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Vacation trip to Karelia, Russia

Submitted by Visit Plus on Mon, 08/09/2021 - 00:56

Hot weather covered St. Petersburg this summer. Apparently the higher powers sent me these days to escape from the heat to cooler places, to Karelia, to the shores of the cool Ladoga Lake. Let it be hot here too, but the heat in nature, on the shore of the cool Ladoga Lake, is easier to endure. How I spent my vacation in Karelia - my travel story.

The best way to travel around Karelia region is by your own car (or rented car). On the way, you will pass many interesting (for curious tourists) places. For example: Staraya Ladoga, Alexander Svirsky Monastery, the cities of Sortavala and Olonets, Ruskeala marble quarry and many more places.

Boats on the banks of Ladoga
In the photo: the shore of Lake Ladoga near the town of Sortavala.

The main attraction of Lake Ladoga and Karelia region is nature, ecologically clean environment and lack of fuss. To fully enjoy such a trip, you don't need to rush anywhere. There is no need to strive to see everything in a few days.

Olonets city, Olonets district

The city of Olonets is located a little away from the St. Petersburg - Petrozavodsk - Murmansk highway. It is a small town with almost no attractions.
In a beautiful place, at the confluence of the Olonka and Megrega rivers, there is a church on a small island. The church is the most ordinary, and the place is quite beautiful. There is a park nearby. There is a museum in the park.
Hotel "Olonia" is located at the crossroads of three roads: Olonets - Sortavala, Olonets - Petersburg and Olonets - Petrozavodsk.

Nearby, on the square, there is a monument to Lenin. There is a monument to Lenin in almost every city in Russia. But, which is rather unusual, Lenin wears a winter hat in Olonets. Is it cold?)

Also, between the museum and the square, you will find an exhibition hall.

Olonets is not very popular with tourists. There are not many attractions here, there are few people on the streets and there is no hustle and bustle in the city. This is why you need to come to Olonets (for peace and quiet): walk around the island next to the church, sit on a park bench, look at wooden sculptures (next to the museum), stand on the suspension bridge (next to the bus station), have a bite to eat in the Canteen No. 5 (cheap and tasty, as it was in the USSR), and enjoy the silence, tranquility, nature.

We went to the church in Olonets on Saturday morning. There were no parishioners in the church, and there was no service. This is quite unusual when compared to St. Petersburg. Apparently the inhabitants of Karelia are not very pious people.

The shore of Lake Ladoga (beach) is accessible at a distance of about 30 km from Olonets.

If you go by car from Olonets in the direction of Pitkyaranta, immediately after the village of Ilyinsky, the road departs to the left (around the turn to Nurmoila village, before reaching the railway crossing). On this road you can drive pretty close to the Ladoga bank, to the mouth of the Olonka River. It is a great place to swim and has a nice sandy beach. The water in the river is usually warmer than in the lake.

Olonka River
In the photo: a beach at the mouth of the Olonka River. (Straight ahead - the Olonka river, on the right Ladoga lake.)

There is an excellent sandy beach on the southeastern shore of Lake Ladoga, between the mouths of the Vidlitsa and Tuloksa rivers (in the Olonets district of Karelia), . The water here can be cool, but it often warms up to a comfortable temperature. In some places, you can drive up by car quite close to the lake shore. In good weather tourists with tents stop here, but there are not many tourists on the beach. (It is not difficult to find a place for swimming, even if you have forgotten your swimsuit at home.) I propose to call this coast "Ladoga Riviera".
A little north of Vidlitsa, in several places, the road runs very close to the shore of the lake.

What is the water temperature in Lake Ladoga? After a series of very warm, sunny days, the water warmed up enough for a comfortable swim. But, it was worth only two days to hold out in the bad weather, as the water cooled down so that it made my legs shrink from the cold. On such days, it is better to swim in the rivers.

