Karelia by virtue of its geological, geomorphological, and landscape variety has many natural territories and the objects representing higher scientific, nature protection, recreation and tourist interest and, therefore, demanding special protection. At present there are 170 especially protected territories of the different status, including 2 reserves, 2 national parks, 1 natural park, 47 forest reservations, 107 nature sanctuaries, 1 botanical garden, and also a number of historical and cultural lands officially located in the republic.
1. Reserves are territories with especially rigid nature protecting mode. They are intended for realization of scientific researches, and also limited ecological tourism.
Reserve Kivach. This is the first protected territory of Karelia. It was formed in 1931 on the area 2 thousand hectares, expanded subsequently up to 10.6 thousand hectares. It is located in Kondopozhsky area, almost in the center of the southern part of the republic. Kivach is a typical wood reserve, in which natural complexes of average taiga are protected. In its rather small territory almost all forms of the Karelian relief that predetermines riches of vegetative cover are presented. 200-250-year-old pine forests generated on sandy plains, narrow sandy steep ridges, and rocky ridges prevail. There are uneven-age fir-greens occupying flat sites with loamy grounds and slopes of drift clay ridges. There are also deciduous plantings and small bogs.
In total the Kivach flora totals over 600 kinds of vascular plants. The fauna including 48 species of mammals, 202 species of birds, 3 species of reptiles, 4 species of amphibious, 20 species of fishes and thousand species of invertebrates is also various. All of them - both plants, and animals - are typical taiga kinds.
From northwest to southeast the reserve is crossed with the large river Suna numbering over 50 thresholds and falls. The most well-known among them, mentioned in XVI, is the Kivach falls. Its height is 10.7 m. The water falls in 4 ledges between powerful basalt rocks. Even now, when the part of water is allocated for the needs of Girvasskaya Hydroelectric Power Station, the falls looks very picturesquely, especially in the freshet periods. Earlier, by memoirs of travellers, it made simply stunning impression: "... All verbs of Russian representing knock and action, will not suffice," for the description of the falls. These inspired lines were devoted to it by the first Karelian governor, the well-known poet G.R.Derzhavin who has created an ode "Falls" for the long time remaining on the pages of school readers.
In immediate proximity from the falls the manor of reserve where there is a museum of nature and a small tree nursery. Alongside with some exotic trees, there are different forms of well-known Karelian birch.
Visiting of reserve and falls is included into almost all excursions "On vicinities of Petrozavodsk", which is 70 kms. from Petrozavodsk
Reserve Kostomukshsky. It was formed in 1983 on the area of 47.5 thousand hectares. It is located in 25 kms. to the west of Kostomuksha, adjoins to border with Finland. Its relief is characterized with significant ruggedness: rocky files and drift clay ridges alternate with the downturn occupied with lake hollows, valleys of the water-currents, and boggy lowlands.
There are about 250 lakes in the reserve, among which there is the largest one called Kamennoye (10.5 thousand hectares), distinguished by cleanliness of its water and picturesqueness. There are 98 islands, set of capes, and gulfs. Depth of lake comes to 26 meters. On its coast there were some settlements of the Karelians who have left small stain of fields and meadows.
A short (25 kms), but very beautiful and rough river Stone, carrying its waters through the system of lakes and rivers in the White sea follows from the lake and passes the territory of the reserve. The majestic, clamped in steep rocks Tzar-rapid impresses the most.
In reservoirs lives 16 kinds of fish, among which the kamennoozersky salmon is the most interesting forming local herd. Other valuable fish of the reserve are white-fish, whitefish and umber, numerous pikes, perch, and small fry.
Landscapes of the reserve are typical for northern taiga. Pine woods prevail (about 70%). There are much less fir groves (20%), they are dated to the slopes' bottoms and to the valleys of streams and small rivers. Small sites meet deciduous plantings. Woods have virgin character and age up to 200-300 years.
