Route Description: Lake Ladoga

This is an instant classic. Cycling around the lake makes perfect sense and allows you to see different kinds of regions in one trip. The downside is that you are, at times, forced to cycle on bigger roads. In other words this is not a bikepacking route designed to satisfy the needs of your sport-specific bike. It’s all about traditional bicycle touring, meaning the aim is to find the best route to places you might want to visit.

Map Link is not active yet.

Parts of the Lake Ladoga roundtrip overlaps with Areas Lost in the War, Imatra – Petrozavodsk and Olonets Region (as well as eurovelo 13). The suggested route described here starts at Niirala crossing point, more or less follows the lakeside clockwise and ends in Saint Petersburg. Mix and match to make a full circle (or two)!

Starting at Niirala crossing point offers two options. Follow the big road and visit the Ruskeala marble quarry or take a detour through Värtsilä, Soanlahti and Suistamo.

If your starting point was earlier than Niirala, a visit to Sortavalu and Valaam monastery is in order.

The road follows the lake near Kirjavanlahti in beautiful scenery. You’ll also find a modern villa designed by architect Pauli Blomstedt near by. Mind that the traffic can be dangerous.

Try to find a way to one of the promotories to enjoy Lake Ladoga at its best. The main road too occationally offers landscapes to remember.

The old border was at Salmi. Variskivi or Rajakivi was the borderstone from 1618 to 1917.

Vitele is an interesting place to visit. Nice houses by the the rivers.

Alavoisenjoki takes you to:

Olonets

Old Karelian houses along the riversides near the city of Olonets are worth seeing. The city center is more sovietisque. Music festival of Olonets is a large annual event with folk musicians coming from Finland too.

Monastery of Aleksanteri Syväriläinen

is known as the monastery of Holy Trinity and it is one of the most important religious centers of the Olonets region.

Syväri

Syväri river connects the lakes Ladoga and Onega. This is about where the line between the Karelian and the Russian cultures traditionally go. There are of course bridges, but you can cross the river by boat at Lotinapelto or Kovkenitsy. The hydroelectric powerplant is, among many other symbols of progress, built with forced labour. The monastery was used as the prison camp of workers during the build.

Lotinapelto

Lotinapelto (Lodeinoje Polje) was where Peter the Great built his ships. The Saint Petersburg-Murmansk train stops here.

When heading towards Novaya and Staraya Ladoga, try to avoid the main road. There are canals, rivers and smaller towns situated on the shores. Staraja Ladoga is one of the oldest cities in northern Russia. It dates back all the way to the times of the vikings and the Novgorodian Realm.

It should be possible to stay close to the shores of Lake Ladoga by following the canals all the way to Shlisselburg where the Peace Treaty of Nöteborg (Pähkinäsaaren rauha) was signed in 1323 between Sweden and Novgorod. Pay a visit to the fortress island if you can.

River Neva offers its views and is a natural choise of a route to head towards the 5 million people cluster of Saint Petersburg.

Also read Good to Know

Route Description: Kola Peninsula

There is a lot to see in the Kola Peninsula. The Arctic megacity Murmansk and the closed military areas create such a contrast with the surrounding natural beauty. Here’s some routes for you to consider. Note that they are beta -versions only and not even been tested (by me, yet).

Map / Route Planner

Salla – Kandalaksha – Varzuga

The Kola Peninsula is not a part of the Karelian Republic. But as a historical area, its southernmost city Kandalaksha (Kantalahti in Finnish), was once included in White Karelia (Viena).

Salla, Finland might be the best place to cross the border. There aren’t that many services on the way, so prepare to cook your own food and sleep in a tent. Once in Kandalaksha, follow the road 47K-011 to Varzuga. It’s tarmac until Kashkarantsy. Wild horses at Kuzomen!

There use to be a railroad track linking Salla and the Saint Petersburg – Murmansk track. The rails on the Finnish side still exist, but the ones behind the border are now used somewhere else. Stalin wanted to create this ”dagger in the back” for military uses and Finns were forced to do their part in the bargain. I wonder if one could cycle it? It’s not unheard of to have old railroads turned into cyclepaths.

