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Karelia: a Russian winter wonderland

Karelia is a snowy, silent region that will appeal to anyone who loves crisp landscapes that border the Artic. With its lakes and forests, the cold is piercing, but that's all part of this Russian region's appeal: imagine exploring a frosty wilderness, before settling down around a fire in a local dacha, followed by a soothing, Russian-style sauna...

Kizhi Island, a famous global heritage site

Karelia has loads on offer, both during summer and the freezing winter months. On the cultural front there's ​​ Kizhi Island , a classified UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. It's a former parish that's home to two 18th Century churches.

The site has several remarkable features, in addition to its age and incredible state of preservation. The Church of the Transfiguration and the Church of the Intercession are both wooden structures, yet held together without a single nail, screw or metal support! You'll gasp at these two buildings - not only because of their incredible architectural features, but also because they're so wonderfully odd!

An old windmill, Kizhi island, Karelia

And, after a cultural tour, you can put on your sporting hat!

Karelia is best known for a landscape perfectly suited to outdoor sports, to the point where Russian Olympic teams will sometimes use it as a training ground.

It's a silent, pristine landscape, dotted with frozen lakes, under a mild winter sun with bursts of snow; quite surreal...

Karelia is great for skiing. You can also explore the far flung corners of this amazing region by snowmobile or going on a dog sled ride. Snowshoeing is a less bumpy alternative, where you can get up close to nature and lose yourself in the sound of your snow shoes crunching with each step, as your breath steams to the cries of the small animals that roam these wintry lands...

But you'll need to get a move on, if you want to tour this area before it becomes too overcrowded - the Russian authorities have launched a big tourism drive in this region...

Laetitia Santos
17 contributions
Updated 24 March 2016