From representatives of the fauna being typical taiga, the most interesting are wood northern deer, Canadian beaver and the birds included in the Red Book: golden eagle, see eagle, fish-hawk, falcon-sapsan, and also goose and hooping swan.
In total in reserve it has been noted about 350 species of vascular plants, more than 100 species of mosses and lichens, 32 species of mammal, 182 species of birds, 2 species of reptiles, and 3 species of amphibious.
For acquaintance to the nature of the reserve the tourist routes becoming known both in Russia, and abroad are laid over its territory. In summer there are campaigns on foot on the ecological track and on canoes over the lake Kamennoye and on the river Kamennoye, in winter there are ski trips in wood glades and over the ice armor of lakes. There are small houses for lodging for the night and saunas on routes.
In 1989 on the base of Kostomukshsky reserve and five adjacent protected natural territories of Finland the international reserve, which has received the name Park "Druzhba (friendship)" was formed. Its creation was a real embodiment of the known thesis "the Nature does not know borders".
In the information center of the reserve located in Kostomuksha, scientific laboratories and the museum of the northern country are equipped.
2. National and Natural Parks are meant both for protection of inviolate natural complexes, and for developing tourist activity. In Karelia the national parks "Vodlozersky", "Paanajarvi" and the natural park "Valaamsky archipelago" have been founded.
The national park "Paanajarvi" is located in northwest of Karelia in its most raised part occupying spurs of ridge Maanselkja. The park has been founded in 1992 on the area of approximately 104 thousand hectares. Landscapes of the park are extremely picturesque - mountain tops here are divided by deep gorges, numerous lakes, various bogs and rough rivers with noisy rapids and falls. Slopes of mountains and valleys of the rivers are covered with virgin almost inviolate woods, among which sharply prevail thin fir groves. Under their flat a magnificent carpet of bilberry, some other bushes and grasses expands, and branches of fur-trees are covered with manes of "bearded lichen" which is the indicator of cleanliness of the air. In mountains, at the height of 400-500 m., fir groves are replaced by the fir and birch light forest turning into birch crooked woods and tundra communities. On the coasts of rivers and lakes and on the sites with sandy grounds pine forests grow. In their cover reindeer moss, a favourite forage of northern deer, are usual.
Pearl of park is Paanajarvi lake, stretched from the west to the east like a blue ribbon, in a frame of mountain tops, rising to water as steep rocks, or remaining in small distance. In such places the well defined terrace between lake and mountains was formed, which in remote times has been a life arena for several tens the Finnish families settling farms around of lake. The microclimatic conditions developing in this intermountain hollow, are favorable not only for animal husbandry, but also for cultivation of some agricultural crops including barley and rye. However as a whole, the influence of economic activities of local population on the nature of the region was insignificant. Now it appears as small glades covered with meadow motley grasses and thrickets of raspberry, creating favorable visual contrast to gloomy taiga landscapes.
The lake Paanajarvi is well-known first of all for at the small sizes (1.5 on 24 kms.), it has very big depth of 131 m. This is the second on depth lake of Karelia (after Ladoga), and possibly of the considerably more extensive territory. The lake possesses very clean water and a significant variety of fauna that is explained by ancient connections with the White sea.
From the west the river of Oulanka originating in Finland flows into the lake, and from the opposite end the river Olanga flows out flowing into Pyaozero, one of the largest lakes of Karelia. Water system Oulanka-Paanajarvi-Olanga, cutting Maanselkja ridge, served as ancient trading way between Swedish Bothnia and Russian White sea regions. In those times the Russian-Swedish border approximately halved the lake Paanajarvi to what the boundary stone being now the tourist sight testifies. Natural sights of the lake and river are 4 beautiful falls, and one of them, Kivakka, is one of the largest in Karelia. The impression from this falls amplifies even more that it look effective "on the background" of the mountain bearing the same name, the third on height in the park (499 m.). By the way, the top of this mountain is one of the historical and cultural objects: the seids, the sacred stones of ancient Saams, are settled there.