Shore of Lake Ladoga, beach, Karelia
In the photo: the shore of Lake Ladoga. On this deserted beach, you can walk in solitude. Perhaps this is the best beach in Karelia.

You need to know this: a car is not allowed to enter the water protection zone of the sea, river or lake (usually from 50 to 200 meters, for the sea - 500 meters, check the rules before the trip).

Road Olonets - Pitkyaranta - Sortavala

The Olonets-Pitkyaranta road (road 86K-8) was in poor condition in some places last year. The impression remains that this year (2021) the road condition in some places (on the section between Vidlitsa and Pitkyaranta) has become even worse. Sometimes I had to switch to second gear. (But you can drive.)
The road is being actively repaired. There was information that the road repairs are planned to be completed by the end of the summer of 2022.

If closeness to nature is important to you, if you are traveling by car, then it would hardly be right to stay in city hotels. It is much better to book a vacation home, hotel or campsite by the lake.

There are some good places to stay here. For example:
"Tochka na karte" (Point on the map - Vidlitsa). (Shore of Lake Ladoga, excellent beach).
Camping near Rautalahti. (On the shore of Lake Ladoga, not far from the town of Sortavala.)

From a conversation with a local resident: all beautiful places are occupied by tourists here, tourists pollute the nature, we don't need tourists here, stay at home.

When traveling around Karelia, we recommend you to go to small, local shops. Only there (and not in chain supermarkets) you can buy delicious, local products. First of all, "Kalitki" - Karelian pies. They (Kalitki) in these stores have a normal, traditional, size (and not a reduced version from the supermarkets of St. Petersburg) and are cheap.

"Kalitki" are probably a rather old dish. Elias Lönnrot described them in his travels in Finland as early as 1835.

Karelian pies
In the photo: Karelian pies and Karelian balsam. (It is not recommended to drink Karelian balsam in its pure form. It is better to add it to other drinks (vodka, tea, water).

"Kalitka"t index. (Kalitka is traditional Karelian pies.) In the summer of 2021, we saw Karelian pies at prices: in the Olonets district - about 20 rubles; Petersburg (reduced size copy) - 50 rubles; in the city of Sortavala - 100 rubles.

Sortavala city, Sortavala region

The city of Sortavala has become a popular tourist destination in recent years in northwestern Russia. This can be seen both in the occupancy of hotels and in prices. It is not always possible to book a hotel in the city center at the peak of the season (there are no available rooms). But, if you are traveling by car, then maybe you don't need to stop in the city? In summer, it is much more pleasant to live closer to nature, on the shore of the lake.

What places to visit in Sortavala? I am not the tourist expert of this city, but here is what I can recommend as a regular tourist.

Karelskaya Street can be considered the central street of the city. In the very center, next to this street, there are two squares: Kirov square and Väinämoinen square. I recommend walking around this area. Buildings of original architecture have been preserved here.

Pier in the city of Sortavala
In the photo: a pier in the town of Sortavala. From here, hydrofoil departs to the island of Valaam. Here you can buy a boat tour of the Ladoga lake. (From 2000 rubles.)

Karelskaya Street is crossed by Lenin Street. If you walk along this street in one direction, you can get off to the Sortavala-Center railway platform. In summer, the Ruskeala Express train runs here. You can look at a real steam locomotive.

In the other direction, Lenin Street goes to the pier, from where ships leave for the island of Valaam. (In the summer you can buy excursions on a boat on Lake Ladoga. You can also walk along the Ladoga embankment. There is also a cafe with a terrace on the shore.

At the corner of Karelskaya and Lenina streets, you will notice an old-style building. This is the Berg's House cafe. Here tourists are offered a wide range of food in the Karelian style. Prices are based on tourists (expensive). You can eat cheaper, for example, in the cafe of the Seurahuone Hotel, which is opposite across the road. (I must say that in the "Ladoga" camping, next to the trout farm, the fish soup was even more expensive than in the cafe "Berg's House".) This is clear. Tourists are needed only to make money on us.

