The Republic of Karelia is not a common tourist destinations for the foreign tourists, however it’s becoming more and more popular among Russians. And those who decide to discover Karelia will fall in love with its pristine landscapes, harsh natural beauty, turbulent rivers and cold desolation.
Karelia has only recently begun to develop qualitatively as a tourist destination. So you shouldn’t expect neither vip service nor a luxurious infrastructure.
Anyway I find Karelia very similar to Lapland but harsher and way cheaper. So hurry up before the tourist attractions have not overcome the wild nature of the republic.
Guided tours to Karelia
I have bad news. As Karelia is not a popular tourist destination it will be very difficult to go there on your own without speaking Russian. So the best option would be to take a tour. Good news there are plenty of tours 1, 2 and 3 days long.
My first time in Karelia was also with a tour, which was splendid and I highly recommend you to book a tour with these guys.
Top-8 must-visit places in Karelia
1. Ruskeala mountain park
It is the most popular destination in Karelia as actually it’s the only one where you can easily get by public transport. So the park is very popular for 1 day tours.
I dedicated a separate article to the park, where I wrote what to do in Ruskeala Mountain Park and how to get there by public transport.
Valaam is an island in the northern part of the Lake Ladoga. Here is located the famous Valaam Male Monastery. To visit Valaam you will need to book a tour with an agency. It’s impossible to do it on your own.
Karelia’s waterfalls are a miracle of the Northern Nature. Here they are called “Paduna”. These are the most famous of them:
- Ruskeala waterfalls Ahvenkoski.
- Waterfalls “Koyyrino”
- Waterfall “White Bridges
4. Fortress Korela
Museum-Fortress Korela is located in Priozersk. The history of the fortress begins in the 13th century. In the Livonian war, the Swedes captured the fortress. But in the Northern War, the Russian Empire returned her back. The fortress served as a prison for political prisoners.
5. Lutheran church in the city of Lahdenpohja
This is the ruins of the largest church in Karelia. It was built in the 19th century. And was burnt in 1977.
6. Kennel of Siberian Huski
Talvukko is the home of Karelian Santa Claus. Here you can ride a dog harness or the reindeer sleigh, sit by the fire with tea.
7. Ladoga Schhers.
Schhers are the small rocky islands separated by numerous channels. During the ice age at the site of the water there were blocks of ice.
Kizhi is a museum-reserve and a unique monument to wooden architecture. It is located on the island in Lake Onega. To get here you need to book a boat tour.
Top-5 foods you have to try in Karelia:
Karelian cuisine was formed under the influence of neighboring nations. In simple words it is something in the middle of Russian and Finnish cuisine.
1. Karelian pies
These are open rye fresh dough pies with various fillings. You probably saw them in Finland. But in fact, the birthplace of this baking is Karelia.
It’s a Karelian fish soup.
Fish cake in a rye dough.
Karelian pancakes baked from rye flour.
Those are finely rolled and roasted tortilla from rye flour.