Finland: Savonlinna Opera & the Kuhmo Festival with Forest and Lakeland Walks

The midsummer Opera Festival at Savonlinna in Finland is internationally famed, not just for the calibre of the performances, but also for its magical setting in the covered courtyard of the 15th century mediaeval castle, rising dramatically out of the lake. Further north, the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival attracts artists and audiences from all over the world and has been ranked consistently amongst the world’s top music festivals.

Our itinerary features short walks and a boat trip to explore this idyllic region of pine and silver birch forest and tranquil lakes; three chamber music concerts of the Kuhmo Festival and two performances at the Savonlinna opera festival:



In Kuhmo, we encounter the vast forests of the archetypal Finnish landscape and between Savonlinna and Helsinki we travel along the old King’s Road, where the brightly painted houses reflect both Swedish and Russian architectural influences.

We finish the trip in Finland’s lively and attractive capital, Helsinki. In summer, the city enjoys long hours of sunshine, pavement cafés flourish and impromptu art shows and street theatre entertain passers-by. We wander the wide, tree-lined avenues admiring the beautifully preserved Art Nouveau facades, Alvar Aalto’s contemporary architectural masterpieces and the fine Neo-Classical buildings which line the busy quaysides. During the week, we sample Finland’s summer specialities such as fish from the lakes, reindeer, wild forest mushrooms and tangy Arctic cloudberries.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS of our Finland walking tour include:  

  • Hearing Sibelius’ music and learning about his life in the atmospheric museum in his family country home at Ainola
  • Visits to the illuminating Winter War Museum and the modern Museum of the Forest
  • Admiring the architecture of the world’s largest wooden church in Kerimaki built in 1847
  • Strolls in the silver birch forest and around the 17th century wooden architecture of towns along the old King’s Road to Helsinki
  • Exploring the architecture of Helsinki whilst based in a central luxury hotel 

Guests’ comments on this trip:

‘Savonlinna is a lifetime experience -  castle, singers, acoustics, settings and costume.’

'An absolutely splendid trip with pleasant walks, marvelous music, wonderful food and wine. Best tour I have ever been on.

'A very enjoyable trip with lots of variety. Not only wonderful scenery and music, especially the Queen of Spades at Savonlinna but also an introduction to the complicated and fascinating history of this part of Europe.'

'I liked the balance between the chamber music and the opera elements of the trip, the contrast between the small, precise concerts in local church and arts centre, and the grand spectacle of the Savonlinna productions worked very well.'


You can read more about our 2017 Finland tour on David's blog


Savonlinna lake
Savonlinna Kerimaki
Savonlinna Kuhmo
Savonlinna Porvoo
Savonlinna Tosca
Savonlinna Helsinki
Savonlinna boat
Finland Hamina
DAY 1  
D included

We meet at Kajaani airport in the late afternoon and transfer by road (1 hr) to Nurmes, on the banks of Lake Pielinen, Finland’s fourth largest lake and one of the 409 lakes in the Nurmes municipality. Home to the first Karelian language pre-school, Nurmes is noted for its compact old town with many well-preserved wooden houses.

DAY 2 
B, L, D included
We continue our drive through forest to Kuhmo (1 hr). We attend three festival concerts during the day, held in Kuhmo’s handsome yellow wooden church and the striking new Arts Centre. We are introduced to the Finnish national epic Kalevala in the Juminkeko museum and have lunch in a summer café popular with the festival musicians and audience. We spend the night in a modern lake-side hotel, designed to resemble a wooden fortress and declared a protected building by the Finnish Board of Antiquities.

B, L, D included

This morning we visit the nearby Winter War Museum, which documents a campaign little-known outside Finland. Setting off for the cross-country drive south, we travel for 2 hours to the Koli National Park. In the afternoon, we walk on a forest trail (1.5 hrs) in a landscape formed by continental ice during the ice age. From the highest point of the park, Ukko Koli (347 m), we admire the view below, an inspiration to generations of Finnish and Nordic artists.

B, L, D included
We head for Savonlinna (2 hrs), pausing in Kerimaki to visit the world’s largest wooden church, built between 1844 and 1847, through the dream of the local clergyman and the efforts of the local population. We settle in our central 4-star hotel and orientate ourselves on a walk through the oldest part of Savonlinna, formed around Olavinlinna castle following its foundation at the end of 15th century. We have an early dinner in an excellent restaurant, before crossing two bridges on foot to attend our first opera performance, Verdi’s ‘Nabucco’, an unforgettable experience with the floodlit castle reflected in the still waters of the lake.

DAY 5 
B, L, D included
On a morning boat safari in the Linnansaari National Park (40 mins from Savonlinna), we learn about the traditional slash-and-burn farming, the ‘tar’ trade plied on Saimaa lake, Finland’s largest, and the endangered, endemic Saimaa ringed seal. We return to Olavinlinna castle for our second performance, Mozarts ‘Don Giovanni’.

