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Stage four: Savonlinna to Lappeenranta to Helsinki
Savonlinna’s imposing medieval castle, Olavinlinna, is the setting for the world-class Savonlinna Opera Festival held annually in July. At least four boats cruise around the lakes from the busy harbour in summer, including the historic steamship Heinävesi. But real lake travellers should book a cabin for the ocean-going MS Brahe that will take you all the way to Helsinki about 600km away . The three-day trip wends its way through Lake Saimaa, Finland’s largest lake at 4,400sqkm, to the Karelian port of Lappeenranta near the Russian border. From there, the 43km-long Saimaa Canal, an engineering marvel with its eight locks, cuts through to the Russian town of Vyborg and out into the Gulf of Finland. Say goodbye to the lakes – from here it is two days by sea to the capital, Helsinki.

Finnish ferry tips

  • Book ahead. The summer window is brief and some routes are very popular. Sammai Travel, Finnish Silverline and MS Puijo are all reputable operators.
  • You can buy food and drink on board but it can be expensive, so consider packing a picnic. Overnight cruises include accommodation, meals and entertainment in the ticket price, and day cruises have a bar and restaurant; some boats even have a sauna
  • Most all-day ferries leave in the morning and arrive early evening, but with almost 24-hour daylight during the summer months it can be hard to tell the difference.
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© 2012 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Cruising Finland’s lakes’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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