The Republic of Karelia was founded in 1920 and is an integral part of the Northwestern Federal District. The area is 172 400 sq. km. The Republic is located in the north-west of Russia and borders with Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, Leningrad and Vologda Oblasts and has a border with Finland in the north. In the north-east it is washed by the White Sea.
The capital city — Petrozavodsk — is 1000 km far from Moscow and is in the same time zone. Petrozavodsk can be reached by plain, railroad or bus from St-Petersburg as well as by car.
The population of the Republic is 687 500 citizens with the Russian majority and also includes Karels, Finns and Veps. The major language of the Republic is Russian, while Karelian, Veps and Finnish are acknowledged national languages.
The relief is mostly hilly flatland that turns into the West-Karelian Upland. The receding northward glacier ploughed deep furrows, thus creating the unique Karelian landscape. The territory of Karelia abounds with moraine ridges, lake basins and rivers that account for one forth of the total Karelian territory. There is a total of almost 27 thousand rivers in the Republic, including some major ones like Chirka-Kem (bed length 221 km), Onda (197 km long), Kem (191 km long), Vodla (149 km long), the Suna River with the 11 meter high Kivatch waterfall, which is the second flatland waterfall in Europe. There are also about 60 000 lakes, including the 2 largest in Europe — Onega and Ladoga. The highest point of the Republic is Mt. Nuorunen (532 meters).
The nature of Karelia impresses by its grandeur and contrasts with rocky formations around lakes and rivers, swampy areas with unique flora and fauna, forests and hills. Forests cover more than a half of the territory. Main tree species are conifers — pine, spruce and Siberian larch. Hardwoods are represented by aspen, birch, maple, linden and, of course, the famous Karelian birch, that after treatment looks like marble. This tree is so precious that it is sold by kilograms instead of traditional cubic meters.
The Republic of Karelia is also rich with commercial deposits and minerals. Russia’s largest clay reserves and the World’s second largest mica reserves are also deposited on Karelian territory.
Karelia’s fauna that formed after the Ice Age is very diverse. It is the habitat for 63 mammal species, 285 bird species and 5 species of reptiles. Many animal and bird species are included into the International Red Book, for example, brown long-eared bat, flying squirrel, Ladoga ringed seal, erne. In summer time flatlands is the place to see rare butterflies — swallowtails.
Karelia is the ideal land for various types of tourism. There are many river routes for canoeing, kayaking or rafting, ranging from the easiest to the dangerous. There are tourist trails for ecological tourism and photo hunting. Geocaching becomes increasingly popular. Large lakes, like Onega, Ladoga, Syamozero, Topozero, Vokhtozero attract keen fishermen for a catch of salmon, bass, bream, burbot, ide, pike, umber and whitefish. There are fish species that are prohibited to catch — trout, Atlantic salmon, lake char and bulltrout.
Certain areas are open for hunting for beavers, wild boars, roe deer and water foul. Winter tourism is also interesting. Cross-county skiing is the perfect chance to admire the snow-covered nature. After the work-out on ski trails tourists are welcome to enjoy banya (Russian sauna) and calm rest beside a fireplace of a comfortable tourist centre. Winter fishing is also available.
Just outside Petrozavodsk you could visit the first Russian resort «Marcial Water» that has been set up by Peter the Great.
Some of Karelia’s areas are specifically protected, like the «Kostomukshsky» and the «Kivatch» Reserves, the «Paanajärvi» and the «Vodlozersky» National Parks and the «Valaam Archipelago» Nature Park.
Valaam Island located in the northern part of the Ladoga Lake is the largest island of the Valaam archipelago. The island’s landmark is the Valaam stauropegic orthodox monastery — an example of traditional Russian architecture that is in service to this day. Tourists are allowed on the Monastery territory. The island is also inhabited by secular population that up to this day has no official administrative status.
Kizhi Island is located in the Onega Lake and is World famous for its State Historical-Architectural and Ethnographic Museum-Reserve «Kizhi». The Museum consists of a wooden ensemble of the Kizhi Pogost including 2 churches and a bell-tower dd. XVIII-XIX and surrounded by a fence, various chapels, houses and utility facilities brought from various areas of Karelia. There is a legend telling that the Transfiguration Church of the Kizhi Pogost was built with one axe; and as soon as the architect finished his work he threw it out into the lake.
Northern area of the Republic revealed camp sites of primitive men and rock drawings — petroglyphs. Most of them have been found in the Vyg river mouth in Belomorsk vicinity. Here you could see about 2000 petroglyphs known as «Zalvruga» and «Besovy Sledki» (Devil’s Footprints). Another large complex of petroglyphs of 1100 in number and nearly 20 km long is located on the Onega Lake’s eastern bank.
Two islands in the White Sea — Russian and German Kuzov are known for large sanctuaries of ancient Saami. These are the only cult structures of such size found in the World.
In Kalevalsky and Kostomushsky Districts you could discover attractions related to the World famous Karelian-Finnish epic poem «Kalevala», including houses and tombs of «runo» (folk song) singers and various places, mentioned in the poem.
Town of Kem is famous for its Dormition Cathedral that is considered to be one of the most beautiful Russian wooden architecture memorials. The Cathedral built in early XIX century stands on the highest bank of Lep-island.
Every September Essoila settlement of Pryazhinsy district hosts the Festival of Male Finno-Ugric Culture «Medolapyi — Divo Lesa» (Bear — A Forest Wonder). The Festival, besides introducing the traditional culture of Karelia natives, would give you a peculiar master-class for safe behaviour in the forest and water environment.
For more detailed information on the Republic, please refer to Internet resources of governmental authorities of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation.