The best kind of stuff is free stuff, and the only thing better than travel is coupon travel!
Due to a happy surprise, this summer I managed to get my hands on a bunch of coupons for S Group, a huge Finnish co-op network consisting of stores, gas stations, restaurants, hotels etc. The only catch was that the coupons, total worth over 250€, were only valid in the North Karelia region in Eastern Finland. My friend M and I ditched our original plan of meeting up here in Turku, and decided to travel to Eastern Finland instead. The main goal of our trip was to take advantage of as many coupon discounts as possible, because why the heck not!
I met up with M in Jyväskylä, Central Finland. Her boyfriend had graciously agreed to lend us his car, and so we took off on a sunny Sunday morning in July. Our pit stop in Kuopio turned into a bit of a disappointment when we had trouble finding a restaurant that would be open at noon. Café Temptation (in the picture above) with its alluring tagline was also closed. We ended up eating at a chain restaurant and paid full price, which was very much against the spirit of our trip.
The day took a turn for the better when we finally arrived at our first destination, Koli. I had never even been to North Karelia before. According to a general consensus, the landscapes in the Koli national park are something every Finn must witness at least once in a lifetime. So that’s one thing off the ol’ To Do list, yay.
Late Sunday afternoon, after the long drive, we were in no mood to get sweaty in the national park. Instead, we decided to take advantage of the first two coupons. The first coupon allowed us to spend the night at Break Sokos Hotel Koli for free. That’s right, a coupon for 100% off – more of these, please!
Our room had a fantastic view over Lake Pielinen. The hotel as a whole had a really cosy atmosphere, what with its Reino rental shoes and knitting corners. The best thing about it, though, was the Relax Spa. We really got the discounts rolling: the second coupon was for 50% off at the spa.
Each spa ticket includes a “bath pail” filled with pampering Lumene spa products. The friendly clerk offered us the option to trade one of our pails for a bottle of sparkling wine, and we didn’t have to think twice. We figured one set of the mini-sized spa products would be enough for two people, and we were right. We expected the bubbly to come in a mini bottle, as well, but were pleasantly surprised to see a chunky one laying on a bed of ice cubes.
Due to past disappointments at the mercy of false advertising, I was quite skeptical about the whole “spa with a view” marketing, but this time I was happy to be proven wrong. The outdoor tubs had perfect views over the lake. I could think of worse places to get tipsy on wine.
The indoor area of the spa features many kinds of light/sound showers (Caribbean thunderstorm, anyone?), different mini pools and saunas, as well as a relaxing room with free tea and fruit. A fun little detail we noticed: the saunas and showers all have little signs on their doors. Each sign shows a different Lumene spa product from the pail, guiding visitors e.g. to use a face mask in a specific sauna, and a body scrub in a specific shower. I could see myself getting used to happily shuffling around in a giant bathrobe. Luxurious!
At the end of the evening, we decided to check out what the hotel restaurant had to offer. The views from the restaurant were just as good as they were at the spa. The food and wine were tasty, and the service was great. Oh, how I love the dialect in that region! Bonus points for our waiter’s majestic beard braids. The breakfast buffet was also pretty good, though there was no smart way to navigate it in the 9 am rush. They even had a chocolate fountain with marshmallows – a sloth’s paradise!
Coupon savings of the day: 178€