Karelia is a land of severe but dazzling nature, mysterious land of summer midnight sun, polar lights, lakes, forests and arctic landscapes.
It is the closest to Europe region and is loved by European tourists.
Come and dive with belukha whales in the clear waters of the White Sea, dogsled with friendly huskies and take a snowmobile tour on the endless spaces. Visit Kizhi church complex built in 18th century without a single nail. Travel to Solovetsky islands the place of 15th century Solovki monastery and of a gulag camp during a dark period of its history. Delve in the atmosphere of Valaam Monastery, Russian equivalent of the Greek Mount Athos. Let Karelia conquer your heart.
Whether you are searching for secluded holidays with all the meals cooked on the open fire, an all-inclusive five stars hotel, or a cozy B&B, we will make sure you will see the most this region of splendid beauty.
At a glance
Located on the North-West of Russia, Karelia borders with Finland. Blue Highway tourist route lies Karelia with Norway via Finland and Sweden.
Half of its territory is covered with forest and a quarter is water, there are 27 000 rivers and 61 000 lakes, among which Ladoga and Onega lakes, the largest and the second largest lakes in Europe.
When to go
The winter sceneries with snow layer up to 2,5 meters are ideal for Christmas holidays. In May in Karelia is still chilly, but if you are not afraid of cold you will profit of some of the best views of Russia. June is famous for the nights of midnight sun and in July the bathing season starts. It’s warm until September. The whole period from May to September is great for fishing.
They say that the name Karelia is derived from Russian «koru ela» which means «ate the bark». Karelia soil is very flinty and it is very difficult to grow bread cereals there. Karelians traditionally added to tree bark to the flour, and this is where the name comes from.
Karelia was first inhabited by Finno-Ugric tribes in 7-6 thousand BC. In 10-11 century AD, the territory of Karelia was ravaged by Scandinavian vikings. Some defense works constructed back then still remain.
Starting from the 13th century Karelia was severely fought over by the Russians and the Swedes.
In 1227, under Novgorod rule, Karelians were baptized into orthodoxy.
Karelian duchy made part of the Kingdom of Sweden from 1617 to 1721, when most of Karelia was ceded to the Russian Empire.
The Moscow Peace Treaty signer in 1940 after the Winter war caused further expansion of the Soviet Union to the remaiing part of Karelia.
Karelian cuisine is very simple and is closed to Finnish and Estonian cuisine.
Traditionally Karelians fished, gathered mushrooms and berries, and grew turnip. Meat was consumed on special occasions only. Wheat did not grow in the region. Rye and barley were the main cereals.
All food has been cooked in the stove. Fish in Karelia is still not fried but mostly cooked in water, used for stuffing pies or is dried.
Among traditional Karelian dishes there are «Kalitki» Karelian salted pies made with rye. «Kalaruoka» fish soup often contains milk, eggs, seaweeds, pine and birch buds or rye flour. It is sometimes made from sour fish and in this case, the broth is filtered through birch coal.
The most popular Karelian souvenirs are made from the famous Karelian birch – rings, pendants, picture frames, chess, etc.
Karelian balm is a herbal liqueur with 30 different herbs, berries and roots beneficial for health.
Locals also believe in curative effects of shungite stones. One can buy them in bijouterie, massage sets or loose, you can also pick them up yourself in a number of locations your guide will tell you about, should you happen to be nearby.