Top 30: The main attractions of Karelia, worth visiting
Brief description Karelia has always stood apart among all Russian regions, primarily due to its amazing nature: rushing rivers, untouched forests, rich wildlife and, of course, some of the largest lakes in Russia, around which cities and settlements were built. Baroque and Renaissance architecture you won’t find here, but there are plenty of monuments of Russian architecture. And they, together with numerous sung by nature, make up the face of Karelia – beautiful and fascinating. The greatest artists and scientists have always come here for inspiration, so come and you too, in order to immerse yourself in the beauty and sights of Karelia: the most interesting and iconic you will find in this article.
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Where to go and what to see in Karelia?
The most interesting and beautiful places, photos with descriptions.
1. National Museum of Karelia (Petrozavodsk)
The history of museum in Petrozavodsk began in 1838 with an exposition of steel products of Alexandrovsky factory. However, this collection was not widely exhibited, but was mostly used as a presentation for customers. The full museum was opened in 1871, and the industrial, ethnographic and historical exhibitions became available to all comers.
At different times the museum was called differently: Olonets, Karelian, Karelian-Finnish, and only in 2011 received its present name. Now the museum has several exhibitions, where visitors can learn about the history of Karelia, local folklore, ethnography, culture and nature. There are also regular events here, so keep an eye on the posters: perhaps something will catch your eye.
Address: 1 Lenin Square, Petrozavodsk.
2. Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Karelia (Petrozavodsk)
Karelia is famous not only for its incredible nature but also for its rich culture. Excellent evidence of that is the Museum of Fine Arts in Petrozavodsk. It opened in 1960 not without the help of other museums of the USSR: the Tretyakov Gallery and the Hermitage donated quite a few works of art to the Karelian Museum.
In the spacious halls you can see many works by famous Russian painters: Repin, Vasnetsov, Shishkin and Aivazovsky. However, the greatest interest of visitors is the main exposition of the museum – more than 3,000 works of art created in Karelia. This unique collection will not only delight fans of painting and sculpture, but also learn more about the history of art development in this region.
Address: 8 Karl Marx Ave. in Petrozavodsk.
Onega embankment (Petrozavodsk)
Each city has its own “visiting card”, Petrozavodsk is no exception. Once you are here, do not miss the opportunity to visit Onega embankment – a favorite place for walks for tourists and locals. People come here not only to admire the clear waters of Lake Onega, but also to join the art. On the waterfront is an extensive collection of monuments, donated by twin cities not only from Russia, but from Europe and the United States. Most of them are made in an avant-garde manner, which makes Onega embankment has become like a modern art museum in the open air. Do not forget that the Onega Lake has long been inhabited by fishermen, so be sure to find the monument “Lucky Fisherman”: they say if you take him by both hands and make a wish, it will certainly come true.
Address: Petrozavodsk, Onega embankment.
4. Botanical garden of Petrozavodsk State University (Petrozavodsk)
When in 1944 the teachers and students of the Karelian-Finnish University returned from evacuation, they started to create a botanical garden in Petrozavodsk. It took 7 years to implement the project, as a result of which hundreds of plant species, not peculiar to the Karelian climate, appeared in the garden. Initially it was used for scientific researches, but later it was opened for the public.
Over the years, the botanical garden expanded, and today it has reached an area of 3.5 km2 . On its territory you can see a large collection of plants typical of Asian countries, North America, Europe and some other regions. One of the most interesting sights is the tract “Devil’s Chair” – an incredibly ancient rock, whose age is at least 2 billion years.
Coordinates on the map: 61.84266325771891, 34.38192072884351
5. Zoo complex “Three Bears”.
Karelia to this day is a place where there are thousands of corners of nature untouched by man. While modern life is boiling in Petrozavodsk and other cities, wolves, bears and other animals common in the region roam in the forests, just like a thousand years ago. Meet them in the wild is difficult and not always safe, so we recommend visiting the zoo complex “Three Bears”, where acquaintance with our brethren will take place in a more comfortable environment. Here you will see the above mentioned wolves and bears, as well as leopards, lynxes, wild boars, foxes, sables, chinchillas, pheasants, eagles and many other inhabitants of the animal world.
Map coordinates: 61.94763124204409, 33.40810674109873.
6. Lake Onega and petroglyphs
Lake Onega is the third largest body of water in Russia: first and second place are occupied by Lake Baikal and Lake Ladoga. The area of the lake is 9,720 sq. km2 and it stretches from Karelia to Leningrad and Vologda regions. The lake is famous for its scenic views, large stocks of fish and dozens of bird species nesting on the coastal cliffs. However, the most famous attraction of Lake Onega is the petroglyphs.
