Finnish Lakeland (Järvi-Suomi) comprises the eastern and central parts of the country. Finland is known as the country of a thousand lakes (actually more than a hundred thousand), and this is the region where most of them are located.
The Finnish Lakeland is divided into five provinces.
|North Savonia |
North Savonia is the home of many events from a strawberry festival to the wife carrying world championship. Other points of fame are the signature dish kalakukko (a loaf of bread stuffed with fried fish) and its recognisable dialect.
|North Karelia |
The culture of Finland's easternmost region carries influences of the Eastern Orthodox faith. If you want to see a bear or a wolf in its natural habitat, this is probably the destination to go.
|Central Finland |
Central Finland is remarkably hilly and you can experience some quite scenic drives on the smaller roads.
|South Savonia |
South Savonia is really the heart of the Lakeland - you are never far from a body of water. The most important sights here are the medieval castle Olavinlinna in the city of Savonlinna and the Punkaharju ridge that almost cuts through Lake Saimaa.
Pirkanmaa is usually seen as the heartland of Finnish heavy industry, and the city of Tampere has been called the "Finnish Manchester". However there are plenty to see and do in the city for the traveler — from museums and theatres to the amusement park Särkänniemi.
- 1 Joensuu — center of the North Karelia region
- 2 Jyväskylä — the capital of central Finland
- 3 Mikkeli — capital of the province
- 4 Kuopio — the home of the kalakukko baked fish pie
- 5 Pieksämäki — railway junction
- 6 Savonlinna — famous for its Opera Festival
- 7 Tampere /Tammerfors: the biggest inland town in Scandinavia
- 8 Varkaus
- 1 Kangasala , home to famously beautiful lakes and ridges
- 2 Kerimäki , the world's largest wooden church
- 3 Koli National Park , which inspired many artists when Finnish nationalism awakened
- 4 Kontiolahti
- 5 Nokia , the former home of a certain rubber boot company that went high-tech
- Ruunaa National Hiking Area, Lieksa
- 6 Rautalampi
- 7 Punkaharju , with a ridge that nearly divide Saimaa in two, a national landscape
- 8 Saimaa , the fifth largest lake in Europe, with thousands of islands
As the name reveals it is a land of lakes: seen from above, the region consists of an endless patchwork of lakes and low rolling hills, originally gouged out by sheets of ice during the Ice Age. This also makes it Finland's top destination for summer cottages, and there are countless spots to indulge in the Finnish national obsession for sauna, sausages and a dip in the lake.
There are several large lake systems with cruises (often on old steamers or former steamers) and possibilities for sailing with a yacht or daysailor, other kinds of boating and canoeing, for days or weeks if you like. Also on the smaller lakes you will often have access at least to a rowing boat.
Culturally, Eastern Finland is the home of the Savo people and their close cousins the Karelians, although much of historical Karelia was absorbed into the USSR after Finland's defeat in World War II (and much of Karelia never belonged to Finland).
The Savo dialect is wordy and stretched out, with consonants doubling and diphthongs mutating in various ways. According to the stereotype, Savonians talk much more than the average taciturn Finn, yet despite this (whisper it quietly) almost Russian habit for speeches and gesticulation, they're also masters of the vague non-reply. Indeed, the canonical Savo response to any question is suattaapi olla, vuan suattaapi olla olemattannii, or "it might be, but it might also be that it's not".
All main cities in the region are served by train. Trains are usually faster and slightly cheaper than the bus, but on some routes bus schedules may be more convenient.
Buses fill in the gaps where trains don't go.
Distances are long and public transport outside the main cities varies between limited and non-existent. If you're planning on staying at a cottage, having your own car is pretty much obligatory, unless in biking distance from services (whatever that means to you).
Most of the waterways in the eastern half of the region are connected to lake Saimaa. Around Jyväskylä there are the Vesijärvi–Päijänne–Keitele waterways and around Tampere the Näsijärvi–Ruovesi and Längelmävesi–Vanajavesi waterways. Although a boat is seldom a time-efficient means to cover large distances, it is a very good means to explore some aspects of the Lakeland. Many of the lakes are big enough for nice sailing, the Saimaa complex for weeks even with a big yacht. For other areas a small boat or canoe is the ideal means.
- Saimaa (Saimen in Swedish) is a lake in the south of the Lakeland. At 1,147 square km (443 square miles), it is the largest lake in Finland, and the fifth largest in Europe.
- The ridge landscape at Punkaharju, which is a "national landscape of Finland".
- World's largest wooden church in Kerimäki.
- WW2 bunkers at the bunker museum in Joensuu.
- The Puijo tower in Kuopio and the view from its viewing platform.
- Savonlinna medieval castle, with an opera festival.
- Koli National Park.
- The wooden church of Petäjävesi, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The 19th century industrial buildings in Tampere, "Finland's Manchester".
- There are nice spa hotels in Kuopio and Savonlinna. They offer large swimming pool departments with jacuzzis, children's pools, saunas, steam rooms and spa treatments also for day visitors. Spa hotels also organize many activities.
- Participate in the Wife Carrying World Championships in Sonkajärvi
- Take a boat tour across the lakes in a big boat or at your own pace in a rowing boat. There are cruises with historical steamboats on many of the lake systems.
- Experience Karelian culture in North Karelia.
As the lakeside area and one of the most rural areas in Finland after Lapland, Eastern Finland has a lot to explore. There are a dozen national parks in the region, of which scenery of Koli National Park is one of Finland's national landscapes.
- Hike. In national parks and other hiking areas you can find several shorter and longer hiking trails with clearly marked paths, from easy to demanding. Hiking is also allowed anywhere thanks to everyman's right.
- Paddle. There are endless lakes and archipelagos to explore. Kolovesi [dead link], Linnansaari, Patvinsuo, Repovesi and Tiilikkajärvi National Park all provide good routes for canoeists, and you are by no means restricted to these.
- Sail or cruise with a yacht or motorboat. Saimaa allows any size of yacht, while daysailors may be more handy on the other routes.
There are a couple of eastern Finnish specialities worth sampling:
- Kalakukko, a type of large rye bread pastry with fish and meat stuffed inside, can be eaten warm or cold.
- Lörtsy, a large, flat variant of the ubiquitous deep-fried meat pie (lihapiirakka), can also be stuffed with apple jam
- Vendace (muikku), a type of small freshwater herring, most commonly coated with rye flour, quickly fried and eaten while piping hot
- Karjalanpiirakka Karelian pie is a special kind of pastry made from rye flour and filled with rice porridge or mashed potatoes
- Mustamakkara, literally "black sausage" this specialty of Tampere is a blood sausage commonly enjoyed with lingonberry jam
The best place for eating any of these is at the market, found in the center of any larger town.
There are nice spa hotels in Imatra, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The room price isn't much more expensive than in normal hotels but it includes a free use of large swimming pool departments with jacuzzis, saunas etc.
In summer, an excellent option is to stay at a cottage (mökki), thousands of which dot the lake shores. See the main Finland article for tips and the city articles for listings.