The Green Gold Culture Road (Vihreän kullan kulttuuritie) is Finnish tourist route in the middle of wonderful lakeland in South Savo that can be traveled by car, bike or on foot. A total length is 251 km. Along the route winding through the beautiful forest landscapes and the blue shimmering Saimaa, the traveler can get to know the rich cultural heritage of the region, which throughout time has been strongly connected to the forest – i.e. green gold. Tourist route includes many wonderful nature trails and destinations, walking routes, historical buildings and attractions, as well as the versatile services, activities and events of the area’s entrepreneurs, some of which have been designed and developed specifically for the route. The tourist route can be done quickly in a few days, (recommended time is at least 3 days) but you sure have something to do even for a week if you’re traveling in the summer time, which is the region’s most eventful time full of opportunities.
In this tourist route you will learn about the incredible Finnish nature, the culture of Southern Savo as well as history of each region. In this blog post, I introduce all the necessary information about the Green Gold Culture Road to fully enjoy the tourist route; such as what the route includes, how to travel, where to visit and where to stay.
Official destinations of the tourist route and where to start
The Green Gold Culture Road is a 251 km long tourist route that runs from Mäntyharju via Ristiina, Puumala, Sulkava, Savonlinna and Punkaharju to Putikko. The route can go either way. The Green Gold Culture Road is marked with signs like in the picture and the one picture in the upper left corner shows one of the official presentation boards that can be found at each official destinations.
There is 16 official attractions and places to visit which have been put together for the tourist route. All of those are landscape, nature and culture related. I highly recommend to visit all of these places properly and to read the official presentation boards.
The official destinations are listed here: (in some brackets, the official presentation board is located, otherwise the boards are found in the parking lots of the destinations)
- Vihantasalmi (Behind the Vihantasalmi Neste gas station)
- Mäntyharju church village (Mäntyharju church parking lot)
- Pien-Toijola open-air peasant museum
- Astuvansalmi rock paintings
- Lietvesi landscape road (Lietvesi landscape road cafe, FIN: Lietveden kioski ja näköalapaikka)
- Puumala islands (Imatrantie 124, Puumala rest area)
- Syrjäsalmi rock paintings
- Karjulanmäki stone church (FIN: Karjulanmäen kivikirkko)
- Sulkava Hill Fort (also ”Pisamalahti Hill Fort”)
- The Grand Rowing Races of Sulkava (Sulkava rowing station, FIN: Soutustadion)
- Vilkaharju (Vilkaharju nature trail parking lot, FIN: Vilkaharjun luontopolku)
- Savonlinna (Harjusilta 14, Cafe Hannu and Kerttu, rest area)
- Savonlinna shipping (Satamapuistonkatu, near the passenger port and the market area)
- Punkaharju national landscape (Punkaharjun Harjutie 597, rest area)
- Putikko (Putikontie 37, in the yard of the old train station)
In Google Maps you can just write t.ex ”Miekankoski” and it will know where to navigate you! All of the places in the listing you will find by the name in the listing, especially if you use address, name or instruction in parentheses.
Tourist route in Outdooractive
Tourist route already established in the 2000s, but has now been brought up to date with a development project. All the official places to visit on the Green Gold Culture Road, as well as the whole route, the nature trails and cooperative companies with their services, can be found in the Outdooractive application. The application can be downloaded to the phone from the application store, but the portal can also be found online: https://www.outdooractive.com/fi/
Outdooractive is an international route portal for outdoor recreation, sports and tourism, which includes a wide variety of routes (hiking, cycling, skiing, climbing, etc.) and nature destinations around Finland and the world. Outdooractive has GPS navigation and free route planning, which makes it easy to navigate to different destinations directly or, if you wish, you can download a GPX route map from Outdooractive to your own navigation device. Outdooractive is free for the user, but also includes paid Pro and Pro+ memberships, which enable e.g. offline maps.
Outdooractive is like a personal travel guide accompanying the route. There are text presentations of the routes destinations, through which you can get additional information about the destination’s history or services. In this way you can easily get to know the area more deeply. However, the most important thing is that the application guides you along the route and shows you where everything is.
Each official destination has also a physical presentation board of the Green Gold Culture Road. The official presentation boards are placed in the same locations as the dot in Outdooractive points to. The boards are usually right next to the road in the rest area or parking lot, and you should always stop by them, because that way you can get a lot more information about the area.
