5 Great Things to do Near Mikkeli, Finland
The beautiful city of Mikkeli lies in the south west of Finland’s Lakeland region. It is a popular holiday destination for the Finns with its numerous lakes surrounding the city, and endless summer cottages and saunas by the water.
Mikkeli is located 2 hours northeast of Helsinki, and 1 hour west of Savonlinna. It is an easy destination to reach from Helsinki if you are planning to explore the southern end of Finland or continue a road trip up the east of the country.
We spent 3 days exploring the area surrounding Mikkeli. Here are 5 great places which I highly recommend visiting if you are going that way too.
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Astunvansalmi Rock Paintings
The Astunvansalmi Rock Paintings are some of the most impressive ancient paintings in all of northern Europe. Some archaeologists say they date back to 7,500 years ago. Though their age is a contentious topic.
The paintings consist of images of humans, elks, hands, boats, fish, and what is thought to be a dog. One of the most unique parts of these paintings is the shape of the women hunter, who is thought to be Tellervo, the mythic Finnish Goddess of Forests.
The Astunvansalmi Rock Panting are located high up on the rock face, about 11 meters above the present water levels of Lake Yövesi. Thousands of years ago, the water in this lake was much higher. At some point between then and now, a landslide occurred which allowed the lake to connect with the ocean and the water level dropped quite dramatically.
While it is possible to walk to the paintings, the hiking trail through the forest is poorly signposted. The easiest way to get there is by taking a 20 minute boat trip from Kallioneimi with Otto of Sun Saimaa Tours.
In addition to seeing the paintings, you get to explore the beautiful Lake Yövesi with Otto’s local knowledge of the area. Otto knowns some great places where you can stop for lunch like a secluded beach in the lake. Oh, and did I mention that Lake Yövesi is one of my top places to visit in Finland?
Ollinmaki Berry Winery
Finland doesn’t exactly have a grape growing climate, so more recently some opportunistic locals have started making wines from berries. To date there are 24 berry wineries across Finland, however the first of these was the Ollinmaki Berry Winery which is located outside of Mikkeli.
The Ollinmaki Berry Winery has been making wines and ciders from berries and fruits since 1995. Currently, they are using apple, black currant, white currant, lingonberry, and wild blueberry to make their range of wines.
The berry wines taste quite different from a conventional grape wine. Some of them I loved, others might be an acquired taste. Nevertheless, I highly suggest you sample their wines as this is a great new Finnish culture which I can see growing huge in the future.
Want to know what berry wine tastes like? You’re in luck, because the Ollinmaki Winery is open for wine tasting from 10am to 8pm on weekdays, and 10am to 6pm weekends. If you like what you taste, then you can also buy a whole bottle of their berry wine for about 10 to 15 Euro, considerably cheaper tat buying wines in Finland’s alcohol stores.
Tertti Manor Lunch Buffet
The Finns absolutely love their lunch buffets, and Tertti Manor about 8km east of Mikkeli has one of the most famous buffets in the entire country.
In recent years, Finland’s food culture has seen a push towards using local produce, and Tertti Manor does just that. All grains, berries, mushrooms, and vegetables are grown in the garden just behind the restaurant, and all other ingredients and sourced locally too.
The old wooden building at Tertti Manor has been owned by the same family since the 1890s. Inside it has been beautifully decorated with antique furniture collected from Russian traders over hundreds of years. When you enter the building it truly feels like you have stepped back in time. It’s an experience in itself that you’re unlikely to have elsewhere in Finland.
It is important to note that The Grand Summer Buffet only runs between 29th June to 11th August each year, and is served between 12pm and 4pm for lunch, and 6pm to 9pm for dinner. The buffet costs approximately 50 Euro per person, a little expensive, but well worth it. The restaurant, café, and deli remain open outside of these months also, however they just won’t be serving the summer buffet menu.
Whether or not you intend to eat at Tertti Manor, it is worth stopping by to explore the historical buildings and garden.
Repovesi National Park
The Repovesi National Park is located about 78km (1hr drive) south of Mikkeli which makes it a great day trip from the city. The dense forest has stunning blue ponds and lakes scattered right through the park, perfect for hiking, swimming, and kayaking. There are also a number of campsites and lean-to shelter where you can stop to make a barbecue out in the forest.
There are some shorter hiking trails throughout Repovesi National Park, typically up to 5km in length. The most popular trail is The Ketunlenkki “Fox Trail” which makes a circle around the scenic Lake Katajajärvi and crosses the iconic Lapinsalmi suspension bridge.
Note: the Lapinsalmi suspension bridge was recently damaged and needs to be rebuilt, it is expected to reopen in autumn of 2019.
For more information on hiring camping or boating equipment in the national park, you can visit the Repovesi National Park official website.
Day Trip to Savonlinna
Savonlinna is located about 100km (1.5hr drive) east of Mikkeli. It is a beautiful historical city, most iconic for the huge Olavinlinnna Castle. While I do suggest visiting Savonlinna for a few days and nights, it is also possible to make a day trip there from Mikkeli.
In the summer months, the start of June to end of August, a cruise around Savonlinna’s harbour on a traditional steamboat is a must do. There are three old steamboats operating the harbour; SS Punkaharju, SS Paul Wahl, and SS Savonlinna (SS denoting Steam Ship). You will know which boats they are as the name is painted on the side.
Steamboat cruises run for about 1.5hrs. They take you around the scenic Lake Saimaa where you will see many small islands with dotted summer houses and saunas. You will also cruise past the beautiful Olavinlinnna Castle, the most popular attraction in Savonlinna.
It is well worth allowing a couple of hours to go explore Olavinlinna Castle too. Besides the interesting history, the castle has lots of small winding staircases and hidden rooms over multiple levels which are like a labyrinth to figure out. We got lost in there more than once!
After all the exploring you will undoubtedly be hungry, and that is the perfect time to try Savonlinna’s local dish called Lörsty. It’s like a donut pastry filled with meat pie and then topped with a cucumber salad. Sounds weird, tastes delicious. Apparently, it’s quite difficult to find a good Lörsty anywhere outside of Savonlinna so be sure to make the most of this opportunity!
Where to Stay in Mikkeli
We spent two nights at the stunning Anttolanholvi Art & Design Villas about 25km south east of Mikkeli. The villas are located at the quiet end of a secluded waterway branching off from the scenic Saimaa Lakes. The villas are surrounded by views of pine forests and quiet lakes, it’s the perfect Finnish nature escape.
Each villa has its own sauna, as you’d expect. A stunning boardwalk leads from the house down to the lake where you can jump in for a swim at any time of the day (summer months recommended). Check out Anttolanholvi Art & Design Villa on Agoda for availability and pricing.
Of course, there are more budget friendly accommodation options in town (see the latest deals on Agoda) or private summer cabins for rent by the water through Airbnb.
Disclaimer: We visited Mikkeli as part of a partnership with Visit Saimaa, the regional tourism board across the Saimaa Lakes region (Savonlinna, Mikkeli, and Varkaus). As always, you can trust me when I say that all opinions are my own.