Kizhi Island – Karelian beauty and museum of wooden architecture
Kizhi is an island in Lake Onega. On the island is an open-air museum-reserve, which is dedicated to the traditional peasant culture of the Russian North. The hallmark of the place is Kizhi architectural ensemble. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, so it is popular among foreign tourists.
When I worked on a cruise ship, I often went to Kizhi. Of the whole itinerary, this stop was my favorite – it’s as if you’re entering a picture with an idyllic landscape. Karelian nature is beautiful in any weather, the sound of Onega waves is soothing, and also sheep are walking.
Map of Kizhi and basic information about the island
Where is it: 68 km from Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia.
Is it necessary to have a PCR-test, QR-code: no. But you should wear a mask and keep your distance.
There are many additional paid services: visits, rent, excursions. It is better to study the details and prices on the website and price list beforehand.
Sights of Kizhi island
I will not list all the sights, but only the main ones that you must see on the island.
From this point begins to explore the island. Straight ahead – to Kizhi ensemble, on the right side – ticket office, where you buy entrance ticket, back – to residential part of the island
If you want to walk around the island, you must buy an entrance ticket for ₽600. You can do this at the ticket office – it will be on the way as you walk from the pier into the interior of the island. The ticket includes a tour of all the island’s sites, a visit to the Pokrovsky church and one of the peasants’ houses in a Zaonezh village. Without ticket you will not be allowed to see the island, you can only walk around the pier.
It is better to buy entrance and other tickets on the website or from the carriers in advance. At the ticket office there is usually a long queue and you have to wait a long time. Do not lose precious time.
Church of the Transfiguration
The Church of the Transfiguration is one of the most difficult in engineering and architecturally perfect wooden temples. If you stand at the foot and look up, the structure resembles a pyramid. And if you look from a bird’s eye view – a cross.
On the tour they say that the church was built by local architects and did not use a single nail. But that’s not true. The supporting structures – maybe, but some parts were fastened with nails. The church was closed to the public for 40 years, only to be fully restored in 2020.
If you want to go inside, you’ll have to pay ₽600 more. But you can see the interior of the church and the original icons from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Behind the boat you can see Kizhi ensemble – the church of Transfiguration with 22 cupolas, ten-domed Church of Intercession, and bell tower
The ten-domed Church of the Intercession
Pokrovsky church is a functioning church with services from May to October.
A visit to the temple is included in the price of the entrance ticket to the island. Inside you can see an exhibition of old icons, some of which date back to the XVI and XVIII centuries. At the tour you will be told about the construction of the church, engineering solutions.
Church of the Protection of the Holy Mary is on the left, in the center – the bell tower. It was built in 1864, you can get on top for a fee of 300 ₽.
Ensemble of Kizhi Pogost, left to right: bell tower, Church of Transfiguration, Pokrovsky Church
Renovated Zaonezhsky village is situated near the ensemble of Kizhy Pogost. Pogost village used to be in its place, but it is not preserved.
The village is uninhabited, it is a reconstruction. Inside the houses you can see the restored interiors of the XIX and early XX centuries. Tourists can thus get acquainted with the traditions, culture and life of the Zaonezh peasants.
The village is interesting with its peasant houses – they are not just small huts, but the most real beautiful mansions. Their rich exterior decoration attracts attention.
The ticket price includes a visit to one of the peasant houses – Oshevneva or Elizarova. But if you want not just to see the objects, but also to listen to the story – you need to buy an extra tour for 500 ₽.
Kizhy villages Yamka and Vasilievo
The villages are located in the northern part of the island, the museum staff lives there. I think that it is necessary to take a walk through the villages. Church of the Transfiguration is certainly beautiful, it is the calling card of the island. But the residential part of the island has its own atmosphere – houses decorated with wooden carvings, embroidered curtains on the windows. Life flows quietly and calmly. The views themselves are picturesque – as if you were transported back in time and got inside a historical picture.
You can walk through the villages on your own or book a guided tour for ₽300 or ₽400.
What to see in the surrounding area
There are guided tours in every neighborhood. I didn’t look at everything, so check the price list for a complete list and prices.
The trail takes you to the residential part of the island and the eco-trail. Hidden behind the trees is a restroom. In the back is a cabin with a cash register.
Wolf and elk invite you on a tour of the northern part of the island. Here you will be shown the traditional designs of traps for forest fur-bearing animals and told about the hunting of animals. Ticket – 400 ₽
The eco-trail tour costs ₽300 ₽ – you will be told about the flora and fauna of the island, show traces of a glacier that descended 11,000 years ago, or a landslide
You can always see these ducks on the right side of the wooden walkway that runs from the pier to the ticket office
This little pier can be found in the residential part of the island behind the houses. There are several of them, and they take beautiful pictures
To find this pier, follow the wooden path from the pier, and when you see the path to the right, turn off
And this is my “place of power” in Kizhi, there have never been people here. You can find it in the residential part of the island behind the houses.
