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».