The audio story carries you along the tourist route
The development project has also produced a wonderful series of audio stories for the tourist route in 2022, which you can listen to while traveling on the tourist route. Stories are in Glopas application, which starts playing the stories automatically when you pass the correct point on the route. The audio stories delve into Finns’ relationship with the forest, history, folk tales and the presentation of the region. The stories are suitable for both children and adults and there are plenty of them on the route!
The Glopas application can be downloaded to your phone for free from the application store.
- Allow the Glopas application to scan location as ”always”, so that the stories start even when the phone’s screen is dark.
- There are two different collections of the audio story series of the Green Gold Culture Road in Finnish and English: the one starting from Mäntyharju and the one from Putikko. So choose a collection that goes in the right direction, and the stories starts playing in the right places and right orders.
- There are orange and purple story points. The orange ones work in such a way that you can listen to them from anywhere and the purple ones are such that you have to go past the point in order for the story to open up for listening.
The audio stories deepened my knowledge of the area and I always looked forward to them with great enthusiasm. There are lots of them, so it is also good to keep in track that you accidentally don’t miss any of them.
Every town and destination at a time
The tourist route have plenty of activities and events for you to experience in addition to all the free attractions and places to visit. Just keep in mind to have enough time to visit each and one of the destinations you want in peace.
When you are going on a tourist route, I recommend planning the places to visit in advance, as well as finding out what different services you want to use and booking them in advance. This way, it is much more comfortable to go along the route, when you know better all the options on the way and you are able to plan your time correctly. Services whose opening hours should be checked and/or booked in advance (recommendation) are: cafes, restaurants, theater performances, concerts, museums, guided tours and trips, events and, of course, hotel or guesthouse nights. Although the tourist route and the services of its many (not all) entrepreneurs are open all year round, summer is the hottest time of the route (especially July). Then there are much things to do, events to go and all places open. Also to the point where it’s difficult to choose between them. I personally traveled the route in early October 2022, and it was also absolutely amazing in the middle of a wonderful fall season!
I personally traveled the route starting my journey from Putikko and spending 3 full days and 2 nights on the tourist route, which is a good time to get to know the tourist route. I traveled in a camper van and spent the nights in bush parks. I did and saw a lot, but I recommend reserve more time if you want to visit more places and stop to admire the scenery whenever you feel like it. Of course, the route can also be explore as day trips; for example, if you stay in the Savonlinna or Mikkeli area, you can go through the route in several days, making circular runs.
Next, I will tell you the tourist route’s tips, places to visit and it’s many entrepreuners services one village/city at a time. It seems like the most usual way to travel the route is starting from Mäntyharju, but my list underneath is now from Putikko to Mäntyharju, like I traveled, because as I said before, the tourist route can be traveled from either direction, also with both the audio story and Outdooractive. Just remember, I do not write each and every step or point or audio story to the list. You can find them all from Outdooractive and Glopas application.
Putikko is a small village in city of Savonlinna. In Putikko, you can park you car at Putikko’s old railway stations yard, where you can also find the Green Gold Culture Road official presentation board.
- Putikon kyläkierros is 1,1km long village tour that you can walk with the help of Outdooractive. From Outdooractive you can also read presentations of the villages buildings and it’s history.
- At Putikko’s old railway station building lives and works Saviseppä Hannu Sairanen, who are clay smith and ceramic artist and also a wonderful person! I really recommend you to visit him and buy his excellent works. In the best summer time there is also an exhibition and a summer room in his yard, that is must-to-visit place for everyone!
Punkaharju is near Putikko and is also a small town in the city of Savonlinna. Punkaharju has many things to offer and see.
- One the most special and best known landscape in Finland is Punkaharju Ridge Road’s area! The tourist route goes through Punkaharju Ridge Road, and the road includes wonderful landscapes, the beach with a cafe, a poet’s J.L. Runeberg hill and nice forest paths. So don’t rush this road through, enjoy and stop every time you feel like it!
- In the ridge area is also located Hotelli Punkaharju which offers accommodation as well as restaurant and event experiences on the shores of Saimaa. The hotel is an absolutely wonderful revelation in the middle of the most beautiful ridge landscape. A hotel that is really worth getting to know. Stay over night, eat in the restaurant, book a wonderful activity or make just a short visit to amaze it’s beauty.