Where to eat on Kizhi island
At the pier in a cafe. This is the only such institution on the island. Here you can drink coffee or tea with kalitki (open cakes made of unleavened rye flour), but you can also order something more substantial – salads, fish and potatoes, soups to choose from. The average check in 2018 was ₽600-800. It’s probably more expensive now.
There is a small store in the residential part of the island for locals where you can buy everything you need from soap and toothbrushes to fruit, meat and cheese. There’s even lard. But the markup is also high – it’s hard to get goods to the island.
When to go to Kizhi
The season on Kizhi is from February to March and from June to September. In October, the weather is often capricious, overcast, and the lake is turbulent. Not always can even let the ships go because of the high waves, not to mention the meteors.
Museum-reserve “Kizhi” is open all year round, there is a program for every season.
It is best to go in July, August and early September. At this time, the weather is favorable, there is no need to wrap up.
Dress as you usually are accustomed to the weather. Keep in mind that the weather on the island is changeable, so it is better to always have a raincoat and an umbrella with you. It is also windy and humid, so take things that can insulate you.
Choose shoes for the weather and very comfortable – so as not to get cold and soaked feet, but do not get tired when walking. We will have to walk a lot, and the roads are uneven: the stones, climbs and descents. You’ll be exhausted in bad shoes.
Spring begins in April, the ice disappears at the same time. In April the average temperature is +4, in May – about +11 degrees. It will be a little cold.
Summer is the best time to visit the island. The average temperature ranges from +16 to +20. If in general the summer falls warm, the temperature can rise to +24 … 32 degrees. This was the case in 2018, for example. I went in a T-shirt and jeans, and my friend in a dress. Even the water in Onega was warm. But in 2019 summer was cool and rainy and I could wear a light jacket even in July.
It’s also better to explore the area in summer. All the sites are open, walking is convenient, you can ride a bike or a brisket. And it’s not as dirty as in the fall or spring.
In the fall, the temperature averages +14 degrees. You need to dress warmer, a light jacket will do, so you won’t wind. It rains more often, the weather is more overcast. Good weather can be caught in early to mid-September, after go do not advise.
The nature of the reserve is beautiful in any weather.
In the winter on the average -10 degrees, although there can be real christening frosts. In the winter there is also a program for tourists. You can get to the island by snowmobile on the thick ice. However, there is not much to look at. Only the main paths are cleared, there are drifts everywhere and almost all sites are closed to the public.
You see the least number of tourists in September, October and the end of May.
How to get to Kizhi island
By meteor or comet from Petrozavodsk.
Travel time is 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Meteors and comets are vessels on hydrofoils. They go from May to October from the river station in Petrozavodsk.
Departure is usually from 8 to 13 hours. In Kizhi the comets stand for four hours. The schedule depends on the weather and the number of tourists.
Round trip tickets will cost 3,500 ₽. If the comets are not released because of the weather, the money for the tickets will be refunded.
Two companies – “Kizhi necklace” and “Russian North” are engaged in official transportations to Kizhi. “Kizhy necklace” gives 20% discount on tickets for those who stayed in “Karelia” hotel.
You can buy tickets on the websites of these companies or at the Petrozavodsk pier, at the ticket offices on Onega embankment. It is better to get tickets in advance to be sure there are enough seats.
Sometimes you can buy tickets cheaper during the action. Keep an eye on them on the site of Kizhi.
By boat with private carriers from the village Oyatevshchina
First you have to drive 300 kilometers from Petrozavodsk on the road through Medvezhjegorsk district to the village Oyatevshchina – this is the closest mainland point to the island. The road will take 4-5 hours.
Then you have to get from the village one kilometer by water to the island. It will cost about 500 ₽.
Private carriers will take you to the island, so it is better to book transport in advance. The contact numbers are on the museum’s website.
Another advantage of private carriers is that you can negotiate departure times with them, rather than leaving the island on a schedule.
Travel time is 40 minutes.
Helicopters MI-8 fly from the airport “Besovets” in Petrozavodsk. Departures are on Mondays at 13:00. Registration for flights begins two weeks before departure.
The ticket costs ₽1120 one-way, and you can’t buy it online. You can only buy them offline at the Karelian Air Communications Agency in Petrozavodsk. Or you can book tickets on their website, but you still have to buy them in the office or at the airport.
Registration for boarding begins 1.5 hours and ends 40 minutes before departure.
You will have to return from the island by water.
