Solovetski Islands and the White Sea | 11 days
First settled by monks in the 1430s, the Solovetski Archipelago in the White Sea comprises around 100 islands of varying size, some of them covered by tundra and others with a groundcover of blueberry and crowberry. They abound with lakes, wildflowers and nesting birds and, in summer, beluga whales gather to calve in the shallow waters.
On the largest island, surrounded by enormous stone walls, stands the legendary 16th Century Solovetski Monastery, which in the 20th Century was one of the most feared and infamous prison camps, described by Solzhenitsyn in his book ‘Gulag Archipelago’. Now that the monks have returned, it is possible to visit the beautiful cathedral, church, refectory and other buildings enclosed by the great ‘kremlin’ or fortification. There are over 170 architectural and archaeological monuments on the islands, including 33 mysterious stone labyrinths dating back around 3,000 years. In some places, using small boats and wooden rakes, men still collect seaweed to be made into local products.
Accommodation here is simple – family-owned comfortable small hotels with delicious food. It’s an excellent place for walking in summer. Your journey is by train from St. Petersburg to Kem and then by boat across the White Sea.
15-25 June 2022 or we can tailor-make to suit in July/August
Price: £2,535 per person
Leader: Local English speaking Russian leader
Group size 6 minimum. Weather can be variable with temperatures ranging from 5-20 degrees C. The pace will be leisurely, easy walking entirely at your discretion
Fiona’s travel tipsRead: Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Take with you: Dried fruit, nuts and chocolate to vary your diet.
Best time to go: June to September for summer adventures, January to March for winter activities.
Accommodation: Expect simple family-owned comfortable small hotels with delicious food.
Did you know: The Solovetski Islands boast over 170 architectural and archaeological monuments, including 33 mysterious stone labyrinths dating back around 3,000 years.
Don’t miss: The exquisite art and architecture of Moscow and St. Petersburg – it makes a memorable beginning or end to your Russian Arctic exploration.
Generally, I think Kenneth’s and my best memories are of experiences rather than particular places – e.g. walking or running the Solovetski trails and paths, seeing a beaver while on the rowing boat trip, the long daylight hours and strolls after dinner, the friendly hotel in the Solovetskis (Irina, who seemed to cook, clean and do everything basically was wonderful), having banyas in the Solovetskis, the soups in the Solovetskis, drinks in the courtyard in the Helvetia hotel, the amazingly sunny weather in St Petersburg, appreciating just how much restoration has been done at the palaces in St Petersburg, the superb picnic we had on the train on the way up to the islands (St Petersburg food market and our supplies), The Marriage of Figaro as part of the White Nights Festival, a really great restaurant on the last night called Mechta Molokhovets. We really do love Russia, and the Solovetskis, Kizhi and St Petersburg were all wonderful
Cathy Dean and Kenneth Donaldson, The Solovetski Islands and the White Sea
You will be pleased to hear that I had a truly wonderful time in the Solovetski Islands. The experience was just what I had sought, being in real Russia and seeing a side of it that few people are fortunate enough to. Everything went smoothly. Guides, hotels and travel were all excellent. Nothing was too much trouble for Anastasia, who took us around the islands. I hope I'm not being presumptuous in saying that our little group got on extremely well. We had such fun!
Linda Hamling, The Solovetski Islands and the White Sea
“Our local guide, Irina, was great – nothing seemed to be any trouble for her and she always seemed to have ideas about what we could do every day. We really enjoyed her company and felt that our days had good pace and rhythm about them. Irina was knowledgeable about the area and had obviously spent time developing good relationships with local people who took us about on boats and in trucks – we definitely benefited from this. We are keen birdwatchers and saw plenty including sea and great eagles, osprey and divers.”
Mr and Mrs James Nangle, Solovetskis and the White Sea
“Everything was fantastic. So many bears, loads of volcanoes and spectacular views. Great company, good food, cannot fault a thing apart from a dodgy zip on the tent!”Paula Slater, Kamchatka
Sue Hynard, Arcturus Kamchatka group
“Wonderful, beyond expectations, well organised and always a Plan B if Plan A didn’t work out. Lorraine was a superb leader. Pre-departure information was thorough and clear.”
“It was truly unforgettable and, if anything, exceeded expectations. Thank you for a wonderful trip!
Chris Robb and Karen Murphy, Dog sledging with the reindeer herders and native people