Imagine a place so serenely quiet and peaceful, where the only sounds you hear are of birds tweeting, and the falling of melting ice from nearby trees. At night, where you can gaze at the stars accompanied by the calming call of an owl, or the quiet cracking of a nearby frozen lake as its ice layer thaws. Welcome to a Finland winter in the heart of the Finnish Lakeland.
The Finnish Lakeland is probably best known for its popularity during the Finnish ‘midsummer’, where the days are long and the sun starts rising almost immediately after it sets. But after our recent experience in February, we discovered the Finnish Lakeland is equally as charming in winter!
Following a wonderful few days spent in the heart of the Finnish Lakeland last summer, we wanted to return to experience winter time in this beautiful place. Having experienced fishing under the midnight sun, we couldn’t wait to get out onto a frozen version of the lake to try another new experience, ice fishing!
And so for the first time, we drilled our holes in the ice and set up position with our rods and bait…unfortunately though, it wasn’t exactly the best weather day for it. Okay that’s probably quite an understatement, it was windy and freezing!
We’d come prepared with our various layers on, but even our veteran local guide was finding the conditions a little rough (and advised us that it’s not normally like this!) so unsurprisingly it wasn’t too long before we all called it a day and retreated to our cosy cottage fire and heated the sauna!
It wouldn’t be a typically Finnish cottage without a deliciously warm sauna attached to it, and so, during our 4-day stay in Rock and Lake‘s lovely ‘Lempi’ cottage by Lake Soukkio, we made the most of our sauna and hot tub! All we needed was lots of firewood (of which there is plenty in the forested Lakeland, handily provided in our own wood shed) and we were off!
Saunas are hugely popular in Finland (apparently there are approx. 2 million, for a population of 5.3 million!) and after a day of ice fishing we started to understand why! Saunas are not just a way a life, but rather a meditative experience for Finnish people. The whole process, from gathering the wood and feeding the burner, to slowly letting it work its magic, is actually part of daily life here. This is something we could sure get used to! The process of heating a sauna is calming and shouldn’t be hurried, patience is the key! And so, as our boots hung to dry, and our fingers warmed up over our wood fire, we waited as our sauna heated up.
Undeterred by our previous day’s ice fishing experience, we decided to venture out again! This time, with some local experts to witness their unique technique of fishing in winter. I never thought I’d describe fishing as exciting but it really was!
Holding tight onto our wooden trailer, we were towed out onto the centre of the frozen lake. This was going to be fun!
After a few minutes zooming across the frozen lake, we jumped out of our trailer and joined our local fisherman to learn and watch as they expertly demonstrated their unique ice fishing technique.
With no official name, we’ll call it the large under-ice net technique! Catchy, I know.
The technique looked fairly complicated to us, but somehow they manage to connect a huge net between two holes in the ice (using a special device that propels the rope under the ice). This net is then left for a day or two before being pulled out through one of the small holes, with the hope of being accompanied by a few fish!
We were fascinated by it and watched eagerly as our local expert fisherman went about their routine of drawing in their previously set up nets to check for catches. Despite the cold weather, it was inspiring to watch locals utilising a traditional fishing technique in the heart of the Finnish lakeland.
We watched excitedly as our local fisherman pulled out their first catch, then the second…third, and then what ended up being several catches that day! From pikes to capers, they must have caught around a dozen fish, and certainly enough to feed their family for a couple of days, which was their main goal. It’s illegal to sell fish without the right permits in Finland, so most locals fish solely for their own family’s consumption.
It was clear that this wasn’t an easy process and took real determination and hard work to maintain the nets, which can get tangled very easily! As a result, the fishermen need to visit them regularly to check on the positioning of the nets. Unfortunately this is an ancient technique which is fading out of use in the area, despite the fact it seemed extremely successful!
So after a cold day on icy Lake Kyyvasi, it was time to try another Finnish winter tradition…BBQ!
Getting cosy in a BBQ hut and toasting sausages over a hot fire is another popular activity we could get used to! This experience was made particularly special by the fact that we were surrounded by beautiful 360 degree views of the heart of Lake Soukkio, in Rock and Lake’s ‘Tiilikka’ holiday cottage. What an amazing way to enjoy the frozen views whilst keeping warm and cosy!
Of course we didn’t visit Finland in winter just for some fishing, saunas and BBQs, but also to hunt down the magical northern lights! Sadly, they turned out to be much more elusive than anticipated and we didn’t get lucky with our timing, but thankfully the night sky didn’t disappoint completely. As the clouds cleared in the evenings, we were able to admire the peace and natural beauty of the wonderful array of stars.
You won’t find much light pollution here in the Finnish lakeland, and so the night sky is often an array of beautiful night stars and, as we were told, often a wonderful spot for admiring the aurora borealis (we were just unlucky this time!). However despite the fact we didn’t get to admire the amazing northern lights, we enjoyed these wonderful moments of beauty.
Another fun activity popular in Finland winter time, is good old-fashioned kicksledding. It’s pretty simple, get wrapped up warm, grab a sled and enjoy riding around the smooth frozen lakes of the region. We had great fun trying this for the first time on Lake Soukkio!
However if this all sounds a little too energetic, there are many beautiful walks to choose from around the area. From short walks around the beautiful Rock and Lake cottage area to longer hikes where you’ll need a map, there’s plenty to choose from. Just remember to bring your snow boots!
It’s safe to say that we loved our four days spent in the heart of the Finnish Lakeland, and can now recommend this as a relaxing winter or summer holiday destination!
Planning Your Trip to the Finnish Lakeland…
Rock and lake currently offer around 30 different cottages for rental in and around the Finnish Lakeland area so we highly recommend them as your first stop to finding your idyllic lakeside spot! During our recent winter visit, we stayed in cottage ‘Lempi’ close to the shores of Lake Soukkio. It was a beautiful setting, particularly due its extremely close proximity to the lakeside complete with a hot tub/jacuzzi, sauna and 2 open fires. With 4 bedrooms, it also comfortably sleeps 9 people and has the added advantage of disabled access (which is uncommon for most lakeside cottages). For more specific information however, have a look at the Rock and Lake website.
As we’ve mentioned, there are lots of activities that can be arranged through Rock and Lake, including:
- Fishing – of all kinds and across all seasons!
- Walks & ‘kicksledding’
- Hunting the Northern Lights
- Bird watching & evening owl excursions – this part of the lakeland (Pukkiselkä nature reserve) is in an area of special significance hosting rare species of bird, so if this is what you’re into, you’ll find more information here.
- And of course there’s always just relaxing by the log fire, sauna or hot tub (our favourite activities)!
Is it easy to get here?
The short answer is yes! From Helsinki, it is a straightforward 3-4 hours drive to the Rock and Lake cottages. The directions provided by host Jenni for the last section of the drive were great and brought us directly to the cottages with no issues.
We opted to take a hire car and found it very easy to drive around due to the quiet roads. We found drivers to be patient and the roads were clearly sign-posted with speed limits. There were also plenty of service stations to make stops and buy groceries for the cottage (ABC stores are open 24/7!). You can also hire an automatic car if you aren’t confident in driving on the right hand side of the road.
More Information Required?
The Finnish Tourism Board, Visit Finland are a wonderful source of knowledge on all types of travel to Finland and a friendly bunch to get in contact with too!
Note: We were guests of ‘Rock and Lake‘ in conjunction with ‘Visit Finland‘, however all views expressed in this article are our own and this is an honest account of our experience. You can read our other Finland articles here.