With the ship on the cruise
Five companies offer river cruises with call to Kizhi: “Vodohod”, “Mosturflot”, “Infoflot”, “Constellation” and “Doninturflot”. Doninturflot” has such vessels as “Ivan Bunin”, “Anton Chekhov”, “Maksim Litvinov”, “Volga Star”.
The ship stays on the island for four hours. This is enough to visit some excursion and then take a walk. Or you can explore the island on your own.
The actual prices of cruises are better to look at the sites of companies.
The boat “Ivan Bunin” on the pier. The operator was “Doninturflot”, carrying German tourists. That’s where I worked.
How to get around Kizhi Island
On foot. The island is not big. The island is not large. It is 5,5 kilometers long, you can walk around it in about 3-4 hours, and all the main objects are relatively close to it.
By bicycle. A rental costs ₽300. You rent bikes at the ticket office before the tour begins. You can also buy a guided bicycle tour for ₽400 and ride around the island in about 1.5-2 hours.
In a horse-drawn carriage. It will take you around the residential part of the island and part of the central exposition. The cost is 600 ₽ per person. Book in advance by phone +7 8142 53-57-22, on the website of the museum or on the island when you buy tickets.
Where you stay
On the island. In the past you could not stay overnight on the island. It is a protected area, only museum workers could stay there 24 hours a day.
Now on the museum site there is new information – you can rent Gogol’s house in the center of the island. The cost of rent per day – 40 800 ₽ (from one to eight people).
In guest houses on neighboring islands. You can read more about them on the website. It has all the amenities, phone numbers for reservations, and pictures.
You can stay in a tent on the Big Klimecky Island. It’s the cheapest way to spend the night. The island is situated not far from Kizhi. The costs are about 500 ₽ for a night in a tent and 250 ₽ per person for a boat transfer from Kizhi. You can book by phone +7 911 411-68-58.
On the mainland in the Veps farm . This is not really an option for overnight stay. It is more suitable if you want to have a rest for some days in Karelia, but not in the city, but in the countryside. From the farm you can order an excursion to Kizhi.
What to bring from Kizhi
Jam from cones or cloudberry sell in small jars – it is convenient to buy it as a gift for others. Costs not cheap, about 400 ₽ for a small jar.
Cloudberry is a Karelian specialty berry. It tastes to me personally like something between raspberries and blackberries. And cones taste a little bit spicy.
Souvenirs from Karelian birch – panels, statuettes in the form of animals, jewelry, caskets. Products have a smooth texture and luster. Prices range from 450 to 5000 ₽, if not more.
Something with cloudberry – here what you like more: jewelry, tea, cake, alcohol, jam.
A linen item with a branded print. There are bags, shirts, dresses, t-shirts, aprons, towels, for children, for adults. Prices vary, from 450 ₽. But the items are complex and large will be more expensive. Bags cost in the region of 1,500-2,000 ₽.
The book “Kalevala” is a collection of the Karelian-Finnish epic. Book lovers will appreciate the aesthetics of the books – they are large, with beautiful illustrations. You can also look for them in online stores, it will be cheaper, but the tales are not always in stock.
A puffer toy. You need to pour water into it and blow it – the sound is like a bird singing. It costs about 250-350 ₽, but how much joy from it. The price is probably higher now.
Porcelain. In one of the souvenir stores they sell very thin porcelain with red pattern, just in Karelian theme. You can find elegant saucers, cups and teapots. They are insanely expensive – if I’m not lying, one cup will cost about 2000 ₽. But if you are a connoisseur of such things, you will have a piece of porcelain rare and beautiful.
Shungite jewelry or shungite ointment is a popular souvenir here. Especially in demand among foreign elderly tourists. They say that shungite has medicinal properties, but I have not checked and do not particularly believe it. In my opinion, there are more interesting souvenirs.
My purchases: pins made of Karelian birch and a puffin bird. Price tags in the photo in 2018, as now – do not know
Tips for tourists
1. be careful: there are poisonous vipers on the island. They are usually in the tall grass and not in the main part of the exposition. The area is carefully cleaned, the grass is regularly mowed, but forewarned is forearmed.
2. Stay away from gull nests. They are impertinent birds that can pounce. There was one case when they stole a tourist’s cap.
3. Do not take pictures in the most popular places. Of course, it is worth taking pictures in front of the church. But if you want not to disturb other tourists, go deep into the island or along the paths to the side. There is beautiful nature there too, and you can catch good angles.
4. Go knee-deep in Onega. Most likely you will see signs that say “Swimming is prohibited”. But if you go deep into the island, where the workers live, you can find a secluded shore not far away. Then you’ll brag that you felt the cold of Onega. It’s better to “wash your feet” in July in a hot weather, because even then, the water in the lake is quite cold, about +15 … 20 degrees, but bearable.