- Finnish Forest Museum Lusto, is also located on a ridge, and there you can get to know Finnish forestry since the beginning of time. The large size and versatility of the museum is surprising. Both children and adults will surely enjoy the museum, because there is something for everyone. In my opinion, the most interesting thing of all was to see how forests were once started to be grown, utilized and with what methods to chop and transport wood around Finland.
- Directly across from Lusto is Aseman Taidelaituri, which has an annual changing exhibition that is open daily in the summer and for events in the winter time. A really interesting and versatile place, where you really should visit!
- If you want something fun to do -> go to Vaellustalli Aurinkolaukka, which specializes in Icelandic horses. A riding stable offers 1-3 hours of cross-country riding, horse-riding hikes and camps. The riding stable is located in Hiukkajoki, a short drive from Punkaharju.
The tourist route of the Green Gold Culture Road runs through the center of Savonlinna. Savonlinna is definitely a place worth a longer visit, because there is plenty to do. It has also been voted to be the best summer city in Finland in 2020! Savonlinna has legendary summer outdoor market square, scenic cruises on Saimaa, Savonlinna’s Opera Festival and the magnificent Olavinlinna, which are already things I recommend you to visit! I really recommend July as the visiting time, because that’s when the city fills up with people and happenings from the Opera Festival.
- Want to learn more about Savonlinna? Savonlinna guides offers various guided tours with different themes in the Savonlinna and Punkaharju region. Guaranteed departures in summer, otherwise bookable for groups.
- A beautiful place and delicious crepes: Lettukahvila Kalliolinna (Crepe Cafe Kalliolinna) is a summer cafe in the center of Savonlinna on Casinosaari. A variety of crepe dishes and cafe products are available. Great locations, views and outdoor trails around. You can’t get to the cafe by car, but take a short nice walk from the city center and you will be there!
- If you want to see lake Finland at its most beautiful, then go on a cruise! Savonlinna Cruises , VIP Cruise and Blue Lake Cruises organizes departures in the summer (open water time) from Savonlinna, but also from other places such as Järvisydän and Savonranta. Also theme cruises and luxurious cruises available.
- Loikansaari lomamökit offers holiday cottage and villa accommodation as well as activities. Located about 16 kilometers from Savonlinna in the direction of Sulkava, near the official Green Gold Culture Road presentation board of Savonlinna.
Sulkava is a small town on the shore of Saimaa, which is especially known for its magnificent event held every July: The Grand Rowing Races of Sulkava.
- The Grand Rowing Races of Sulkava are one of the official destinations of the Green Gold Culture Road, even tho, the event lasts 3 days a year, because the rowing races also represent an important wooden and church boat tradition in Saimaa Finland. The race is even the world’s largest wooden and church boat competition. The official destination sign can be found at the Rowing Stadium.
- Vilkaharju is 4km long beautiful ridge road that takes a short drive from the center of Sulkava. The tourist route does not go through Vilkaharju (just side it from the other end), but Vilkaharju is one of the official destinations of the Green Gold Culture Road, so it is worth driving through. I recommend to drive it all the way to the insanely big Vekaransalmi bridge, where I myself have liked to walk in the summer time and admire the scenery. Vilkaharju also has a signposted Vilkaharju nature trail, which includes a bonfire place, wonderful landscapes, an old tar pit and one of Finland’s largest boulders. At the nature trail parking lot, you can also find the official Green Gold Culture Road presentation board of Vilkaharju.
- In Sulkava you will also find a wonderful ancient fortsress hill called ”Sulkavan Linnavuori” or ”Pisamalahden Linnavuori” (also Pisamalahti Hill Fort) that is an ideal day-trip destination for history enthusiasts and landscape lovers! The hill rises 55 metres above the waters of the Lake Saimaa and the views are breathtaking. Hills history takes us in the Iron Age and early Middle Ages, when Finns resorted to ancient forts known as hill forts whenever they needed protection and a place of defence. You still can see the stone walls on the hill that are approximately three metres wide and up to 2.7 metres high on the outer side.
- Karjulanmäki Stone Church is a large erratic boulder transported by the glacier during Ice Age. It has since cracked, formed a cavern big enough to fit about 20 people in the largest one. The stone church is 15 meters high at its highest point. That is why it is called ”church”. The stone church was used as a hiding place during the war, and it is said that there were also performed sun worship rituals in ancient times. Ancient people also believed that the devil lived in boulders.