Petroglyphs are all images carved in stone from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. Some of the most striking examples of this ancient art are on the eastern shore of Lake Onega. The drawings are scattered along the 20-kilometer coast on various rocks, and their total number is about 1200 pieces. According to various estimates, the petroglyphs can be attributed to the II-IV millennium BC.
Coordinates on the map: 61.72607440329899, 35.34822635871574
7. Museum-reserve “Kizhi” (Kizhi island)
Probably not a place in all Russia similar to Kizhi. The fact is that here have survived dozens of architectural monuments dating from the XVI-XIX centuries. Museum began with two wooden churches of Kizhi pogost in 1955, and by 2021 their number has increased significantly. Churches, chapels, bowed crosses, barns, mills, houses, workshops – all these buildings were either already built on the island or were brought from other parts of Karelia and painstakingly restored. The museum is divided into several zones, each of which presents monuments of Russian architecture of different centuries and regions of Karelia. It can easily take a couple of days to see all the sights, so we recommend you to try camping – on Kizhi Island it is allowed in specially designated places.
Map coordinates: 62.067592921026296, 35.22352446336389.
8. The Kivach waterfall (90 km from Petrozavodsk)
The Kivach waterfall is the living embodiment of the power and might of nature. Its name most likely comes from the Finnish word “kivas” meaning “powerful, impetuous”. Although Kivach is not so high, only 10.5 meters, this doesn’t prevent the water flowing down with great speed and force. If the legend is to be believed, Kivach arose because of the strong attachment of two sister rivers – Shuya and Suna. Not wanting to be estranged from each other, they flowed side by side. One day Suna fell asleep and upon awakening discovered that Shuya had drifted far away. Trying to catch up with her, Suna demolished everything in her path, and in the place where she broke through the rocks, and formed a waterfall Kivach.
Coordinates on the map: 62.268066996672744, 33.980382398784485.
9. Girvas volcano (2.5 km from the village of Girvas)
Once on the territory of Karelia there was an active volcano Girvas, which extinct about two billion years ago. The only thing that reminds of its existence are several tens of lava streams frozen near the river Suna. Besides them there are traces of the crater, which is considered one of the oldest not only in Karelia, but in the whole world. They found Girvas by accident when they dammed up the river Suna during the construction of Paleozerskaya hydroelectric power station 70 years ago. The remnants of the once-mighty volcano are best seen during the snowless period except for those days when water is released from the reservoir.
Map coordinates: 62.48522098582141, 33.67439087544711
10. Vottovaara mountain (20 km from the village of Gimoly)
On the Vottovaara rock massif, located 20 kilometers from the village of Sukkozero, is the highest point of the West-Karelian uplands – 417.3 meters above sea level. This place has become very famous because of the boulders, stacked in a rather unusual compositions. They were discovered and made public about 50 years ago by a local local historian S.M. Simonyan. The researcher supposed that the boulders served as a place of worship of the ancient Lapps. When this became known, not only archeologists and tourists, but also people who believe in mysticism and scientific theories began to flock to Vottovaara. But the question of whether these structures are man-made or not is still a matter of debate in scientific circles. Perhaps it is up to you to discover the secret of Vottovaara, at the same time enjoying the cleanest mountain air and scenic views.
Coordinates on the map: 63.074364163707344, 32.6232565143889
The fame of Lake Ladoga ensured participation in many historical events. The well-known route “From the Varangians to the Greeks”, the water route leading from the Baltic Sea straight to Byzantium, ran exactly through it. One of the most important battles during the Great Northern War (1700-1721) took place here, and during the Great Patriotic War the “Road of Life” – the only corridor, which connected the besieged Leningrad with the rest of the country – crossed the Ladoga Lake.
Delving into history, we should not forget about the beauty of Lake Ladoga, praised by poets and painters. Ancient cathedrals, massive fortresses, thick forests and high cliffs – there is plenty of that here. You can spend days exploring the local sights, or if you don’t have much time, take a boat trip and see the best of it.
Coordinates on the map: 60.88142933483662, 31.537028176474994
The Valaam Island and the Valaam Monastery
Valaam is the largest island in the namesake archipelago, located in the north of Lake Ladoga. The island is associated with the names of prominent writers, composers and artists, who visited it in search of inspiration. Tchaikovsky, Tyutchev, Kuindzhi and many other artists were on Valaam. It is hard even to imagine how many of their works were inspired by the beauty of the island.
