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Solovetsky Islands travel guide

Solovetsky Islands are in the center of the White Sea in the north of Russia. There located one of the most important spiritual centers of Russia, the patriarchal Solovetsky Monastery of the Transfiguration of Our Savior.

The monks Sabbatius and Germanus had the first wood temples built on the island in 1430, and St. Zosimas was the first hegumen of the monastery. Having received the tsar`s charter «for eternal ownership of Solovetsky Islands», the monastery began to quickly grow. And by the 18th century it became one of the major landlords of Russia.

In the 16th century the monastery was girdled with strong walls with watch-towers made of giant stone slabs. In 1558 the 5-domed Transfiguration Cathedral was erected in the center of the monastery. In the following centuries there were built the Trinity Cathedral of Zosimas and Sabbatius, a bell tower (60 meters), ten churches and chapels, and brethren’s buildings.

The monastery wasn’t only the religious center but a fortress defending northern seaways. It was repeatedly seized by different troops, including the foreign ones, but none of them could capture it. In 1937 one of the cruelest camps of NKVD was opened at Solovetsky Monastery. Instead of monks it was dwelled by prisoners.

After you have been to the monastery itself you should visit the Botanic Garden and the Skit of the Ascension of Our Savior on the Sekirnaya Hill. It will be very interesting to have a boat ride on the lake and canals of the island. Tourists take a boat for 4 people and row for themselves.

You can get to Solovetsky Monastery by a ship from Archangelsk (240 km), or from Kem (50 km). It is rather from Archangelsk to Solovetsky Islands, but this is a large city with air and railway communication with the entire Russia. A small town Kem is closest to Solovetsky Islands, but you get there only in a motor-car. You should come to Solovetsky Islands for at least 2-3 days, as if you come there for a day, you can`t appreciate in full the beauty of these places. 

Near the monastery there are 5 hotels and a hostels, or you can rent a room in the private sector. You can stay at the monastery itself, but as you can read it on the web page: «pilgrimage service of the monastery ask everyone who want to visit the monastery to first receive the permission for accommodation at the hotel buildings of the monastery».

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Photo Gallery
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Wall of the Solovetsky Kremlin facing the White Sea, with the Holy Gate (on the right), the Assumption Tower (in the center), and the Korozhnaya (watch tower) Tower (on the hill).
St. Nicholas Gate and the big boulders at the base of the St. Nicholas Tower of the Solovetsky Kremlin
At sunset the Solovetsky Kremlin is reflected in the waters of the Welfare Bay of the White Sea
Stone labyrinths built by the ancient inhabitants of the Belomorye (White Sea) several thousand years ago
Skit (hermitage) of Andrew the First-called on the Bolshoi Zayatsky island of the Solovetsky Archipelago
St. Nicholas Gate between the St. Nicholas Tower and the Kvass-making Tower on the side of the Holy Lake
In the 19 century in front of the wall of the Solovetsky Kremlin facing the White Sea there were built 3 chapels – Peter´s, Constantine´s, and the pavilion chapel
All walls and towers of the Solovetsky Kremlin are built of such huge boulders (6-8 tonnes each)
Church of Ascension and the monks´ residential quarters on the top of the Sekirnaya Hill
Most terrible place in the Solovki. Prisoners tied to the logs were thrown down this staircase.
Ascension skit on the Sekirnaya Hill in the Solovki. In this place was the punishment isolation cell of the Solovki prison camp, where the executions of prisoners took place
St. Isaac skit in the Solovki. It is in this place that the artist Nesterov painted his «Silence» in 1903.
«Silence» by Mikhail Nesterov, 1903
Barn of the Skit of Andrew the First-called in the Bolshoi Zayatsky island where the monks stored their foodstuffs
Stone burial mounds in the Bolshoi Zayatsky island built by the ancient people several thousand years ago
Bolshoi Zayatsky island is in subpolar tundra with boulders and dense cover of grasses and mosses
One of the four ancient labyrinths in the Bolshoi Zayatsky island of the Solovetsky Archipelago
Wooden Church of Andrew the First-called against the background of the White Sea
Arch of the entrance to the Transfiguration cathedral of the Solovetsky Kremlin
Refectory of the Solovetsky Kremlin (16 century). Its ceiling is supported by one pillar and its area is only a bit less than that of the Palace of Facets at the Moscow Kremlin
Archangel Tower and the walls of the Solovetsky Kremlin on the side of the Holy Lake
Archimandrite´s House at the Makaryevskaya pustyn (hermitage) of the Solovetsky Monastery
In the middle of the 19 century the Botanic Garden was founded at Solovki, and now one can see there over 300 plants, which are uncharacteristic for north
Larch alley leading to the Archimandrite´s House was planted in 1933
Alexander Nevsky Chapel was built on the hill at the Makaryevskaya pustyn (hermitage) in 1854, after the Solovetsky monastery repelled the attack of the British warships
Tea bush (dasiphora parvifolia) at the Botanic Garden of the Makaryevskaya pustyn (hermitage) of the Solovetsky Monastery
Narrow canal running from the Plotnichye (Carpenter´s) Lake to the Bolshoye Lake in the Solovetsky Island
Dam of the 19 century balancing the level of water in the lakes Middle Pert and Krugloye (Round) Orlovo in the Solovetsky Island
Ecosystem of the Solovetsky Islands is absolutely intact
Big boulders at the entry of the canals to the Solovki lakes