Earth : Europe : Russia : Northwestern Russia : Arkhangelsk Oblast : Solovetsky Islands
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. Trains running between Saint Petersburg and Murmansk stop at Kem, a station at Saint Petersburg - Murmansk rail line. Buses run daily from 6:20AM (weekend 7AM) to 9PM every 20~40min between Kem Railway Station and Rabocheostrovsk wharf, rub25 per person, 25min. Boats from Rabocheostrovsk (a lakeside settlement near the town of Kem, Karelia) wharf leave to the islands daily at 8am (and at 12:30 pm, as of summer 2014), Rub 1000 one way (500 for 3~10 yrs old child). 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 !
A local company "The Wharf Ltd."  (website in Russian, but you can use google translate to see it in English) runs daily ships between Rabocheostrovsk and Solovki Islands every summer. The 2014 schedule can be found on their website : http://www.prichalrk.ru/service/trans/racpicanie.html
Summer 2014 Schedule (June 07 - August 31 2014)
Ship "Vasily Kosjakov": Kem (Rabocheostrovsk) - Solovki: 08:00 (Driving time: 2 hours), Solovki - Kem (Rabocheostrovsk): 19:00 (Driving time: 2 hours)
Ship "Snowstorm-4": Kem (Rabocheostrovsk) - Solovki: 12:30 (Driving time: 2 hours), Solovki - Kem (Rabocheostrovsk): 16:00 (Driving time: 2 hours)