There are so many amazing places to visit in Finland from the capital city to Lapland to the north. This guide focuses on Finnish Lakeland and the spectacular places that exist there. These are seven villages in Finnish Lakeland you need to know about.
I recently visited Finnish Lakeland (Lahti and Tampere) and was blown away by the region. Thanks so much, Josh, for this guest post on a region I’m so stoked on right now!
7 Villages in Finnish Lakeland You Need to Know About
Finnish Lakeland is a region characterized by expansive lakes which stretch onto the horizon like the ocean, scenic hiking trails winding their way through tranquil forests, and thousands of beautiful summer cottages equipped with traditional wood-fired saunas.
In the summer months, the forest floor will be carpeted by wild blueberries so thick that you’d simply never be able to eat them all, and sunsets so late that it never really gets dark.
These are just a few things that come to mind when I imagine Finnish Lakeland.
Josh Shephard from The Lost Passport explored Finnish Lakeland for just over one week as part of his Finnish Summer Road Trip. Here are seven small villages in Finnish Lakeland which he visited and quickly realized that he’d never want to leave this stunning part of the world.
Where is Finnish Lakeland?
Finnish Lakeland is a huge area starting about 100km north of Helsinki, stretching from Tampere in the west to Joensuu in the east, and Hämeenlinna in the south to Kajaani in the north.
These 7 villages in Finnish Lakeland are all located in the Central Finland region. They are not large cities, but smaller villages where you can experience a local Finnish vibe. It is easy to drive from one to another, and possible to visit all villages with one week in southern Finland.
Heading north from Helsinki towards Jyvaskyla, I suggest taking the Asikkala-Sysma-Leivonmaki route. This is one of the most scenic roads in all of Finland. This scenic country road somehow finds its way through the myriad of lakes, along impossibly narrow ridges, and passing endless small coves and freshwater beaches.
One of the most scenic parts of the drive is Pulkkilanharju Ridge, a stunning narrow stretch of land rising out of the water between Lake Kajaanselkä and Lake Päijänne. Pulkkilanharju Ridge is located about 15 kilometers north of Asikkala’s town center and is one of my top places to visit in Finland!
There is a nice little picnic area located midway along the ridge. First, find the small coffee shop along the side of the road, the head down the stairs to the shore.
Note from Megan: If you’re in Asikkala, don’t miss the amazing Lehmonkarki Resort. I recently stayed there and it was one of my favorite experiences to date.
Venturing further north you will come across the small village of Leivonmaki. From there you want to make the short trip to the beautiful Leivonmaki National Park. The national park is located 3.5km from town in a direct line, but you will need to drive around Lake Rutajärvi to get there, making the drive about 12 kilometers.
Out of the eight national parks I had visited in Finland, Leivonmaki was the most impressive.
The Leivonmaki National Park has a handful of hiking trails varying in distance from 4.5 kilometers to 22 kilometers. Probably the most scenic walk is the 7.5km long Esker Trail.
A narrow path winds its way through the birch forest, around small coves where the forest reflects in the water with mirror-like clarity, and finally to the end of the stunning Joutsniemi Ridge.
For the intrepid traveler, there are some great secluded campgrounds scattered throughout the national park right by the water. You will need to bring all your own camping gear and plenty of mosquito spray.
You’re unlikely to find the tiny village of Luhanka in any other guides, this is a really local Finnish village in the heart of Lakeland. With just over 700 people, this is one of the smallest villages in all of mainland Finland.
Due to the lack of accommodation, you will probably only pass through Luhanka on the way to other destinations like Leivonmaki. However, if you do stop in Luhanka, you will discover a beautiful local café/bar along the roadside, which in typical Finnish style serves a buffet lunch. They have pints of Karhu Beer on tap, and plenty of hot black filter coffee ready to go. It couldn’t get any more Finnish.
Head up the hill from the eatery and you will find the impressively huge wooden Luhanka Church looking down over the village.
