The Republic of Karelia is an amazing “country of lakes” in the North-West of Russia. Bordered by Finland to the west and the White Sea to the east, Karelia is rapidly becoming one of Russia’s top destinations. The nickname 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.
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, 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) along many smaller waterfalls. Photographers are mesmerised by the marble canyon filled with water of the Ruskeala park. Scenic rivers and lakes are ideal for kayaking. 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.
At the moment, the only flights coming in and out of the Karelian capital of Petrozavodsk are from Moscow. It is recommended to visit the area in the summer, from June to August.