Kandalaksha itself is worth visiting. Nearby reservation areas offer some spectacular scenery. Villages like Knäsöi and Kouta, situated south from Kandalaksha, still have thew Karelian speaking inhabitants.

The Kandalaksha – Varzuga leg is said to be the most beautiful road in the Kola Peninsula. The shores of White Sea and the exotic northern nature, along with the small villages are truly worth seeing. Mind that Umba is a closed military city (with two museums. I wonder how that works…).

The road there is a dead end, but there are busses going ”every other day or so”.

If you are looking for more information, these websites should be useful:

Kandalaksha+ is a blog with tons of relatively random content to get you psyked (and freaked out and confused) for your next trip to North-West Russia. Seriously.

The person running the Kandalaksha+ website is a very helpful chap called Pasha. He should be able to give you all the necessary information and even communicate with the officials in case you have any questions conserning permits.

Kolatravel.com offers guided mountain bike tours in the Kola peninsula. Do check their website. They also have a route description for a St. Petersburg-Murmansk-Kirkenes tour with some interesting sites near the main road.

Raja-Jooseppi – Murmansk – Teriberka

Raja-Jooseppi is a good border crossing point in case you are planning a trip to Murmansk. This way you don’t have to spend time on the Saint Petersburg-Murmansk main road. Information on sights inside and near Murmansk can easily be found so there is no point in going through them here. What you might be interested in is a smaller road going to Teriberka. It is by no means a good road, but taken as a challence… It does take you to a graveyard of ships by the Barents Sea! Most likely no public transport by the end of this road.

Kirovsk area and the mountains between lakes Umbozero and Lovozero

Watch this video. Footage from other interesting places too. Some people seem to question their equipment choises though. My guess is that locals also use heavy duty vehicles when travelling there. I would, obviously, prefer a bicycle.

Murmansk Region in Short

There is some amount of tourism in the Kola Peninsula. It’s such an extreme place to live! With its 300 000 inhabitants, Murmansk is the biggest city inside the arctic circle. The Kirovsk region has mountains up to 1200 meters over sea level, making it a skiing and hiking destination with magnificent views. The various rivers in the peninsula are in favour of fishermen (and women presumably). Doubletracks go deep into the wild. It’s unlikely that one could not find worldclass bikepacking routes here!

Kirovsk was and still is a mining city. It seems that wherever there is an area of natural beauty, someone finds gold, minerals or something else valuable that weights more than the unique nature surrounding it. The Murmanskaja Oblast has infact several heavily contaminated areas.

There are closed military cities north from Murmansk, wich means making roundtrips can be surprisingly hard. The northwest is becoming tactically increasingly important for the Russian army. Maybe it’s understandable that things like nuclear submarines and all sorts of gadgets of immense destructive power are a bit hush hush.

Reindeer herding is concentrated around Lovozero and it’s often done by the Saami indigenous people. Ozero means lake. In Finnish the area is called Luujärvi.

An ethnographic group of Pomors, who speak a dialect of Russian, traditionally live at the shores of the White Sea. Especially in Archangel, Suma, Belomorsk, Kandalaksha, Umba and Varzuga. The three latter ones are inside Tersky Distrikt, Murmans Oblast.

Finland lost land here too, be it that we only had this area, Finlands ”other hand” from 1920 to 1944. Petsamo is rich in natural resources and Liinahamari was our link to the Arctic Sea. It was on the very short list of open ports in Europe during the war. In the early twentieth century Finns were proud to have an exotic annex like this. With the precious minerals and metals found from the soil and the indigenous people and all… It was like being a proper colonialist!

Information conserning visas and all sorts of material of lesser value can be found here.

Route Description: Imatra – Petrozvodsk

This just might be my personal favorite. When we were cycling towards Petrozavodsk (Petroskoi for Finns) it felt like every decision was a risk taken in the last minute and every time it paid of. Another thing that struck me was the realisation that older people outside the old border spoke Finnish. Or Karelian but anyways…

I had, of course, heard about the relations between them, but it still felt amazing to be greeted in my own language so far from home, just as the sun was setting, and we not knowing anything about the place we had stumbled on. Kinnermäki, as it turned out to be, was and is the most well preserved and one of the most beautiful villages in Karelia.

