Irish journalist Tara McKeown jetted north to Finland recently to explore a magical world of snow forests and saunas at Holiday Club Resorts’ Club Saimaa, just three hours from Helsinki.
The birthplace of one of the most enduring children’s stories, the Moomins, Tara found that Finland offers an enchantingly different holiday for children, worlds apart from the sand-and-spade summer break.
For her feature in Irish family/educational publication Primary Times South, “And now for some-Finn completely different…”, Tara stayed at Holiday Club Saimaa in Lappeenranta, part of leading timeshare company Holiday Club Resorts’ international portfolio.
The trip was full of surprises, as Tara reports:
“Finland encompasses all that a real family holiday should be. Set in over 700 acres of entrancing grounds, this 221-room spa hotel is packed with experiences to delight.”
Home for her family’s stay in Finland was a spacious two-bed apartment with a stylish lounge and dining area, fully equipped hi-spec kitchen, complete with a private sauna.
One of the most striking features of the suite was a large enclosed balcony to soak up the views of Finland’s largest lake without having to step outside in a coat, hat and gloves – or a massive fleece blanket.
It’s easy to work up an appetite in the crisp Finnish climate and Tara’s mornings started with “a delightful cornucopia of hot and cold dishes as well as delicious rosti and rye breads” although it was the donuts and mini waffles that went down especially well with the younger breakfast guests! Club Saimaa offers a variety of eating options from classic grilled steaks at Le Biff, a Boston-style menu at O’Leary’s sports bar, drinks and snacks in the Beatles Bar or if a three –course buffet sounds good, you’ll be tempted by The Easy Kitchen.
Normally on holiday, you’d most likely be counting calories, but with winter sports and activities waiting, fuelling up on the energy reserves ahead of a day out became a welcome and necessary treat.
First on Tara’s must-try list was the Cirque de Saimaa spa – something she describes as, “a carnival-themed aqua park complete with slides, a lazy river and kid’s igloo sauna showing cartoons. As I watched the children dance to the hourly music and light fountain shows it struck me that if Willy Wonka had built a swimming pool this would be it!”
For ultra-chill factor, Tara recommends a good few hours at the Harmony Spa Wellness centre, a haven for indulging in a host of luxurious treatments using hero spa and beauty products by Phytomer and Aromatic oils. Manicures, pedicures (and a hair salon) are also on the spa menu and if your snow-bound muscles need reviving, a traditional Finnish massage will do the trick.
Tara and her family also tried their hand at indoor bowling, skating the indoor Olympic size ice rink, and squeezed in a visit to the Angry Birds Indoor Park at Capri Shopping Centre as well.
Everyone at Holiday Club Saimaa speaks fluent English (children learn English and Swedish at school) so there are no language issues, which made things easy. Meanwhile, would-be ski bunnies can get a few practice runs in at,Myllymäki Ski Center, close by, with plenty of beginners slopes on offer.
Amazingly, Finland has over 1,200 lakes, so the region is heaven for skaters. The forest paths are “prepared” for a whole winter season of cross country skiing and skating. If that sounds too tricky, as Tara says, “hire a push sled instead – great craic!”
While parasailing above an iced Lake Saimaa (you’re pulled 70 metres into the air by a snowmobile team) might sound pretty daunting (and a little too risky for the average travel insurance plan), you could take a Snowmobile Safari on quad bikes to explore the local terrain. Meanwhile, husbands who are born fishermen can try their luck during an ice fishing trip, accompanied by an expert guide.
Saimaa Adventures, who organise the activities, have a host of sports you can take part in, and the beauty of Finland is that while in winter it’s a white magical wonderland, in summer it “goes green” – as all sorts of other sports open up, from golf (no worries about getting to the 18th hold before night falls, as it’s light so much longer up in these parts!), to hiking, sailing, walking and even Padel tennis on the hotel room.
Last but not least, something else you won’t find on a bucket and spade family holiday – the chance to see the music and light show over the Imatrankoski Rapids, just ten minutes from the club.
Read Tara’s full holiday report at:
There are flights from London Heathrow or Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport (KLM/Finnair) or to get to Finland from Ireland, Aer Lingus operates flights from Cork, Shannon or Dublin. Finland’s currency is the Euro.
Holiday Club Saimaa is part of the international shared ownership brand Holiday Club Resorts, and a member of RDO.org.
Resort: Holiday Club Saimaa, Rauha, Finland Tel: 00358 306861000