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Saimaa lake region navigates towards UNESCO status

Authorities in Finland’s largest inland lake network believe that obtaining Geopark status, in recognition of the area's international geographical significance, would put the Saimaa region on the map as a significant natural must-see.

Syksyinen Saimaa.
Boating in the Saimaa lake region is an increasingly popular summer pastime. Image: Heli Mälkiä / Yle

Natural boat-mooring spots are being upgraded in Finland's largest inland network of lakes, to keep up with growing numbers of boaters. And visitor numbers to Saimaa are estimated to increase further in the near future if the region successfully is granted special recognition as a Geopark by the United Nations.

At the height of the summer, Satamosaari, on a lagoon in the middle of western Saimaa, is one of the area's top mooring spots.

In addition to well-maintained docks, there are beaches, campfire places and saunas, which is typical of the approximately 200 such harbours in the region.

Now, this area hopes to win international recognition, as southern Saimaa authorities apply for special Geopark status from the United Nations cultural body, UNESCO. The title is conferred on landscapes of international geological significance, and there are currently 70 geoparks in Europe.

The application will be made during the coming two years, and if successful, would put Saimaa on the map as a significant natural must-see.

Hanna Ollikainen from the South Karelian Foundation for Recreation Areas says the area dates back to the Ice Age and has evolved over tens of thousands of years.

If the UNESCO status is granted, it would bring many Central European boaters to Finland, authorities believe.

One boater out on the waters, Sami from Helsinki, says the UNESCO status would be great recognition. “There’s no place with such clean water, so much empty space and unspoiled nature like it anywhere in central Europe,” he says.

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