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Explore the Finnish Lake District

Spend 2 weeks reconnecting with nature in Finland’s Lake District

Duration

15 Days

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Explore the Finnish Lake District

Tour Information

Known as “the land of a thousand lakes”, Finland actually has 187,888 (the most bodies of water in the world), accounting for one-tenth of the country’s surface area. Most of the lakes are in central and eastern Finland, forming what is known as Finnish Lakeland or the Finnish Lake District.

There is nothing quite like paddling your way through the waterways of Finland’s lakes, acting as great, gigantic mirrors reflecting the lakeside cottages, cabins and boat houses as well as the glorious wide open skies. You’ll also notice the many glorious golden sandy beaches and, in the summer months, the surrounding forests carpeted with blueberries, juniper and lingonberries. This is what summertime in Finland is made of!

Fresh, unpolluted air, beautiful terrain and thousands of kilometres of designated cycling paths make Finland an ideal cycling country and this tour gives you the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the lake district on two wheels. Much of this tour explores Lake Saimaa, the heart of the Saimaa UNESCO Global Geopark and the largest lake in Finland. Measuring around 4,400 square kilometres, the lake is also home to some 14,000 islands. In fact, there are so many islands, that Lake Saimaa doesn’t look like one body of water, but rather a series of lakes connected via inlets and waterways.

Carbon Conscious?

We’ve partnered with Path Net Zero to calculate the carbon emissions of all our Sustainable Journeys, so you can make conscious choices about how you travel.  

This journey generates:

Where will this journey take you?

Start your 15-day Sustainable Journey through the Finnish Lake District in Finland’s capital, Helsinki, before taking the train to Lappeenranta for the start of your Lakeland adventure.  Finishing in the cool city of Tampere you’ll return to Helsinki by train for your journey home.

Journey Overview

Day 1 – Arrive in Helsinki
Day 2 – Helsinki by bike
Day 3 – Helsinki to Lappeenranta by train
Day 4 – Lappeenranta to Taipalsaari by bike
Day 5 – Taipalsaari by bike and kayak
Day 6 – Taipalsaari to Pistohiekka by bike and ferry
Day 7 – Pistohiekka to Tiittala by bike
Day 8 – Tiittala to Savonlinna by bike
Day 9 – Savonlinna to Kuopio
Day 10 – Nordic Hide-out in Kuopio
Day 11 – Kuopio to Jyväskylä
Day 12 – Jyväskylä to Mänttä
Day 13 – Ruovesi to Tampere by steamship
Day 14 – Tampere
Day 15 – Return to the UK

What’s included?
  • 14 nights accommodation
  • meals: 14 breakfasts, 5x lunches or picnic lunches, 6x dinners
  • Transport: transfers by train, bus, bike, and ferry as indicated
  • Activities, including hosted cycle tours on 5 days (with luggage transfers), a kayak trip, a photography trip on Lake Saimaa, a food workshop and food walk, the Nordic welfare experience,  art pavilion entrance, steamboat trip from Ruovesi to Tampere, sightseeing or kayaking in Tampere
What’s not included?
  • Travel to and from Finland by air or rail
  • Pre or Post tour accommodation
  • Meals and drinks not mentioned as ‘included’
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Gratuities
  • Optional activities and tours

How is this a Sustainable Journey?

Visiting lesser-known destinations: This journey encourages you to explore less visited regions of Finland, contributing directly to each of the local communities visited by staying in locally-owned accommodations, eating at local eateries and using locally-owned activity providers. All of the experiences allow for stops in beautiful places that would be missed if only visiting the capital city and larger towns. And by slowing the pace of travel by cycling, you’re seeing and experiencing far more of the country than you would be by any other mode of transport. A growing number of destinations in Finland have signed up to the Sustainable Travel Finland programme, a definitive symbol of commitment towards sustainable practices and principles.

Accommodations: Wherever possible we use locally owned and run hotels, guesthouses and forest cabins. You make an impact by contributing directly to the local economy, meeting the locals and experiencing their hospitality, customs and traditions. Most of the places you stay are recognised for their leading sustainability practices through the Sustainable Travel Finland programme, the EcoCompass Certificate and many international awards and certifications.

Transport: On this tour you travel by train, bus, steamship and ferry, thereby reducing your carbon emissions considerably. Travelling on public transport also offers a different type of experience – one where you travel more slowly and see so much more of the landscape. We believe this gives you a far greater awareness of the destination. You also spend a number of days powering yourself along by bike, reducing your emissions to zero! Not only do you have more time to take in your surroundings on a bike, but some of this green and watery land isn’t accessible by car, so the best way to discover more is on two wheels. You’re out in the fresh air, experiencing nature, and there’s so much to see and do along the way.

