town in the region of South Karelia in Finland

Imatra (population ca. 30,000) is an industrial town in South Karelia. It is dominated by Lake Saimaa, the River Vuoksi and the Finnish-Russian border. Imatra’s over 300-year-old history of busy tourism is greatly attributed to the attraction of the spectacular rapids of the river Vuoksi, which have enticed many illustrious personas to visit the area throughout the ages. Visitors have included such people as Russian Empress Catherine II, Alexander Dumas Senior and Richard Wagner.

The municipality of Ruokolahti, 10 km to the north towards Puumala is also handled in this article.

Understand edit

Imatra rapids and the power plant lit up by night

Imatra's rise to prominence can be traced back to the late 19th century when it attracted Russian aristocrats and wealthy visitors who were drawn to its stunning natural beauty. One of the main attractions for these visitors was the Imatrankoski Rapids, which were considered one of the most impressive natural wonders in the region. To accommodate the influx of tourists, the town built several hotels and other amenities, including the Imatran Valtionhotelli, which was completed in 1903 and quickly became one of the most famous hotels in Finland. The hotel's beautiful architecture and breathtaking views of the rapids made it a popular destination for famous guests like Russian Tsar Nicholas II and Finnish President Urho Kekkonen.

However, in the early 20th century, Finland gained independence from Russia, and the flow of Russian tourists to Imatra decreased, leading to a decline in the town's fortunes. Nevertheless, Imatra continued to be a popular destination for domestic tourists and grew and developed in the years that followed.

Today, Imatra is well-known for the Imatrankoski Rapids, which are a series of rapids on the Vuoksi River that flow through the town. The rapids attract both tourists and locals, and the area features several viewing platforms and walking trails. However, a hydroelectric dam was built and, since 1929, the rapids flow freely only at regular shows and on special occasions.

Apart from natural beauty and historic landmarks, Imatra is also a hub for sports and outdoor activities. The town boasts hiking and biking trails, a golf course, and water sports opportunities, making it an ideal destination for those who love the outdoors.

Get in edit

  Visa restrictions:
In response to Russia's war in Ukraine, Russians are banned from entering Finland for tourism. All land borders remain closed as of February 2024.
(Information last updated Feb 2024)
Map of Imatra

By car edit

Imatra is about 250 km north-east from Helsinki and the voyage takes about three hours, varying somewhat between routes. The town is near the Russian border and you can cross the border at Svetogorsk just 7 km from Imatra.

By plane edit

Scheduled flights to the nearby Lappeenranta Airport (LPP IATA) have been on and off at various times, so you may need to check its webpage for the current situation. There is also the historically significant Immola Airfield (ICAO EFIM) in the northern part of the town. Your best bet, though, would be to fly into Helsinki and travel from there by bus or train.

By train edit

Trains between Helsinki and Joensuu stop at Imatra. The duration of the trip is about three hours and there are about ten daily departures.

By bus edit

Imatra has direct coach connections with Helsinki, Kouvola, Joensuu, Mikkeli and Savonlinna. Timetablescan be found at Matkahuolto.

Regional bus lines 100 and 101 have frequent traffic between Imatra and Lappeenranta. See timetables[dead link].

A minibus route from Saint Petersburg is provided by Transgold.

By boat edit

Lake Saimaa can be reached from sea through the Saimaa Canal.

Get around edit

The centre can be covered by foot or bike. The other alternatives are car and taxi.

By bus edit

The city has a small public bus network of six lines, see Ridango for bus locations and timetables for stops. Google Maps includes local transport in Imatra.

By bike edit

There is a bike sharing system using bluetooth and the Donkey Republic about €1.50/1 hr, €4/5 hr, €12/24 hr. For longer stays becoming a member is cheaper: €9 or €18/month covers all trips of less than 1 hr respectively 12 hr, also in other towns using Donkey Republic – but you need to register as member in the country of your card (available: most countries in western Europe and USA). Customer service , +358 44 716 0644 daily 09:00–21:00. Several towns in south-east Finland use the same system, which is in use also elsewhere in Finland and abroad.

