Karelia & Kizhi Island in 3 Days

Detour from Moscow or St Petersburg to Karelia, Russia's land of lakes
Karelia is a place of rare beauty where nature and wooden architecture coexist in harmony and revive a unique atmosphere of the past.

This short detour from either Moscow or St Petersburg gives you the chance to explore some of the most remarkable historical and natural landmarks of Karelia. Known as Russia's 'Land of Lakes', Karelia is a republic with its own unique culture, bordering Finland and the White Sea. Your tour begins in Petrozavodsk, the largest city in Karelia and the gateway to Kizhi Island, the most visually spectacular cultural site in Karelia. We’ll reach Kizhi by rapid hydrofoil boat, giving us plenty of time to explore the World Heritage Listed Kizhi Pogost, a collection of 17th and 18th-century churches, elaborately and fantastically crafted entirely out of wood.


  • The Kizhi Open Air Museum is a World Heritage site and one of the most unmissable greatest cultural attractions in Russia. The island contains some 83 relocated buildings from the 17th to the 19th centuries, each one elaborately crafted out of wood
  • The crown jewel of Khizi is the Transfiguration Church, an architectural masterpiece featuring a chorus of wooden domes, gables and ingenious decorations designed to keep water off the walls. Built without using a single nail, it has withstood the elements for over 150 years
  • Kivach State Nature Reserve is a provides vitally protected habitat for Karelia’s primordial forest, home to 197 bird species, 48 mammals and the rare Karelian birch. Walk to the towering Kivach waterfall the second highest plain waterfall in Europe
  • Ruskeala Mountain Park is a former marble quarry. Centuries of dynamiting created a massive, 109m wide canyon that filled with emerald-hued water from underground springs. A spectacular sight, best viewed on a boat trip between the steep canyon walls, riddled with caves and grottoes
  • Stop in at the incredibly picturesque ancient village of Kinerma, a 17 house hamlet of just a few families, said to be the most beautiful village in Russia. Visit Kinerma's 16th century chapel, before dinner with our local hosts.

Built upon the cultural influences of its four indigenous populations: Karelians, Finns, Russians and Vepps, this tour will give you an insight into the gradual development of a unique Karelian culture that differs greatly from the rest of Russia. With private transport and an expert guide on hand to answer all your questions on Karelian history, Russian culture and the Scandinavian influence, this tour will make sure you get the most out of a short stay in Karelia.

We kick off in the largest Karelian city, Petrozavodsk (population 267,100). Known for its handsome neo-classical architecture, it’s a major rail hub for trains arriving from Moscow and St Petersburg. In three days we’ll explore Karelia’s most magnificent man-made attractions – the wooden architectural marvels of Kizhi Island. We'll devote equal time to uncovering the natural beauty of this strikingly green, forested region, visiting some of Karelia’s most stunning natural reserves.

A visit to the tiny, tranquil hamlet of Kinerma marks the final stop on our tour. Here, we'll meet a local resident of Kinerma who will  introduce you to traditional, Scandinavian influenced Karelian food, such as kalitka (an open pie made with rye flour pastry and stuffed with millet porridge or mashed potatoes) and fish from Lake Onega.

Resting on the shores of the Onega and Ladoga Lakes, the historic and undeniably scenic region of Karelia boasts a beautiful backdrop of hills, lakes, rivers, forest and steppes. For now, Karelia remains one of Russia's best-kept hideaways, one that no culture buff visitor to Russia should miss.

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3* hotel


Action rating

Group size

3 days / 2 nights


Min 2

Itinerary View map

Day 1:Petrozavodsk and Kizhi island

On the first day, you’ll be meeting your guide at the railway station in Karelia’s capital, Petrozavodsk. After introductions, you’ll head to a local restaurant in the city for a welcome

Next, you’ll enjoy a city tour of Petrozavodsk and an overview of the history and culture of Karelia. A laidback city of around 280,000 people, Petrozavodsk is set on a quiet bay in Lake Onega, with attractive neo-classical architecture and a distinctly European vibe.

We’ll aim for a late morning departure for Kizhi Island on Lake Onega by hydrofoil. The trip takes
around one and half hours. You’ll then spend several hours exploring Kizhi Pogost, aka the Kizhi Open Air Museum of Wooden Architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.

Considered one of the greatest cultural attractions in Russia, Kizhi consists of around 80 structures from the 17th to the 19th centuries, all of which have been crafted entirely out of wood. Among Kizhi’s many treasures is the Transfiguration Church, an architectural masterpiece featuring five tiers of 22 intricately decorated wooden domes, built in 1714 without
using a single nail. The building has withstood the elements for over 150 years.

You’ll then be taken to another side of Kizhi Island, where you’ll see some of the Kizhi Museum’s restoration work in action, and learn some of the secrets of traditional Russian wooden architecture. On the way back, we’ll make a stop near the highest point of Kizhi to enjoy a panoramic view of these magnificent structures and their lakeside surrounds.

After a late lunch, we’ll take the hydrofoil back to Petrozavodsk where we’ll spend the evening.

Day 2:Kondopoga and Kivach Nature Reserve

After breakfast, we transfer to Kondopoga, 54km north of Petrozavodsk. Here we’ll visit the ancient Church of the Assumption on the shores of Lake Onega. Built in the 18th century, the church is considered one of the finest examples of Russian wooden architecture and is the highest timber church in Karelia.

Our next destination is Kivach State Nature Reserve, a short drive north of Kondopoga. The Reserve was established in 1932, making it one of the oldest in Russia. Spanning roughly 11,000 hectares, the reserve is vital for protecting Karelia’s primordial forest, a fragile ecosystem home to 197 species of birds, 48 mammals, 18 species of fish and 569 plants
including the Karelian birch.

In the heart of the reserve is the Kivach waterfall, the second highest plain waterfall in Europe. Flanked on either side by magnificent pine forest and dark basalt rocks, the roaring cascades are an inspiring showcase of nature’s handiwork.

In the afternoon we’ll make our way back to Petrozavodsk for dinner in town.

Day 3:Ruskeala Park and Kinerma Village

One of the most striking sights in Karelia, Ruskeala was formerly a marble quarry, mined by the Swedes, Finns and Russians for around three centuries.

Dynamite was used for extracting the
marble, eventually creating a vast, steep-sided canyon, which became inundated with groundwater. The 109-metre wide canyon now stretches for 456 metres and its sides are riddled with caves and grottoes. Tall pines sprout from the tops of the canyon walls and the groundwater has become a river of deep emerald green, creating a truly beautiful union of the
natural and the man-made. The canyon can be traversed by boat, and some of the caves and mine shafts can be explored with a professional guide.

We’ll make a short stop in an ancient Karelian village of Kinerma, which in 2016 was named the most beautiful village in Russia. We’ll be met by a local resident for a personalised tour around the village, made up of late 19th century houses and a wooden chapel to the Virgin Mary erected in the 17th century. Afterwards, we’ll be invited to lunch in a traditional Karelian

Late afternoon we’ll transfer to Petrozavodsk for dinner, before transporting you to the train station in time for your onward journey.



3* hotel in Petrozavodsk


All meals (B,L,D)


Train-station/airport transfers

All transportation on tour according to the itinerary (car, fast boat)


Local professional English-speaking guide

Experienced driver

Activities and sights

All sites according to the itinerary


Russian visa support document

*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Not included

Train tickets, travel insurance, visa, optional excursions, tips

If you have any urgent questions or enquiries, please give us a call +61 2 9388 9816

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