Food and drink: During this tour, you’ll have the chance to sample many local specialities as well as a wide range of produce sourced straight from the lakes and forest. The places you visit offer a chance to experience different flavours and traditional recipes that are localised to their regions, often passed down with the traditional wisdom of many generations. The food supply chain is shortened in that their produce is locally sourced, grown or gathered in their surrounding landscape, and is freshly prepared and cooked. Whilst all this gives your hosts the opportunity to impart their local knowledge, it also gives you quite different and unique experiences, whilst also ensuring there are no unnecessary food miles. The places you visit usually offer vegetarian and/or vegan options, and most can accommodate different dietary needs.

Local staff: Your hosts and guides are predominantly local people living in the destination. They own, manage, or are employed by each hotel, activity provider, or tour company, meaning the money paid to them goes directly into the local economy.

Detailed Itinerary

  • Day 1 - Arrival in Helsinki

    Helsinki can be reached by air non-stop direct from the UK. Or why not consider our two-night slow travel journey add-on from the UK to Finland by rail, making for an interesting and lower carbon option.

    On arrival in Helsinki, check in to the Scandic Grand (or a hotel of your choice). Right in the heart of Helsinki, the Scandic Grand is located in the old Finnish Railways headquarters next to the railway station, making it very easy to reach by the airport train.

    Here you’re perfectly located to explore Helsinki’s cultural attractions, with world class architecture, a cool, contemporary arts scene, great shopping, museums, and plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants. Helsinki is a seaside city – its archipelago has around 330 islands – and is one of the few capital cities in the world where nature is so easily accessible. It’s very easy to discover on foot, or time permitting, hire a bike and explore on wheels.

    Have dinner in your choice of restaurant.

  • Day 2 - Helsinki by bike

    Prepare yourself for an active day ahead with a hearty Finnish buffet breakfast in the hotel, before heading out for a four-hour guided cycling tour of Helsinki. You can opt for a walking tour if you prefer, but with more than 1,500km of cycle paths, Helsinki is easy to enjoy and explore by bike.

    Cycling in Helsinki is so popular that a majority of Helsinki residents say they use their bikes weekly all year, mainly because they are such an easy way to get around. Loads of support is provided in the form of published cycling routes, a free-to-use journey planner, a city bike service and a growing number of bike shops.

    The bike hire for the guided tour is included but you’re welcome to hire the bikes for longer to continue exploring all day if you wish. A cycle ride along the waterfront and shoreline is highly recommended.

    Both lunch and dinner can be taken at your own leisure in your choice of restaurant. Plenty of recommendations will be given.

  • Day 3 - Helsinki to Lappeentra by train

    After breakfast in your hotel, you’ll take the train from Helsinki to Lappeenranta. This train journey provides some of the most impressive views in Finland, making it a popular way to travel between these two cities.

    You can decide whether you take the morning, lunchtime or afternoon train (each taking around two hours), depending on whether you’d like to continue exploring Helsinki or prefer to head straight to the lakes.

    Lappeenranta is situated on the shore of Lake Saimaa and is considered a model for renewable energy and a clean living environment. You’ll get your bicycles (complete with panniers) on arrival so you can explore the town independently at your own leisure.

    The hotel chosen for you is the family-owned Hotel Rakuuna (or similar) which is situated within the historic former barracks of the Finnish Dragoon Regiment.  The hotel has recently joined the Sustainable Travel Finland programme and is taking great strides towards greater energy efficiency. You’ll be just a short walk away from the Lappeenranta fortress (hosting several museums, the Orthodox Church and artisan shops), the harbour and the Rantaraitti, a 15km beachside track from which you can explore the lush coastline. With only very few car crossings, this route is perfect to explore on either two wheels or two feet.

    Both lunch and dinner can be taken in your choice of restaurant. Plenty of recommendations will be given.

    Rail from Helsinki to Lappeenranta:  154 miles (248 km), duration 2h 7m

  • Day 4 - Lappeentra to Taipalsaari by bike

    After breakfast in your hotel, you have time to further explore Lappeenranta. Have lunch (in the restaurant of your choice) before setting off on your bike ride to Taipalsaari.

    Your luggage will be transferred ahead of you to your next accommodation.

    This cycling adventure starts at Harbour Square and leads you all the way to the village centre of Taipalsaari, taking about an hour (depending on how many times you stop to take photographs), along 17.5km of scenic route.