- Must to visit spot is also Tiittalan kartano that offers accommodation, events and concerts in an old manor milieu in Sulkava. Tiittala has a popular manors Waffle Cafe that is a delicious highlight of the summer, and due to its popularity, is now also open on many winter weekends. Beutifull and nice place for a visit – great waffles! Yammy!
- Sulkavan Oravanpesät is an accommodation company operating in Sulkava along the Oravareitti canoe route. Oravanpesät offers cottage accommodation, saunas and equipment rental. Works with Juva Camping as route administrators and offers kayaking guidance and kayaking services to Oravareitti canoe route or to lake Saimaa.
- Sorjosen lomamökit offers cottage accommodation in Sulkava.
Puumala is a really popular cottage town, and one of Saimaa’s absolute gems! Here, boating culture is popular, inviting you to explore all the islands of Puumala and maybe seeing Saimaa ringed seal as well. The center of Puumala is nice and bautiful and the marina has both restaurants and a market area. A glass elevator leads from the marina high up on the Puumalansalmi bridge, which is free to explore.
- Syrjäsalmi rock paintings are located in between Puumala and Sulkava, and they are easily accessible. Next to the road is a widening (parking space) from which the distance to the paintings is only a few hundred meters.
- Puumala’s Norppapolku is a nice day trip hiking route for the whole family.
- 8km north of Puumala is Sahanlahti Resort that offers accommodation in many different forms, a great restaurang, saunas, traditional resort activities, equipment rental, and it also has its own guest marina with restaurant Rantamakasiini, as well as its own summer theater stage! Event, concert, theater, stand-up and what else! What you can’t find in Sahanlahti for your vacation, you don’t need. Sahanlahti Resort has also a wonderful history that reaches all the way in 1764, when there were a big water sawmill. The operation of one of the oldest and biggest sawmills in the Saimaa region continued for almost 200 years and what is left to remind us of the sawmill operations, is only the old water gutters. Sahanlahti Resort is therefore a resort built around an old sawmill and by the way, the main building is the former sawmill manager’s old residence.
- At the same place, in Sahanlahti, you can aso find a great outdoor activity, which is open for everybody: A virtual audio story track ”A journey back in time in Sahanlahti”. For this, you need to download the ”Salmi-AR” application to your phone and then search that audio story name from application. The audio story starts in front of the main building and tells about the history of Sahanlahti in such a way that the whole family, starting with children, will surely enjoy this story tour. The story tour doesn’t take very long, 30min-1h is good to reserve if you’re just visiting this one. I enjoyed this story tour a lot and I also learned new things!
- The Green Gold Culture Road runs along Lietvesi Scenic Road, that is between Puumala and Mikkeli/Ristiina. The scenic road is over 5 kilometers long with beautiful sceneries of Lake Saimaa and its islands. Along the road there is also a small kiosk and an observation post, where you can find the official presentation board too.
- If you want to experience something magical, something special and maybe even something teachful, you really need to go Pienniemen Taigatila. There you have Guide Tiina The Spirit Guide of Saimaa, who is wilderness and nature guide and specialized in great adventures, herbs, plants, animals and environmental education and guides you to experience Saimaa and it’s nature in amazing way. With Tiina you can go to kayak paddling tours and hiking tours as well as hear her drumming her magical drum and telling stories about the spirit of nature. Tiina knows these lands and its history, and she’s very special person to get to know! I really recommend to visit in there! And if you want to go self-guided adventure but need equipments – ask them from Tiina. (Always call or email first if you want to visit in there).
- Want more program? Lakeland GTE is a versatile program service company in Puumala, which offers wild herb courses, a competition program, snowshoeing, ice rafting, etc. adventures and experiences as well as theme cruises around Puumala.
- Nestorinranta offers accommodation of different kinds, meals and cafe products, equipment rental, private sauna, jacuzzi, boat taxi, guided tours and , , as well as equipment rental, a subscription sauna, guided tours and thematic nature trails.
- Okkola holiday cottages / Restaurant Niinipuu offers cottage accommodation and a wonderful restaurant in the Puumala archipelago.
Ristiina is a small town only 25 minutes from Mikkeli city, and also in the shore of lake Saimaa.
