Fall in Love with the Glistening Natural Waters and Strong Ice Cover of Lake Kallavesi
Waterways have been an essential part of life in Kuopio throughout history. Locals have always headed out on the lake, whether to go boating or fishing, or to ski. What is it that makes these lakes so fascinating?
Island hopping is easy in a city dotted with lakes
“Kuopio is known for its extensive network of lakes. You can see it clearly from a plane: Kuopio stands out as a city surrounded by lakes,” describes COO at Peeässä Ville Puustinen who enjoys boating and fishing in his free time.
A quarter of the total area of Kuopio is water, and the city has a coastline of more than 6 000 kilometres. There are a whopping two thousand islands or so in Lake Kallavesi – with several districts in the city located entirely on islands.
“Getting to a lake in Kuopio is exceptionally easy,” says Seppo Jauhiainen, Forest Administrator at the City of Kuopio.
In addition to recreation, the lakes also provide livelihood to fishers and tourism service providers. For example, Soisalo – the largest inner island in Europe – is still home to professional fishers.
Excursion harbours make independent island hopping possible
In the summertime, Lake Kallavesi is frequented by swimmers, rowers, canoeists, paddle boarders and geocachers. There are also numerous boaters, because Kallavesi has the largest network of excursion harbours in Finland.
“There are about forty city-operated excursion harbours in the Kuopio region that are all natural harbours. Most of them are located in the southern parts of Lake Kallavesi, but you can also find excursion harbours every 5–10 kilometres or so near Tahko and the area of Riistavesi-Vehmersalmi,” says Jauhiainen.
Exploring the islands has been made easy for visitors. Going ashore takes little effort, and all the basic needs of island explorers have been taken care of. The excursion harbours have places for a campfire and toilets, some also have a lean-to and a couple even have a sauna. The city supplies the firewood to the campsite for visitors to use.
In addition to excursion harbours, there are guest marinas and yacht clubs’ home bases in the region. The Pirttiniemi home base of the Kuopio Yacht Club is located in Lake Kallavesi near the city centre of Kuopio. The island bases are on Iivarinsalo and Jänissalo in Lake Suvasvesi.
“Kuopio is a boater’s paradise. The Saimaa Canal can take you all the way to the sea and you can navigate anywhere from there,” says Secretary General of the Kuopio Yacht Club Jani Kelo.
You do not even need your own boat to go island hopping, because you can choose one of the lake cruises organized by cruise companies or the hop-on hop-off city boat.
“My favourite islands are Hietasalo and Iivarinsalo, because I associate them with a great summer mood: travelling there by water, swimming and spending time together,” says orienteerer Hannu Airila.
Winter experiences on the lake bring people together
Kuopio provides excellent opportunities for outdoor winter activities on the lake, because winters here are snowy and the lakes freeze.
With its ice cover, Lake Kallavesi in the winter is an incredible experience. You can go skiing, ride a fatbike, speed across the ice on a kicksled or walk on snowshoes – all on natural ice! There are separate trails for snowmobiles. The many campfire sites near beaching spots in the lakes of Kuopio are comfortable places to get warm and eat a snack while enjoying the outdoors.
The most popular place in Kuopio for outdoor winter activities is the 12-kilometre Nordic skating, or tour skating track on the natural ice of Lake Kallavesi, which is also used in Finland Ice Marathon, an event organized in February.
“On the sunny days of late winter, an incredible number of people gather on the ice of Lake Kallavesi. They embody the essence of Kuopio: everyone from babies to the elderly are on the ice, each with their chosen means of transport,” says Airila.
Nature promotes wellbeing
The health benefits of nature are undeniable: simply spending time in nature relieves stress and lowers your heart rate. Nature provides balance in our hectic lives and exercising in nature also helps you get in better shape. Research shows that people living near water report better wellbeing – simply having a view over the water prevents depression.
“Doing something active in a peaceful natural environment is a combination that makes me feel good and helps me think. A walk in one of my favourite places, the forest trails in Neulamäki or Taivaanpankko, helps me work things out,” says Airila who often exercises in nature.
Fresh water is a rare natural resource
Many tourists are amazed by the fact that tap water is perfectly safe to drink in Finland. The lively city nestled in the lakes is also an exotic experience.
“Fresh water and the ease of experiencing the lake are some of the key tourism products of the region. Water is never far in our daily lives: fresh water runs from the tap. In the summer it sparkles in the lakes, and in the winter it forms an ice cover over them,” says Puustinen.
Kelo also thinks of the clean natural waters as a tourist draw.
“The yacht club has paid special attention to the cleanliness of the lakes. We have, for example, prepared instructions on how to clean boat hulls in an environmentally friendly way.”
Just three percent of the earth’s water is fresh, but there is no shortage of this natural resource in Kuopio.