The Lakeland region of Central Finland around the city of Jyväskylä, is famous for its countless lakes, its Sauna culture, the home of architect Alvar Aalto. Our summer trip on this visit to the Jyväskylä region, took us through the most beautiful parts of the area to experience the best parts of all of it. An area best explored with the flexibility of a car, it’s a great destination for a Finland roadtrip.
Photos: Kathrin Deter & Kristof Minnaert
This is a great itinerary for anyone who:
BY CAR: with your own car, it’s about a 3 hour drive from Helsinki. The city is well connected through motorways from each direction, which makes a visit to the Jyväskylä region really easy!
BY TRAIN: a good idea is also to arrive by train, and take a rental car for your days in Jyväskylä, especially if you want to avoid long drives. The train from Helsinki takes less than 4 hours and is also reachable from most other bigger Finnish cities.
For the first stop of the trip, we stayed at the Glass Igloos of Revontuli, which lies about half an hour East of the city of Jyväskylä. The resort boasts a golf course and many activities in the area, with the Glass Igloos being one of the more recent additions to the accommodation offers. The Kotas, cabins or hotel rooms are other options – but no matter the season – the igloos are a luxurious treat that isn’t just great for Northern Lights watching in the winter, but a beautifully serene place to spend the night in the nightless night of Finnish summer (no worries, a sleeping mask is included in the stay
The location of the resort on the coast of lake Iso-Virmas invites guests to all kinds of nature activities – you can go SUPing on the lake, try the water-bikes or just go for swims all the time – both the beach with its tropical vibes as well as the pier are just perfect for that.
Exploring nature around you by fat-bike is also a great option (I’m personally unfortunately too short for them so I just fall over, but I hear it’s great!), but I’m mainly intrigued by all the nature paths and National Parks that Revontuli is a great base for. For lazy beach days, the sunbeds and umbrellas are just so inviting, and a glass of bubbles is just perfect for the vibes! It was probably the first lakeside beach I came across that really felt like you were on holiday somewhere completely different.
On rainy days, there’s a bowling alley to take your mind off things, but for me, the obvious rainy-day activity is just laying on the bed at watching the rain from the igloo!
One of the most stunning parts of staying at Revontuli and in the Glass Igloos is the beachside Laguna sauna area, where you can also find a hot tub. The Jyväskylä region is famous for its rich sauna culture: the Glass Igloo sauna, which in included for guests booking the “Pampering Holiday Packages”, leftover availability is sold to other hotel guests! Enjoy a steamy sauna with the view out to the lake and admire Finnish nature.
In the Sauna Region of the World, you can experience sauna in many ways, such as open sauna evenings, pampering sauna treatments, sauna yoga and various themed saunas. Sauna Region Week takes place in the Jyväskylä Region annually, to celebrate sauna culture in all its varieties.
So, a visit to the Jyväskylä region is best started with sauna and nature!
We took a slow morning with a dip in the lake before breakfast, got ready and started to head out towards the city of Jyväskylä. I had visited the city and surroundings once on a short trip in the depth of winter, so seeing the city in daylight and all alive in summer vibes was just wonderful. The city is a popular university town and it’s famous for its 29 acclaimed Alvar Aalto buildings. The Finnish architect famously called Jyväskylä his home, and the city is rightfully proud – the local museum and several buildings, including a (self-guided)tour, are great ways to discover his work when you’re in town!
Jyväskylä lies by the Northern part of lake Päijänne, which is also the longest lake of Finland. Exploring the lake and all its facets is a great way to get a glimpse of the lakeside lifestyle of the people of the region, from observing water sports to admiring gorgeous lakeside residential spaces to just taking in the breathtaking nature, a lake cruise could be for you! Learn more about the different harbours and cruise options here!
The Toivola Old Courtyard should be on the list for everyone visiting the city! The courtyard among 19th-century wooden houses lies almost hidden away, but is a local favourite and buzzing with life. The large courtyard terrace is so inviting to linger for some people-watching: there is a free museum to visit and boutiques to shop in. For an afternoon visit, the place for you is Valkoinen Puu, for incredible cakes and excellent coffee. After almost 11 years in Finland, I had Brita cake for the first time, and what a revelation!
The centre of Jyväskylä is a classic Finnish town, it’s compact and easy to get around. In the main street you can find everything you need and would expect from an urban center. For a lovely urban dinner, I highly recommend Verso – we enjoyed a seasonal menu there and some great drinks.
For a central location that’s a great hub for daily trips and activities around the city, the Scandic Jyväskylä Station is a good choice!
The region is home to two UNESCO world heritage sights, one of them being the Petäjävesi church, which was first build by local carpenters in the years between 1763–65. It truly shows of the incredible carving and woodworking skills of the time. For a long period, the church wasn’t used, which resulted in it not being painted or changed throughout the years. As a result, even though this isn’t the oldest church of its kind, it looks the oldest and most original. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, everything is built from wood, the artwork and detail is fascinating. The church is about 30 minutes from Jyväskylä and such a worthy trip.
The entrance fee includes a guided tour of the church where you can learn all about it. A World Heritage Centre is planned to open in Petäjävesi in the summer of 2023. They are currently seeking donations to make that happen. For our visit to the Jyväskylä region, I feel like this was one of the most important stops!
Highly recommended is also a visit to the Keuruu area, where you can visit an old church that was completed in 1759, which makes it indeed even older than Petäjävesi! Learn more about the history of the area, enjoy some coffee at the Granary (Aittakahvila) and go for a walk around Old Keuruu, where the locals are more than happy to tell you about the best spots to visit!
Continue your trip to the loveliest place, the Hakamaa sheep farm! If you’ve always been curious about Finnish farm and countryside life, then the Hakamaa Sheep farm is the most lovely place to visit. We spent the day with the animals – they have over 200 of them – sheep and ponies and doggos, chickens and Risto the cat.
Learn about sustainable sheep farming: go for a little wander around the forest, pet some soft pony noses and enjoy a tasty lunch from local ingredients.
The restaurant only opened in summer 2021. Meals are carefully curated by an acclaimed Helsinki chef, who was looking for a bit of a change of scenery. Many of the ingredients are sourced from this or nearby farms, and served in the garden if you wish.
We enjoyed a beautiful mushroom soup with a parsnip flan and some leafy greens and zucchini salad with hemp seeds, and a fresh berry pannacotta. And the bread! The lunch is really something special, so don’t miss out on that!
Staff is happy to tell you more, introduce you to the animals and answer all your questions. Take some souvenirs home from the little shop and don’t forget to pet Risto the cat.
Would you like to go for a visit to the Jyväskylä region? What’s your favourite spot?