The Map Link is not yet active. Instead you could browse google maps for sights. They are not listed here as I choose to go with a more personal approach on this one.

The route is an A to B that often follows smaller roads. Not because gravel is so fasionable, but out of curiosity. The only road to many of the interesting villages is a small local road. They simply tend to be unpaved.

Imatra

Imatra is basically a twin city. Svetogorsk, or Enso as it was once called is in fact so close that Russians do daytrips by bike with their families to visit Imatra. Finns mainly cross the border for cheaper fuel. There is a beautiful Jugendstil (new style, art noveau, national romantism… make your pick) hotel by the Imatrankoski rapids. The damn is a historical one and there are displays where water is allowed to run free. When empty, it makes a gorge.

Follow a smaller road to the border crossing point.

Svetogorsk

isn’t the prettiest of places. There is a damn and you might be allowed to cross it. A gravel road that follows the great river Vuoksi is one of the options. Alternatively you could continue on the main road, wich isn’t bad either. There is a strong sense of being in Russia. In good and bad.

I remember things like eating ice cream in a valley filled with sunshine and poisonous hogweed, a man riding what looked like a selfmade agricultural vehicle and wondering what had happened to the people who had to work in the collective farm (kolkhoz) now in ruins.

The local elections were closing and, according to some seriuos political theories, they were intentionally dated for the very weekend people traditionally picked potatoes. This way they wouldn’t vote. And indeed, when we reached Räisälä, people were doing just that. Picking potatoes on the yards of blocks of flats.

Kaukola is a pretty little village. We chose it over Käkisalmi we had allready seen last year. The road then went through some scenic places just before Kuznetsnoje, a more Soviet style town with a strong sense of communality. Maybe it was because people were out spending the day enjoying the fair.

Hiitola and Kurkijoki came next, and Kurkijoki, located by a river at the shores of Lake Ladoga, was worth the effort. The road there had that essential loose gravel for your tires to sink in.

To avoid the main road we then went to Ihala and found a Guest House. I can’t remember why we chose it over Lumivaara, but not having to sleep in a tent was nice. That familiar smell of leaking gas and cooking something out of canned fish and spaghetti, when other guests were cleaning the mushrooms they had just picked, was a good ending for a rough day.

Lahdenpohja is a slightly bigger town and it too is situated at the shore (hens the name). We missed Filina Gora but enjoyed the views. The road to Sortavalu is a scenic one. Being the main road it does have some amount of traffic though. Sortavalu is where the ferry to the Valaam monastery leaves from.

We continued on the main road and found out the road A-121 following the coastline is a hidden gem. If only the locals woud drive safe! Doing peaks off the main road while we could we cycled along Lake Ladoga as far as Vitele. With occational conserns on if this was the right choise there were rewards. The best, and only option was now to head towards northeast. Otherwise we’d never get to Petrozavodsk in time.

Vitele is pictoresque, but the next leg and the following ones were heavy. No complaints. They turned out to be the highlights of the trip. Suurimäki has grand views, in Kinalahti we got to speak Finnish with the shop keeper and Kinnemäki was, as mentioned, a stunner. As a warning: There is a half collpased bridge at Suurimäki and the worst roads I’d seen in a while.

On the way to Essoila there were more old Karelian houses. The weather was getting worse by the hour and we Had to make decisions. To Petrozavodsk today was the plan. I have never seen so much water on the streets!

The next day we did what anyone would. Treated ourselves with Georgian cuisine. When realizing all the busses and trains were full, my friend pulled yet another trick off his sleeve. In Russia every car is a Taxi. It’s a form of hitch hiking basically. And that’s what got us back to the border crossing point. And made us realize how mad these people can be behind the wheel.

So as a lesson for your trip: take risks by venturing into the unknown, but not by cycling the main road at rush hour. Also lower your expectations on how many kilometers you’ll do per day. Sometimes 70 means cycling all day long and only stopping for food.

Some things you should know when travelling to Russia can be found here. It also contains a lot of information of lesser value.

