Karelia is a land of fabulous and amazing nature, clear blue lakes, vast untouched forests, harsh rocks and fast rivers. The charm of Northern beauty, unique monuments of Russian history, cordiality and hospitality of the people are waiting for you there.
Karelia stretches from the White Sea coast to the Gulf of Finland and is known as “the country of lakes.” One quarter of Karelia’s surface is covered by water including about sixty thousand lakes. It contains the two largest lakes in Europe – Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega.
Karelia is exceptionally rich in historical, cultural and natural attractions that may satisfy the diverse interests of tourists. Among the most famous attractions of Karelia are:
- The attractions of Petrozavodsk
- Kizhi Island
- Kizhi Necklace
- Valaam (Valaam Monastery)
- Solovki (Solovetsky Islands)
- Resort “Marcial Waters” – waterfall Kivatch
- Petroglyphs: Devils Nose (Lake Onega) and Vig River (White Sea region)
- Seids on the Nemetskiy Kuzov islands in the White Sea and on Mount Vottovaara
- Mazes on the Solovetsky Islands
- Ruskeala marble quarry
- Ancient villages: Sheltozero, Kinerma, Manga, Rubcheila, Korza
- The sights of Karelia related to the Karelian-Finnish epic “Kalevala”: Voknavolok, Kalevala (Ukhta), Voinitsa
- Lake Ladoga Skerries
- Architectural sights of Priladozhje
- Ancient volcanoes
- Vazheozersky monastery, Murom Monastery
- Military Historic Sites of Karelia: Medvezegorsk and Mannerheim lines of defense
Kizhi Island The Kizhi neighborhood was beautifully called “Zaonezhskaya Hellas” by the travelers. It’s an amazing place – the islands are picturesque, they combine grandeur and simplicity, strength and grace, and one of them has a real miracle: an architectural ensemble known far beyond the borders of Karelia.
Over the years, anonymous artists of different generations created this unique architectural ensemble. The 22-dome Transfiguration Church is considered to be the finest example, the pinnacle of folk wooden architecture.The second monument of the Kizhi churchyard is considered to be the winter Intercession Church. The third building of the ensemble is a slender tower, which makes the complex balanced and complete. These religious buildings embody people’s view of the world. The cathedral, church and chapel form a model of the universe. The oldest monument of the museum is the Church of Resurrection of Lazarus.
Residential farmhouses, brought to the reserve at different times, are unique home-complexes combining economic and living areas under a common roof. These ancient log cabins have experienced a lot over the years: cold winters and hot sun of the short northern summer, long autumn rains and piercing north wind.
In recent years, Kizhi Island sarted hosting colorful folk festivals and Days of Folk Crafts.
Valaam (Valaam Monastery) The island of Valaam is a genuine pearl of Ladoga.
Valaam Island is located in the north part of Lake Ladoga and attracts thousands of tourists every year. There are several reasons for this: the unique nature of the island, the pine forests on steep cliffs, the warm and quiet inland lakes. Moreover, there is the Holy Transfiguration Valaam Monastery, as well as St. Nicholas, Gethsemane and other monasteries.
According to one version, the name “Valaam” is derived from the Finnish “high land.”The highest island of the archipelago is Lembos, its height is 58.2 meters. Skitsky island rises to 51.8 meters, while the maximum height of Valaam is 42 meters. Another version of the name is the name of the pagan god Vaal.
Nowhere else in Europe can you find such a beautiful place with coves, islands, straits and pine forests. Everyone who’s been there admiringly remembers the wonderful sights of the island. It has many species of flowering plants. Conifers are aged up to 300 years. A unique blend of local plants and trees that hadn’t grown there before and were planted by humans is created in Valaam. Among the 212 species of birds that can be found there, many are listed in the Red Book of Russia.
The founding date of the Valaam Monastery, according to some historians, is the christening of Rus (988), or later. According to the monastic legend, the monastery was founded before the Baptism of Russia, in 960,by St. Sergius and Herman. In the 15th century the monastery was called the Great Lavra. It was the center of book-writing. By the early 16th century 600 monks lived in the monastery. In the 16-17th centuries Valaam Monastery was repeatedly ruined by the Swedes. From 1811 to 1917, the archipelago was part of Finnish Duchy of the Russian Empire. Period from 1839 to 1917 was the heyday of the monastery. After the October Revolution, Valaam belonged to Finland. In 1940, after the Soviet-Finnish War, Valaam archipelago territory was annexed by the Soviet Union.
On December 13, 1989, on the feast day of St. Andrew, six monks came to the island and started reviving the monastery. 16 years later, in 2005, for the first time rang the 1000-pood bell “St. Andrew” installed in the bell tower at the monastery within the framework of restoration of the ancient belfry. On the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 21 September 2008 Alexy II blessed Saint Vladimir Skete on Valaam Island and carried out the first Divine Liturgy in the church.
Solovki (Solovetsky Islands) The Solovetsky Islands (Solovki) form an archipelago in the White Sea at the entrance to Onega Bay. This is the largest archipelago of the White Sea.
The Solovetsky Islands consist of six major islands:
- Solovetsky (Bolshoi Solovetsky) island – 246 km ²
- Anzersky island or Anzer – 47 km ²
- Bolshaya Muksalma – 17 km ²
- Malaya Muksalma – 0.57 km ²
- Bolshoy Zayatsky – 1.25 km ²
- Maly Zayatsky – 1.02 km ²
The archipelago also includes over 100 small islands.
Solovetsky Archipelago, as well as the five-kilometer area of the White Sea, are included in the protected area – Federal State Institution “Solovki State Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve”. Solovetsky Island is a strict nature protection area. The main attraction and the spiritual center of the islands is the Solovetsky monastery.
The relief of the islands is uneven, hilly, while the southern and western parts are mountainous. Solovetsky Island has three main relief areas: the central part of the island has a hilly landscape and a developed network of lakes, the southern part, which is a hollow ringed by hills filled with peat bogs and lakes, and the coastal area.
Solovetsky Monastery located on the isthmus between the Holy lake and Blagopoluchiya Bay on Solovetsky Island. The monastery is considered to have been founded in 1436, when Reverend Zosima first came to Solovki. Before the modern stone monastery was built, wooden buildings of the 15 – early 16th century had existed. The architectural ensemble of the monastery includes the Solovetsky Transfiguration Cathedral, the Gate Church of the Annunciation, the monastic fortress, buildings of the monastic settlements and hermitages, a unique system of waterworks and some other buildings.
The monastery is surrounded by massive walls (8 to 11 meters high and 4 to 6 meters thick). It has 7 gates and 8 towers, built in the years 1584-1594 under the supervision of Architect Tryphon. The walls were built of huge stones up to 5 meters large. The monastery has religious buildings connected by covered walkways surrounded by residential and housekeeping premises.
Solovetsky monastery was closed by the Soviet authorities in 1920, and in its buildings was organized a Special Purpose Camp. On October 25, 1990, the monastery was officially revived.
On December 14, 1992 Solovetsky historical and cultural complex was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.