Saimaa Holiday - Winner 2010

Winner in the Aquatic Tourism category

Finland is often referred to as 'The Land of a Thousand Lakes' because of its infinite number of lakes and rivers.

Saimaa Holiday is located in the middle of the Saimaa Lake system, which is close to the municipalities of Savonlinna and Rantasalmi.

With a size of approximately 4,400 sq km,Saimaa Lake is the largest lake in Finland and the 4th largest in Europe.

It offers a vast range of possibilities for active holidays, such as rowing, canoeing, ice-skating, ice-fishing, and horseback riding, while at the same time offering a relaxing and peaceful break with the still waters of the lakes.

The locals take pride in their region and its natural beauty. Therefore, they are active in contributing to developing a long-term plan to sustain the habitat and ensuring its health and beauty.

Experienced tour-guides who accompany visitors on the exploration tours or during fishing safaris are always eager to share and pass on the values of the community to the visitors.

What make Saimaa Holiday special?

The beauty and purity of the lake system is a clear asset to this destination, but the strong local tradition and cuisine are also an important part of what makes the area so special.

The local cuisine is praised for its freshness and exquisite taste, based on regional delicacies and tradition. Among the most popular specialties is sweet water fish and vendace (local fish) baked in rye bread.

Sightseeing tips

  • Take part in the seal-watching tour at the National Park Linnansaari.
  • Take a fishing safari trip.
  • Relax at one of the Finnish saunas. Jumping in to the lake to refresh afterwards is a crucial part of this unforgettable experience.

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Wild Taiga - Winner 2008

Winner in the Tourism and Local Intangible Heritage category

Kuhmo-Suomussalmi, or Wild Taiga, lies at Finland’s easternmost border with Russia, in the Kainuu region.

Its location in the westernmost part of the Eurasian Taiga forest area makes it an enchanting place featuring green coniferous forests, esker valleys formed in the ice age, clear waters and rich wild animal stock.

This local landscape has been captured in many famous Finnish paintings.

Its location has also made the area a place of historically significant battle fields. The Finnish national epic Kalevala , compiled by Elias Lonnrot from ancient oral poetry, is the brightest gem of the unique cultural background. It owes its existence to the folklore collected from the region, in particular from the Viena-Karelian oral tradition.

Building on small family-owned enterprises, Wild Taiga is a marketing association promoting the local way of life of its inhabitants, its traditions and products as well as bringing nature closer to the people.

What makes the Wild Taiga special?

The vast nature reserves in the region, together with the protected areas of neighbouring Russia, form a part of Europe’s Green Belt.

This wilderness offers possibilities for wildlife watching and photographing, and makes it one of the best areas in Europe for spotting wild brown bear, lynx and wolf.

Two information centres are there to guide people through this wildlife – Petola and Hossa. Midnight sun even makes wildlife watching possible throughout the night in the summertime.

There is an endless string of outdoor activities on offer, from horseback riding and fishing, to hiking and kayaking.

Crisp autumn days are the season for mushroom and berry picking. And, for more challenging activities, the Hossa hiking area offers 100km of marked trails along the Russian border.

This border region between Finland and Russia is a crossroads and a place of significant battlefields such as the Finnish Winter War in 1939-40. The war history is presented in large exhibitions at the Gateway to Raate, and with pictures of restored trenches, fortifications and memorials at the Winter War Museum.

The Kalevala Spirit Experience Park is a new attraction where visitors can acquaint themselves with Kalevala and its culture in many ways.

A rich cultural background accompanied with a special relationship with nature are key characteristics of the area. The Juminkeko Foundation, as well as several interesting events, demonstrate these characteristics and show how the Kalevala spirit and history has been kept alive.

The traditional food of Kainuu is a result of influences from centuries of eastern and western food culture. The wild mushrooms, berries, fish and game meat are served by local restaurants and add a unique flavour to the dishes.

The orthodox buffet is an example of the cuisine from the border region of Karelia which is characterised by braised and oven-roasted dishes. Local cuisine follows the seasons and uses seasonal produce. It respects traditions in an innovative fashion. Local fish from lakes, meat dishes, a variety of pies and pastries and mushroom dishes are served at the buffet. Desserts include oven baked cheese with forest berries and curd pastries. Tourists can learn to make traditional Karelian pies.

Events and festivals

The biggest event of the year in Kuhmo is the International Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival. Held since 1970, the festival is today one of the biggest in Finland. Concerts, music and dance courses, guided nature treks, boat trips, and athletics specially designed for children animate the month of July (which is dubbed 'Jolly July').

The region also hosts other festive events such as Sommelo, the International Ethnic Music Festival and the World Championship of Berry Picking.

At Christmas time, visitors can enjoy the atmosphere of Finnish Christmas with scents, candles, music and snow. The fortress-like Pohjola house compound with its idyllic yard and traditional log buildings creates an ambiance reminiscent of a Christmas fairytale.

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