Finnish Lake District: summer cottages, saunas and water clean enough to drink

The Finnish Lake District is the most popular holiday area among Finns. There are many areas in Finland where the number of residents doubles with summer residents. Hundreds of thousands of summer cottages and beach saunas are hidden in the forests surrounding the lakes. The world’s biggest spa is peaceful and clean.

The Finnish Lake District has more water area than land. In the 80,000 square kilometres lake area the countless lakes are connected so that at times it is impossible to tell where one lake ends and another starts. This kind of lake maze is not found anywhere else in the world. The numerous islands make the area even more like a labyrinth. More than half of the 180,000 islands in Finland are inland.

Swimming at Lake Saimaa.

The Finnish Lake District covers approximately one quarter of the surface area of Finland. Six out of ten of the biggest lakes in Finland are located in the Finnish Lake District: Lake Suur-Saimaa, Lake Päijänne, Lake Iso-Kalla, Lake Keitele, Lake Iso-Längelmävesi and Lake Puulavesi.

The inland waters cover 10% of the surface of Finland, which is more than in any other state. There are 187,888 lakes and more than 170,000 kilometres of shoreline. In some places, even as much as 70% of the surface area in the Finnish Lake District are lakes.

Heinävesi harbour.

The ice age had a big impact on the Lake District scenery. The continental glacier dug out the basins for the lakes, and their water quality is excellent. The basins are separated by long ridge formations that the ice ploughed 10,000 years ago. When the land started rising after the ice age, the direct connection to the ocean was severed. Europe’s only inland water seal, the Saimaa ringed seal, lives in the Kolovesi and Linnansaari National Parks. The species was trapped at Saimaa about 8,000 years ago.

6,000 years ago the large lakes in the Finnish lake district, such as Päijänne, Kallavesi and Saimaa, were the same lake. The water routes in the Lake District were the fastest way for stone-age people to move after game. We still move on boats and sleighs, even though nowadays they have a motor.

There are 187,888 lakes in Finland, i.e. one lake for each two square kilometres. Nearly every Finnish family has a summer cottage. There are 59 metres of shoreline per each inhabitant, including the shores.

100,000 of the Finnish islands are inland. Nearly 1,000 islands are located on the island that are in lakes located on islands. The shoreline formed only of islands is 43,496 kilometres in inland Finland.

Lake Saimaa.

The water of 80% of the lakes is of good or excellent quality. Nearly all of the lakes in the Finnish Lake District are in this class. Of the big lakes, the water in Saimaa, Päijänne and Puula is excellent, even drinkable. The capital area receives its drinking water from Päijänne. The water comes along the second-longest tunnel to the Helsinki inhabitants’ taps.

In the European Union, there are 93 lakes whose area is larger than 100 square kilometres. 47 of these lakes are in Finland. Most of these lakes are located in the Finnish Lake District. There are more large lakes such as these ones in Finland than in the other EU countries in total.

Formed at the end of the ice age more than 9,000 years ago, gravel ridges are typical terrain shapes. When the Pyynikinharju barrier crumbled 6,300 years ago, the waters of Lake Näsijärvi have flown via Tammerkoski to Lake Pyhäjärvi and further to Kokemäenjoki River. Pyynikinharju ridge, which was formed during the ice age, is the highest gravel ridge in the world, 162 metres from the surface of the sea.

Tampere, between Lake Pyhäjärvi and Lake Näsijärvi.

Picture 10. Punkaharju ridge is a ridge sequence in the length of approximately seven kilometres. The ridge was formed when the latest continental glacier started retreating. The ridge served early on as a route for woodsmen. The area is a natural reservation area managed by the Finnish Forest Association.

The 8-kilometre long Pulkkilanharju ridge, shaped by the ice age, connects two municipalities (Asikkala and Sysmä), which have the most summer cottages and summer residents in Päijänne. A part of the ridge belongs to the Päijänne National Park. The ridge is a significant observation point for migratory birds.

Pulkkilanharju. Lake Päijänne.

Suur-Saimaa is the fourth largest lake in Europe. The maze-like Suur-Saimaa has 14,850 kilometres of shoreline on the continent and the islands. This is more than twice as much as the world’s largest lake, the Caspian Sea. Lake Suur-Saimaa has 13,710 islands, the second most in the world.

Lake Puulavesi and its neighbouring Lake Kyyvesi provide a kayaking route that travels via nature reserves. In the route of more than 100 kilometres via Naarajoki River and Lake Kyyvesi to Puula, there is an opportunity for camping everywhere along the shore.

It is difficult to determine where a lake starts and ends in the Finnish Lake District. The chain of lakes continues uninterrupted for hundreds of kilometres. The three water systems in the Finnish Lake District (Vuoksi, Kymijoki and Kokemäki) include 40 closing channels and 30 open channels. At its best, the timber channel was 40,000 kilometres in the inland waters of Finland.

Ari Turunen (19.6.2018),


The Finnish Lake District

THE MOST POPULAR COMMUNITIES WITH SUMMER COTTAGES: A. Puumala, B. Mäntyharju, C. Pälkäne, D. Asikkala, E. Kangasniemi, F. Sysmä, G. Ruokolahti, H. Taipalsaari. CLOSING CHANNELS OF THE FINNISH LAKE DISTRICT:  1. Herraskoski. 2. Murole. 3. Valkeakoski. 4. Lempäälä. 5. Neituri. 6. Kuhankoski. 7. Kerkonkoski. 8. Kiesimä 9. Kolu. 10. Vaajakoski. 11. Keitele. 12. Kalkkinen. 13. Vääksy. 14. Pyhäkoski. 15. Juankoski. 16. Karjalankoski, Juankoski. 17. Ahkiolahti, Maaninka. 18. Lastukoski, Nilsiä. 19. Saarikoski, Runni. 20. Nerkoo. 21. Naapuskoski. 22. Konnus. 23. Taipale 24. Karvio, 25. Kerma, 26. Pilppa. 27. Vihovuonne. 28. Varistaipale. 29. Taivallahti. 30. Kaltimo. 31. Kuurna. 32. Joensuu. 33. Saimaan kanava

A third of Finns are interested in free-time fishing and it is easy to get a fishing permit.

In some places, even as much as 70% of the surface area in the Finnish Lake District are lakes.

There are 187,888 lakes in Finland, i.e. one lake for each two square kilometres.

More information: Finland Land of Islands and Waters. The Island Committee, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Esko Kuusisto, 2009