Places To Visit in the Republic of Karelia | Russia Travel Guide

Russia's Treasures: The Republic of Karelia

Kizhi Island

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Looking for a chance to see the outstanding nature of Russia but don't want to travel too far? The Republic of Karelia is a great destination to choose for enriching your Russia trip plans.

Take in the charming beauty of endless forests, explore the scenic towns and pretty villages, featuring great examples of Russian wooden architecture, and try to unveil some mysteries of the region. Excited to see the best of Karelia? On this page, we bring you an overview of the top Karelia attractions to upgrade your Russia journey with as well as share a video interview with our travelers, Nygel and Carolyn Armstrong, who've visited this part of Russia with us!

Magnificent Region of Lakes

If you were in search of a unique place in Russia to extend your getaway for two or three days, consider you've already found it. We gladly introduce you to Karelia, the treasure of Russia that is just waiting to be discovered.

So, where is Karelia actually located? Surrounded by the dense forest, the Republic of Karelia is located in the north-west of Russia close to Finland. It can be easily reached from Moscow or St. Petersburg by train or car.

Sincerely loved by Russians, this all-year-round destination shines differently with every new season. In summer this is a top place in the European part of the country for enjoying outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, hiking and much more! And during wintertime, many travelers on their way to the northern city of Murmansk (where the magical Northern Lights in Russia can be seen) even make a stop in Karelia for a few days to witness the incomparable local nature.

Speaking about natural wonders, can you imagine that about a third of Karelia's territory is occupied with sparkling lakes? Moreover, one of the highest waterfalls in Europe, the picturesque Kivach waterfall, is also located in the “country of lakes”. This mighty cascade is situated on the Suna River and is 11 meters (36 feet) high!

Apart from being an appealing tourist attraction among nature-lovers, believe us, the Karelian Republic has much more to offer. Upon arrival, the region will also enchant you with its impressive 18th to 19th-century architecture and rich cultural heritage, as well as with its unusual traditions, carefully passed from one generation to another over the course of history.

Karelia Region

The Biggest Lakes in Karelia:

  • The Lake Laboda (17,700 sq km)
  • Lake Onega (9,700 sq km)
  • Lake Vygozero (1,250 sq km)
  • Lake Topozero (986 sq km)
  • Lake Segozero (906 sq km)
  • Lake Pyaozero (659 sq km)
  • Lake Vodlozero (322 sq km)

Top Karelia Cities: Petrozavodsk

Any Karelia journey starts from the heart of the region, the city of Petrozavodsk, which is a perfect place to stay and take a break between your eventful day trips of exploring Karelian wonders.

Beautifully set on the shores of Lake Onega, the Karelian capital was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great and played a significant role in the military history of Russia. Nowadays, Petrozavodsk is renown as an important landmark of the region you just can't miss while exploring this part of the country.

Some of the most popular Petrozavodsk attractions include the Onezhskiy Tractor Factory which is among the oldest factories in the country, the statue of Peter the Great, Ploschad Lenina Square, and the National Museum of the Republic of Karelia where you can learn more about the history of this amazing Russian region.

If you are an art enthusiast, make sure to visit the Museum of Regional Studies and the Fine Arts Museum. Another remarkable site and one of the most picturesque places here is for sure the lakeside promenade with its beautiful contemporary sculptures donated to Petrozavodsk by its sister cities.


Popular Karelian Landmarks: The Marble Canyon Ruskeala

Prepare your cameras as we are heading to the most photographed location in Karelia. Situated near the city of Sortavala, the Marble Canyon is a natural monument of unreal beauty and the pearl of the Ruskeala Mountain Park that for sure won't leave anyone indifferent and will be remembered for a long time after your tour to Russia.

Let your gaze explore hundreds of canyon patterns that Mother Nature painted with love and care. The Marble Lake attracts a huge number of tourists with the charm of sheer marble shores that gradually go down into the water sparkling with a thousand shades of emerald. While traveling here, save some time to sail a boat through the magnificent marble grottoes and admire the mindblowing variety of natural ornaments.