Route Description: Areas Lost in the War

This is a beta-version of the route! COVID is still making travelling extremely hard and certainly not safer.

This route goes through the Areas Lost in the War (Luovutettu Karjala). The Isthmus (Karjalankannas) is so close to Saint Petersburg that it’s partly inside its commuting area. The road network is way better than in most parts of nortwest Russia. You can even plan your trip by using Google Street View! The scenery gets better and local roads worse when you head north to Laatokan Karjala.

Many Finns have roots here. Visiting Luovutettu Karjala is a chance to see the old family house. Or its ruins.

The Map link isn’t active yet, but there should be enough information here for you to succesfully do all sorts of trips in Luovutettu Karjala, even if you’d have to look for the places mentioned here without a route drawn on a digital map.

Part of Sweden, part of Russia, then independent

Finland was a self governing Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire since 1809 and thus the pre war border was of significanse way before Finland became independent in 1917. Before the year 1809, when Finland was part of Sweden, so was the Isthmus. For some periods in history at least.

One could talk of a classic border (conflict) area. There has always been a border somewhere here. Different cultures have mixed for a thousand years. And there has always been Finns, until everyone was evacuated.

Evakot – Evacuees

This is a massive topic and one of the reasons I’m trying to establish these routes. About 100 000 Finnish houses were destroyed during the Second World War. 11 percent of the populaton was homeless and 400 000, evacuated included, needed a new home. In other words Luovutettu Karjala is an area where the whole population has been replaced. Where did these new inhabitants come from? This is yet another interesting topic!

Imatra and Lappeenranta

Both of these Finnish cities are good places to start your trip. Vuoksi flows to Russia never minding the border and so does the canal. Follow a smaller road from Imatra or the canal from Lappeenranta to the nearest border crossing point.

Border Crossing Points

Vaalimaa (not recommended), Vainikkala (for trains only until 2024), Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala.

Vyborg (Viipuri)

Arriving from Nuijamaa gives nice views over the canal. Entering Viborg is a bit of a questionmark. Prefer a smaller road. Eurovelo route known as the Iron Courtain Trail could give some guidance to this.

Vyborg was once a big international city by the Gulf of Finland. The revolution in Russia suddenly closed the important connections to Saint Petersburg. This meant changes in agriculture, industry and commerse. People at Karjalankannas put in the effort, kept the wheels spinning and prospered. Then came Winter War.

Mannerheim and the Lines of Defence

Mannerheim was a true power figure. He served in the army of the Russian Empire, fought in Japan, made a two year far east expedition on horse back doing intelligense work and collecting cultural objects, was the head of Finnish army in the Second World War and wore a corset. Later he became president. Today Mannerheimin Lastensuojeluliitto protects the rights of children. There is a street named after him in pretty much every Finnish city.

In the civil war he was on the winning side. This is where he earned his nickname Lahtari (Slaughterer). Finland recovered fast from the horrors of civil war, but the terror in the concentration camps where the Red, meaning socialist workers who rebelled, were held, only ended when England and the international community refused to declare Finland independent. Treating dying men and women like animals left deep wounds. It is said that Winter War was what eventually united the people (good old blood sacrifice always works). Before that there were all kinds of attacks from right wing terrorists known as Lapuan liike.

Mannerheim Defence Line at the Karelian Isthmus was where the big battles went down. There is another line, Salpalinja, in Finland. It was the last line of defence and it was never used. It goes through the whole country and the southernmost 50 or so kilometers are now a hiking route. Salpalinja museum is worth checking out.

Sights in Vyborg

Most renowned sights of Vyborg include the castle (and its corrupted renovation process), the park of Monrepos and the library designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The building has recently gone through thorough restoration and the outcome is said to be top notch. Younger Finns often think Monrepos is in Paris, mainly because of this nostalgic evergreen. First performed by Annikki Tähti but I prefer the Ola’s version.

The city has lost most of its former glory, but there are interesting things happening, including a museum of war history that isn’t filled with propaganda. They should be able to help you find some interesting sights related to the subject. A website called sotahistoriallisetkohteet.fi is handy, but only if you speak Finnish. Another war museum, Gora Filina, is situated inside a cave/bunker near Kontupohja.