The highest mountain of Karelia, Nuorunen (577 m.), is also located in the park. The ecological track, not difficult for passing, but leaving the whole scale of unforgettable impressions, leads to its top, as well as on Kivakka.
Waters of the park are rich in fish. The salmon trout is of the greatest interest, since it reaching 5-7 kg. in weight. As well as umber, white-fish, and bull-trout, it is the object of license catch.
In the park there are foot, ski, motorized sledge and water routes. There are over ten small houses constructed, capable to receive simultaneously up to 60 tourists. Places for installation of tents are equipped.
The office of the park is situated in the village of Pyaozersky. The roads lead there from the border, the regional center the settlement of Louhi and from South.
On beauty and variety of landscapes, riches and undamaged state of natural complexes the national park "Paanajarvi" can be included in the number of the best parks of Russia.
Natural park "Valaamsky archipelago" is located in the northern part of Ladoga lake in 40 kms. from Sortavala. The area of the archipelago consisting of fifty islands, is insignificant - only 3600 hectares, from which 2800 hectares fall on the main island giving the name to the archipelago and to the monastery located there. For its centuries-old history originating in XIV century, the monastery has created the outsanding landscape architectural complex on the islands that has received world popularity. In 1992 by the decree of the President of Russian Federation Valaam has been declared the national property of Russia.
The History of the monastery is eventful: it knew rises and falling, suffered shattering ruin from the Swedish attacks, sometimes discontinued its existence, but inevitably renewed again on the old place and even on a grander scale. The last tough period for the monastery was the second half of the past century. Only in 1989 the monks have returned again to Valaam and have opened the next page of the history of Valaam. The next years the monastery experienced the difficult revival, but the beginning of its new spiritual and economic rise is already visible.
It has been written much in special and popular editions, including booklets for tourists about architectural sights of Vallam; it is possible to see images of churches, chapels, other cult objects in numerous photos of known masters and amateurs, at last, it is possible to familiarize with them during the usual tourist excursion. However, the nature of Valaam deserves no less attention of tourists. It is so unique, that in XIX Valaam has become the original school of landscape painting, in which graduates of the St.-Petersburg Academy of arts among whom there are names of I.I.Shishkin, A.V.Gine, P.P.Dzhogin, F.A.Vasiliev, A.I.Kuindzhi etc. prepared for the degree works. They have visited Valaam repeatedly and have immortalized its landscapes in many pictures stored nowadays in the well-known museums of the world.
Nature of Vallam is fine and unusual now as well. Mighty pines and a fur-trees grow here right on the rocks, which are raised by tens of meters above the water, and that is why the coast sometimes looks as an unapproachable fortress. In other places, on the contrary, the rocks leave under water very gently and are so much ironed by ice that have a look of the mutton foreheads, but quite often the simply bouldered sites or fine sandy beaches are found. On many islands the usual for the sight pines, fur-trees, and birch are unexpectedly supplemented with groves and avenues of oaks, firs, larches, cedar, and many other breeds brought once by the monks from different areas of the country. All these plantings have rather decent age - up to 100-150 years, and even more, that creates an impression of the certain botanical oasis on severe northern rocks. A picture is completed by the gardens created by the monks, especially fine in the time of blooming and fructification.
The task of the natural park is to keep the fine pictures of archipelago and with the help of specially laid routes to show tourists both cultural, historical, and natural sights of this surprising sight of Russian nature.
3. Forest Reservation and Nature Sanctuaries. These especially protected natural territories and objects are created by decisions of the governments of subjects of the Russian Federation for the term of up to 10 years and their status requires periodic confirmation. Depending on the value and features of the territory the forest reservations are subdivided on complex (landscape), botanical and wood, marsh, hunting, zoological, and hydrological ones. In complex forest reservations all components of nature are protected, in the others its separate representatives or their groups are protected. In Karelia there are 47 forest reservations and 109 nature sanctuaries occupying in total 628 thousand hectares.
