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Lake Pielinen, in Finland's Lakeland District, is a well-known vacation getaway to native Finns. The huge lake is dotted with islands, one of which is inhabited. Less than 15 miles from the Russian border, the clear waters of Lake Pielinen provide a wide variety of outdoor activities to the many seasonal residents and visitors who come here. The fourth largest lake in Finland, Lake Pielinen is one of the most famous fishing destinations in the country. Even in the District that brags of 1,000 lakes, Lake Pielinen is famous for the number of different species of fish that call the beautiful lake home. Much of Finnish culture revolves around boating, fishing and lakes, and a great many of the annual visitors come to troll the pristine waters for their favorite prey.
A bit over 300 miles north of Helsinki, Lake Pielinen is surrounded by majestic hills clothed in pine forests. This wilderness appearance extends to the 380 miles of shoreline, where cliffs and beaches appear surprisingly from clearings in the forests. A number of seasonal cabins and year-round homes nestle unobtrusively among the rocks and trees. Several towns and small cities lie along the lakeshore; a bridge connects the highway to inhabited Paalasmaa Island. Other islands are reached by boat. In summer, a car ferry connects Lieksa on the eastern shoreline with Koli National Park on the west. In the winter, an ice road is laid out for passage by car. Sightseeing lake cruises are available during the warmer months.
Several guest harbors are located around the lake for the convenience of visiting boaters. Marinas provide fuel, supplies, repairs and boat rentals. Most towns have swim beaches and picnicking areas. It is little problem for visiting boaters to stop off anywhere along the shore as long as it is not someone's private yard; Everyman's Right guarantees every person the right to use the vast majority of property for non-destructive purposes. Although water skiers and jet skiers occasionally skim across the water, much of the lake is usually deserted except for fishing boats. The long reaches of the main lake are attractive to sailors, but they need to be aware that strong winds come up quickly. Canoeing, kayaking and rowing are popular in the many coves and bays, although some experienced rowers do venture out away from shore in the remarkably sturdy and seaworthy wooden boats Finland is known for.
It is fishing however, that Lake Pielinen is famous for. Pike, zander, perch, landlocked salmon, brown trout, burbot, whitefish, bream, roach and ide are caught. The salmon is stocked as fingerlings, since native stocks having died out. A few grayling are found in the lake, but are currently protected. Trolling the large open stretches of water is a preferred method of fishing. Several charter fishing services offer trolling expeditions. There are numerous extensive rocky shallows in Lake Pielinen which are excellent for pike. In winter, ice fishing becomes the favored pastime. Often ice fishermen reach their favorite spot via snowmobile, but a few individuals still use the old Scandinavian method of ice transportation, the kick sled. This ancient design resembles a dogsled minus the dogs. Instead, the sled pilot rides the runners and uses one foot to power it ahead.
The area around Lake Pielinen is supplied with many trails for hiking, horseback riding, cycling, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. 'Safaris' can be arranged for trekking by snowmobile or dogsled. Larger towns usually have fitness centers and often indoor pools for these who don't wish to indulge in the popular 'ice swimming' (there are special facilities for that, too). Golf courses are located in several spots around the lake. The City of Juuka is known as the Stone Roller's Village, because a film of the same name was made there. Juuka is known for soapstone, which is used for fireplaces and as building material. In the Tulikivi Village one can learn how the soapstone is shaped, learn about soapstone products, and visit a soapstone museum. Pottery and soapstone ware are very popular souvenirs and can be bought all around Juuka. Just south of Juuka, the Koli National Park is a favorite destination in all seasons. Rising over 800 feet above the surface of Lake Pielinen, the Koli hilltops make a splendid spot to admire the beautiful mid-lake waters and islands.
The purpose of Koli National Park is less to preserve nature and more about preserving traditional Finnish agricultural heritage. Some fields are slashed, burned and re-cultivated, and hay is cut yearly. Traditional Finnish breeds of cows and sheep graze in the meadows of Koli. The new Ukko Visitors Center has maps, interpretive exhibits and tourist services. At Koli, visitors can ski along Southern Finland's longest illuminated skiing trail. There are two ski resorts in the Koli area - one for families and another for more advanced downhill skiing. Two of the slopes are snowboarding runs. There are also snow castles for children. The Koli area offers ski lodgings in a variety of forms, from guest houses to ski apartments to fully-equipped luxury resorts.
Finding holiday lodgings at Lake Pielinen isn't difficult. A number of resorts, caravan parks, campgrounds, holiday houses and private rental cabins are available. Several of the small resorts cater to fishermen and hunters. Real estate can usually be found along the lakefront as owners sell existing cabins and homes. Some vacant land can still be found for development. The Karelia area of Lakeland is still relatively empty and will retain its wilderness character for a long time to come. So come to Lake Pielinen. Enjoy the berries, mushrooms, black bear, deer, moose, waterfowl and birds. Troll the majestic waters for the wily pike, and finish the day with a refreshing sauna. The Lake Pielinen experience is one you'll never forget! Get away . . to Lake Pielinen!
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