Suomenlahti, The Gulf of finland

Surprisingly there are some pretty nice sandy beaches here. They are good places to set up a camp. The Isthmus has a lot of pine forests that only have a very thin layer of soil. Scrape it a bit and you’ll find sand. So following the shoreline and visiting Koivisto is an easy option when choosing a route.

There are other routes too that might reveal more of the local life – past and present. ”Summan tie” for example, goes through Summa, Kaukjärvi, Uusikirkko and Vammelsuu.

Terijoki and Komorovo

Russian summer villas are called datshas. Terijoki and Komorovo have a lot of them. They have always been in favour of artists and the noblesse. Terijoki was once famous for its beaches, but the last I’ve seen it did not quite convince me.

Ilja Repin

A world famous painter lived near by at Kuokkala, later renamed Repinho. Replika of his home is now a museum.

Bigger roads

Bigger roads cause problems for cyclists. In Russia they can be extremely dangerous. Russians seem to think it’s ok to suddenly turn a perfectly good old road into a one way exit of a highway. There is a new big road to Lahdenpohja. Try to avoid that. I’m really hoping they won’t destroy the scenic bits where you can see Lake Ladoga.

Reka Sestra (Rajajoki), the Border River

On my trip to the Isthmus we followed the river and later ended up inside a big suburb. It was actually very interesting. After thew less succesful route choises we arrived at Metsäpirtti. From there we took yet another risk an cycled to the river where it meets Lake Ladoga. Luckily we found someone to take us to the other side by boat. There was an airport and some big and luxurious buildings behind high fences. The Road starting from the riverside that goes to Sakkola, a famous battleground during the war, is rideable by military vehicles. And by bike!

Some other options after Terijoki

Raivola – Kivennapa – Rautu and Raivola – Parkkila – Valkjärvi have been suggested in guides written for people travelling by car. Feel free to choose your own route!

Vuoksi, Taipale and Burnaja

Vuoksi river once flowed to Käkisalmi. It is a mighty river, from the beautiful gorge-like damn at Imatra to the shores of Lake Ladoga. Molded for industry, the main branch now flows via Suvanto and Burnaja, wich translates as fierce. Vuoksi offers great possibilities for some serious gravel grinding.

Konevsky monastery (Konevitsa)

An orthodox monastery on a beautiful island. Catamaran boat leaves at Vladimirovka. The name of the island refers to a boulder that looks like a horses head, a place of worship long before the christian times. The monks built a tsasouna (a place of prayer) on top of it.

Käkisalmi

This as a bigger city, atleast in this scale. You can find basic info online. The city has a castle and a river. As an anecdote, when Swedes invaded the city (16th or 17th centuty or so), Karelians fled pretty far and started a new life in Tver near Moscow. There is still a community of Karelians scattered around the Tver Karelia (Tverin Karjala).

Good options to continue

As said, the main road is not the best choise. Instead visit the villages – Important Finnish and fascinating Soviet styled ones. North from Käkisalmi there are places like Kuznetsnoje and its surroundings, Hiitola, Kurkijoki, Eilisenvaara, Lumivaara and Ihala to choose from.

Shores of Lake Ladoga

After Lahdenpohja the main road and its scenery is the obvious choise.

Sortavalu

During the pandemic these parts of the Karelian Republic have been in favour of domestic tourists. Some would even go as far as saying that the peaceful atmosphere is gone. Personally I prefer a city with people. Tourists bring life to the streets. And much needed money. Sortavalu has services and info can easily be found browsing the world wide web.

Nearby islands are worth a visit, and so is:

Valaam monastery (Valamo)

Ferry rides from Sortavalu. The Valaam Monastery was also evacuated during the war (The New Valamo is at Heinävesi, Finland). This first monastery of the area dates somewhere between 1100 and 1300 ad, times when Russia was ruled from Novgorod. The monastery was still one of the most important centers for the orthodox community after the revolution. Soviet Union, as you might know, was not so frendly towards religious thinking. Today it’s been renowated and is good as new.