The majority of forest reservations and nature sanctuaries represent considerable interest for tourists, however, only those of them that appear in zones of attraction of known tourist routes are used in the tourist purposes. The forest reservations "Soroksky", "Kuzov's Islands", "Polar circle" by the White sea, "Tolvojarvi" in Suojarvsky area, "Skeres of Kizhi" in Medvezhiegorsky area, botanical Karelian birch reservations "Kakkorovo" and "Tsarevitchi" and some other landscape forest reservations are included in the number of the most known ones. From among the nature sanctuaries one should mention the Tri Ivana (Three Ivans), Tsaritsyn Kluch (Tsarina's spring), Solyanaya Yama (Salt hole), and also Shungsky open-pit mine of schungites in Zaonezhie, Girvassky open-pit mine of the canyon of the river Suna in Kondopozhsky area, Uksinskaya pink chine in Pitkjarantsky area, separate oustanding trees in the town plantings of Sortavala and Petrozavodsk.
The especially protected natural territories are a fine base for development of ecological tourism, which popularity grows among the tourists all over the world. It raises the value of such territories and makes their allocation economically profitable.
The image of Karelia associates first of all with the territory of blue lakes. Indeed, there is a lot of lakes - over 61 thousand. By their quantity falling to 1 thousand sq.km. of the area Karelia confidently wins the first place not only in Russia, but also among the regions of the world.
Karelian lakes are very different in size varying from small "lampi" lakes, closed and anonymous, up to the largest in Europe Ladoga and Onega Lakes. The lakes, which area is up to 1 sq.km. prevail, but there are lots of larger lakes, which area is up to 10 or more sq.km., and 20 of the lakes exceed 100 sq.km. The area covered with lakes in Karelia makes 11.4% of its entire territory, which is distinctly more than in the neighbouring state Finland, and almost twice as much than in Murmansk region.
Many lakes take origins from the tectonic motions of the earth's crust, but the majority appeared due to the plowing and to heat-sink influence of the glaciers. The first are deeper, they usually are of extended form, have high rocky and quite often steep coasts and there are not enough islands. The configuration of the lakes of the glacial origin is much more various - they are distinguished with plenty of islands, gulfs, passages and rather small depth. However, very frequently the lakes have the mixed origin and it brings additional colour in their shape.
The deepest Karelian lake is Ladoga: its maximal depth makes 260 m. The Onega Lake is appreciably more fine - 126 m., as well as such large lakes, as Syamozero - 97 m., and Topozero - 56 m. And these giant lakes are accompanied by the tiny, in comparison with them, typically tectonic lake Paanajarvi extended like a narrow tape (1.5 kms. in width and 24 kms. in length) among the hills of northwest Karelia. Its depth is 131 m. It is a mini Baikal lake in Karelia.
The depth of many lakes is within the limits of 20-50 m. However, there are also rather large lakes as Ondozero in the middle Karelia, which depth does not exceed 10 m.
The banks of the Karelian lakes are very picturesque. More often they are covered with boulders, quite often they are rocky, and those rocks are or high and steep, or flat, ironed by glacier, bearing the characteristic name "the mutton foreheads". Sometimes the coastal shapes are interspersed by the golden strips of sandy beaches or dark-brown turbaries. There are very little open coasts, usually the lakes are framed with the multiflorous wood marges, rich berry and mushroom grounds.
The lager lakes are connected by channels, small and big rivers. There are lots of them in Karelia - about 27 thousand, at their common extent is 83 thousand kms. Thus, it is obviouis that the Karelian rivers mainly short. The length of the majority of them does not exceed 10 kms., and the largest are Kem, Vyg, Suna, Vodla, Kovda, Shuya stretch for 260 - 360 kms.
The characteristic feature of the Karelian rivers is the often alternation of river and lake sites. The share of lakes in the general extent of the rivers can change in very wide limits - from 0 up to 90%, but more often from 6 up to 50%. As a matter of fact, they are not the rivers in the standard understanding, but the lake-river systems typical for Karelia and absolutely not endemic for the other regions of Russia.
