Kizhi, Cloudberries and Giant Pines: Eight Reasons to Visit Karelia

From whitewater rafting and falling in love with cloudberry tea, to seeing the grand marble canyon and picturesque waterfalls, Rambler.Travel tells you why holidaying in Karelia is a definite must

The Marvel of Kizhi

The Kizhi Pogost, one of Russia’s major architectural brands, is consistently rated among the top attractions in the country. The wooden architectural complex is made up of two churches – the Church of the Transfiguration and the Church of the Intercession – erected and reconstructed by 18th and 19th century craftsmen. Kizhi is the embodiment of years of expertise, passion and craftsmanship with each wooden building creating ideal architectural scenery in harmony with a harsh Karelian landscape. It breathtaking imagery is what prompted the decision to include Kizhi Pogost in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990.

Waterfall Selfies

Tour guides and guidebooks like to remind us that the 10.7-m-high Kivach Falls is the second-largest waterfall in the Old World after Rhine Falls. Kivach is also ahead of another oddly-named waterfall – Mamanya, located in the Murmansk Region. However, the stunning view of Kivach Falls cascading down four terraces is surely unrivalled. This place attracted poets such as Gavrila Derzhavin, academicians like Yakov Grot and even royalty in Alexander II and today still attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year. Once there, remember to visit the local arboretum and the museum of wildlife.

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Taste Karelian Pies

When traveling through Karelia, we strongly recommend you take the chance to drop in on a couple of restaurants serving local food. Kalaruokka fish soup, bear meat, traditional Karelian kalittoa rye pasties with different fillings, liqueurs and herbal tea are amongst the famous local delicacies. Karelian villagers never cooked fried food, preferring to simmer dishes in stoves to make vegetables soft and tender. When it comes to berries, cowberry is number one. They are extremely healthy, contain a lot vitamin C and are served with tea and used in sweet pie fillings.

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Going on a Water Trip

Beautiful Northern landscapes and good fishing spots make Karelia a dream destination for tourists wanting to enjoy the water. You can take a week long or even a ten day canoe, kayak or catamaran holiday in Karelia. There are plenty of water routes with numerous rapids of differing degrees of difficulty. One of the most famous rivers in Karelia is the deep river Shuya, which is about 200 kilometers long and is a popular summer spot for thousands of whitewater rafting fans. A three-day guided rafting tour will cost 3,000 roubles ($395.76) and 14,000 roubles ($184.63) for an eight-day adventure.

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Boating in a Water-Filled Quarry

Ruskeala is a former marble quarry filled with clear turquoise water. Marble mining started as far back as Tsarist Russia and Karelian marble was used in St. Petersburg to decorate Saint Isaac's Cathedral and lay the floor of Kazan Cathedral. In the 20th century, the quarry was filled with water turning galleries into caves and caverns. These days Ruskeala Mountain Park is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors are welcome to enjoy well-tended hiking trails and viewing platforms or join guided boat tours. Diving and snorkeling enthusiasts are likely to find a crane and some other equipment submerged under water filling the former marble quarry.

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Seeing the White Sea

In the 1920s, Kem, a small town on the shores of the White Sea, was a departure point for boats carrying political prisoners to a labor camp on Solovetsky Islands. Modern Kem is a town that welcomes tourists and pilgrims on their visit to the Solovetsky Monastery. The town is worth spending a day in. With many other interesting places to visit, a must-see is the 18th century wooden Assumption Cathedral – a real crucible of wooden architecture of Northern Russia. Do not miss the “glowing”’ iconostasis – an effect achieved due to a solution uncommon for Orthodox churches. Natural daylight comes in through masked windows cut in the western wall right under the ceiling.

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The Former Capital of Karelo-Finnish SSR

Petrozavodsk is the capital of Karelia and a major transit point on the way to Valaam, Kizhi with rafting, camping, hunting and fishing sites used by millions of tourists. The city has several well-preserved ancient churches, including the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Another attraction is an area of the late 19th century historical buildings not far from Onega Lake. Some districts of the former capital of Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic are remarkable by Stalinist architecture such as Lenin Avenue, Karl Marx Avenue, buildings of the railway station and the Musical Theatre of Karelia. It was not long ago that Petrozavodsk got one of the most beautiful promenades in Russia and, at the same time, an open-air art gallery – the embankment of Onega Lake.

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Lake Fishing at Ladoga and Onega

Ladoga is the biggest freshwater lake in Europe. Its shores are scattered with numerous health resorts, recreation and holiday centers. Fishermen will often rent a holiday home here due to the many fishing options including boat, shore and even underwater fishing. You can go fishing for pike, trout, sander and bream, and smaller species like smelt and common rudd. The lake is home to salmon which migrate to rivers in autumn to reproduce.

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