- Astuvansalmi rock paintings are located between Puumala and Ristiina and they are absolutely insane! The rock paintings are one of the official destinations of the Green Gold Culture Road and an extremely significant prehistoric ancient monument. From the parking lot to the rock paintings, it is 2 km long forest path that starts at the beginning of the private road from the parking lot to the left. You should reserve approx. 2 hours for the visit. This place gives you chills! There are many clear pictures made with red mud paint on the rock, which are up to 4,500-6,000 years old. Think about it! Even though I’ve been in nature a lot, I’ve never seen anything so unusually impressive. I recommend this as an absolute must-stop for everyone, and by the way, it’s worth noting that here are one of the Glopas app’s audio story. I don’t know if you hear it if you don’t walk to the paintings.
- Pien-Toijolan talonpoikaismuseo (Pien-Toijola open-air peasant museum) is a nationally significant peasant culture environment. Pien-Toijola offers a rare opportunity to get to know an almost perfectly preserved 19th century farm. The area has a total of 28 buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, which form an exceptionally well-preserved ensemble. The courtyard of the house with its many log buildings has been preserved largely as it is. This place is located right near the Astuvansalmi rock paintings – only 2,5km away from it’s parking lot.
- The wonderful Tuukkalan tila is located in Ristiina, which offers bed and breakfast accommodation and rental cottages right along the Green Gold Culture Road. Tuukkalan tila is an old family farm from 1710, and specializes in responsible and nature-respecting accommodation with a hearty domestic breakfast. The farm also has its own chickens and electric bicycles for rent. Lovely place!
- Uhkua is a company offering ecological accommodation with floating saunas and programs as guided kayaking, fishing, camping, nature meals and events in nature as well as equipment rental.
- Do you like wine? If so, the you really should visit in Ollinmäen viinitila, which is a winery and tourism company in Anttola, near Ristiina. They have their own garden, from which they get materials into the wines, as well as a wine and food store open all year round. They also have cabin accommodation and B&B accommodation.
Mäntyharju is a bit bigger town than Ristiina and it is one of the most popular summer cottage communities in Finland. In 2017, Mäntyharju had more cottages than inhabited apartments. Mäntyharju has a lot to see and do, from cultural events to nature experiences. A few different hiking routes (for day trips and why not longer ones) start from the parking lot of Mäntyharju church, where you can also find one the official presentation board of Green Gold Culture Road.
- Villa-Aurora is a cozy country hotel that offers not only accommodation but also meeting, party and training facilities with catering services. This is an absolutely wonderful place, and here you can listen to plant music! Yes, you read that right. At Villa-Aurora’s reception, there is a device that goes into the plant, and this device plays the right chords according to the plant’s fluid cycle, which creates music, and these devices are also available for purchase from them!
- B&B Pinus / Makasiinin Puoti & Kahvila offers bed and breakfast accommodation and in the summer there is a shop and a café in the old station warehouse. The shop sells products from a total of approx. 70 different small entrepreneurs.
- Apartment accommodation Unelma offers hotel-level accommodation in homely conditions in the center of Mäntyharju, and the owner, Piia Mäkilä, also offers the services of a local guide and massage.
- Miekankoski is an old and really popular summer cafe place, which is worth to visit. Logs were once floated in the place and therefore this place has a significant history that is tied to the Green Gold Culture Road. There is also a museum, a craft shop and a smith’s workshop. This place is one of the official destinations of the Green Gold Culture Road.
- Vihantasalmi is the official destination of the Green Gold Culture Road, because the bridge is the world’s longest wooden bridge in highway use. The bridge is a great proof that wood can also be perfectly used as parts of load-bearing structures in highway bridges. The the end (or starting point) of the Green Gold Culture Road can be found in the backyard of gas station Neste Vihantasalmi, where there is a Vihantasalmi presentation board.
A Travel road that suits everyone
The tourist route of the Green Gold Culture Road is suitable for solo travelers, couples, families, senior citizens, as well as cyclists and even hikers. You can stay in hotels and inns, B&Bs, camp in a tent or in an campervans.
In my opinion, the Glopas app’s audio stories were a really captivating addition to traveling, and they tied the entire route into a clear package of the Green Gold Culture Road. The audio stories were like a red thread connecting the hole route, which I always waited and listened to excitedly.
I hope that the same thing that happened to me happens to others who travels this route: in a way, my relationship with the forest deepened even more because I learned so much from the past.
And the forest – that I love!
Wonderful adventures for everyone!