If you want to have a rest in the open, far from civilization, but don’t want to spend several hours flying to Siberia, then Karelian region is just what you need. It has won-derful opportunities for eco tourism, most beautiful northern landscapes: pine woods, numerous lakes and rivers with islands. All Karelian lakes are dotted with hundreds of islands, lending them the special beauty. As a rule, the shores of the lakes and rivers are rocky, and everywhere you can see cliffs and skerries, as well as huge boulders, overgrown with mosses, in a word, severe northern beauty can be seen everywhere.
The largest in Europe Ladoga Lake is near Petersburg. It is just from it that the Neva flows on which banks the city of St. Petersburg was built. There are over 660 islands on Ladoga Lake, but the most beautiful of them is Valaam Island located in the north-west of the lake.
Valaam is the largest island of Valaam Archipelago including 50 islands. The patriarchal Monastery of Transfiguration of Our Savior (subjected directly to the patriarch) is on Valaam Island. The monastery was laid down in 1407 by Russian monks, but because of frequent invasions of the Sweden it came to complete decay by the 18th century. In 1715, when the territory of Ladoga Lake was annexed by Russia as a result of the Northern War, the monastery was restored. Since 1918, when Finland got independent from Russia, the monastery was under the authority of Finnish Church, and only in 1940 it, finally, became Russian again.
The central monastery ensemble is very monumental. It is located on the high hill and can be seen from many places of the island. The Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Savior surrounded by the buildings of brethren’s cells is in the center of the monastery. Also, there are several skits in different parts of the island: Nikolsky, Of All Saints, Gethsemane, of John the Baptist, of the Christ`s Resurrection.
It will be most convenient and fast to get to Valaam from the city of Priozersk. You can quickly reach it from St. Petersburg, and go aboard a ship there. If you want to see the picturesque shores of Ladoga Lake (they are most beautiful in the north-west), you can go on to the city of Sortavala. Many ships and boats also depart from this city to the island of Valaam.
Alternatively, you can have a trip to Valaam directly from St.Petersburg (ships depart from the English Embankment), but, you must take it into account that Valaam is 215 km from Petersburg. Hydrofoils cover this distance for about 4 hours, so the trip may take a day, but everything will be done in a hurried manner. Also, you may go there by a regular ship. But in this case, the trip will last for 2 nights (on the way) and one day will be allotted for visiting Valaam Monastery.