    Half of the Taipalsaari region is made up of the tranquil Lake Saimaa. Renowned for its picturesque views of the lake, it offers plenty of canoeing and kayaking opportunities, boat trips, lakeside cabins and camping sites. An interesting fact: Finland consumes more ice cream per capita than any other European country and it’s here in Taipalsaari that Finland’s largest ice cream balls can be found.

    Be sure to cycle to Taipalsaari Linnavuori (‘Castle Mountain’), a magnificent viewing point more than 40 metres above the surface of Lake Saimaa.

    You will be spending the next two nights in one of Wood Dream’s six log villas in Taipalsaari (or similar). Furnished with iconic Scandinavian design using all-natural materials, you’ll find yourself totally immersed in Finnish nature. Each villa has its own fully equipped kitchen (including a Nespresso coffee machine) as well as a BBQ. Your dinner and breakfast supplies will be provided.

    Cycle tour: 17.5km, taking one hour from Lappeenranta to Taipalsaari

  • Day 5 - Taipalsaari by bike and kayak

    Kayaking quietly through the calm waters of Lake Saimaa is the best way to enjoy the beauty of Finland’s Lakeland and that is just what you’ll be doing today.

    First, after breakfast, you’ll cycle 8km (around 30 mins) to Konstu Beach where you will embark on a four-hour guided paddling trip by kayak. (If the weather is not conducive to paddling, you will have a guided hiking trip instead). A picnic lunch will be provided.

    On the return bike ride back to your accommodation, you may be able to stop off at a grocery store and stock up on provisions.

    Tonight’s dinner will have been delivered the previous night. You will have all the necessary facilities in your villa to warm it through.

  • Day 6 - Taipalsaari to Pistohiekka by bike and ferry

    After breakfast, you will be cycling 17.3km (around 1 hour) to the ferry harbour at Sarviniemi to catch the midday bike ferry to Lintusalo. Your bikes will have panniers so pack your luggage in these as you will get your suitcases back in Savonlinna (day 8).
    At Lintusalo you can have lunch at the Nestorinranta Cafeteria.
    After lunch, you can either cycle from Lintusalo to Pistohiekka (42.2km) or you can take another ferry over to Hurissalo and cycle from there to Pistohiekka (16.2km).
    On arrival at the Pistohiekka Resort (or similar), your accommodation for the night, you’ll have time to enjoy the most traditional of pastimes, a Finnish sauna. Listed as one of the most unique sauna experiences in Finland, the resort’s two saunas are situated on the water’s edge and next to the beach restaurant. Why not enjoy a drink on the terrace after your sauna and a ‘proper bath’ in the lake?
    A three-course dinner will be served in the resort’s restaurant. Renowned for its world-class wooden architecture, it’s also noted for its focus on the best foods and food traditions of the region. Their menu revolves around the seasons, and they have committed to a local quality label, ensuring their produce comes from the Saimaa area.
    You’ll overnight in a modern cabin on the lakeside.

    Cycle: Taipalsaari to ferry harbour at Sarviniemi 17.3km, 1 hour
    And
    Ferry: from Sarviniemi to Lintusalo

    Cycle: from Lintusalo to Pistohiekka 42.2km
    Or
    Ferry (from 15th June to 27th July only): from Lintusalo to Hurissalo and cycle to Pistohiekka (16.2km)

  • Day 7 - Pistohiekka to Tiittala by bike

    Start the day with a hearty breakfast in the resort restaurant as you have an invigorating bike ride ahead of you.
    Today you’ll cycle from Pistohiekka to Tiittala. This is a 46km route, taking around 2 hours 40 minutes (depending on how many stops you make along the way).
    The resort will have prepared a picnic lunch for you to take and enjoy en route.
    Tonight, you’ll be staying in the Tiittala Empire Manor (or similar) where you can also have dinner. An old manor house with a colourful history, it now provides cyclist-friendly accommodation as well as a Waffle Café (open during the summer and Christmas periods). The manor house collaborates with local producers such as the nearby berry and egg farms and incorporates flavours straight from their own garden and kitchen into their waffles, such as their homemade vanilla ice cream and jams.

    Bike ride: Pistohiekka to Tiittala 46km, 2h 40m

  • Day 8 - Tiittala to Savonlinna by bike

    After breakfast, you’ll cycle 46km from the Manor House to the town of Savonlinna. This will take about 2 hours and 40 minutes, depending on the number of stops you make along the way, so you’ll have time for a good lunch in the restaurant of your choice when you get there.

