Geopark is a unified area that has scientifically significant geological sites. In addition to geology, geoparks also offer interesting natural and historical sites.
Geoparks are a growing trend in nature tourism and have become a popular way to explore geological sites. The aim of geoparks is to educate and protect the geological and cultural heritage of the area. Operating under the protection of UNESCO, geoparks are committed to develop a more sustainable model of tourism.
In Finland, geoparks at Rokua and Laihavuori-Hämeenkangas are both part of the official Global Geoparks Network (GGN). Offering sustainable and responsible means of tourism together with local partners, Saimaa Geopark is in the process of becoming a member of the network as well.
Saimaa Geopark offers various different ways to explore the geological heritage of Saimaa including hiking, kayaking or biking. The cities in Saimaa region also offer many important historical sites and buildings that are definitely worth the visit.
Experience Saimaa’s Geological Sites – Kayak/Canoe Renting in Lappeenranta
There is no better way to experience Saimaa’s geological treasures than by water. Canoes and kayaks are available from DrakkarSport (drakkarsport.com), which is located at the tourist information point at Lappeenranta Sandcastle near the city’s historical fortress. SUP boards, rowing boats, electric bikes and mountain bikes are also available for rent.
The friendly staff at Sandcastle will help you choose the right gear and give you tips about how to navigate to Saimaa’s geological sites.
Saimaa offers kayaking and canoeing trails for every experience level. Whether you want to explore the geological sites around Lappeenranta or plan an overnight trip kayaking around Saimaa, the friendly staff at Sandcastle will help you plan your ultimate Geopark experience.
Kayaking to Geosites: Karhusaari
Karhusaari lies just under 1 km from Lappeenranta and is one of the closest geosites to explore when in the area. During the summer, it’s easily reachable by kayak or boat and during the winter by ice skating or skiing (of course weather/ice thickness permitting).
Before going ashore in Karhusaari, paddle around the island to explore the rocky cliffs and shores.
Karhusaari is an island mainly covered by rock, mica gneiss with parts of granite to be specific. As a geosite, visitors can discover many traces of glacial plucking and interesting rock shapes that have been formed over thousands of years.
There is a jetty on the southern tip of the island, which makes it easy to dock whether coming by boat, canoe or kayak.
The island has a barbecue hut which makes a perfect place to relax and have some snacks while enjoying the view of Saimaa’s beautiful scenery.
Karhusaari hasn’t only been a popular destination due to its’ geological gems. During the 1940s and 1950s, Karhusaari had a popular dance pavilion that attracted crowds from Lappeenranta and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the pavilion was destroyed by fire in the 1970s.
Saimaarium – Saimaa Nature and Science Center
Learn more about Saimaa region and its’ environmental complexity at Saimaarium Nature and Science Center. Saimaarium also provides all the information you need to know before your visit to different geosites in Saimaa Geopark.
Located right by the Lappeenranta Fortress, Saimaarium’s goal is to promote environmental awareness and sustainable solutions to maintain the viability of our planet. The exhibition allows you to discover Saimaa’s rich underwater ecosystems as well as the success stories of Saimaa and the famous endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal. You will also get to experience Saimaa from a bird’s-eye view with VR headsets provided at the exhibition.
After the exhibition, make sure to visit Saimaarium’s gift shop featuring books about the Saimaa region along with beautiful merchandise produced with recycled materials.
By Kaisa Suojanen