Yövesi, part of Lake Saimaa, is a child of the ice age. The many natural wonders tell about the fierce forces of glaciation during the ice age, and the exceptional rock paintings in Astuvansalmi describe our ancestors’ life thousands of years ago.
Yövesi is full of amazing natural sites and nature’s pleasures. You can open your senses to enjoy its wild mystique and tastes, for example, by joining the nature tours of Uhkua or by retreating to the peace and quiet of the atelier home Yöveden ateljeekoti.
You can see natural sites sculptured by the glaciation as well as traces of our ancestors all around Yövesi. The deepest point in Saimaa, Käenniemen kaivo, the “Käenniemi well”, is located near Suuri Riuttasaari island and has a depth of more than 86 meters. Tollonvuori, a rugged rock area, is also an impressive manifestation of the power of the glaciation during the latest ice age more than 11 500 years ago. The rock is also a Saimaa Geopark site.
By the shore of Yövesi at Astuvansalmi you will find a mystical, majestic rock that resembles a profile of a sleeping man. This godly figure must have impressed the ancient residents more than five thousand years ago. You can really feel the holiness of the place which has presumably been exactly that: a sacred place or ceremony site. More than 80 rock paintings, among which a rare female figure, “the Artemis of Astuvansalmi”, holding a bow in her hand, support this perception.
The founder and nature guide of Uhkua, Asta Aalto, takes visitors to guided paddling, boat or hike trips to enjoy the nature of Yövesi all year round.
– Yövesi lakeland is fantastic with plenty of possibilities to experience the wonders of nature. There are, for example, beautiful paddling routes along canals to lake Louhivesi. It is also easy to access the natural quiet of Yövesi. We are less than one-hour-drive away from Mikkeli, Asta says.
Uhkua’s nature tours are realised in a sustainable manner. To top it all, D.O. Saimaa Chef Ilkka Arvola prepares a delicious meal of nature’s own wild ingredients as well as local food in the bosom of nature.
Offering this kind of experience while respecting nature is a matter of the heart for both. Responsibility guides all their operations. Nature’s own flavours and the pure local ingredients play a key role in the menus.
– Saimaa's nature and gifts are precious, and we want to share them with others. You can find sustainable alternatives nearby. The forests offer berries, mushrooms, a wide variety of wild herbs and game, and we catch fish with ringed seal-friendly gear. For example, lake fish is one of the most sustainable sources of protein on the scale we use it, says Asta.
Saimaa's nature is a treasure trove that offers plenty of pleasures around food.
– When it comes to food, we haven't really invented anything new but gone back to basics, drawing from the surrounding nature. Wild food from the forest and the waters is the most authentic local food that the Finns have eaten since the beginning of time when hunter-gatherers dwelled here at Astuvansalmi, says Asta.
When you combine natural ingredients and wonderful food from local producers, you get something unique. A multi-course lunch or dinner in the heart of nature is an experience for all the senses. You are surrounded by a beautiful landscape, the sounds and smells of nature, and right before your eyes, a top chef prepares a beautiful, delicious set of dishes of ingredients from the ancient forest kitchen.
The wild food dinners of Uhkua are top level gourmet of season’s ingredients, such as fresh hors d'oeuvres of lake fish; frittata made of Asta’s and Ilkka’s own duck eggs; salad with wild herbs; velvety, creamy soup made of wild mushrooms; melting pike balls and perch rolls, and as dessert, freshly picked berries straight from the forest.
The meal is an incredible symphony of flavours from the forest, vegetable garden and the waters of Saimaa. Enjoyed together, it is also a social experience when people unknown to each other gather together around the table.
You can experience a strong connection with nature in the over hundred-year-old atmospheric atelier home Yöveden ateljeekoti in Himalansaari, Ristiina. It is a perfect place to retreat, enjoy the peace and just be.
– The nature of Yövesi with its forests is my soulscape. The stillness and calmness of this place as well as the history and culture of the region are present here, also in the atmosphere of this house, says artist and the hostess of Yöveden Ateljeekoti Katja Antonoff.
By water, the atelier home is only about a kilometer away from Astuvansalmi rock paintings. You can find signs of life from the stone age also in Himalanaari.
– The highest point of Himalansaari rises 20 meters above Saimaa's surface, so the island was the only possible place to live in Saimaa during the stone age. Later, this became a good place also for farming. You can really feel the history here, says Katja.
The atelier home organises different theme courses and events, such as painting courses and writing retreats. The place with its surrounding forests is an ideal place to immerse yourself into the flow of creativity.
– People come here precisely because of the environment and the unique peace. I recommend Yöveden Ateljeekoti above all to people who need a place to relax in the peace of nature and find their creativity.
Less than a kilometer away, there is also a 160-year-old sauna on the shore of Yövesi. It’s a perfect place to enjoy sauna and swim in the waves of Yövesi.
The sauna building is located next to a pier. People used to wait here for the inland ship, take a sauna bath and swim. It is a really old and atmospheric building.
Water is a very important element for the artist.
– I sit by the lake a lot. You get so much from just doing nothing, sitting, listening and watching. You can really feel the connection with nature here.
Find your best experiences in Yövesi.
Read more about Astuvansalmi rock paintings.