The main attraction of the island is the Valaam Monastery, founded at the beginning of the XV century. For a long time it existed in isolation from the rest of civilization, but the political conflicts of the last century did not pass by. As a result of the annexation of a part of Finland to the Soviet Union in 1940, the Valaam Monastery also fell into the territory of the Union. In fact, until the beginning of the XXI century, the monastery was in disrepair, until they began to allocate a lot of money for its restoration. Thanks to the restoration, Valaam Monastery became a place of pilgrimage not only for monks, but also for all tourists – lovers of orthodox architecture.
Coordinates on the map: 61.38071408522113, 30.96313321408531
13. Waterfall “White Bridges” (60 km from Sortavala)
“White bridges”, formerly called Yukankoski by the Finns, is the highest complex of waterfalls in Northern Ladoga, located on the river Kulismajoki. The waterfalls became known as “white bridges” because of the white stone bridges built upstream by the Finns. Alas, they have not practically survived to this day, leaving only ruins. Finnish name Jukankoski, most likely, came from the name of a nearby farm and the word “koski”, which means “river threshold”. The waterfalls are divided into left and right branches, where the height of the fall is 11 and 18 meters, respectively. “White bridges” are located among the beautiful nature, which will not leave anyone indifferent, and certainly will make you return here more than once.
Coordinates on the map: 61.75365929333367, 31.408903974932176
14. Ruskeala Mountain Park (30 km from Sortavala)
Ruskeala has long been a tourist Mecca: every year this park receives thousands of visitors, wishing to be inspired by its unique landscapes. The history of this place goes back to 1765 when they started marble mining that was later used for construction of the most emblematic buildings in Russia: the Hermitage, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and Mikhailovsky Castle. When the extraction of marble ceased, the quarry gradually fell into disrepair and became waterlogged. Today its size reaches 460 meters in length and 100 in width, and the water here is so transparent that you can see everything that happens at a depth of 15-18 meters.
In the summer of 2019 from Sortavala to Ruskeala Park launched a retro train: its design is in the style of the Nikolaev Express, the company train that ran from St. Petersburg to Moscow more than a hundred years ago.
Attractions in Karelia
Onega Lake Kivach Waterfall Ruskeala Waterfalls Marble Canyon Gefsimansky Skete Vodlozero National Park
This site contains a list of attractions in Karelia – photos, descriptions and tips for travelers. The list is compiled on the basis of popular guidebooks and is presented by type, name and rating. Here you will find answers to the questions: what to see in Karelia, where to go and where are the popular and interesting places of Karelia.
Lake Onega is the second largest lake in Europe. It is located on the territory of two regions at once (Leningrad and Vologda), and another part is in Karelia. Wildlife, dense forests, and unusual historical buildings make these places unusually visited by tourists in the summertime.
On the shores of the lake are cities such as Petrozavodsk, Medvezhjegorsk and Kondopoga. Near the lake you can stay at small rest houses or campsites to be close to nature.
On the territory of the lake is developed fishing and underwater hunting. Also in these places annually takes place the championship of Russia on sailing, which attracts a large number of tourists.
Transportation is well developed here. Tourist ships and “meteors” regularly sail along the lake.
The waterfall of Kivach
The Kivach waterfall is the largest waterfall in Karelia and the third largest waterfall in Europe, located on a plain.
The name of the waterfall translates to Russian as “impetuous” or “powerful”. Its height is about eleven meters. The waterfall has two main ledges and several smaller drops.
The waterfall is located on the river Suna, which is a full-flowing and wide river. It is worth noting that the power of the waterfall suffered from the fact that part of the water was withdrawn for the needs of the Sunskiy cascade of hydroelectric power plants, and the river was organized to release the forest.
The waterfall is surrounded by the reserve of the same name. The waterfall itself can be approached only from the eastern side. Near the waterfall there is a nature museum and an arboretum. There is a cafe and a store on the territory of the reserve.
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Ruskeala Waterfalls are four flat waterfalls in Sortavala district of the Republic of Karelia. Waterfalls height from 3 to 4 meters have become famous, thanks to filmed in 1972, the Soviet film “The dawns are quiet here. Also, these places will be of interest to tourists and adventurers, overcoming their rapids on special boats – kayaks.
