Bookmark this hotel for a stay in Finnish Lakeland
Former supermodel Saimi Hoyer returned to where she was most happy as a child – not only did she find health and happiness, but she also found a passion project.
With a high-flying career as a supermodel and presenter, Saimi Hoyer is no stranger to a life of luxury. She has strutted the catwalks of Italy and New York, her face has graced the pages of Vogue and Elle, and she has stayed in enough exclusive hotels to last a lifetime. But throughout the years of living in the glitzy fashion capitals, there was one place she found herself missing. That place was Punkaharju, the narrow strip of forest-covered land in Finland’s lake district where she had spent her childhood summers.
“When we were kids, our family moved here for the entire summer. Later as I lived abroad, I never missed my hometown of Helsinki, but this place I did miss,” says Hoyer.
Seven years ago, Hoyer fell seriously ill and started to again feel the pull of Punkaharju. Spending the best part of two years in the hospital, she had plenty of time to rethink the purpose of life.
“At one point the doctor told me that now is the moment to go wherever you are happiest. For a while, I considered whether it was Rome or Punkaharju, but the latter won,” she says.
So, the Hoyer family moved permanently to their summer house in Punkaharju and amidst the clean air and peacefulness of nature, she started to recover.
While for Hoyer, the connection to Punkaharju is a personal one, for many Finns, the landscape is something of a national treasure. Besides the lush nature, the Saimaa region is also known for Hotelli Punkaharju, an elegant wooden villa facing the lakeside where guests reside during the annual opera festival in the nearby town of Savonlinna.
Once a prestigious hotspot for the crème of society, for decades the villa had been left on its own devices.
“For years this building had been in use only six weeks each summer for the opera festival guests. This sort of old house doesn’t like to be in such limited use and it was in dreadful condition,” explains Hoyer.
That’s when the Foundation who owned the building decided to sell. Hoyer took that as a sign and in 2015 the family bought the villa. Renovation took seven months to complete, during which time the hotel saw a total overhaul. The rooms, restaurant, and the common spaces were transformed into cosy yet trendy spaces that respect the historic setting while reflecting Hoyer’s cosmopolitan and design-conscious spirit.
Although the charming old building is at the core of the hotel business, Hoyer has been keen to extend opportunities beyond accommodation. The surrounding nature offers an ideal backdrop for cycling trips, tour skating, and mushroom picking, while the hotel hosts a variety of concerts, fashion shows, and yoga retreats.
This revival of the hotel has helped re-establish it as a local hub for culture and wellness and injected a sense of optimism to all of Punkaharju in the process.
Text Amanda Soila
Photos Elina Simonen and Amanda Soila