Imatra, which is located along the Vuoksi River that flows from Lake Saimaa to Lake Ladoga, can be considered the birthplace of Finnish tourism. As early as the 1700s, St. Petersburg’s aristocracy came to Imatra to admire the magnificent Imatrankoski rapids. Among the honoured guests was Empress Catherine the Great herself, whose visit to Imatra in 1772 is considered to be the beginning of tourism.
The unique sights of Imatra
In the 19th century, tourism increased and signs of this can still be seen in the stones along the Vuoksi River, where tourists have carved their initials. Imatrankoski attracted the interest of artists as well as the aristocracy, who sought to capture its magnificent foams in paintings. Imatra is also mentioned in the Finnish national epic Kalevala, published in 1835.
Today, Imatrankoski is harnessed for electricity production, but during the summer and holidays rapid shows are organised. During the shows, spectators witness the awesome power of the water and how the foams fill the rapids’ riverbed. Next to the rapids is Finland’s first nature reserve, Kruununpuisto, where you can see signs of the Ice Age, such as giant’s kettles. Another well-known attraction in the centre of Imatrankoski is the Valtionhotelli Hotel. The Art Nouveau castle, designed by architect Usko Nyström and completed in 1903, has been voted Finland’s most beautiful building in several polls.
In addition to Valtionhotelli, Imatra has several beautiful mansions built by the town’s factory managers for their families. Many of them now offer banquet and accommodation services for tourists and locals alike.
The townscape is dominated by the Vuoksi River, which flows through Imatra and has provided abundant fish catches for centuries. Fishing can also be enjoyed on Lake Saimaa which is a short distance from the centre of Imatra.
The thrill of speed and the hunger for culture
Located on the shore of Lake Saimaa, Imatra’s guest harbour, spa and Ukonniemi are excellents destinations for active holidaymakers. Ukonniemi is dedicated to sport and there are places to exercise all year round. There are also a number of sporting events organised in the area.
For winter sports enthusiasts, Ukonniemi will be at its best since October when the first snow ski track is opened in the area. The snow preserved from the previous winter will be used to build a cross-country ski trail, which will be accessible not only to professional athletes but also to amateurs. Imatra’s best-known sporting event is Imatran ajot. The motorbike race, which takes place in early July, attracts racers from all over the world.
For culture lovers, Imatra offers theatre, concerts, dance performances and temporary exhibitions in the Culture House Virta. Imatra also has a number of museums that provide a wide range of information about the history of the region.