+358 44 794 5669 matkailu@mikkeli.fi
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Paula Okkola, entrepreneur and hostess of Okkola Holiday Cottages and restaurant Niinipuu

Locals recommend

I’m a 60-year-old passionate Lake Saimaa and Puumala lover and the proud owner of Okkola Holiday Cottages, located on Niinisaari Island in Puumala. I studied tourism and hospitality in Mikkeli, which is located about 70 kilometres from Puumala. One day I visited the home of my stablemate’s parents on Niinisaari Island and met her brother - it was love at first sight. Inspired by the unique spirit of the island and in love with my stablemate's brother, I left my permanent job and moved to Niinisaari Island to take over the family business. I’m still on the same path. 

Today, I’m running 17 cottages, activities and a restaurant and I'm grateful to have my son Aapo as a business partner. My daughter lives in Helsinki with her family. When not busy running the company, I love spending time with my two dogs, Pomppu and Hilma. 

Living on Niinisaari Island is indescribable - the close-knit community of only 40 people, the untouched nature, and the tranquil atmosphere surrounding Lake Saimaa. These elements combine to create a paradise-like environment that my guests often remark on.

My guide tips for Mikkeli region:

  1. Eat at restaurant Niinipuu in Puumala. The smoked salmon and homemade rye bread are local food at their finest. The salmon is sourced from just a few kilometres away and is smoked in the restaurant’s backyard. I bake the rye bread myself based on traditional starter dough, that is 40 years old! It is truly a taste of local heritage.
  1. Hike on a Saimaa Ringed Seal Nature Trail and visit Finland's most beautiful lean-to shelter. The 13 km Saimaa Ringed Seal hiking trail will introduce you to the diverse scenery of wonderful Lake Saimaa. As one of the selected geosites of Unesco Saimaa Geopark, the hiking trail offers you several options of trails of varied distance (2.8 km, 3 km and 4 km) and information on the region's geological history. 
    The trail winds through coniferous forests, rocky beaches and wetlands. Most of the trail is easily accessible but there are some steep cliffs which are not suitable for persons with limited mobility.  
    Why not end your hike at the newly built lean-to shelter with three campfire sites and enjoy a nice picnic by the lake? The lean-to is located next to a parking lot and also has a toilet available. Firewood is provided free of charge. The trail is suitable for all ages and is accessible all year-round.

  2. Puumala Archipelago Tour by electric bike. The 60 km Puumala Archipelago route is one of the most beautiful cycling routes in Finland. This tour takes you on a coastal route around the beautiful nature of Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland, and includes two ferry trips. You will find several beaches, bridges, causeways, Saimaa Geopark geosites and restaurants and cafes along the way. You might even spot the rare Saimaa Ringed Seal basking in the sunshine! Rent an electric bike from Saimaa Bikes. 

  3. Visit Liehtalanniemi Museum Farm. Explore what life has been like in the 20th century in the archipelago. In the old farm milieu, you’ll find sheep and chickens in the summer. 

  4. Join Karelian Pasty Workshop. In Okkola’s karelian pasty workshop you´ll discover the old art of making tasty karelian pasties! I will guide you through the knicks and knacks of baking these traditional delicacies with old family recipes.
    Visitors to the pasty workshop will also experience a genuine Finnish country home. At my home, visitors will learn about rural entrepreneurship, local flavours and genuine eastern hospitality. The pasties have all the scents and flavours to get the mouth-watering and the mood lifted. At least, try Karelian pasties if you're not able to join the workshop. 

  5. Puumala Harbour and the elevator with the views. In summertime the Puumala harbour is worth a visit. This lively spot is full of booths of local food, fresh ingredients, and handicrafts. The elevator offers a stunning panoramic view above the entire village. Pro tip: go to admire breathtaking sunset or sunrise!

  6. Hop on a seal watching cruise or story cruise by Ecoboat. The best season for seal spotting is May to the Middle of June. The cruise arrives at Okkola's harbour. On a seal watching cruise the skipper, Arto, will take you to the best places to spot the rare Saimaa Ringed Seal. He will also share fascinating stories about this enchanting creature of Lake Saimaa. 

  7. Guided paddling to Rokansaari island with Saimaa Canoeing. They say that Rokansaari island is like a paradise with its sandy beaches and magnificent nature. Experience its beauty in a sustainable way with Saimaa Canoeing, which also has a Sustainable Travel Finland-mar as a symbol of their responsibility. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, Saimaa Canoeing has something for everyone.

  8. Cottage life by local way. We Finns are passionate about cottage life. The local way of cottage life includes swimming in clear water and relaxing in the gentle heat of a sauna with a “vasta” made of birch leaves. Just chilling and sitting on the pier, listening to silence and birds singing is the meditation that every Finn needs in summer. 

  9. Visit Saimaa Unesco Geopark sites. Visit for example Loketon onkalo gorge, which is located in the Saimaa UNESCO Geopark. With its unique rock formations and lush greenery, the place delights the visitor.