Multi-Day Tour | Independent

Green Forests & Blue Lakes - Journey into Finland’s Heart and Soul (9 days)

50 Degrees North

Helsingfors, Finland To Helsingfors, Finland

Valid for Departures Now Through: 30 Sep 2018

Green Forests & Blue Lakes - Journey into Finland’s Heart and Soul (9 days)

Itinerary

DAY LOCATION(S) HOTEL MEALS DESCRIPTION
Day 1
Helsingfors, Finland
Director's choise None

Helsinki - Lappeenranta: Old towns, intriguing architecture & beautiful gardens

Pick-up your hire car early morning and head east towards the town of Porvoo.

Founded nearly 800 years ago, Porvoo is the second oldest town in Finland. For centuries, it has served as both a home and a source of inspiration for many Finnish artists. Among them was Finland's national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg, whose home you can visit to experience how the everyday life was in the 1900’s.

Even though Porvoo is not exactly a coastal town, it is connected to the Gulf of Finland via the Porvoo River. Explore the old wooden town by foot, visit small charming shops and enjoy morning tea in one of the cosy cafes. Then continue your drive towards east and the town of Kotka. On the way to Kotka, you might want to visit the Langinkoski Imperial Fishing Lodge.

Continue your drive to Kotka, a picturesque town with a rich maritime tradition. Kotka is nowadays also known for it beautiful award-winning parks and gardens. Or, if you are interested in finding more about the aquatic species in Finland, visit Maretarium that pays tribute to the Finnish aquatic life.

There are a few options for visits on the way to your next destination, the town of Lappeenranta.

Arrive in Lappeenranta early evening and check-in at your hotel.

Day 2
Lappeenranta, Finland
Director's choise Breakfast

Lappeenranta: Fortress town by Lake Saimaa

Lappeenranta is one of the most beautiful summer towns in Finland, known for friendly Karelian people and the beautiful surrounds of Lake Saimaa. It has a colourful history, lying as it does on the border between two different cultures.

One of the main attractions in Lappeenranta is its Fortress. The Swedes began the fortification of Lappeenranta in 1721. Inhabited and full of life even today, the Fortress of Lappeenranta once formed a part of a defense system that also included the fortress of Suomenlinna in Helsinki and the fortress of Hamina. During these times Sweden-Finland and Russia fought against each other regularly and the Swedes and the Russians took turns in owning the Fortress. The present Fortress structures are mainly based on the fortifications built at the end of the 18th century.

Another important feature of this border city is the Saimaa Canal that opened for traffic in 1856. The canal was built between the towns of Lappeenranta and Viipuri (now Vyborg in Russia), both of them at the time in the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire. In the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940, the Karelian Isthmus and the city of Vyborg were ceded to the Soviet Union, thus effectively splitting the canal in half and ending all traffic.

In 1963 Russia leased the Russian section of the canal area to Finland for 50 years with another extension of 50 years in 2013. The length of the canal itself is 43 km. There is a height difference of 76 m between the levels of the Gulf of Finland and Lake Saimaa and there are eight locks in the canal to level this difference.

After breakfast your guide will pick-you up from your hotel for a walking tour that includes the main sights of Lappeenranta including the Fortress.

In the evening enjoy the magical light of the White Nights on a 3-hour dinner cruise that takes you along parts of the Saimaa Canal to Lake Saimaa.

If you are interested in exploring the Saimaa Canal and visit Vyborg in Russia, enquire about a full day visa-free cruise. If you want to include this cruise, we will add an extra night in Lappeenranta in the itinerary for you.

Day 3
Imatra, Finland
Director's choise Breakfast

Lappeenranta - Imatra: Stay at Art Nouveu castle

After breakfast move onto your next destination, the town of Imatra, located only 6 km away from the Russian border.

Imatra has been a popular tourism destination for over 300 years and this is mostly attributed to the spectacular rapids of the river Vuoksi. An Art Nouveau style castle, currently known as Imatran Valtionhotelli, was built near the rapids in 1903 as a hotel for visitors from the Russian Imperial capital Saint Petersburg. You will spend the night in this beautiful property.

