Lake Saimaa, the "lake of a thousand islands", is the most southerly element in an intricate and widely ramified system of lakes, linked by numerous rivers and channels, which occupies the whole of the eastern part of the Finnish Lakeland. The lake is abundantly stocked with fish.Lake Saimaa itself, lying at an altitude of 76m/250ft, has an area - excluding its numerous islands - of some 1,300sq.km/500sq.mi, with a greatest depth of 90m/295ft. (The area of the Finnish Lakeland as a whole is about 7,000sq.km/2,700sq.mi). The Salpausselkä ridge, a terminal moraine, forms the low southern rim of Lake Saimaa and prevents any outflow from the lake to the south. The whole lake system - the dark coloring of which, taking on a yellowish hue in the shallower parts, comes from the numerous expanses of bog in the region - is drained by the river Vuoksi, which leaves Lake Saimaa to the north of the town of Imatra and after a course of 150km/95mi though Russian territory flows into Lake Ladoga. The hilly shores of the lake and most of the islands are almost entirely covered with coniferous forest, with some birch forest farther north.
From Savonlinna there are boat trips to the other towns on Lake Saimaa, to Punkaharju, with the Retretti Art Center, the largest in the Nordic countries, to the monasteries of Uusi Valamo and Lintula and, nearer Savonlinna, the Rauhalinna Hotel, an handsome timber building which was originally a hunting lodge of the Tsars.15km/9mi east of Savonlinna on Road 71, on the Puruvesi, lies Kerimäki, with the largest wooden church in the world.
A number of agencies, most of them in Lappeenranta, run day trips and longer cruises on Lake Saimaa.