The Marble quarry

The Ruskela marble quarry has become one of the most popular sights of Laatokan Karjala. It’s a hole in the ground. A nice looking hole with water on the bottom.

Suistamo

Alternatively you could take the long road and visit Suistamo, Soanlahti and Värtsilä, wich, depending on the moods of the border (FSB) officials is or isn’t critically inside the border zone. Good place to make camp at the sandy beach of lake Suistamojärvi. Ry’sya Gora near Värtsilä has nice views.

Alternative Routes

  • Cycling to Suojärvi via Suistamo and other old villages would be nice.
  • Following the shore to Salmi (and why not all the way to Saint Petersburg) is a scenic ride. The route description for Lake Ladoga roundtrip is mid prosess.
  • For the ultimate bikepacking experience consider a visit to Tolvajärvi. There’s pretty much nothing left of the old village, but the roads that follow narrow strips of land between lakes are beautiful. Mind that the local road 86K-329 north from Värtsilä puts you inside the border zone for quite a long time. Permission might be required.
  • Just visiting the Karelian Isthmus, cycling to Saint Petersburg or crossing the border at Imatra and heading north towards Laatokan Karjala are all options well worth considering.
  • Vainikkala is now for trains only. There are plans of opening it for traffic in 2024. This would allow both Finns and Russians to do shorter roundtrips between neighbourging countries. I’ve heard there are allready route plans in case everything goes flying through the diplomatic and bureaucratic process like nothing ever does.

Good to Know – read this article!

Visas etc

You need a visa to visit Russia. There is free a digital visa that should work when staying in Saint Petersburg (or the Isthmus I’ve heard). There are plans of going digital nation wide, but due to the pandemic it’s a bit iffy.

Longer stays (more than a week) require registration. Bigger hotels do it for you, otherwise you’ll have to pay a visit to the local officials.

Mind the border zone! You’ll need a permission.

Luovutettu Karjala

Finns refer to the the areas lost in the war as Luovutettu Karjala. It consists of Karjalankannas (the isthmus) and Laatokan Karjala, meaning bits between the scenic shores of Lake Ladoga and the new border and all land north from it that was Finnish before the Second World War. If you follow the lakeside clockwise, you’ll reach the old borderstone at Salmi. North from Lake Ladoka you’ll find the city of Suojärvi. It too was once Finnish.

Karjalankannas translates in Russian as Karelski pereshejek. However, Russians often assosiate Karelia with Respublika Karelija, and only see the isthmus as a part of Leningradskaja Oblast. Oblasts are administrative areas and Saint Petersburg was called Leningrad during the Soviet reign. You’ll propably guess who it’s named after.

Lost and Forgotten

Finns also lost land near Kuhmo and Salla. Paanajärvi national park is situated inside the old border but is now in Russia. Petsamo and Liinahamari at the Barents Sea were the gateway to the arctic. This imperialistic link, Finlands ”other hand” was lost too. When people talk of Luovutettu Karjala, these northern losses are often forgotten. The name itself only refers to the southern areas.

Route Description: Olonets region

This is a beta-version of the route! COVID is still making travelling extremely hard and certainly not safer!

This route is a roundtrip between Ladoga (Laatokka)and Onega (Ääninen), the two largest lakes in Europe. Olonets (Aunus) region is said to be the most Karelian part of Karelia.

Map link (under construction)

You can start wherever seems rational or feels right. For some reason I ended up typing this as a counter clockwise tour from Olonets.

Olonets

Old Karelian houses along the riversides near the city of Olonets are worth seeing. The city center is more sovietisque. Music festival of Olonets is a large annual event with folk musicians coming from Finland too.

Monastery of Aleksanteri Syväriläinen

is known as the monastery of Holy Trinity and it is one of the most important religious centers of the Olonets region.

Syväri

Syväri river connects the lakes. There are of course bridges, but you can cross the river by boat at Syvärinniska, Lotinapelto and Kovkenitsy. The hydroelectric power plant is, among many other symbols of progress, built with forced labour. The monastery was used as the prison camp of workers during the build.

