Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Finland’s lake district.
Finland’s Lakeland promises Scandi-chic hotel suites, luxurious log cabins, sunny swimming beaches and saunas with stunning views.
You will also be in good company on a holiday there.
‘The Finns have been named the world’s happiest people for the fifth year in a row, and Finnish Lakeland is where they go to recharge and reconnect with nature,’ says Saija Kokkonen of specialist travel firm Best Served Scandinavia.
Called ‘the land of a thousand lakes’, Finland’s lake district is the biggest in Europe, so it’s easy to escape the crowds, even in the height of summer.
Finnish Lakeland (pictured) is the largest lake district in Europe. The Finns come here to ‘recharge and reconnect with nature’, with many staying in luxurious log cabins
Then temperatures can approach the mid-20s, long days are followed by ‘white nights’ with the sun barely dipping below the horizon – and holidaymakers find themselves doing things they’d never consider at home.
‘The extra hours of daylight are so energising you’ll think nothing of heading off for a walk in a national park at midnight or taking an early-morning yoga session on a lakeside beach,’ says Kokkonen.
Outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, horse-riding, swimming, canoeing, paddleboarding, fishing, foraging and more are popular, with details of equipment rental, instructors and guided tours listed under ‘Lakeland’ at visitfinland.com.
Too strenuous? Relaxing here is easy, as Finland is said to host more saunas than anywhere in the world (roughly one for every three residents, at the last count), and across Lakeland they’re perfectly positioned in hotels, on campsites, beside beaches and even floating on lakes alongside wooden swimming and diving platforms.
Tickets for public saunas average about £15, and the best advice is to follow locals’ lead on wearing swimming costumes or just towels.
Two very different examples are found in the town of Tampere.
Wood fires still heat Rajaportti, Finland’s oldest public sauna, which has a courtyard cafe selling coffee and freshly baked cinnamon buns.
Nearby, the modern Kuuma complex has cutting-edge architecture, picture windows in saunas, a two-storey lakeside terrace and a sleek restaurant.
Culture also comes alive by the lakes. In July, the fortress-like St Olaf’s Castle in Savonlinna hosts a month-long opera festival.
Tickets for public saunas average about £15, and the best advice is to follow locals’ lead on wearing swimming costumes or just towels. Above is the Kuuma sauna complex in the town of Tampere
The modern Kuuma complex has cutting-edge architecture, picture windows in saunas, a two-storey lakeside terrace and a sleek restaurant. Pictured right, a bather takes a dip in the waters of the complex
A bird’s eye view of Savonlinna, home to the fortress-like St Olaf’s Castle (foreground)
This summer’s big productions include The Magic Flute and the Barber Of Seville (operafestival.fi).
Stylish places to stay are scattered across the lake district.
At Hotel & Spa Resort Jarvisydan you’ll find its low-rise wood-and-stone buildings seem to disappear amid the pine forest.
In July, St Olaf’s Castle hosts a month-long opera festival
This summer’s big opera productions at St Olaf’s Castle (above) include The Magic Flute and the Barber Of Seville
Choose between hotel suites or cottages, all decorated with warm colours and soft furnishings.
Guests can kick back in smoke and steam saunas and a sprawling, grotto-like spa.
Log cabins are another option with plenty of choice on websites such as rockandlake.com – where dozens of properties have their own jetties and boats – finlandcottagerentals.com and Airbnb.
Best Served offers The Best Of Finnish Lakeland, an eight-night self-drive holiday that starts with a stay in Helsinki, then includes nights in waterside cottages, manor houses, spa hotels and working farms. Costs from £1,620pp, including flights (best-served.co.uk).
The low-rise wood-and-stone buildings of Hotel & Spa Resort Jarvisydan (above) seem to disappear amid the surrounding pine forest
Pictured is the ‘sprawling, grotto-like spa’ at Hotel & Spa Resort Jarvisydan