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Finnish Lakeland: The Ultimate R+R Romantic Summer Getaway

One of many beautiful views from Punkaharju Ridge Nature Reserve an Iconic Spot in Finnish Lakeland. Tall pines. Clear water. Puffy clouds in the sky reflected in the water.
I took this photo while at Punkaharju Ridge Nature Reserve.

Skip the crowds and escape the heat of Europe’s over-touristed areasGo to Finnish Lakeland instead, where the population is sparse, and the summertime highs are in the mid-60s to low-70s. Spend your summer vacation where the water is pristine and the pine-scented air is the world’s cleanest. In Lakeland, you can hike one of Finland’s 41 National Forests, go on a seal-watching safari, dine on multicourse meals, and tour the world’s northernmost medieval castle. Sauna and jump in the water. Slow down and relax. This is the place for the ultimate rest and relaxation European summer getaway.

Stay at Kuru Resort in Rantasalmi, Finland.

A floating chair, side table, and cup of coffee on my cabin's three-season porch at Kuru Resort in Finnish Lakeland.

Kuru Resort is a quiet retreat from the world. No children, pets, or loud engines are allowed. You can sit in a floating chair on your cabin’s three-season porch and hear birds as they jump from branch to branch on distant trees. I know because I spent a morning doing just that. It’s laidback luxury at its most restorative and relaxing. You can enjoy fine dining multicourse meals at its onsite Restaurant Solitary, ranked one of the best restaurants in Finland in 2024. There’s more to love about Kuru Resort – you can read all about it in our Hotel Review: Kuru Resort in Rantasalmi, Finland post.

Finland Finnish Lakeland Lake Saimaa Melissa on SUP Yoga Board
Me on a SUP Yoga Board before the start of class. After class, I was too blissed out to think of things like taking photos.

Stand-up paddleboards are wider and longer than the typical yoga mat. They’re stable on calm waters, so your chances of falling into the water during a SUP Yoga session are slim. When I took a SUP Yoga class from Tanja with a group that included novices and confident yoga practitioners alike, no one fell in. 

During the class, I did wheel pose and shoulder stand without hesitation, poses I sometimes resist on solid ground. In savasana, the gentle waves lapping against the board deepened my relaxation. If you’re a confident yogi and your partner is not, no worries. It’s yoga, not a competition or place for judgment. If you enjoy yoga and time on the water, prepare your face for an expansive smile and yourself for feelings of elation. 

Tanja offers SUP Yoga sessions on Lake Saimaa and Yoga cruises to the Saimaa Archipelago. You can see and sign up for sessions here. You can also follow Tanja at @yogasaimaa

Travel Tip: Dress in layers of clothing that are water resistant or at least dry quickly. While it’s unlikely that you’ll fall in, you might get a splash or two of water on you. Bring a change of clothes just in case. Visiting Finland during the summertime? Don’t forget to pack this on your Nordic summer vacation.  

One of many beautiful views from Punkaharju Ridge Nature Reserve an Iconic Spot in Finnish Lakeland. Tall pines. Clear water. Puffy clouds in the sky reflected in the water.

Hike Punkaharju Ridge Nature Reserve, where the trails are easy and the views are breathtaking. It’s an easy (and beautiful) hour and fifteen-minute drive from Kuru Resort. Punkaharju Ridge’s beautiful landscape has been attracting international tourists for more than two hundred years. If, like me, you love hiking amongst towering pines while enjoying lake views, this reserve is a must. 

There are plenty of marked trails to hike on the ridge. Trails vary from easy to moderate and include wheelchair-accessible options. The longest one is The Hakinkierros Trail, a 7.7 km circular trail with an easy rating. 

Linnansaari National Park in Finnish Lakeland. A couple of cabin-looking buildings and a lot of towering trees.

Walk about ten to fifteen minutes from Kuru Resort to Järvisydän’s Safari House  to rent a couple of kayaks, SUP boards, or a canoe. Then, paddle your way over to Linnansaari National Park. If you’d rather save your energy for hiking the trails, drive to Oravi and take a boat taxi over. Be sure to reserve the taxi ahead of time. Or, if you’re feeling fancy and want an even more relaxing experience, you might want to book a champagne cruise from the resort to the island. 

In Linnansaari National Park, you’ll find an abundance of birch, spruce, and pine trees – some are a few hundred years old. You’ll also find trails that vary from easy to demanding. A couple of the paths are wheelchair-accessible. 

Another way to enjoy Linnansaari National Park in the summertime is by going on a seal-watching safari. On it, you’ll search for the endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal. Only around 400 exist, and they are all in the Lake Saimaa region. 

