Karelia & Solovetsky Islands


The Republic of Karelia is an amazing “country of lakes” in the North-West of Russia. The name is most appropriate: lakes occupy about a third of its area, while nearly half is mighty forests. People come here primarily to enjoy the beauty of northern nature. However, the authentic architecture and traditions of Karelia give the region even greater charm. Usually, tourists come to the main city of the republic Petrozavodsk, and then head for other areas they are interested in. Sortavala is another important town in Karelia, but it has a purely Finnish, European flavour, and you hardly get any sense of Russia here.

The greatest sights in Karelia are the unique wooden churches and buildings from the 18th-19th centuries on the island of Kizhi in Lake Onega. These multi-domed churches were built without a single nail and have been preserved in their original form. Now the area has been declared a historical and architectural museum-reserve and is protected by UNESCO. Another “island” attraction is the Valaam Transfiguration Monastery with its snow-white ornate churches and secluded hermitages (small monastic dwellings), hidden in the shady groves of the Valaam archipelago. The huge prehistoric petroglyphs with images of people, animals and birds on the rocky promontories of Lake Onega really fire the imagination: they are over 5000 years old.

People come to Karelia for nature tourism, too. There is the mighty Kivach waterfall (one of the highest in Europe) and many smaller waterfalls here. Photographers are mesmerised by the marble canyon filled with water of the Ruskeala park. Scenic rivers and lakes are ideal for kayaking, one minute calm, the next extreme. And anglers dearly love coming to Karelia for a great day’s fishing: here, even a novice will be able to boast a sizable catch.

Worthy of attention is the regional capital itself, Petrozavodsk. At the National Museum of the Republic of Karelia, you can learn more about the nature and history of this wonderful region. Characters from Karelian mythology come to life in the “Doll’s House” private art gallery. For a long, leisurely walk there’s Onega embankment with its unusual contemporary sculptures, donated to Petrozavodsk by its sister cities. But the main “target” for photos on the waterfront, of course, is Lake Onega, a boundless expanse that beckons you to explore, as it did thousands of years ago.


Church of the Transfiguration, island of Kizhi, Karelia, Russia


The mountain park “Ruskeala” is a unique landmark of Karelia! Picturesque marble rocks are reflected in the greenish smooth surface of the cleanest lakes! Ruskeala – a symbol of the rebirth of the Karelian land, a symbol of the harmony of man and nature! Ruskeala – the pearl of the Northern Ladoga area!

Unique excursion routes of the North-West of Russia are waiting for you: walking, water, underground. Extreme sports lovers are offered incredible opportunities for all-season trolley (zip-line) and rope park. Environmental races and festivals take place regularly! Here they treat guests to the sacred traditions of Karelian cuisine! From local material wizards create great souvenirs that keep warm hands of skillful!

Mountain park “Ruskeala” in the eyes turns into an exclusive creative and scientific laboratory of modern tourism! But most importantly, the Ruskeala landscape surprises and amazes the guests. Nature and people interact here for three centuries. The magic marble of the “color of the white nights” mined here forever became an ornament of St. Petersburg. The great labors of generations of mountain masters gave this place a special aura. Contemporaries come here not only to have fun and relax brightly, but also to touch the history of mining, look into the secrets of the Karelian depths, worship the northern stone …

The Kizhi Museum is one of the largest open air museums in Russia. This unique historical, cultural and natural complex is a particularly valuable object of cultural heritage of the peoples of Russia. The basis of the museum collection – the Kizhi Ensemble – is the UNESCO World cultural and natural heritage site. Restoration of the Kizhi monuments is being carried out “in front of the world”.

Valaam Archipelago is one of the most interesting cultural, historical and nature attractions in the North of Russia. The nature of Valaam is unique and extremely beautiful. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims come from all over the world to this northern part of Lake Ladoga, the biggest lake in Europe. 

Besides the nature beauty Valaam island is best known as the 14th century Valaam Monastery that is nowadays permanently inhabited by monks and families. There are about 600 residents on the main island, including monks and guides, army service personnel and restoration workers. In the 12th century the islands were a part of Novgorod Rebublic. In the 17th century it was captured by Sweden. Russia has conquered Valaam back less than a century later.

The Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Islands comprises six islands of the Solovetsky Archipelago situated in the western part of the White Sea, 290 km from Arkhangelsk, the centre of Arkhangelsky region.

Founded in the 1430s, the Solovetsky complex is an outstanding example of the tenacity, courage and diligence of monks of the Russian Orthodox Church in the inhospitable environment of Northern Europe. The complex is unique in its integrity and safeguarding of its religious, residential, domestic, defence and waterside constructions, its road network and irrigation systems of the Middle Ages harmoniously blended with the surrounding natural and cultural landscapes as well as archeological sites that reflect the ancient and medieval culture of the islands for six thousand years. The Solovetsky complex represents all periods of the history of the archipelago and the Russian North in general.

The Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Archipelago comprises a monastery-fortress of 15th to the early 20th centuries, a former monastic village of 16th to the early 20th centuries, cells and hermitages of 16th to the early 20th centuries, insular hydraulic and irrigation systems, sacred sites and dozens of settlements of 6 to the first millennia BC, groups of memorial constructions of the Solovetsky Special Prison Camp of 1923-1939 and the surrounding natural and cultural landscapes throughout the archipelago.

The heart of the historic and cultural complex of the archipelago is the architectural ensemble of the Solovetsky Monastery, which is a holistic unique architectural complex. Its constructions are characterized by their monumentality, individuality and integrity of all components resulting from the centuries-old tradition of building.

The Solovetsky historic and cultural complex is the only large set of monuments in northern latitudes, built from local boulders in combination with rare brick and forge iron produced on Solovki. The peculiar linear design of the facade and high density of buildings on small areas contribute to the integrity and architectural expression of the ensemble. The fortress is the only Russian fortification complex built with the use of large boulders, which adds greatly to its individuality.

The vast variety and uniqueness of the Solovetsky monuments together with the northern wilderness create a rare cultural and natural synthesis. Archeological studies over the last 20 years have identified some interesting new materials that expand the cultural context of the property.

The Solovki is often recognized by the public as one of the first and best known Soviet special purpose camps of the GULAG. The islands have been used as a place of exile since the 17th century.