Gorgeous Karelia

The tours presented in this section aim to introduce customers to the unique beauty and culture of the area stretching between the southern coast of the White Sea and the Ladoga Lake. Karelia is an ancient land that received her name from Karelians – Finno-Ugric people that settled in that area since prehistoric times. Throughout the history the area was disputed between the Novgorod Republic (later incorporated into Russian Empire) and Kingdom of Sweden. In spite of being Orthodox Christians the Karelians preserved unique feel of Finno-Ugric culture, somehow similar to their Finnish cousins across the border.

East of the country had been for centuries populated by the Russian speaking Pomors – proud independent folk that were at the frontier of the survival of the settled civilization against the harshness of the nature and paid allegiance only to God and their ancestors. For its sheer territory size (half of that of Germany) Karelia is quite sparsely populated, making it in fact the biggest natural reserve in Europe. The environment of this part of Russia is very green and lavish in the summer and rather stern in the winter, but even in the cold time of the year it has its own unique kind of beauty.

Fresh water lakes and rivers numbered in tens of thousands interlace with the dense taiga pine forest and rocky outcrops. Wherever you are in Karelia you never too far from a river or lake. Large deposits of granite and other building stones give the shores of Karelian lakes a uniquely romantic appearance. Many monasteries and churches, some of them on the UNESCO World heritage list, as well as other relics of the past, attract tourists. Evergreen pine and fur forests, covered with white blanket of snow in the winter, amazing darkless “white” nights in summer, plenty of lakes and rivers, and the relatively flat northern landscape are among the main distinctions of the land historically inhabited by courageous people of strong personal abilities: fishermen, hunters and woodcutters, carpenters and poets.

The local character was formed during centuries of living on the frontier of the Russian civilization in the harsh environment and personal freedom. Unlike the most of the population of Rus’ (the name of the medieval Russia) the ancestors of the present inhabitants witnessed neither the three-hundred years of Tatar yoke, nor serfdom. Among those who settled in Karelia were many Old Believers who sought here refuge after the schism of the Russian Orthodox Church (17th century).