After lunch at Berg's House or Hotel Seurahuone's café, you can relax in a nearby park.

There is a monument in the center of the square. This is not Lev Tolstoy, Mendeleev or Karl Marx (although a little similar). This is a monument to the rune singer (sculptor Alpo Sailo). By the way, 2021 was declared the year of Karelian runes in Karelia.

If you have already been to Karelia many times, swam in Ladoga and Onega lakes, visited the islands of Kizhi and Valaam, tasted Karelian gates and fed Karelian mosquitoes, then maybe it's time to get to know the culture of Karelia better? Try to read the folk Karelian-Finnish work of epic poetry "Kalevala" (not the fact that you will like it).

- Golden friend, and dearest brother,
- Brother dear of mine in childhood,
- Come and sing with me the stories,
- Come and chant with me the legends,
- Legends of the times forgotten,
- Since we now are here together,
- Come together from our roamings.

(The beginning of the folk epic Kalevala.)

Väinämöinen sculpture in Sortavala
In the photo: the sculpture The Runer Singer playing the kantele in the city of Sortavala.

Ruskeala marble park

Ruskeala Marble Park has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years. Ruskeala is located about 30 kilometers from Sortavala (towards the Finnish border). The most famous part of the park is the abandoned marble quarry, which has been turned into a tourist attraction. Quite a pretty place. It's definitely worth seeing once, subject to good weather.
Getting to Ruskeala by car is not difficult. In summer between Sortavala and Ruskeala there is also a retro train "Ruskeala Express".

Ruskeala marble quarry

Mobile communication in Karelia is not available everywhere. The coverage area of the mobile operator Megafon is better than that of Beeline. The situation with the mobile Internet is unsatisfactory (in my opinion). 4G internet was available only in large settlements (Olonets, Sortavala). Mobile internet either worked slowly or not at all elsewhere (2021).

Camping on the shores of Lake Ladoga

Camping near Rautalahti village. The camping is located on the shores of Lake Ladoga, at a distance of about 20 kilometers from Sortavala (in the direction of Pitkyaranta).
The word "camping" usually refers to a place for placing tents and racetracks. At Camping "U Rautalahti" the main type of accommodation is simple rooms, equipped in old shipping containers. Kitchen, toilet, shower for common use. The kitchen has all the necessary utensils and refrigerators.

  • The advantages of living in this camp are the low price, living in nature, the opportunity to cook barbecue, you can rent a boat, the ability to cook your own food.
  • Disadvantages: poor noise isolation, lack of wifi. If you are used to good hotels, then you may not like it here.

My assumption that only poor tourists choose campsites for living is most likely mistaken. My Volkswagen was the cheapest car in the parking lot.

Other places on my route

Staraya Ladoga. If you are driving from St. Petersburg along the Murmansk highway, we recommend deviating slightly from the route. At a distance of only about 8 kilometers from the highway is Staraya Ladoga - one of the oldest cities in Russia. The Staraya Ladoga fortress, two monasteries and the Volkhov river are the main attractions of Staraya Ladoga.

Крепость в Старой Ладоге
On the photo: View of the Staroladozhskaya fortress.

Murmansk (or Petrozavodsk) highway is laid bypassing the town of Lodeinoe Pole. But do real travelers take a detour? Drive through the city. There are no sights in Lodeynoye Pole, but you can stroll through the squares and look at the Svir River. (The road through Lodeynoye Pole is 5 kilometers shorter than the detour around the city.)

Valaam Island. Valaam Island and Valaam Monastery are among the most popular attractions in Karelia. You can get to Valaam only during the navigation period on the lake (approximately from May to October. Meteors (hydrofoils) go to Valaam from Priozersk and Sortavala. I visited Valaam this summer with a cruise from St. Petersburg.

You may also be interested in how it was a year earlier - around Ladoga by car.

All my travels in the Blogs section.


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