to Kuru for, for peace and privacy, excellent food options from renowned chefs – the restaurant is only open to guests. In the Sisley Day Spa you can get properly pampered, and then continue in your private sauna in the room.
The city of Savonlinna is a cultural hotspot for many reasons, not only for hosting the famous Opera festival in the summer. The Olavinlinna castle is just an incredible backdrop for an event like this, and should be on your list for any summer in Finland! In winter, the snowy sceneries around the city still invite you to enjoy the vibes of the town, and hopefully you can even spot a Saimaa ringed seal, the Norppa.
Korpi Bistro is a cozy café near the railway station (and easy to reach if you stay at Sokos Seurahuone hotel across the street). In addition to a wide selection of beers from their brewery Korvenkutsu, one of the best things to improve your skills and also learn something about Finnish culture is a baking course! The pros show you how to fill and shape a Karelian pie, or a pulla bun. The best part: eating them all – fresh from the oven. Nothing better on a cold day during winter in Saimaa!
Harjun portti in Punkaharju once started as a gas station, and is now one of the most well-known destinations to go skating in the Saimaa area. After having been there to kayak in the summer, the winter options range from fat-biking to snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing and of course, the skating (sadly the track was closed for our visit).
In addition to the various accommodation options, you can also enjoy a hearty lunch in the café or see some art nearby
Kruunupuisto Health resort used to be a rehabilitation clinic for people with lung issues, to heal in the clean and fresh air of the Lakeland and its forest. Nowadays, the health aspect is still an important part of what they do, and at the heart of the well-being philosophy. From outdoor activities to treatments and fitness, this is really the place to focus on your body and mind. I highly recommend the “Sleep like a Saimaa ringed seal“-experience which is a guided outdoor nap in a cozy sleeping bag, and absolutely up my alley.
The Inkeritalo café is open year-round, in winter mostly on the weekends, to serve their delicious waffles to hungry people coming from the skating track.
How to get there: You can reach the general Saimaa area by train or bus (Mikkeli or Savonlinna), but to get around within the region, I highly recommend a rental car. Amongst the different spots and villages, public transport exists but rarely runs (in some places just once a day).
Other things to do:
Porokylä – meet little reindeer friends or go for a snow mobile safari