    Savonlinna is known for its medieval castle of Olavinlinna and the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival, held in the castle grounds. Located in the heart of the Lake Saimaa region, Savonlinna is often referred to as the “Capital of Saimaa”. This is where you’ll hand back your bicycles and pick up your luggage before heading out on a four-hour, sunset photography boat trip on the lake.

    A local photographer will join you, taking you to the best observation areas in the archipelago where you might even get the chance to see the Saimaa Ringed Seal. Amongst the most endangered seals in the world, and one of only a few landlocked, freshwater seal species, the only existing population is found here in Lake Saimaa, numbering around 400. There is still plenty of work to be done to protect this species that remains on the verge of extinction.

    After having captured some stunning photographs, you’ll head back to Savonlinna where you’ll overnight in Lossiranta Lodge (or similar), a small boutique hotel with views of the lake and Olavinlinna Castle from every room. It has been awarded the Green Key eco-label, recognising its excellent environmental work and commitment to sustainable tourism.

    There are a number of good restaurants in and around the town centre, close to the Lossiranta Lodge. Recommendations will be given.

    Bike ride: Tiittala to Savonlinna, 46km, 2h 40m

  • Day 9 - Savonlinna to Kuopio

    At breakfast you’ll get to enjoy a range of locally sourced specialities and, during the summertime, berries and apples straight from Lossiranta’s organic garden.
    This morning is your chance to visit the castle. Also known as St. Olaf’s Castle, Olavinlinna is a 15th-century three-tower stone castle built on an island in the Kyrönsalmi strait, amid spectacular lake scenery. The castle provides the stage for the Savonlinna Opera Festival, which has grown into an internationally recognised festival lasting a month, attracting audiences from all over the world.
    Within the castle, you’ll find a museum, shop and the castle restaurant which is open during the summer months.
    At 1.00 pm you’ll join a two-hour Lörtsy workshop. A thin, half-moon-shaped pastry, Lörtsy can be made with a variety of fillings, the most common being savoury meat and sweet apple. The apple Lörtsy contains a sweet apple jam and resembles a jam doughnut. Originally invented here in Savonlinna, Lörtsy is now found all over Finland, most often sold by street vendors.
    Following the workshop you’ll take the 15.40 bus to Kuopio, arriving at 18.45.
    Kuopio calls itself the capital of Finland’s lake district. Almost completely surrounded by Lake Kallavesi, several parts of it are built on islands. You’ll be met on arrival and taken to Nordic Island Hideout on the island of Vaajasalo, where you will stay for two nights in a forest cabin.
    The Hideout (or similar) is a family-run business with a great passion for sport, nature and the countryside, providing a truly memorable experience in the heart of a Finnish forest.
    Be sure to visit the Hideout Caffè to sample their crispy pizzas, sumptuous Italian-Finnish desserts and daily changing local delicacies.

    Bus journey: Savonlinna to Kuopio – 101 miles, 162km, 3h 30m.

  • Day 10 - Nordic Hide-out in Kuopio

    After breakfast, you can either join a SUP-yoga session or a forest hike. Then have a relaxing hour on the pier where you can also go for a swim.
    After a leisurely lunch, you’ll have a relaxing aerial yoga session with stretching, mobility or pilates, followed by a traditional Finnish sauna.
    You can also hire mountain bikes, a selection of games, fishing equipment and even a small motorboat at your own cost.
    Have dinner at the Hideout Caffè, or the restaurant of your choice.

  • Day 11 - Kuopio to Jyväskylä

    After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to Kuopio town centre for a 1 ½ hour walking food tour which will include plenty of tastings. Kuopio was the European Region of Gastronomy in 2020 so you know you’re in for some culinary treats.

    Finland’s market halls are described as temples for local food and products. Kuopio’s market hall, one of the town’s most precious buildings, houses around 30 market stalls where you’ll find all sorts of local specialities, including Kalakukko – a traditional, regional dish which is essentially a fish baked inside a loaf of bread (think fish in blankets).

    You will then take the 14.10 bus to Jyväskylä, arriving at 16.05. The home city of famous architect and designer Alvar Aalto, Jyväskylä is also known for realising sustainable daily living for all residents based on a circular economy and sustainable use of natural resources.

    You will be staying at the GreenStar Hotel (or similar), part of the first carbon-neutral hotel chain in Finland which is also Nordic Ecolabel certified. Located in the city centre, you can hire a free bike and you’ll find free organic coffee and tea available.

    Have dinner at the hotel or a restaurant of your choice.

