Solovetsky Islands is a group of islands in the White Sea in Arkhangelsk Oblast. It is a true pearl of the Russian north.
Solovetsky islands, or Solovki, are an archipelago lying in the White Sea, a hundred miles below the Arctic Circle. They are mostly famous with their Solovetsky monastery, a 15th century UNESCO World Heritage List object, but visitors also can enjoy breathtaking scenery of unspoiled northern nature mixed with religious and archeological objects. Earliest of them are stone labyrinths constructed in 1st-2nd century AD by an unknown ancient culture. Latest ones were built during Stalin’s period, when Solovetsky monastery was expropriated by Bolsheviks and used as a GULAG camp. After the USSR collapse the monastery was returned to Russian Orthodox Church, restoring its role of a key national shrine and becoming a destination for numerous tourists and pilgrims. This combination of spirituality, wilderness and bloody past of Solovki will leave no one indifferent.
Islands are sparsely populated, but their tourist facilities are able to host various visitors, starting from campers up to premium guests. A typical journey lasts 3-4 days and is best performed in summer during the midnight sun season. Cold winds and myriads of mosquitoes are the challenge.
A trip to Solovki is possible from both Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where one needs to take a domestic flight to Arkhangelsk, a northern regional center. Local flights from Arkhangelsk to Solovki are conducted 2-3 times a week, with some seasonal changes.
Unhurried or budget travelers can also use trains and ships. Boats from Rabocheostrovsk settlement (Karelia, near the town of Kem, a station at Saint Petersburg - Murmansk rail line) leave to the islands daily at 8am (and at 11 am, as of summer 2013), about 20 euros one way. Otherwise speak with the other boat owners and try to gather 5-7 people to share the fuel to the island (about 25 euros each).
Mystical home of monasteries and chapels, priests and holy fools, Solovetsky symbolises Russia's spiritual past. Memories of Stalin's infamous GULAG camps speak of darker times.
Solovetsky Monastery. UNESCO World Heritage list masterpiece of architecture. Building started in 15th. C. Monastery closed in 1920's becoming a detention centre. See Holy Gates, Transfiguration Cathedral, Assumption Church, Nikolskaya Church, Annunciation Church and Refectory Complex.
Sekirnaya Hill & Church of the Ascension
Botanical Gardens & Makaryevskaya Hermitage
Beware of midges & mosquitoes in the summer !