South Karelia is the southeasternmost of Finland’s 19 administrative regions, a part of the larger Southern Finland region, and the traditional land of the Karelian people.
The main natural feature of South Karelia is Saimaa Lake—the largest in the country—and its associated geopark, which is home to the endangered Saimaa ringed seal.
There are 25 named mountains in South Karelia, the highest and most prominent of which is Haukkavuori (173 m / 568 ft).
— The name of the Karelia region comes from the name of the ethnic group that has inhabited the region for countless years: the Karelians.
Karelians have their own language, Karelian, which is an officially recognized minority language in Finland and the Republic of Karelia in Russia. The language belongs to the group of Balto-Finnic languages. It slightly differs from Finnish in its manner of speech, vocabular, and expressions.
In Karelian, the name for Karelia is slightly different: Karjala. We do not know exactly where the word comes from, but in modern Finnish its root, karja, which means “herd,” refers to animal husbandry.
Read next my outdoor guide to South Karelia, Finland, on the website of the PeakVisor app — leading AR (augmented reality) app for mountain peaks identification with tens of other great features for outdoor enthusiasts.
Text: Ivan Kuznetsov
Cover photo: man riding a bike in Lappeenranta, the capital of South Karelia, Finland, in winter by Green Ant / Unsplash