Lakes – thousands of lakes – are a ubiquitous feature of Finland, especially the south, and they range from sea-like expanses such as Saimaa, one of the largest lakes in Europe, to humble tarns. And it’s especially around lakes that Finns immerse themselves in nature, turn on, tune in and drop off if not out. A Finnish hotel is almost nothing without a sauna and the best have fully fledged family-friendly spas with treatments, tubs and therapies along with regular pools. Here’s our pick of the best lake spas in Finland.
In the spruce forests above Pielinen Lake at Koli National Park, the Break Soros has seemingly endless panoramic views of this celebrated waterway. Ski slopes start right outside, while myriad hiking trails vein the hillsides. Saunas range from hot Finnish to relatively tepid steam rooms, and you’re almost spoilt for outdoor pools (some heated), plus hot tubs. There’s even a rather groovy sounding “aromatic shower with light and sound”. Rooms and suites have a pared-down decor with sober furniture, though some have snazzy underlit beds.
This former saw mill comprises a weatherboard house-hotel along with rustic holiday cabins and even a converted barn. Three restaurants range from fine-dining in the original mansion to summer dining on a lakeside jetty-terrace and a cosy lodge with an open fire. Locally produced (or, in the case of salmon, fished) ingredients are the norm here. The saunas are either electric or smoke, but the Sahanlahti also offers a minimalist wood-burning beach sauna and an ‘ice sauna’ built with frozen blocks of lake water.
Hotel Anttolanhovi has accommodation ranging from big-window lakeside villas with private saunas and beachfronts to polished Scandi-style rooms and hammock-like tree tents suspended among the pines. Log saunas come with fireplaces and tables for affable get-togethers, while the pools have exercise classes led by on-screen virtual instructors. Spa treatments embrace peat baths, hot stones, algae clay wraps and something called a frost experience. The Nordic Forest Experience includes an all-important glass of sparkling wine.
Far up north in Rovaniemi, the Arctic Forest Spa at the SantaPark Arctic World resort (which also includes the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel) provides traditional sauna treatments in the heart of the arctic forest. The spa has three different saunas: the traditional sauna, a smoke sauna and a modern infrared sauna. It also has a hot tub for relaxing while watching the night sky or the Northern Lights. In the sauna lounge, a homey wooden cabin, you can enjoy a post-sauna meal next to a cosy fireplace, ideal for warming up in the Arctic winter.
Imatra is a spa resort that caters more to families – with relaxing spa treatments, a family pool and sports facilities. The waterslides and waterfalls of the tropical-themed pool areas are highly appealing to children, while parents can enjoy the water-massage spouts or the privacy of the spa with treatments such as massages, herbal baths, hot stone treatments and facials.
The Järvisydän, in the heart of Finnish lakeland, was once an inn servicing a track linking Russia and Sweden. Today this 11th-generation family-run property is an eco-tourist, rustic-chic heaven built entirely from natural stone and once-sunken logs, and heated by geothermal and solar energy. The hangar-sized spa includes five saunas and six hot and cold pools yet still resembles a giant exotic log cabin, and there’s everything from a yoga loft to myriad therapies and massages.
Kaisankoti is located in a sublime former manor house near Espoo, a short drive from Helsinki. It was founded by Kaisa Kallio, the wife of a former Finnish president, as a rejuvenating countryside escape from the capital. The manor is still managed by the Kaisa Kallio Foundation to provide a luxury break for city residents to de-stress with high-class restaurants, beautifully manicured grounds, and a spa centre.
From certain angles and especially the lake, the Kalevela resembles a Norse fantasy fortress though it was actually built in 1989 and is now a protected building. Close to the town of Kuhmo in central Finland, rooms are relatively plain and simply furnished – certainly nothing like the exotic exterior – and you can expect all the usual saunas and hot tubs, both outdoor and herbal. There’s also a comprehensive line of ‘folklore treatments’ involving peat poultices, bog toners, salt and whisking, hot chocolate and the rather intimidating ‘bamboo stick massage with herbs’. Be brave.
On the edge of Kuopio, in south-central Finland, the Rauhalahti is hardly isolated, so this probably isn’t the spot for a back-to-nature immersion. It’s more like a family-oriented holiday resort with wall climbing, badminton and bowling, while the 10 pools cover fitness and hydro-massage routines, children’s waterslides and character-building 7C (44F) outdoor tubs. Club Sauna can pack in 20 people and there’s a panoply of massages, facials and beauty treatments such as pedicures and eyelash tinting. Accommodation ranges from modern rooms to apartments and motel-like studios.
In central Finland’s pine-dominated Rokua National Park (also a geopark), the isolated Rokua Health & Spa stands beside a small lake. It’s a modern low-rise building not particularly sympathetic to the surrounding forests but neither an eyesore. It’s a notably holistic and family-oriented place: activities encompass boxing, kettlebells and aqua-jogging plus team-building games along with spa-centric peat baths, hot stone massages and the usual facials. Children will be occupied all day here with swings, sand pots, bikes, boats and a lake-orbiting adventure playground.