Lotinapelto and Kuujärvi

Lotinapelto (Lodeinoje Polje) was where Peter the Great built his ships. The Saint Petersburg-Murmansk train stops here. Kuujärvi (Mikhaylovskoye) route is the other option.

Boatride at Syväri

Best way to see the river would be by boat. If you can’t find a company that does these trips, ask the locals or someone running a home stay in the area (they are fairly well connected because that’s the way things work here). Bigger ferries star their touristique tour at St. Petersburg and do stop at Syväri river. What you are looking for is something smaller and more frequent to better fit your schedules. Or a callboat of sorts.

Vepsian villages

Situated near the shores of lake Onega. Soutjärvi has an ethnographic museum and Himjoki is said to be beutiful. Big wooden houses that show great craftmanship.

Petrozavodsk

A big university city with services you might expect including railway and bus stations. Beach promenade, some older wooden houses and of course, a large statue of Vladimir Iljits (Lenin). Boats to Kizi Pogost and to the headland leave hear.

Kizi Pogost

A Uneco world heritage site. Said to be the largest log house in the world. Taxi boat to the headland.

Headland of lake Onega

is a maze of smaller lakes. The road that goes through the villages has a roadnumber wich indicates it’s rideable. A smaller road follows a long and narrow lake making it possible to do a roundtrip here depending on your bike.

Essoila and region

Road from Petrozavodsk to Essoila is a reasonable alternative to the busy main road. If you feel comfortable cycling a bigger road with possibly heavy traffic, Prääsä should be a place of interest. E-105 isn’t the ideal choise, but most of the time there is a smaller road near by that goes through the villages.

Kinnermäki

The most beautiful and well preserved village in Karelia. It serves as an ethocraphic museum. Accommodation and a sauna available. Road there from Vitele via Suurimäki and Kinalahti is not the easiest to cycle. Follow a footpath down to the river from the old prison camp of Suurimäki and cross the bridge. Part of it has collapsed and the next section is unmaintained (obviously vice versa if you are coming from the north. I came from Vitele.). Magazin at Kinalahti and at Vedlozero. Vitele and Kinalahti are nice. Suurimäki (Bolshie Gori) has great views but no services what so ever.

Roads

Part from the Kinnermäki section the roads should be okay. Expect gravel sections.

Accommodation

Bigger towns would have hotels. Some Finnish travel agencys should be able to fix accomodations in home stays in old Karelian houses in advance. Primatours?

Happenings

Olonets folk music fest and pradzniks at the villages. Updates post Corona!

Karelian houses

These log houses have decorated facades and grandious looks due to the size of the building. Unlike western ones, they have all the separate functions of a rural house under same roof. One half is for animals, tools, carriages etc, other half is for preserving food, wich usually leaves a room with a fireplace and a chamber as livable space.

Food and water

Should be no problem finding a magazin (a small shop), stolovaja or a ”kafe”(both diners). Distances aren’t that long, but there might be surprises. Always carry some amount of food and water with you.

Good to Know

You need a visa to visit Russia. Read more interesting stuff here.

Longer stays (more than a week) require registration. Bigger hotels do it for you, otherwise you’ll have to pay a visit to the local officials.

War

Finns marched all the way to Syväri (from the north) and took over Petrozavodsk renaming it Äänislinna. Stalins canal was another front where Finnish troops got stuck in trench warfare. The old border was at Salmi, a village at lake Ladoga wich pretty much marked the easternmost part of pre war Finland. The current border is a result of the terms of peace dictated by Stalin after the Second World War.

Apparently Finland is the only nation ever to fully paid the war reparations in full. Co-operation of Finns and Germans during the war is truly worth studying. The easy way to explain it would be that small nations sometimes must play with the big boys but know when to switch sides. But theres no way around the fact that we worked with the Nazies.

Topics to dig deeper into

Soviet Union and the war would be the obvious ones. As would Karelian language and its local dielects. Tied to this is the fact that Karelia is a republic of old women. Demographic facts do tend to indicate the future.

Finnish fantasy was to invade the area and make it a part of Suur-Suomi. Syväri is the historical dividing line between the Slavic and Fenno-Ugrian cultures.