Your guide will be waiting for you at the hotel lobby. After a short tour of this lovely Art Nouveau castle, you will continue to the Crown Park, Finland’s oldest nature reserve dating back to 1842. Learn about the Grand Duchy of Finland and the golden age of tourism in the 1800’s. Please note: there are lots of stairs on this tour.

After the tour explore Imatra and the surrounding region on your own. Pay visit to the Church of the Three Crosses designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and completed in 1957. The International DOCOMOMO organization has named it as one of the most significant examples of modern architecture in Finland. Explore the idyllic hundred-year-old residential area of Niskalampi and pop into a local museum to see how the factory workers lived in the olden days.

The village of Ruokolahti is located about a 20-minute-drive from Imatra. The Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt sketched his famous painting "Ruokolahti Women on the Church Hill" here in 1887. The church hill is a lovely spot to visit with its wooden church and a shingle-roofed belfry. You can also drop in at the local historical museum and the Ruokolahti House, a replica of a traditional Karelian country house. If you would like to visit another Art Nouveau castle, visit the Rantalinna Hotel for lunch. This castle was built by Lake Saimaa in 1913 and was the summer residence of Prince and Princess Oldenburg, part of the ruling Romanov family in Russia.

Day 4
Joensuu, Finland
Director's choise Breakfast

Imatra - Joensuu: Forests, ridges & lakes

After breakfast head towards Punkaharju. With its beautiful lake scenery, the Punkaharju Ridge has been a renowned travel destination for more than two centuries. The view of glistening lakes between the grand pine trees is one of the well-known landscapes in Finland. Finnish authors Ludwig Runeberg and Zachris Topelius both described its beauty in their works.

Your first visit will be to the Finnish Forest Museum Lusto at Punkaharju.

Around 65 per cent of Finland’s total land area is covered in forest. Not only are they source of income, but hiking in summer, cross-country skiing in winter and gathering berries and mushrooms in late summer and autumn are popular leisure activities in Finland. The Finnish concept of ‘Everyman’s Right’ means that you can walk freely in the forests regardless to whom they belong

To get a better idea of the importance of the forests to the Finnish way of life, we have arranged you a private guided tour. Your tour covers the main aspects of the exhibition followed by a 2-hour walking tour to Punkaharju Ridge and the near-by research forest, Punkaharju Arboretum with a total of 134 different species and varieties of trees. After the tour, enjoy lunch at Lusto or Hotel Punkaharju, a beautiful building representing the oldest architecture in the area.

From here your journey continues north towards the town of Joensuu, the regional capital of North Karelia founded by Czar Nicholas I of Russia in 1848.

Carelicum is a culture, museum, and tourist centre situated by the edge of the market place in the middle of Joensuu. A visit there is an excellent way of getting to know Joensuu and the region of North Karelia.

Day 5
Joensuu, Finland
Director's choise Breakfast

Joensuu: Visit Koli National Park

Today you will visit the Koli National Park, one of the most scenic areas of Northern Karelia.

There are 39 national parks in Finland and in 2017 the 40th national park will be inaugurated to celebrate the country’s 100 years of independency. The national parks are extensive nature conservation areas with the crucial task of ensuring biodiversity. But Finnish national parks have not been established only to protect nature; the goal is also to give people the opportunity to relax and enjoy nature.

If you say the words “national park” to a Finn, he immediately thinks about the view over Lake Pielinen from the top of Ukko-Koli hill. That view is Finland’s most loved national landscape, and has inspired many Finnish artists. The quest for Finnish roots and the national identity under Russian rule took people to these areas rich in Karelian poetic and singing traditions.