    Bus journey: Kuopio to Jyväskylä – 91 miles/ 147km, 1h 50m.

  • Day 12 - Jyväskylä to Mänttä

    Everything on the Greenstar Hotel’s breakfast menu is sourced locally and is organic. The bread buns and rye bread are baked by a local bakery, the coffee comes from an organic coffee roaster and the tea comes from a specialist tea house. A selection of sliced meats and cheeses are included.
    After breakfast, you’ll take a walking tour of the town during which you’ll see the administrative and cultural centre, the Nikolainkulma (nicknamed the “pink corner”), an iconic part of Jyväskylä’s architectural and cultural history and one of the few surviving wooden buildings in the city centre, and the Jyväskylä workers club. You’ll have the chance to climb the Nero steps leading up to the Harju ridge, a pine forest ridge formation in the middle of the city. The Vesilinna Observation Tower at the top can be seen from everywhere in the city. The tour will finish at the Alvar Aalto museum where you’ll hear fascinating tales about the iconic Finnish designer who is celebrated as the forerunner of mid-century modernism in design.
    The 14.00 bus from Jyväskylä will take you to Mänttä (often referred to as Art Town), where you will visit the Serlachius Museum Gösta, located in the cultural and historically valuable surroundings of Lake Melasjärvi.
    Showcasing art from Finland’s Golden Age in a lovely old former manor home, a modern wood-constructed pavilion was built alongside to showcase a mix of contemporary art and thematic exhibitions alongside the classic artworks from the Serlachius Collection.
    From Mänttä you will be transferred to Ruovesi, just 10 minutes away, where you can have dinner in a local restaurant of your choice and where you’ll stay at the old Vinha Bookstore Guesthouse (or similar). A unique opportunity to stay in a historic landmark, the bookstore provides accommodation to tourists in the summer and artists as residence rooms in the winter. You will also find an art gallery, antique store and café here as well as a busy programme of literary and cultural events.

    Bus journey: Jyväskylä to Mänttä – 91 miles/ 92km, 1h 45m.

  • Day 13 - Ruovesi to Tampere

    After breakfast, you have a morning free to continue exploring Ruovesi before boarding the Steamship Tarjanne to Tampere, Finland’s second city.

    Built in 1908, the Tarjanne is Finland’s last surviving long-line passenger steamship and is a veritable steam boating legend. Known as the Poet’s Way, the 4 ½ hour cruise from Ruovesi to Tampere offers fantastic lake views. You’ll hear the famous sound of the steam whistle and have lunch in the fabulous restaurant originally designed by renowned Art Nouveau artist Akseli Gallén-Kallela.

    On arrival in Tampere, you’ll transfer to your hotel where you can have dinner. The hotel selected for you is the Lillan Hotel & Kök (or similar), a boutique hotel and restaurant in the pretty garden district of Viinikka, where you’ll spend the next two nights. An area of charming wooden houses near the centre of Tampere, Viinikka is also just a short walk to the shore of Lake Iidesjärvi.

    Cruise: Ruovesi to Tampere – approx. 76km, 4h 45m

  • Day 14 - Tampere

    Lillan’s breakfast table features plenty of locally sourced, fresh ingredients, including a selection of Karelian pasties, cheeses, assorted cold cuts and homemade jams. Over a leisurely breakfast, you can decide whether you go on a 2–3-hour sightseeing trip or a 2-hour paddling trip on Lake Näsi.
    You’ll also have time to explore Tampere on your own. Known as Finland’s city of events, there are lots of opportunities to enjoy music, theatre and a grand total of 14 museums!
    An interesting fact about Tampere is that it is ranked 26th on the list of 446 hipster cities in the world and is often rated as the most popular city in Finland! As such, it has a vibrant food culture and one of the best ways to get to know the city is to head to one of its restaurants, cafes, pubs and breweries.
    A must-see is the beautiful old Market Hall – the largest indoor market hall in the Nordics. This is where Tampere’s residents come to buy local produce straight from nearby bakeries, farms, lakes and forests, so you’re in for a truly authentic experience. You will find fresh fish, meat, cheese and vegetables, warm buns, bread and pastries, plus small speciality stores, restaurants and cafés.
    You’ll have a second night in the Lillan Hotel & Kök (or the hotel of your choice).

  • Day 15 - Return to the UK

    You’ve now come to the end of your tour of the Finnish Lake District and sadly it’s time to return home.

    After breakfast in the hotel, you’ll be transferred to Tampere railway station for the train to Helsinki airport. There are trains departing every hour starting from 3.45 am.

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