The rather small length of the rivers of Karelia in combination with the significant difference of heights of sources and estuaries causes their big inclination. On the average it makes about 1 m. per 1 km., and on the rapids - up to 3-5 m. per 1 km. At that, almost all falling of water level is accomplished on numerous natural obstacles - thresholds, rifts, cavities, and falls between which there are reach sites or lakes.
A plenty and variety of obstacles in channels of the rivers in a combination with the large number of the last, a various degree of water content and complexity in passage make the Karelian rivers the dream of water tourists. Here it is not difficult to choose the route of any category of complexity. The rivers Shuya, Suna, Vodla, Chirka-Kem, Onda, Pongoma, Kuzema, Vidlitsa and many others gain the All-Russian popularity among the canoeists.
Some of the obstacles in the rivers are not passable even when the water is high. It is necessary to pass them by coast, therefore the preliminary acquaintance with the route or consultation of local residents is always required.
The special interest in tourists is caused with the Karelian falls. They are very various and rather numerous, too, but only Kivach berhymed by G.R.Derzhavin: - "The diamond mountain is strewed..." has received its wide popularity. Its height is 10.7 m. Meanwhile, there are falls in Karelia 1.5 to 2 times higher. To them belong Kivakka (12 m.) on the river Olanga, Kumi (13,6 m.) - on Voinitsa, Bolshoi Padun (18 m.) - on Vincha, Belye Mosty (19 m.) - on Kulismajoki. There are many falls though less in height than Kivach, but they are no less fine. One could admire them for hours.
The "hydrographic picture" of Karelia is supplementsed by the severe White sea - the unique internal sea of Russia. It has its own appeal, fauna, since even whales are found there, the unique islands, and the rich history. Here the world famous Solovki are located, but the Kuzovetsky archipelago with its mysterious labyrinths and numerous seids on the tops of island mountains still waits for its glory.
The island of Kizhi on Onega, and Valaam on Ladoga are well-known all over the world. The special charm is made with the northern coasts of these lakes skeres of Kizhi and Ladoga. This is the interlacing of mighty rocks, the hundreds of islands, twisting passages and gulfs.
All this attracts the tourists...
Many tend to pass the lakes and even the sea on fragile boats and even on canoes. Thus, they risk fatally as the storms here are quite often and would spring up unexpectedly...
Kivatch Waterfalls is the second large in Europe (the first one is Rhein Waterfalls). The height of the waterfalls is 10.7 meters. It is located on the river Suna in central part of Karelia.
The destiny of this falls is unusual enough, since after partial exporting of the waters supplying it for the needs of Kondopozhskaya hydroelectric power station at the end of the 30-s, it appreciably has lost its former wildness and has grown quiet. Only during spring high waters it wakes up again, but not for long… However, even in its usual appearance the falls is still beautiful. The waters of the Suna river compressed by basalt rocks fall downwards heavy cast stream from the eight-meter height forming powerful whirlpool in the foam patches and making impressing noise.
20-30 more years ago it was possible to see the Onega salmons under the falls, now under the certificate of skin-divers large breams, perches and pikes like to stand at its steep walls.
The falls is situated in the center of the reserve "Kivatch" in 60 kms from Petrozavodsk. The beautiful wood road leads to the place bringing annually up to 30-40 thousand tourists there.
The most well-known visitor of the falls is the emperor Alexander II. On the occasion of his arrival (1868) the good road was laid to Kivatch, a pavilion on the right coast and the house for the night lodging - on left, and lower than the falls the bridge through the river Suna were constructed. In those old days Kivatch had been visited by no more than 200 persons per year.
Petroglyphs of the eastern shore of the Onega lake.
About 800 various carved pictures -petroglyphs- were discovered on the granit cliffs along the eastern shore of the Onega lake. The Petroglyphs of the White Sea - located in the mouth of the river Vyg in 6-8 km distance from the town of Byelomorsk. They are known under the name "Demon`s Footsteps" and Zalavruga" the total number is about one thousand pictures.