Painter Eero Järnefelt visited Koli several times, accompanied sometimes by composer Jean Sibelius. Järnefelt portrayed the view with his paintbrush and it is thought that Sibelius' fourth symphony was partly inspired by his trips to Koli. In addition to Järnefelt, perhaps the most famous Koli paintings have come from the brush of another Finnish painter, Pekka Halonen,

You will meet your guide at the Ukko Nature Centre for a 3-hour exploration of the Koli National park. There will be some uphill walking as the park is located347 metres above the sea level. Your guide will make sure the experience is enjoyable for you as you slowly tackle the hills of Koli (on man-made pathways). You will enjoy a snack on the way. Return to the Nature Centre where you can wander through exhibitions and watch a short film about the Koli National Park.

Drive back to Joensuu.

Day 6
Anttola, Finland
Director's choise Breakfast

Joensuu - Valamo - Anttolanhovi: Monks, wine & food

After breakfast take some time to visit the Market Place and the Artisan’s Quarter (Taitokortteli) before leaving Joensuu to continue your exploration of the lake district.

In summer the Market Place in Joensuu is buzzing with people and is the place to buy the world's best Karelian pies, a local traditional pie made of rye with a rice filling (you can learn how to make these later on the tour). The Artisan's Quarter, located in the city center, is a lively quarter of wooden houses with a variety of handicrafts shops and artisan studios. There is also a beautiful café here called Café Kauppaneuvos. Definitely worth a visit for homemade pastries and traditional Karelian delights.

Your drive continues west and to the New Valamo Monastery in Heinävesi.

About 73% of the Finns belong to the Lutheran church. Lutheranism is an official state religion as is the Orthodox Christianity with about 1% of the population belonging to the Finnish Orthodox Church. In Finland, if you belong to one of these churches, part of your taxes is turned over to them.

Most of the Orthodox Christians were located here in Karelia, in the eastern part of Finland. We have booked you a guided tour during which you will learn about the Orthodox traditions and the life at the monastery and will even be able to taste some of the wines the brotherhood produces on-site. After the tour enjoy lunch at the monastery’s restaurant, take a stroll around the beautiful grounds or just relax and enjoy the peaceful surrounds.

After Valamo you journey continues to Mikkeli and to the Wellness Village of Anttolanhovi located on the shores of Lake Saimaa. Here you will have a choice of staying at the hotel or in one of the beautiful villas with their own saunas and with direct access to the lake.

Anttolanhovi is famous for its local food: meat comes from a private small butchery, fish from local fishermen, vegetables from nearby farms and the berries and mushrooms are picked from the forests near-by. There is a spa facility on-site for relaxing treatments and walking tracks in the surrounding forests for the more active ones. You can also hire bicycles or a boat to explore the lake.

After check-in enjoy dinner at the hotel.

Day 7
Savonlinna, Finland
Director's choise Breakfast

Anttolanhovi: Relax by the lake

Today you can just enjoy the day at your own pace - book wellness treatments or go for a walk or a bike ride. Alternatively book one of these activities in advance with us.

Nature Trip to Neitvuori

Your guide will pick you up from the hotel. You will hike to Neitvuori, one of the most popular lookouts in this area offering sweeping views of Lake Saimaa with its many islands.

Paddling Tour on Lake Saimaa

Lake Saimaa´s western most part is called Luonteri and this is, where you can find the cleanest waters of the area. Luonteri is 15 km wide and 20 km long and the deepest spot is near the Matkutsaari island which is about 70 meters deep!

Karelian Pies

Karelian pies are a popular Finnish pastry originating in Karelia, the east part of Finland. Almost every visitor to a Finnish house will be served these tasty savoury pastries. In this 2.5 hour workshop you’ll lern to make these Finnish delicacies and enjoy your ‘efforts’ with tea/coffee after.

Fishing Trip

Come and experience fishing on the beautiful Lake Saimaa. Your local fishing guide will steer the boat to the finest fishing grounds in the area and share his best fishing tips. The catch is usually freshwater trout, but you may well get pike, perch, pikeperch, salmon and trout.

The trip starts from the hotel pier and includes a packed lunch. Please note that you could do this trip also in the evening due to the White Nights we enjoy in Finland. Duration about. 4 hours.

Day 8
Anttola, Finland
Director's choise Breakfast

Anttolanhovi: Visit Mikkeli and Savonlinna

Another day by the beautiful Lake Saimaa! Book one of the optional activities in advance with us or take a drive to the near-by towns of Mikkeli and/or Savonlinna.