Wondering how this material was actually used? Ruskeala gray marble was widely used in the construction of numerous temples and palaces including such great Russian architectural masterpieces as the Kazan and St. Isaac's Cathedrals as well as the Marble, Tauride and Winter Palaces in St. Petersburg. So, while visiting Northern Venice, pay attention to the elegant interiors of these buildings which are beautifully decorated with natural marble. Now you know “the key ingredient” of their majesty!

Canyon Ruskeala

Save some time to sail a boat through the magnificent marble grottoes and admire the mindblowing variety of natural ornaments!

Unique Places in Karelia: The Island of Kizhi

Want to go back in time, fancy to see something special, or are just interested in the remarkable UNESCO-listed sites? Then during your Karelia journey, you should definitely pay a visit to the Kizhi Island to explore traditional Russian wooden architecture, ethnographic museums, centuries-old history and, moreover, witness the spot where some scenes of the legendary Anna Karenina movie were filmed.

Your adventure starts even before arrival as the island can be reached in many different and even unusual ways. Enjoy a panoramic ferry or boat ride in summer or try fascinating winter activities in the cold season during a winter tour to Russia and get to Kizhi Island by hovercraft or snowmobile when Lake Onega is covered with a thick layer of ice. If you are lucky to visit the island on Christmas or New Years Eve, you can even take part in the helicopter tour and enjoy breathtaking bird's eye views!

This open-air museum is an integral part of many cruises from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, and Nizhny Novgorod, as it boasts some of the most outstanding examples of wooden architecture in entire Russia. The Kizhi architectural ensemble which consists of two multi-domed churches and a bell tower is included in the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites.

Fun Fact
Unbelievably, but these 37-meter-high (121-feet-high) Kizhi churches have been preserved in their original form and were built without a single nail!

The island is home to the oldest wooden church in the country, dating back to the 14th century, the Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus.

Unbelievably, but these 37-meter-high (121-feet-high) Kizhi churches have been preserved in their original form and were built without a single nail! This is how the official version sounds. But we would like to unveil a small secret, just for you. Not everybody knows that nails were actually used to create some domes of the temple.

Although the Kizhi villages are a tourist-overrun attraction, they are still in everyday use! So, don't miss the opportunity to visit a true Russian village which is cloaked with the spirit of the 19th century. Furthermore, you can participate in the unique interactive folklore program “Music of the Northern Village” to learn more about the secrets of shipbuilding and take part in a master class on traditional crafts.

Kizhi Island

Karelia Must-Sees: Solovetsky Islands

And last but not least in our list is one of the most amazing places in entire Russia, Solovki or Solovetsky Islands. Despite their small size, it's almost impossible to overestimate the contribution of the Solovetsky Islands to the saturated Russian history. And the authenticity of this less touristy part of Russia is surely worth the ride!

The natural world of this place surprises with its diversity as the islands are home for over 540 species of plants, 250 species of animals, and more than 200 species of birds (the most famous one is the Solovetsky Seagull, the local symbol).

Aside from the mesmerizing nature, the unique architecture of the region deserves taking a closer look. Any Solovetsky Islands itinerary will be incomplete without seeing iconic stone mazes scattered along the archipelago.

Shockingly, there is no information about how these impressive 2000-year-old structures appeared here and what they were created for.

Ready for one more mystery? Another enigmatic gem of the islands is the famous UNESCO-listed Orthodox Solovetsky Monastery, one of the most well-known religious centers in Russia which has its own secrets.

The fortress-like monastery is among the largest ones in northern Russia and houses the Church of Annunciation, as well as the Uspensky and Preobrazhensky Cathedrals. Even today nobody can explain how and when the massive 6-meter (20-feet) walls of the church were built.

Solovetsky Islands

Mystery of the Islands
Shockingly, there is no information about how these impressive 2000-year-old structures appeared here and what they were created for.

People from all over the world come to Karelia to appreciate its unique natural beauty, marvel at its outstanding architecture, and delve into the rich history of the region. Maybe it’s your turn now? If you’d like to get some assistance while planning your Russia vacation, don't hesitate to contact our professional travel specialists.