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Lakeland's relaxing labyrinth
The most expansive of Finland's 188,000 lakes, boasting the world's cleanest water, spread to the east. Enjoy an endless range of activity - or just drink in the scenery.
Lakes and forests account for more than 90% of Finland's territory, and its different regions are accessible by means of an efficient network of road, rail and air. Visitors can base themselves at a number of towns and cities located at convenient lake intersections. The biggest lakes, including Lake Saimaa, are characterised by the quintessential Finnish landscape of water and woodland, with all their opportunities for activity and relaxation. These include traditional steamboat cruises, and fishing and boating, hiking, or simply pursuing the favourite Finnish pastime of taking dips in the lake between sauna sessions.
The city of Jyväskylä is an excellent hub for lakeland explorations. Blessed with two UNESCO World Heritage sites - the beautiful Petäjävesi Old Church and the Orarivuori Triangulation Tower - the city sits on the banks of Lake Päijänne and is a popular stop for lakeland traffic. A university town with lively restaurants, Jyväskylä is also associated with Finland's best known designer and architect Alvar Aalto.
An hour or so north of Helsinki, on the southern tip of Lake Vanajavesi and home to a handsome castle, is Hämenlinna, the birthplace of Finland's most celebrated composer Jean Sibelius. The viewing tower in the gardens of Aulanko offers fine lakeland panoramas, and the village of Iittala, where the eponymous glassware was conceived, includes outlets for handicrafts, design and art.
Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna, Hämeenlinna »
Savonlinna is best known for its magnificent castle, set on an island in the labyrinthine Saimaa lake system and home to a top-class annual opera festival staged in its courtyard. The enchanting landscape of the pine-covered Punkaharju ridge is a short drive away, as is the Finnish Museum of the Forest, Lusto. Savonlinna is one of the most popular lakeland cruise ports, with old-style steam boats sailing south to Mikkeli and north to Kuopio.