It takes about 1.5 hours to Savonlinna from your hotel. Follow the road 62 as this is one of the most scenic routes in the area. Surrounded by the Europe’s fourth biggest lake, Lake Saimaa, Savonlinna is famous for its world-class opera festival. Make sure you visit the bustling market place and the Olavinlinna Castle. The building of Olavinlinna, castle of St. Olaf, began in 1475. The castle was built to repel Russian attacks from the east and to guarantee the control of the region for the Swedish Crown. You can also take a lake cruise on an old steamboat from Savonlinna.

Drive from Savonlinna to Mikkeli takes about 1.5 hours. Mikkeli, the Finnish Army headquarters during three different wars, is well-known especially for its military history. If you are interested in finding out more, visit the Headquarters Museum. During the World War II the headquarters were located at the Mikkeli Central Elementary School and overseen by Marshal Mannerheim and other high-ranking commanders.

On the way back to Antttolanhovi visit Kenkävero, the largest and most beautiful vicarage in all Finland. In its setting it has fine restored buildings, interesting exhibitions, exquisite handicrafts and souvenirs, delicious local food and a lovely garden with many heritage plants.

Day 9
Helsingfors, Finland
Director's choise Breakfast

Anttolanhovi - Lahti - Helsinki: Lakes & ski jumps

Your drive today will take you through the Finnish countryside to Pulkkilanharju Ridge - a set of islands linked with three bridges and offering beautiful views of the surrounding lakes. The 8-kilometre long line of islands was formed during the last ice age about 12,000 years ago.

On the way stop at the small village of Kalkkinen and visit Pihamaa Berry Farm that also produces award-winning wines made of berries. Buy some fresh produce and enjoy refreshments at the farm café.

After crossing the bridges of Pulkkilanharju, head towards the City of Lahti. If you are interested in modern architecture, visit the Sibelius Hall. This impressive wooden concert and congress centre rose on the Vesijärvi waterfront in spring 2000. According to the architects behind the building, Hannu Tikka and Kimmo Lintula, the main source of inspiration for their design was the Finnish forests. You can just drop in and enjoy lunch at the café on-site or we can arrange a private guided tour, if you interested learning more about this amazing building.

Lahti is also famous for its winter sports centre. It has hosted many national and international competitions, the next one being the 2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships organized in February-March 2017.

In the summer, you can enjoy wonderful views from the observation deck at the top of the Ski Jump tower. Take the chairlift to the jump towers or, if a ride on the chairlift is not your cup of tea, you can also reach the jump towers by car. If you want to learn more about winter sports, visit the Ski Museum on-site.

Continue to Helsinki and return your hire car.

Tour Features

Experience(s)

Experiences have not been selected at this time

Description

Taking this tour to the eastern parts of Finland is like taking a trip into the heart of Finnish identity. The Finns love their deep green forests, the rolling hills and the glittering lakes that cover most of this area. The importance of this national landscape was highlighted in Finnish art during the era of national romanticism. Painters such as Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Eero Järnefelt traveled, with great effort, throughout the country and brought these landscapes into the national consciousness. Finnish writers like Runeberg and Topelius enthused about the beauty of the region in their works.

This is also where the mythological history, in the form of songs, sung and re-sung through generations, was collected into the National Epic, the Kalevala, by Elias Lönnrot. It has been said that these mythical stories also inspired JRR Tolkien for his creation of Middle Earth. This tour also explores the Russian influences and Finland’s war history.

