Earth : Europe : Russia : Northwestern Russia : Arkhangelsk Oblast
Arkhangelsk Oblast is a region in Northwestern Russia, which borders Karelia to the west, the White Sea to the north, Nenetsia to the northeast, Komi Republic to the east, Kirov Oblast to the southeast, and Vologda Oblast to the south.
Arkhangelsk Oblast can be divided into 3 parts from north to south:
Locally called Pomorye, Arkhangelsk Oblast is a very large region (about the same size as France) in the Russian north. Sparcely populated (1.5 million for all this area), it is filled with taiga, beautiful lakes, wide rivers, and wast swamps. The nature is kin to Finland, especially its subpolar part. Most famous destinations are Arkhangelsk (regional capital) and the Solovetsky Islands, where a beautiful northern monastery/citadel served as a brutal gulag prison during the Soviet years. There are other less-visited, but very picturesque towns in the Oblast (Kargopol, Solvychegodsk), but the main reason to visit the region is to discover its severe beatiful nature mixed with wooden rural architecture. There are 2 national parks and 1 natural reserve, which are truly worth to be seen in Arkhangelsk Oblast'.
Russian is spoken everywhere. Outside of Arkhangelsk city center it's hard to find English-speakers.
See Russian phrasebook.
Flights arrive at Arkhangelsk airport from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Riga, and Tromso. The airport is served by Aeroflot, Utair, Nordavia, Rossiya air companies, and also by low-costs, as Avianova and Air Baltic. The cheepest one-way ticket from Moscow costs about 2 000 RUR.
At the moment of writing there were no regular interregional bus services to Arkhangelsk Oblast.
It's the most interesting way to enter and explore the region. M8 road connects Arkhangelsk with Moscow and Saint Petersburg through Vologda. It is paved at all distance, but some parts are in poor condition. There are about 700 km from Moscow to the region's border, and more than 500 km after it to the north to reach Arkhangelsk.
Another way to Archangelsk Oblast is through Veliky Ustyug (Vologda Oblast). The road is not so good as M8, but still available for all types of cars, allowing to see picturesque villages beaded at river Northern Dvina's high bank.
There are no regular ship service to the region, yet Arkhangelsk is a seaport, so it's possible to reach it by a commercial ship.
The main Arkhangelsk airport serves a regional flight to Solovetsky Islands (2 per week in winter, 4 per week in summer), while the other airport Vaskovo has local regional flights to remote locations inside the Oblast.
It's possible to reach by train from Arkhangelsk such destinations as Severodvinsk, Onega, Plesetsk, Nyandoma (transit point to Kargopol), Velsk, Kotlas, and Karpogory (at Pinega river). The quality of trains is poor comparing to European standards or to interregional Russian trains.
There are no international car rentals in Arkhangelsk, but it's possible to rent a car via local agencies.
Taxi can be a good alternative for short distance rides, like from Arkhangelsk to Severodvinsk (35 km), or where other transport is not developed (e.g. from Nyandoma station to Kargopol. Most destinations inside the Oblast are quite distant, so expect very expensive taxis.
Navigation period lasts from mid-May to mid-October. There is regular commuter ship service from Arkhangelsk to neighboring locations (mainly to isolated island villages in Northern Dvina's delta). There are many points it Oblast, which are accessible only by riverboats.
Hitch-hiking is very possible in the region with general safety precautions. But most drivers will hardly understand English.
Northern Russians are kind and hospitable, but a foreign tourist looking significantly richer than locals can provocate someone for a robbery. So, use general safety precautions and keep low profile while surfing the region with no Russian guide. Avoid wooden part of Arkhangelsk at the left bank of Northern Dvina and keep out of unattended dark places in cities at night.