By taxi edit

  • Smartphone apps: Valopilkku, 02 Taksi

See edit

In poetry

Imatra is even mentioned in the Kalevala, the epic poem of Finland (compiled from oral poetry in 1835):
"Three, the water-falls in number,
Three in number, inland oceans,
Three in number, lofty mountains,
Shooting to the vault of heaven.
Hallapyora's near to Yaemen,
Katrakoski in Karyala;
Imatra, the falling water,
Tumbles, roaring, into Wuoksi"

  • 1 Imatrankoski Rapids. Jul–Aug W–Su 18:00. These rapids are Finland's first ever tourist attraction. The Russian Empress Catherine the Great and her retinue visited the rapids in 1772. Next to the rapids is Imatran Valtionhotelli, a castle-like hotel.    
  • 2 Kruununpuisto Park. The oldest nature park in Finland, occupying the area around the Imatrankoski Rapids, was founded in 1842 by order of Tsar Nicholas I.  
  • 3 Church of the Three Crosses (Kolmen ristin kirkko) (in Vuoksenniska district). Open: 1 Sep - 31 May daily 10:00-15:00, 1 Jun - 31 Aug daily 09:00-20:00.    

Do edit

  • Imatra Big Band Festival.  
  • Rock to the River. Rock festival.

Buy edit

You can find all sorts of small shops in the 1 pedestrian area (along and next to Koskenparras street). If you prefer shopping malls, head to the 2 Mansikkala district, where you can find Rajamarket, Lidl, Citymarket and a new (as of December, 2018) Prisma.

Eat edit

There is a list of lunch offers for each day.

  • 1 Buttenhoff, Koskenparras 4, +358 5 476 1433. M-F 11:00-23:30, Sa 12:00-23:30. 100-seat upscale restaurant. Á la Carte menu consists of Finnish, French and Russian dishes. Fair selection of European wines and beers. During lunch hours Buttenhoff has business-lunch selection with salads, soups, main course and coffee included in the same price. During the summer months, if the weather allows, you can also opt for a table outside by the Koskenparras pedestrian street.
  • 2 Ravintola Xiangfu, Tainionkoskentie 10, 55100, +358 5 436 80. Chinese restaurant. Fast and cheap lunch offered on weekdays. Beyond lunch hours serves good Chinese style dishes, but prices tend to be a bit high.
  • 3 Kent Pizza & Steakhouse, Koskenparras 7. Really hungry? This restaurant at the pedestrian zone offers huge pizzas, steak and kebab servings that would feed three. €8-20, lunch specials for €10.

Drink edit

Sleep edit

Budget edit

  • 1 [dead link] Hotelli Imatra, Kanavakatu 9, +358 10 666 5700, fax: +358 10 666 5709. This new economy hotel is 500 m from the famous Imatra Rapids and the centre of Imatra. The hotel's motto is: Sleep and save. Very good breakfast, large rooms and sauna.

Mid-range edit

Splurge edit

  • 4 Imatran Valtionhotelli, Torkkelinkatu 2, +358 300-308-452 (€0.16/min+ppm). The name hides a wealth of history: this castle-like hotel by the Imatrankoski rapids was built in 1903 for Russian nobility, and for several generations of Finns a suite here was the place to spend your honeymoon. The original name of the hotel was Grand Hotel Cascade d'Imatra. Now privately run, the hotel was reopened in 2005 after extensive renovation. Even if you don't stay overnight it's worth seeing from the outside. If booking a room, mind that the cheaper rooms (and some more expensive ones) are in a modern annex 100 m away. €200.  

Go next edit

  • Lappeenranta – Imatra's bigger cousin with a fortress and better shopping.
  • Punkaharju – The ridge bisecting Lake Saimaa is one of the most famous Finnish landscapes.
  • Savonlinna – A medieval castle, an opera festival and freshly fried fish.
  • Russia – If you have a valid visa (or if you don't need one), Svetogorsk is close by.

This city travel guide to Imatra is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.