Kizhi

Overview

Introduction

A small island in Lake Onega 200 mi/320 km northeast of St. Petersburg, Kizhi, Russia, has a collection of fascinating wooden churches and other nicely preserved wood structures. There aren't many places left in Russia where these buildings survive, and as a result, Kizhi has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Because it's a small island, keep in mind that you can't visit Kizhi November-April. http://kizhi.karelia.ru.

Pine logs and aspen shingles were used to create the buildings, many of which have onion domes. There's nothing to do on the island except admire the structures at this open-air museum, but it's worth it for those with an interest in architecture. The Church of the Transfiguration, with 22 cupolas and an unusual iconostasis, is especially notable.

Most visitors arrive by hour-long hydrofoil excursion from the industrial city of Petrozavodsk (use Petrozavodsk only as a transit point—there's not a lot to do there) or by river cruises from St. Petersburg.

While in the area, also visit Valaam, an island with one of the oldest and the most important monasteries in Russia (http://www.valaam.ru), and the Solovetsky Islands, home to a sacred monastery that once was the most infamous concentration camp during the Stalin era of the Soviet Union. It also features the mysterious Solovetsky labyrinths, another UNESCO World Heritage site. http://solovki.ru.

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