B, L, D included
We drive to the Punkaharju esker, one of Finland’s natural wonders, and visit the informative Museum of the Forest. We continue our travel west (total of 4 hrs driving) through a classic Finnish landscape of forests and lakes, pausing en route for lunch in the Fortress of Lappeenranta. We also discover Hamina, with its unique circular town plan dating from the early 18th century Swedish period, before arriving at our hotel, a 4 star converted Manor house set in ten acres of grounds leading down to the sea, in time to swim, use the spa facilities or take a short walk before dinner.

B, L, D included

In nearby Porvoo, once an important mediaeval trade centre and now a picturesque small town, we walk through the cobbled lanes and along the river to admire the red ochre-painted grain warehouses. We visit Sibelius’ atmospheric former country home, Ainola, full of evocative mementoes of Finland’s greatest composer, and have a light lunch before driving on to Helsinki, where our luxury hotel, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is perfectly situated for exploring the historic city centre. We have a 2-hour orientation walk, taking in the picturesque waterfront, Senate Square, the recently opened architectural marvel of the National Library and the Central Railway Station, considered by many to be the crowning achievement of architect Ariel Saarinen, before our farewell dinner in an elegant restaurant.

B included

On our final day, we continue exploring Helsinki, either independently or joining your Kudu guide on a gentle walk (7 km) to discover other iconic monuments of the city, including the 1952 Olympic Stadium and Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall. We cross some of the city’s delightful green spaces, embellished with sculpture, and pass notable buildings such as the Opera House, the National Museum, the Helsinki City Theatre or the Ateneum Art Museum housing the National Art Collection with pictures from the ‘golden age’ of Finnish art. The trip concludes with a private transfer to Helsinki airport.

If this is your first visit to Helsinki, you may wish to consider extending your stay to allow time for a more thorough exploration.

Note: The Savonlinna Opera and Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival events described in the itinerary are subject (rarely) to change by the organisers. Actual performances or their order may therefore vary from those described in the itinerary.

Trip Price, per person sharing:
 until 18th October 2023
£3,885.50 until 18th January 2024
£3,987.75 until 18th April 2024
£4,090 after 18th April 2024
£800 deposit per person
£680 double for single supplement

Please note that the double for single room supplement is imposed by the hotels and not by Kudu Travel. If you are willing to share but no other suitable guest books on the trip, we regret that the supplement will be payable.

Price Includes

  • Accommodation for Days 1 through 8, on a shared basis
  • Meals with soft drinks at lunch and wine at dinner, as listed in the daily notation
  • Land and water transportation as described, except during free periods
  • Entrance and sightseeing fees, except during free periods
  • Top category tickets for 2 festival performances in Savonlinna and 3 chamber music concerts in Kuhmo
  • Gratuities for hotel and restaurant staff (appreciation for Kudu tour guides is at your discretion)
Price does not Include

  • Flights to Kajaani and from Helsinki
  • Trip cancellation, medical or other insurance
  • Immunisations, prescriptions or other medical requirements
  • Passport, visa and health documentation
  • Personal expenses (laundry, alcohol other than wine with group meals, free time activities)
  • Transport and transfer of excess baggage
  • Finnish departure tax, if any


On Kudu trips, you will only need money for postcards, presents to take home, the odd G & T or an irresistible ice cream. Festival and opera tickets, museum and gallery entrances, National Park fees, all meals (with a very few exceptions specified in individual itineraries), wine with lunch and dinner, access to specialist books carried by the guides, gratuities for porters and hotel and restaurant staff, boat rides, train trips, internal flights, wine tastings, 4WDs with drivers, the services of skilled local guides and trackers etc are ALL INCLUDED in the cost of your holiday. 

We are confident that, like previous very satisfied guests, you will discover that our tours give you excellent value for money.

  • 1 night in Nurmes, in a modern 4-star lake-side hotel

  • 1 night in Kuhmo, in a hotel with contemporary Finnish wooden design, idyllically situated on a lake

  • 1 night in the Koli National Park, in a modern 4-star hotel

  • 2 nights in Savonlinna, in a modern 4-star centrally located hotel
  • 1 night in Porvoo, in a 4-star hotel, a converted Manor house set in ten acres of grounds leading down to the sea

  • 1 night in Helsinki, in a centrally located luxury hotel (a recently refurbished historic hotel, now a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World)

Kudu Travel reserves a block of seats for each performance, approximately 1 year in advance, and unsold seats will eventually be released. If you book late, we may not be able to retrieve seats in the same category or to obtain any tickets for sold out performances.
Visa and Health Requirements 

Visitors from the UK, EU, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand currently require a valid passport, but not a visa, for entry to Finland. If you are a national of any other country, please check visa regulations with your nearest Embassy of Finland.    

Normally, there are no specific and compulsory health requirements for entry to Finland. You may also wish to check the advice given to travellers by the Department of Health and the FCO.      

British visitors can claim free (emergency) medical treatment in Finland by presenting their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or the new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).  

It is essential, and a condition of booking, that you protect yourself with a suitable travel insurance policy as soon as you book a trip. We can arrange comprehensive cover for UK residents. Follow this link for a quote for a policy available to UK residents.

If you are already insured or a non-UK resident, please inform us of your policy at the time of booking.

Size of party
This trip will run with a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 14 guests.