Petrozavodsk The capital of Karelia is situated north-west along the Finnish boundary. Petrozavodsk was founded by Peter I in 1703 at the same time with St. Petersburg foundation. The name of the city comes from a word-combination “Petrovsky” (Peter’s) and “zavod” (plant), because here was built a cannon plant at first, and then Petrovskaya settlement was formed around it. The city was created in 1777 by the order of Catherine II.
Being the capital of Karelia – the region of horizonless lakes and dense forests – Petrozavodsk represents an industrial city, which amazingly matches ancient nature.
Onega Lake is the main city’s attraction. It is the second largest (after Ladoga Lake) lake in Europe. The city is stretched along the lake’s bank for 27 km. Onega quay is a kind of an open air gallery, where vanguard sculptures are exhibited. Karelia’s quay is paved with valuable stones.
Alexander Nevsky cathedral is one of the city’s symbols. The cathedral reminds that Petrozavodsk’s history is tightly connected with Alexander Nevsky. He was thought to be a patron of Novgorod region, which part was a contemporary Karelia. No wonder, Alexandrovsky plant, built afloat the Lososinka River, got such a name. It were plant’s workers and handworkers, who decided to build a stony plant church of the Alexandro-Nevsky cathedral.
OJSC “Onezhsky tractor plant” is evidence of Petrozavodsk industrial origin. There are exhibited showpieces of different time’s production. The most interesting exhibited item is a model of Alexander cannon plant installation.
Karelian state regional museum is the oldest and biggest museum in the Russian North. It was founded in 1871 and is located in the buildings of Round square (today it is Lenin’s square) – a historical centre of Petrozavodsk. Administrative buildings ensemble is a federal monument. It is the first example of civil architecture in Karelia. Gubernatorial Park, located near the museums, is a landscape architecture monument. It is decorated with a monument to G.R.Derzhavin.
The Republic of Karelia museum of Fine Arts was established on the ground of state regional museum in 1960. The main expositional part is formed by collections of Russian art: icon painting and paintings of modern Karelian artists. The works of I. Ajvazovsky, I. Shishkin, V. Polenova, I. Levitana are represented in the museum.
Karelia is famous for its scenery and wealthy natural resources, which harmonically match exceptional wooden architecture. There is a monument to local wooden art – ‘Karelian hut’. It is a museum-room with interior of an ancient hut, where a Russian stove and old everyday life things are represented. It is situated in one of the central city’s buildings. Through theatricals the museum gets acquainted with the life of a Karelian village.
Petrozavodsk is a large tourist and cultural centre. Travelers from all over the world visit the city to learn the region’s history, where an original ancient bail has been preserved
A picturesque archipelago consists of 50 islands and is located in the northern part of the Ladoga lake. There is an ancient monastery there. Valaam is also famous for various cultural natural objects: gardens, parks, avenues.
In 1989 the male monastery of Transfiguration of the Saviour located on the island of Valaam began functioning again and now it is under the personal patronage of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.
It is located on the island Kizhi in the Onega lake in 65 km distance from Petrozavodsk. The architectural complex includes 70 monuments of folk wooden architecture of XV-XX centuries. The gem of the complex is Kizhsky pogost ensemble. It consists of Transfiguration church (1714), Pokrovskaya Church(1764) and the bell-tower (1874).
In 1990 the monuments of Kizhsky Pogost and the surrounding buildings were included into the List of the All-World Significant Cultural and Natural Heritage by UNESCO general session decision.
It is famous for undisturbed natural complex, richness and diversity of flora and fauna species, beautiful landscapes. It is located in the north-western part of Karelia. The gem of the park is Paanayarvi lake. It is not very large (1,5X24 km) but very deep (128m). There are many rapids on the rivers and some water falls. There are many valuable fish species in the rivers.