Day 1: Helsinki - Lappeenranta: Old towns, intriguing architecture & beautiful gardens

Day 2: Lappeenranta: Fortress town by Lake Saimaa

Day 3: Lappeenranta - Imatra : Stay at Art Nouveau castle

Day 4: Imatra - Joensuu forests, ridges & lakes

Day 5: Joensuu: Visit Koli National Park

Day 6: Joensuu - Valamo - Anttolanhovi: Monks, wine & food

Day 7: Anttolanhovi: Relax by the lake

Day 8: Anttolanhovi: Visit Mikkeli and Savonlinna

Day 9: Anttolanhovi - Lahti - Helsinki: Lakes & ski jumps

About Us

50 Degrees North is a family owned, boutique destination specialist tour operator for the Nordic region and the Scandinavian Arctic. The company’s entirely Nordic sales staff offers in-depth knowledge of all its destinations. Luxury for us means experiencing something extraordinary beyond your everyday life; immersing yourself into the local culture, nature and people and, when possible, venturing away from the well-trodden paths and into the ‘un-known’. We do things the simple and beautiful Scandinavian way. With offices in Norway, Canada and Australia, 50 Degrees North is able to provide our clients with support 24/7.

Insider Tip

50 Degrees North is an authentic and affordable option for the Nordics. We are NOT your luxury white glove operator. More details at https://www.fiftydegreesnorth.com/info-centre/virtuoso-agents

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The trademarks VIRTUOSO, the Globe Swirl Logo and SPECIALISTS IN THE ART OF TRAVEL are registered trademarks of Virtuoso, Ltd. Virtuoso, Ltd. has a U.S. copyright registration for the Globe Swirl Logo, ©2000. All rights reserved. Virtuoso CST#2069091-50. California CST# 2069091; TA# 808 - Registered Iowa Travel Agency; Washington UBI # 601 554 183. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.

Reviews and Recommendations for 50 Degrees North

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Unfamiliar

By: Igofish


Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2017

Given that 59 Deveees North is in Norway, they had no presence in Greenland whatsoever. While they were able to arrange the activities we requested, we had no single point person in Greenland. We felt on our own on a daily basis. This may have been due to a lack of personal experience with Greenland and more specifically the town where we visited. Since this is a national heritage site, I would have expected greater familiarity. However, we were able to fend for ourselves when neededttt
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Great options and fast service when needed

By: patcat


Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2017

Ours was a complex itinerary and they came through. There were a few minor stumbles and one change initiated by us...but all were handled quickly and professionally. Overall a fantastic experience!
Travel Advisor:  Colette Guterson
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Not Recommended

50 Degrees North

By: Meryl


Reviewed on: 10 Sep 2017

Did not get what we had hoped for overall on our trip to Iceland. The only part of our trip that was planned for us and we loved was at The Blue Lagoon. Did not get "guided" tours, got pick up and drop off at destinations. Planning done on own and helped put together by our agent was better than what 50 Degrees North did for us.
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Wonderful adventure

By: globetrots


Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2017

Terrific service all around offering plenty of options and information. Had to make last minute miodifications and all went smoothly.
Travel Advisor:  Kip Abbott
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Good experience

By: Jensi


Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2018

My travel agent worked directly with 50 North in planning our trip. I can say that all of our tours were professional and fun. Also, when the weather caused restrictions on some of the planned activities, the company was quick to find a suitable alternative. Everything was exactly as described to us and we had a fantastic trip!
Travel Advisor:  Ron Phillips
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Well planned, learned a lot

By: Connerss


Reviewed on: 09 Apr 2018

Hotels were very nice, tour operators were good, private guides were stellar and informative, particularly those with Mountain Guides. Would definitely use 50 Degrees North again. Only complaint was one tour operator (Artic Adventures) had buses that were so compact we all had to turn and leave our legs in the aisle, and I'm not tall. While the sites were beautiful and the tour guide knowledgeable, the long sardine-can bus ride was very difficult. Perhaps they were the only operators sending trips to our desired locations, unsure of that detail.
Travel Advisor:  Irene Quisenberry
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Trip to Finland

By: Finngirl


Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2018

I would definitely use 50 Degrees North again. They planned our trip, which was perfect. There were 4 people in our group and they had something for all of us, and we all enjoyed everything we did. Leena our tour guide was absolutely wonderful. She made the walking tour a lot fun and we learned a lot. Hotels they choose were great and I couldn't have asked for anything more.
Travel Advisor:  Rosemarie Spinney
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