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Lake Oulujarvi, located in the Kajaani region of Finland's Lakeland District, is the perfect holiday destination all year round. Called the 'Kainuu Sea', the lake is not actually a sea but the result of melting and receding glaciers. The fifth largest lake in Finland, Lake Oulujarvi is drained primarily by the Oulu River, with water regulated by the Jylhama Dam and power plant near Vaala. Because the lake possesses several long stretches of unbroken water, far enough to make the opposite shore invisible, it is easy to believe this is a true sea. Although the huge 219,183-acre lake is a tea color from run-off from the surrounding peat bogs, the water is very clean. Obviously, the fish don't mind the color, as this is one of Finland's most prized pike-fishing lakes. Fishing is not the only reason so many visitors visit Lake Oulujarvi each year, however.
Lake Oulujarvi's sandy beaches are the longest in Finland. Nearly everywhere one looks, the perfect sandy swimming beach appears. All of the towns along the lakeshore have plentiful swimming facilities, with children's beaches available in some locations. One of the favorite beach destinations is on Arjansaari Island, others on Manamansalo Island. Arjansaari has spectacular high dune banks and is a photographer's delight. Although Arjansaari must be reached by boat, both islands are favorites for swimming and sunbathing. Boating enthusiasts love the opportunities Lake Oulujarvi offers for a mid-day dip and picnic lunch. Other areas of the shoreline are rocky and very picturesque.
Although there is no scheduled ferry service on Lake Oulujarvi, a number of cruise ships and charter services make enjoying the vast lake easy. Boat and canoe rentals are located along the shoreline and in many of the 'guest harbors' created to provide services for visiting boaters. Guest harbors can be found in Sahanranta, Vaala, Ruununtorma, Saraisniemi, Teeriniemi, Martinlahti, Manamansalo, Jaalanka, Koivuniemi, and Kankari. Even with all of these boating services, the lake is still mostly empty. Two of the larger open-water stretches are typically referred to as lakes in their own right: Arjalanselka and Niskaselka. These wide-open stretches of water are favorites for sailing, wind-surfing and kite-surfing. Other water sports are engaged in with canoeing, kayaking and rowing among the most popular. Finland is a country of outdoors enthusiasts. Paddling the small inlets and bays to view the abundant wildlife is a treasured opportunity at Lake Oulujarvi.
Fishing is where Lake Oulujarvi outshines the competition. Pike, perch, zander, brown trout, landlocked salmon, whitefish, burbot, bream and roach are all caught, but pike is the acknowledged king of the fishery. Pike over 10 pounds are the norm, and catches weighing over 20 pounds are not unusual. Trolling for pike is a sport unto itself. Every year, Lake Oulujarvi hosts the European Championships in Pike Trolling, where you'll need to catch a total of more than 220 pounds of pike in order to win. Professional trolling teams train here, with trolling charters and guides ever ready to introduce the novice to the sport. Zander and burbot are also popular sport fish, and ice fishing for perch can't be beat anywhere!
Of course, a holiday isn't all about the water, and the area around Lake Oulujarvi holds a number of attractions to keep every visitor happy. A cycling trail circles much of the lake, while hiking and horseback riding paths allow for days of exploration. Much of the shoreline is open to caravan camping. In winter, these same trails can be used for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and nature viewing. At the north end of the lake, the Rokua Geopark explores the unique geology and natural habitat of the sand dunes and ridges. Two interpretive visitor centers are provided.
A few miles east of the lake, the Kainuu Highlands offer excellent ski opportunities, with ski schools, beginner slopes and family-oriented snow activities. At Vuokatti there is a ski tunnel that allows for skiing even in summer. Long ski treks to the eastern border region are common, and more difficult ski slopes for advanced skiers are lighted for evening use. Hundreds of miles of cross-country and snowshoe trails cross the hills and frozen lakes. Ski safaris traversing the taiga forests are available, and the snowmobile safaris can even take you as far as Russian Karelia. And in summer, the town of Hyrynsalmi produces their own special Global Swamp Soccer Cup, with a mud-splashing good time had by all.
Lake Oulujarvi visitors can also visit the 'Wild Taiga' with its vast nature reserves. This area, along with the adjoining protected areas in Russia, form a part of Europe's Green Belt. It is one of the best areas in Europe for spotting wild brown bear, lynx and wolf. One can arrange for bear-viewing safaris. Two information centers are there to offer guidance. In Kuhmo, between the lake and the highlands, the International Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in July is one of the biggest in Finland. A large number of the activities planned are directed to increase children's appreciation of both the arts and nature.
A central theme running throughout all of the Wild Taiga activities and cultural events is the essence of Finland's national epic poem, The Kalevala. Written in the 19th century, the Kalevala is the compilation of ancient Finnish poetry and folklore and was usually sung. Dr Elias Lonnrot spent many years compiling the oral traditions of the rural people - stories of creation, pre-history, religion, wars and family life. In collecting and editing this great work, Dr Lonnrot clarified the origins and meanings of much of the Finnish language and the history of the Finnish people. His work is recognized as one of the greatest works of Finnish literature, and the epic tales recounted are often played out in plays and dramas. The Finnish people identify strongly with the poetry of the much-beloved Kalevala and feel it defines their national identity. The Kalevala was considered instrumental in creating the climate for independence from Russia in 1917. Many opportunities to experience portions of the Kalevala are designed into the fabric of the Wild Taiga experience, a living history lesson.
Holiday accommodations at Lake Oulujarvi are plentiful. Small guest house resorts and private home and cabin rentals are common. One of the favorite locations to find holiday lodgings is on the Island of Manamansalo, connected by bridge to the main shore. The City of Vaala has several hotels and guest cottages surrounding the Sahanranta Beach. Real estate may be available as most Finnish families own a lake cabin and occasionally sell them. So come to the Kainuu Sea and experience the very essence of Finland. The sandy beaches are calling.
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