When thinking of a nordic region for a restful break, Finland might not be the first destination that springs to mind. But actually, it should be.
If you’ve been looking for somewhere to totally switch off, immerse yourself and ground your body in nature, this is the place for you - particularly when getting there is so easy. Return fares with Finnair from London to Helsinki start at £166 in Economy Class, with direct flights from London Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh to the capital all year round.
Where we stayed
PihlasResort is a 5-star eco-luxury resort located in Lakeland in the Saimaa region of Eastern Finland. It has been designed with the intention of bringing traditional Finnish culture to life with the luxury of modern escapism. Set in the midst of nature's beauty, Philas resort is the perfect hideaway to enjoy all of the beautiful nature and intriguing sights the region has to offer.
Each morning at the PihlasResort, waking up felt like an act of self-care. As you lie in bed, you open the curtains without moving a muscle to be greeted by acres of greenery. Cleansing your body with luxurious Finnish products that promote tranquility, immersing yourself into the waterfall shower. With Woodeo Wood Bathroom Units and Carbon Neutral toilet humidifiers, attention to detail is unmatched. Plus, there's a personal sauna in your hotel cabin which is perfect to use before diving straight into the Lake Saimaa for some wild water swimming.
Philas resort offers a select number of cabins that habit one to six people. Rates start from 595€ per night.
Where we ate (and drank)
A family-owned restaurant, deli, café, and rustic farmhouse hotel are all located at Tertti Manor, where guests are welcome any time of year. Organically grown, fresh produce from the grounds is served on large traditional banquet tables for lunch at the manor. As a Nutritional Therapist, I was delighted to taste the fresh fish and salad leaves, especially after we roamed the farm grounds and saw where the food was grown. A firm understanding of the concept of "from farm to table".
Sahanlahti Resort is known for its award-winning view of Lake Saimaa and offers a small family-run restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant, the passion of local producers' products and the quality ingredients they used in their dishes is clear. A truly special offering with wine pairings for each meal, the attention to detail was incredible and the restaurant team went above and beyond to cater for allergies also - a small but incredibly important factor for those who require.
Located in a rocky cove surrounded by trees, the resort features two square buildings housing a restaurant and saunas. With offerings of small and unique, newly built cabins, guests can relax on the lake-view terraces, saunas, and restaurants within the tranquil cove. Studio Puisto Architects designed the restaurant and saunas, which were constructed by Saimaan Seudun Erikoisrakentajat Oy with a variety of dishes available, there is something suitable for all tastebuds. From the signature Burger to delicate seasonal vegetables with the same mornings catch of the day. Concluding the meal with a traditional Finnish desert - Blueberry Pie, an absolute MUST if you head to Pistohiekka Resort.
Co-owner of the resort, Anna Grotenfelt-Paunonen, has worked alongside the incredible talents of head chef Janne to truly create a culinary concept of beauty. From the breakfast experience of a four course taster selection of the finest fresh produce to the idyllic wine pairings to match your evening meal.
The ‘Breakfast Experience’ is composed of four small courses - a warm dish with bread, a cooked breakfast, a continental option followed by a sweet.
What we did
Not only was Anna the co-owner of the Philas resort, but Finland's one and only tea sommelier. An itinerary highlight was attending a Tea & Chocolate Tasting at the TeaHouse of Wehmais. Two of my favourite things combined - tea and chocolate. Combining herbal notes of tea leaves with cacao notes in different chocolate flavours. This is a perfect experience for tea and chocolate lovers…so anyone!
VIP S/S Paul Wahl Steamship
Following the renovation of the 100-year-old s/s Paul Wahl, the ship can accommodate up to six guests for two-day cruises to six-day custom charters. As a result of the renovation, the s/s Paul Wahl now offers three luxurious suites and a high-end restaurant and kitchen. Sailing through the Lake Saimaa, the steamship combines the beauty of the Finnish nature with a touch of luxury, a special evening to remember onboard which in the July month can be the beginning of a night at the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
Water Sport & Mindful Activities at PihlasResort
The Lake Saimaa is a peaceful setting. The resort offers water activities such as paddle boarding, kayaking, wild swimming and forest meditations. I practiced blank mind meditation for an hour with Philas Meditation teacher, Marianna really grounding myself and my body feeling instantly calm.
An evening at the Savonlinna Opera Festival
Once a year, at the beginning of the summer months, the Savolinna Opera Festival opens with two leading operas to be enjoyed. With tickets beginning from €69 per ticket, this was a first experience of the opera and one that will not be forgotten. Top tip, if you opt for a dressing up for the performance, ensure to pack a cardigan as the medieval castle can catch a draft at times!
It’s safe to say that there is a reason why the country is known as the happiest in the world after every experience. Since experiencing their extreme daylight hours in the summer with only three hours of darkness, I'm eager to visit again in the winter to experience the contrast of the surroundings. Whether you are looking to explore the stunning nature of the Saimaa Lake, or immerse yourself in a weekend of grounding nature - Finland is definitely the place to add to your list!
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