Karelia has long been considered the land of plains waterfalls, so Ruskeala waterfalls are very famous numerous tourists and there are a variety of programs to visit these places!
In photo mode you can see sights in Karelia only by photo.
Marble Canyon is an unusual monument of nature and human activity, located in Russia, twenty kilometers from the border with Finland, very close to the village of Ruskeala. Marble was mined in this area as early as the 17th century, and was appreciated by St. Petersburg city planners for the richness of the palette and the variety of varieties. However, for a variety of reasons, the field was either developed or fell into decay, and now work there is limited because of the danger of collapse of the quarry.
In the 1990s, Marble Canyon was declared a monument of cultural heritage, because it is really beautiful, not to mention the environmental value of the place. In 2005, the Ruskeala Mountain Park was created here, where tourists are offered walks around the flooded quarry, excursions to the active workings, viewing monuments of industrial architecture, boating on the lake, diving and descending into caves. Perimeter of the quarry is equipped with a pedestrian trail, along which are scattered pieces of marble.
It should be noted that Ruskeala marble quarry is a great place for diving, visibility is 12 meters here. However, for divers in the quarry there is only one place with a specially equipped platform.
Gefsimanskiy skete is one of the sketes, belonging to the Valaam Monastery, located on the Valaamsky archipelago. It is also called the Yellow Skete. This skete by its name and architecture, as well as the chosen location reminded the monks and pilgrims of the Holy Land, where the Lord lived. The Gethsemane hermitage with other buildings created the so-called “Russian Jerusalem”.
There are marvelous views to Ladoga Lake from the place where Gethsemansky skete is built, and it seems that it was also the architect’s idea to put the skete in such a place to show purity and virginity of the nature that is in harmony with architectural buildings, also expressing purity and spirituality.
Next to the hermitage there is an open chapel with an icon placed under glass. The icon is made in a unique wood carving technique.
Vodlozero National Park
Vodlozersky National Park was created in 1991, it is located on two border territories – in the Republic of Karelia and the Arkhangelsk region. The territory of the park is 500 thousand hectares and is a Unesco biosphere reserve.
The biggest in Europe array of taiga forests is preserved in the park. The average age of trees is 200-240 years, and some pines and spruces grow already more than half a century. The taiga has a diverse world of flora and fauna, the lakes and rivers are rich in fish.
The national park is open for tourists and has a variety of hiking trails, bird-watching sites, rafting and canoeing, and interesting adventure programs.
Shuya is a river belonging to the Onega Lake basin located in the south-east of Karelia. It flows through the territory of Pryazhinsky, Prionezhsky and Suoyarvsky districts. The length of the river is 194 km, and the area of the river basin – almost 10,100 km² . The Shuya River originates at Lake Suoyarvi, then flows through two large lakes – Vagatozero and Shotozero, and flows into Logmozero, which is connected with Onega Lake by a small branch. The main tributaries of the Shuya are Vilga, Chalna, Svyatreka, Kutizhma, Nälma, Säpsä, Tarasjoki, and Suojoki. Until 1963 the river was used for timber floating, and the White Sea-Onega Shipping Company’s tugboats “Okun” and “Donets” were running along the river. Shuya attracts a lot of fishermen, because here is a place of salmon spawning.
The river is of interest to tourists because of its proximity to major cities, such as Petrozavodsk. In these places, both multi-day hikes and two-day rafting on the most interesting and fascinating rapids of the river (Sayvozhporog, Bolshoy and Maly Tolly) are held. Every year, water tourism competitions are held on the river.
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Vedlozero is a fresh water lake in Karelia, located in Pryazhinsky region. In 1937 due to construction of a dam on Vidlitsa, Vedlozero was turned into a reservoir.
The high and rocky shores have a winding shape. The depth of the lake is about 5 meters in the western part and about 11 meters in the eastern part. The reservoir has fifteen islands. Vedlozero is a habitat for eleven fish species, including salmon, pike, roach, vendace and others.
On the north-western shore there is a village of the same name, and on the northern shore – two settlements, through which passes the federal highway: Petrozavodsk – Helsinki.
The most popular attractions in Karelia with descriptions and photos for all tastes. Choose the best places to visit famous places of Karelia on our website.
More Sights of Karelia
Kiryazhsky Pogost, Karelia, Russia Lake Yushkozero, Karelia, Russia Lake Poelalampi, Karelia, Russia Hermanovsky Skete with Alexander Nevsky Church, Karelia, Russia River Vyg, Karelia, Russia