Imatra (population ca. 30 000) is an industrial town in South Karelia. It is dominated by Lake Saimaa, the River Vuoksi and the Finnish-Russian border. Imatra’s over 300-year-old history of busy tourism is greatly attributed to the attraction of the spectacular rapids of the river Vuoksi which have enticed many illustrious personas to visit the area throughout the ages. Visitors have included such people as Russian Empress Catherine II, Alexander Dumas Senior and Richard Wagner.
Imatra is situated about 250 kilometers east from Helsinki and the trip takes three hours (or more in the winter). The city is situated near the Russian border and you can cross the border at Svetogorsk just 7 km from Imatra.
Nearest airport (about 40 km) is the Lappeenranta Airport that is situated close to the centre of Lappeenranta city. As of May 2013 there are no flights from Helsinki, however it is connected to Riga by Air Baltic, and Ryanair flies there from Düsseldorf-Weeze, Brussels-Charleroi and also from Bergamo.
Another alternative is to travel by bus. Timetables can be found at Matkahuolto's website .
Imatra is even mentioned in the Kalevala, the epic poem of Finland (compiled from oral poetry in 1835):
- Imatrankoski Rapids. These rapids are Finland's first ever tourist attraction. The Russian Empress Catherine the Great and her retinue visited the rapids in 1772. Next to the rapids is hotel resembling a medieval knight's castle - the Imatran Valtionhotelli. The original name of the hotel was Grand Hotel Cascade d'Imatra.
- Kruununpuisto Park. The oldest nature park in Finland, occupying the area around the Imatrankoski Rapids, was founded in 1842 by order of Tsar Nicholas I.
- Church of the Three Crosses (Kolmen ristin kirkko) (in Vuoksenniska district). Open: 1 Sep - 31 May daily 10AM - 3PM, 1 Jun - 31 Aug daily 9AM - 8PM..
- Imatra Big Band Festival.
- Rock to the River. Rock festival.
- Buttenhoff, Koskenparras 4, ☎ . Monday - Friday: 11AM-11.30PM Saturday: noon-11.30PM. 100 seat upscale restaurant. Á la Carte menu consists of Finnish, French and Russian dishes. Fair selection of European wines and beers. During lunch hours Buttenhoff has business-lunch selection with salads, soups, main course and coffee included in the same price. During the summer months, if the weather allows, you can also opt for a table outside by the Koskenparras pedestrian street.
- Ravintola Xiangfu, Tainionkoskentie 10, 55100, ☎ . Currently the only Chinese food serving restaurant in Imatra. Fast and easy lunch offered on weekdays for 8 €. Beyond lunch hours serves good Chinese style dishes, but prices tend to be a bit high.
- Hotelli Imatra, Kanavakatu 9, ☎ , fax: +358 10 666 5709. This new economy hotel is situated only 500 meters from the famous Imatra Rapids and the center of Imatra town. Hotels motto is: Sleep and save. Very good breakfast, large rooms and sauna.
- Imatran Kylpylä Spa Hotel, Purjekuja 2, ☎ , fax: +358 20 7100 519, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The old Spa Hotel and the new Promenade Hotel. Promenade Hotel offers good rooms for families. The spa department named Taikametsä (literally Magical Forest) has large swimming pools, saunas, whirlpools etc., from time to time with an artificial thunderstorm.
- Hotel Cumulus Imatra, Koskenparras 3, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 68 rooms with TV,minibar, hair dryer and free broadband connection."
- Imatran Valtionhotelli, Torkkelinkatu 2, ☎ . The offputting name of the Imatra State Hotel hides a wealth of history: this castle-like hotel by the Imatrankoski rapids was built in 1903 for Russian nobility, and for several generations of Finns a suite here was the place to spend your honeymoon. Now privately run, the hotel was reopened in 2005 after extensive renovation and is, by Finnish standards, surprisingly cheap. 95€-.
- Lappeenranta - Imatra's bigger cousin with a fortress and better shopping.
- Punkaharju - The ridge bisecting Lake Saimaa is one of the most famous Finnish landscapes.
- Savonlinna - A medieval castle, an opera festival and freshly fried fish.
- Russia - If you have a valid visa (or if you don't need one), Svetogorsk is close by. If you don't have one, you can travel to Lappeenranta and take a visa free cruise along the Saimaa Canal to Vyborg.