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Destinations > North-West

Karelia

Also called Russian Scandinavia, is an astounding land – the edge of dense taiga forests in which 27000 rivers and 60000 lakes are hidden

let's explore it

Gorgeous  Nature

& Cultural Heritage

Karelia is a place with gorgeous nature: dense forests, deep lakes, fast rivers. On its territory, there are two biggest lakes in Europe – Ladoga and Onega as well as the stormy White Sea.

More than one million hectares of the republic territory belongs to protected natural areas – reserves, national parks, and natural monuments. The most significant among them are Kivach reserve, Vodlozerso, Paanajarvi, Kalevala National Parks, Ladoga, and Kizhi archipelagos.

Karelia is also the land where you meet ancient traditions and unique cultural heritage carefully preserved in world-famous museums on islands bearing magical names – Kizhi and Valaam.

short region information

LOCAL TIME
UTC+3
CLIMATE
Severe
CAPITAL
Petrozavodsk
HOW TO GET
1,5 hours by plane from Moscow / 5 hours by high speed train from Saint Petersburg
HIGHLIGHT
Kizhi Wooden Architecture Museum, Valaam Monastery, Solovetsky Islands

types of tourism

A lady with binocular sightseeing

Excursion

Gilded onion domes with crosses of an orthodox church

Religious

A man riding a snowmobile in winter

Active

A man hiking in beautiful nature

Eco

A sledge with huskies in winter

Winter

Two jars with caviar, black sturgeon caviar and red salmon caviar

Culinary

Kizhi Island Ensemble

World Heritage  Monument

There are more than 1700 architectural monuments in Karelia. The oldest of them date back to the 14-16 centuries. The hallmark of this northern region is the wooden architectural ensemble on the Kizhi Island in the North-West part of the Onega lake, built in 18 century it is now the object of the UNESCO World Heritage.

It consists of 22 domed Church of the Transfiguration, 10 domed Church of the Intercession, a bell tower, and a wooden fence. Near the cathedrals, a peasant village has been recreated where you can learn a lot about the life of the creators of the wooden masterpiece.

SOLOVKI ISLANDS

Mysterious & Impressive

Although Solovki Islands are officially included in Arkhangelsk Region, this land has strong connection with Karelia: both historical and logistic. This land has a rich history. In the 15th century on Solovki islands in the White Sea, the natives of Karelia founded the Solovetsky Orthodox Monastery which played an outstanding role in the development of the Russian North and became one of the spiritual and cultural centers in Russia.

In the 20th century, these epithets were supplemented with the ominous glory of one of the most terrible prisons of the Stalinist period. The Solovki Archipelago is a very contradictory place, it’s holy and desecrated, lovely and cruel, frightful and striking. It is difficult to express in words the impression that the Solovetsky Monastery makes on visitors.

WHITE NIGHTS & UNIQUE FAUNA

Natural  Peculiarities

A peculiarity of Karelia is the change in the length of daylight hours. It is the shortest in December, 4-6 hours, but from mid-January, the day begins to grow intensively and by June-July the sun shines almost around the clock. This time is poetically called White Nights.

The fauna of the Karelian taiga is rich – it is more than 60 species of mammals (the largest are the brown bear and the elk), 260 bird species (22 are included in the Red List of Threatened Species), and more than 130 fish species.

RUSKEALA MOUNTAIN PARK

Amazing View &

Journey  in Time

One more place in Karelia that is definitely worth visiting is a mountain park «Ruskeala». Sharp marble cliffs covered with forest reflect in deep and pure waters. This marvelous view won’t leave anyone indifferent. The marble from Ruskeala was used to build many famous masterpieces in Saint Petersburg like St Isaac’s Cathedral, Hermitage Museum, etc.

An interesting peculiarity of this place is the way you can get to it. There is a vintage train that shuttles to Ruskeala from Sortavala train station. The interior of the train is in the style of the late 19th-early 20th centuries and the train looks like those from the pages of Leo Tolstoy novels.

A hydrofoil passenger boat on the lake, island with cliffs, green trees and a church on it, northern nature.
View of the top of Orthodox cathedral from the ground. Orthodox cathedral with the red base, white towers and blue domes topped with gilded crosses, bell tower decorated with red orthodox crossed
A pine tree on the rocky shore of lake Ladoga, beautiful clouds in the blue sky

VALAAM ARCHIPELAGO

Masterpiece Hidden on Islands

The Valaam archipelago with the monastery of the same name is located in the northwestern part of the Ladoga Lake. The complex of its stone temples, reaching 70 meters in height, is one of the unique monuments of Russia.

Attention is drawn to the high level of landscape architecture – the monks paid much attention to the layout of the gardens, which symbolized the earth’s paradise. Since 1989 the Orthodox monastery is in function again.

HOME OF UNIQUE MATERIALS

Crimson Marble & Karelian Birch

In the 19th century, when the British allowed the French to bury Napoleon, the Russian emperor generously sent to France a large batch of a unique and very beautiful dark red stone, also called crimson marble, which was mined in Karelia. Karelian marble was generally very highly valued by architects and now it decorates many cathedrals and palaces in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

In the 18th century, a sort of birch was first described which “resembles marble inside”. Among the ancient Karelians, “patterned birch” wood served as money. It is hard, durable and easy to polish. Furniture, parquet, chess, boxes, and more were made from it. They were very popular in the salons of the nobles. Products made from Karelian birch can now be seen in the halls of the Hermitage and other museums.

A brunch of a birch with green leaves in front of a pinky-blue lake at sunset
Giant cubes of marble, grey marble with white veins

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