Take a Day Trip to Savonlinna, Finland.

What’s there to do in Savonlinna? Plenty. 

Go on an hour-long boat cruise aboard MS Elivirra or MS Ieva with Savonlinna Cruises. You can head out to the archipelago in hopes of seeing Saimaa Ringed Seals or tour the city and enjoy incredible views of Olavinlinna Castle. Cruises run from late June through mid-August. 

Tour Olavinlinna Castle, the world’s northernmost medieval stone castle. Founded by knight Erik Axelsson Tott, a knight serving the Swedish crown, construction began on the castle in 1475. On the tour, you’ll likely hear a ghost story or two. I heard one ghost story involving the statue of Saint Olaf, the castle’s namesake. Olaf is a Norwegian Viking King. In Finnish, his name is Olavi. Another ghost story tied to the castle involves a Swedish maiden who fell in love with a Russian soldier. That’s all I’ll say about it here. 

If you’re in Savonlinna in July, you can watch one of the world-renowned Savonlinna Opera Festival performances in the castle courtyard. Reserve your seats well in advance. It’s a popular festival and performances do sell out. This year, the festival runs from July 5th to August 4th. 

Dine at one of the town’s excellent restaurants. Several offer terrace seating. Shop for unique, handcrafted souvenirs designed in Finland by local artisans

Savonlinna is about a 45-minute easy and gorgeous drive from Kuru Resort. 

Travel Tip: Medieval castles can be chilly, even in the summertime. Wear (or at least bring) layers.

Last Stop in Finnish Lakeland: Lappeenranta.

The harbour in Lappeenranta in Finnish lakeland.

On your way to Lappeenranta from Kuru Resort, stop at Finland’s oldest nature reserve, Kruununpuisto Park. At the park, you can walk a path along the Imatra Rapids. Catherine the Great loved them. Look for the Maiden of Imatra sculpture. The sculpture is based on a tragic love story. The maiden and her lover, Ontrei, threw themselves into the foaming waters of the rapids after an unsent letter created a tragic misunderstanding. Think Romeo and Juliet minus the family drama plus a careless assistant who said they’d send the letter on the maiden’s behalf but forgot.

Imatra Rapids in Finnish Lakeland. Intense rapids surrounded by towering evergreen trees.
Imatra Rapids.

In Lappeenranta stay at Hotel Lahde. It’s well-located, its rooms are pretty, and the rates are affordable. They have a newly renovated spa area that includes a super relaxing salt room. 

From Hotel Lahde, you can take a romantic stroll along the lake, kayak, or cruise in its calm waters, explore Lappeenranta’s history, and enjoy the city’s whimsical charm. Each summer they build the Lappeenranta Sandcastle, themed sand sculptures made from tons of sand. When I was there last summer, the theme was fairy tales and admiring the enormous works of art filled me with profound joy. The sandcastle opens in early June and stays up until the end of August. 

There are plenty of restaurants in Lappeenranta to choose from for lunch and dinner.  Several are located along the harbor, which locals call their guest room. One must-stop to put on your list is Cafe Majurska for a coffee and a sweet. The café is in a historical building in Lappeenranta Fortress. Everything is freshly baked there every day. The ambiance is fabulous, and so is the food and service. 

From the café, it’s just a one-minute walk to Finland’s oldest Orthodox church, the church of Protection of the Theotokos. It was completed in 1785. 

After spending a night or two in Lappeenranta, I recommend spending at least as long in Helsinki before you fly back home, or off to your next destination. You can check out our A Happy Day in Helsinki video for ideas on what to do while in Finland’s capital and its largest city.  

Rhubarb Crumble and coffee on the porch of Cafe Majurska aka Kahvila Majurska in Lappeenranta, Finland -- a city in Finnish Lakeland.

Getting Around in Finland

Finland’s train system and public transit are world-class. If, like me, you’re loath to transfer from trains to buses, especially while carrying luggage, rent a car. Prices are reasonable. Traffic is sparse. Besides, renting a vehicle puts you more in control of your schedule. A Guide to Driving in Finland

Note: Parking is free at Kuru Resort. At Hotelli Lähde, a paid outdoor parking area is available. On a relaxing, romantic getaway in Finnish Lakeland, I’d 100% rent a car. 

Visiting Finland during the summertime? Don’t forget to pack this on your Nordic summer vacation

What makes Finland such a happy place? Check out our post 9 Differences That Make Finland a Happy Place to Be to learn more.  

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