Lappeenranta, Finland, sits on the banks of Lake Saimaa; it's a region full of waterways, perfect for day cruises and relaxing rowboat excursions. Lappeenranta also hosts a giant sandcastle built every summer by dozens of Finnish and international sand artists. The town is quiet otherwise, a pleasant place to spend a couple of days.
The most unique attraction of Lappeenranta is definitely the yearly sand masterpiece. The castles are huge, each year built on a different theme. You're just as likely to see Mayan pyramids and jaguars as you are to see turrets and dragons. Artists use a couple of million kilos of sand, pack it hard, then sculpt a whole new world. When they're finished, they spray it with watered down glue to keep it from melting away in the rains. The whole rest of the summer, tourists and locals can enjoy the spectacle. You can even walk around inside some of the structures.
During the summer, Lappeenranta offers various boat excursions, including a tour of the lake or a two-hour jaunt up the Saimaa canal, where you pass through an impressive lock so high you might get dizzy. If the height doesn't impress you, the engineering will. Those with the correct visa can take a boat all the way to Vyborg, just across the border in Russia.
The castle above Lappeenranta holds tours where costumed workers going about their days, as if nothing has changed in this little island of history. The fortress complex now contains art galleries and local craft shops along with the historical museums.
Some of the hostels in Lappeenranta are just out of town, with cabins and tent spots and rustic charm. It's a good place to enjoy nature without needing a whole lot of preparation.
Within easy walking distance of Lappeenranta's pleasant harbor you can find very Eastern-looking churches, ice cream stands, and food carts affordable for even Lappeenranta hostel travelers. You might hear more Russian here than English, and whatever words of Finnish you've learned will serve you well. It's a far cry from Helsinki, and a great destination if you're interested in more than just the capital.
Hi, I'm Melinda Brasher,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Lappeenranta hostels. Welcome.