Down the road, there is a quiet swimming spot where locals laze back in the sun enjoy the slow country lifestyle along Lake Päijänne. Look out across the water and you will see lots of small islands dotted throughout the lake, each with a few secluded summer cottages. The true Finnish escape.
The town of Suolahti is located along the shores of the great Lake Keitele, one of the largest lakes in all of Finland. It’s a fairly off the radar destination for international travelers, but well-loved by Finns for its great fishing and thousands of beautiful summer cottages.
Nearby the boat pier in Suolahti is a great outdoor restaurant/bar called Ravintola Majakka. The restaurant gets busy on a sunny day for lunch with lots of Finns enjoying their version of pub food along with a cold glass of Karhu Beer.
Across the lake from Suolahti’s town center, you will find lots of summer cottages by the water. We stayed a few nights in one of the wooden cabins at Vonkale Accommodation. They have a traditional Finnish smoke sauna, and a wood-fired hot tub with an amazing view looking out over the lake.
Antti, the owner of Vonkale Accommodation, runs fishing tours around Lake Keitele. He knows exactly how to catch the best fish, by choosing the right location, time of day and even the right fishing hooks!
Sumiainen is a nice small village which uses the “Small is beautiful” as their official motto. It is a 17-kilometer drive from Suolahti, wedged between the waters of Lake Sumiainen and Lake Keitele.
There is a small serviced camping ground as you drive into Sumiainen from the south, which is conveniently called Sumiainen Camping Grounds. Here, you will find a small shop with snacks, beers, and of course coffee.
There are quite a few camping spots available, some basic cabins, and of course a wood-fired sauna located right along the water. Even if you don’t stay at the Sumiainen Camping Ground overnight, you can enjoy swimming in the lake and sunbaking on the boardwalk.
There is another popular swimming spot right by the town center of Sumiainen in Lake Keitele. Here you will see lots of small islands scattered throughout the lake which you can kayak to on a nice day. There are a supermarket and a couple of cafes nearby in the town center.
The historical village of Petäjävesi is located 32 kilometers west of Jyvaskyla. The village is most famous for the Petäjävesi Old Wooden Church, one of Finland’s 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites. The church was built by peasants back in 1763 and is still used today throughout the spring and summer.
There is no electricity or heating inside the church, so it is not used by locals in the winter. Nevertheless, with a warm jacket on you can still visit all year round.
You can easily walk the scenic area around the church. To the north of the church, you will find the small lake called Jämsänvesi which flows around to the main part of town.
To the west of the church, you will find Lemettilä Farm which has a series of traditional wooden Finnish barns also dating back to the mid-1800s. The buildings have more recently been converted into a guesthouse and restaurant.
Keuruu is another historical town in Finnish Lakeland located about 27 kilometers west of Petäjävesi. It is impossible to miss the huge Old Church of Keuruu as you drive along the highway heading west.
Like many old Finnish buildings, this huge red church is made almost entirely of wood. You can explore inside the church from 11am to 4pm daily.
While it is easy to find the old church, many visitors may not notice the area known as the Old Refectory located on the southern side of the highway. Here, a collection of old wooden buildings has been nicely restored into shops with local crafts, produce, clothing, and souvenirs.
The most memorable building in the Old Refectory is the Ravintola Pappilan Pidot which serves up an incredible summer lunch buffet. You can enjoy lots of traditional Finnish foods like Kaalikaaryleet (baked cabbage rolls), Dark Rye Bread, and Finnish Rice Pudding for dessert.
As per usual, unlimited Finnish coffee is included to help you carry on with the drive to your next destination.
These 7 villages around Finland’s Lakeland region are located away from major town centers. Getting to most of these with public transport would be quite tough. The easiest way to get around is by renting a car in Helsinki or Jyväskylä.
Rental cars can quickly add up to be the most expensive part of the trip, so this useful article compares the cost of rental cars at Helsinki airport from the five major companies, and ultimately how to save a load of cash on your trip.
What was your favorite village in Finnish Lakeland, we’d love to hear your thoughts!