Earlier this month, George and I rented a cabin in the Finnish Lakeland with a few of our friends for a long weekend. When I first began planning a trip to Finland I really wanted to visit Lapland, but I quickly found out how expensive that would be and it just wasn’t going to work out. Far cheaper than a flight to Lapland, we flew into Helsinki and drove a few hours east into the Lakes.
Lakeland is a large region of Finland covering the center and east of the country along the border of Russia. In the summer, it’s full of people swimming and canoeing: taking full advantage of the season’s warmth. In the winter, however, it transforms into a snowy wonderland where people go sledding and ice fishing by day before cozying up in their cabins at night.
Airbnb | Most cottages in Finland offer saunas, but not many can say they also have a hot tub. That was definitely what sold us on this place. Well, that and the fact that it is picture perfect. Complete with heated floors and a dishwasher, I can’t say enough how much we loved this place!
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We were all so excited that we woke up at sunrise after our first night, which really isn’t that impressive considering the sun rose at 9 am. Regardless, we had so much fun exploring the property and walking down to the lake. We couldn’t wait to start up the wood-fired sauna and hot tub. And although we didn’t actually need to chop our own wood, it was nice that they left us an axe and all, just in case.
The short time we spent here was mainly split between the hot tub, sauna, and swimming in the spring-fed pond.
For most of us, this was our first time ice swimming so we were all super nervous. I definitely screamed on my way in, not to mention slipping on the ice in my swimsuit before I even made it to the pond. Can you see the pain on my face?
My friend Flicky, on the other hand, is a pro. She even went back in for a second go later on.
Next stop: the sauna. I am starting to see why Finnish people are hooked on ice swimming. As long as you have a nice warm sauna to head to afterward, it really is quite invigorating. And ours was just steps away.
It took hours for the hot tub to heat up (and a lot of wood), but it was totally worth it. Can you imagine a more picturesque spot?
While we waited, we cooked up some moose bought from the local butcher. And by the time we finished eating, the water was the perfect temperature.
Seeing as it was dark and we were all sitting outside in our nice warm hot tub, we kept waiting for the clouds to clear in hope of seeing the northern lights. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but it still felt pretty magical, nevertheless.
These are some of the other places I was considering staying. I did quite a bit of research on this, so I feel as though I have to share.
Rock and Lake | This is an association of cottages to rent in the Finnish Lakeland, most of which are right around the corner from where our airbnb was located. In my communication with the company, I found them to be very helpful, even though we didn’t end up staying with them. They helped organize the husky safari I had planned, hoping there would be enough snow for us to go (there wasn’t). And they also offer other tours depending on the season, like ice fishing and canoeing.
Hotel Järvisydän| If you choose to go the hotel route, this is definitely your best bet. With a brand new spa and 3 different types of saunas to choose from, it seems like they’ve really thought of everything. We ate at the hotel restaurant on our last day in the area, so we had the chance to snoop around and were not disappointed. The suites in the hotel look amazingly cozy, but they also have private villas if you’d prefer.
On our last day, we said goodbye to our tiny cabin and headed south on our way to the airport. But we had one last adventure before returning home.
Porokylä Reindeer Experience | During this excursion, we visited a small farm called Porokylä (poro meaning reindeer and kylä meaning village). We fed the reindeer their favorite lichen while learning all about them, like the fact that only female reindeer have antlers in winter or how many words the Saami people have to describe them (it’s 1000, in case you were wondering). If there is enough snow the tour is done by snowshoe, but you can also choose the snowmobile safari for even more fun.
SEE & DO
We really enjoyed spending the majority of our time at the cabin we rented considering we wanted to take full advantage of the hot tub and sauna. But if you happen to be more adventurous than us, these are some of the other ideas I thought about for our trip and some highlights of Finland’s Lakeland.
Husky Safari | Again, this can be organized through Rock and Lake. It’s a single price whether you go with two people or ten, so the more the merrier.
Kuopio Tower | For the best view of Lakeland, take the elevator up this 75 meter high tower and have a drink at the rotating restaurant at the top. The town is also a great place to try some of Lakeland’s famous fishcakes at Hanna Partanen.
Olavinlinna Castle | I never would have expected to see a proper medieval castle like this in Finland, but here it is. Built in 1475 to protect the region from Russian advances, St. Olaf’s castle is the world’s northernmost medieval fortress.
Lake Saimaa | The largest lake in Finland, this is the only place in the world where you can see the endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal. This rare and unique species lives in the freshwater of the lake and loves the ice. It is possible to see them in winter, but you have a much better chance in the summer when the seals warm themselves on the rocky shore.
National Parks | Finland has 40 national parks, many of which are found in Lakeland. With so many options, there is plenty of trekking to be done no matter where you find yourself.
For us, these will all have to wait until our next visit to Finland.