A holiday in Finnish Karelia – hilly landscapes and lively, joyful culture

North and South Karelia are famous for their hilly landscapes. The area offers a wealth of activities for nature-lovers and visitors interested in culture and history.

North and South Karelia offers some of Finland’s best national landscapes and friendly hospitality. Set out on a hike in the regions’ national parks, enjoy Karelian pasties and stew, and visit the numerous cultural attractions.

Joensuu is the regional centre of North Karelia. This city of culture is well known for its music festivals, the North Karelian Provincial Museum, which presents the region’s history, and Art Museum Onni. Visitors interested in military history should stop off at the Bunker Museum, open in summer.

Koli National Park is located close to Joensuu and is considered one of Finland’s most beautiful national parks. Take a trip to Koli National Park and climb up to the Ukko-Koli peak to enjoy the peaceful, open views of Lake Pielinen.

North Karelia has many more natural attractions. Fans of military history should visit Petkeljärvi National Park in Ilomantsi to see structures built during World War II in amongst pine forests. Visit Patvinsuo National Park in Lieksa and Ilomantsi to traverse large open marshes and enjoy the tranquillity of the wilderness in the summer or winter. Fans of water sports are sure to enjoy the white waters of the Ruunaa rapids in River Lieksanjoki.

Start your holiday in South Karelia in the regional centre, Lappeenranta, with attractions including the Lappeenranta fortifications, which nowadays mainly comprise grassy ramparts, and the South Karelia Museum, which exhibits the region’s history. It is easy to travel from Lappeenranta across the Russian border to Vyborg by taking a cruise on the Saimaa Canal.

While you are in South Karelia, visit Imatra to see the magnificent rapids of Imatrankoski. This national landscape, full of babbling water in the summer, is both an impressive sight and Finland’s oldest tourist attraction. While in Imatra, be sure to visit the Church of the Three Crosses, which was designed by Alvar Aalto.

You can fly to Joensuu airport in North Karelia or Lappeenranta airport in South Karelia. There are also train connections to Joensuu and Lappeenranta from Helsinki Airport.

Wherever you choose to take your holiday in Finnish Karelia, you can be sure that you will find tranquility in the rugged wilderness, as well as warm hospitality.


Guide to Exploring Karelia

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