5. Take something to eat with you. You’ll spend a lot of money for the tickets, and you’ll want to buy souvenirs. You don’t know that you will like menu or prices of the only cafe on the island. It is better to take a thermos of tea and something nourishing. Just do not eat in the territory of houses and public places, otherwise the food can be flown to the seagulls. This is fraught with trouble. Sit on the pier and away from people. I also recommend to take your trash with you and throw it away on the mainland – it is your small contribution to the ecology of the island.
6. Decide at once if you go for a walk and admire the nature of the reserve or to study the local architecture, life, culture. This will help you build a route and distribute the time to visit different places. Otherwise you can not really have time for anything and get upset.
7. 7. Kizhi is an island, the communication is worse there than on the mainland. That is if you have 4G everywhere, here it will be more likely H or H+.
8. The museum took care about visitors and put at the site a map of the island (at the bottom of the page). You can download it, print it out, and take it with you.
Kizhi Island in Karelia
Kizhi is not just the name of an island in Lake Onega, but a synonym for the unique beauty that Russian architects knew how to create from wood. Sparkling under the northern sun, the Preobrazhenskaya and Pokrovskaya churches are a symbol of Kizhi and the entire Russian wooden architecture. To see these monuments, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, tourists from all over the world come to Karelia.
The main thing associated with the island of Kizhi in Karelia in 2022 is the state historical and architectural museum-reserve “Kizhi” – one of the largest in Russia and throughout Europe. In our country it is second in territory only to Malye Korely in the Arkhangelsk region.
By the way, where is the correct accent in the word Kizhi: on the first “i” or on the last letter? The employees of the museum-reserve pronounce it with the accent on the first syllable. But they say both variants are correct. Because there are two versions of the origin of the word “Kizhi”. The first is from the Karelian word “Kiji”. This is a water moss, grows on the marshes, earlier it was used to warm up log houses. If so, and the accent on the first syllable. But there is another version: from the word “kizhat” – ritual dances (perhaps, in ancient times there was a pagan sanctuary). In this case, the accent is at the end.
Learn what will surprise Kizhi Island in Karelia in 2022.
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Kizhi Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: globallookpress.com Transfiguration Church was built in 1714. Photo: globallookpress.com The architectural complex consists of the Transfiguration and Intercession churches and the bell tower. Photo: Mikhail FROLOV As legend has it, the building of the Church of the Transfiguration was built according to Russian rules – without nails, but they are in the domes. Photo: Mikhail FROLOV The Church of the Transfiguration has a famous gilded iconostasis with carved decoration. Photo: Mikhail FROLOV The Church of the Intercession is a multi-domed temple with an altar in the east. Photo: Mikhail FROLOV Fishing nets as a reminder of the traditional fishing industry in these areas. Photo: Mikhail FROLOV In the ethnographic museum you can see the peasant’s life and objects of that time. Photo: Mikhail FROLOV
How to go on a retro train trip to Karelia
You can go on a tour of Karelia on Russia’s only regular retro train. “Ruskeala Express” is a special cruise route from Russian Railways. The train runs daily along the route “Sortavala – Ruskeala Mountain Park”. It is not driven by a modern locomotive, but by an old steam locomotive. The train compartments are made in the style of the first class of the late XIX century. Believe me, it looks very unusual.
History of Kizhi island
The most famous monuments of Kizhi date back to the 18th century, but the history of the island, of course, is much deeper. People have lived here for at least 9 thousand years. And every year the museum staff goes on archaeological expeditions throughout the Southern Zaonezhye and conducts excavations.
In those times, about which there are already written sources, the inhabitants of Zaonezhye were the tribes of Korela and Vse, and later the Slavs from Veliky Novgorod. The Novgorod boyars owned these lands from the 11th to the 15th century. In 1478 together with Novgorod they became part of the Moscow state.
Kizhi pogost was first mentioned in 1563. In the late 16th century, it consisted of over a hundred villages, and on Kizhi island was located 12 villages. More than today. And there were already wooden churches on the island at the end of the 16th century, almost 500 years ago! The churches are mentioned in the scribe books. The most ancient churches, alas, did not survive, they were destroyed by fire.
The masterpieces of wooden architecture that we admire now were built in the 18th century: the Transfiguration Church in 1714 and the Intercession Church in 1764. At that time Kizhi belonged to Petrozavodsk district of Olonets province.
Masterpieces of wooden architecture, which we see now, were built in the 18th century. Photo: globallookpress.com
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Kizhi wooden architecture was admired by scientists, artists and ethnographers. After the revolution, the restorer, Professor Igor Grabar, studied and preserved monuments of Kizhi Pogost. They were no longer active churches, but fortunately they were not destroyed.
In the 1950s, famous architect and restorer Alexander Viktorovich Opolovnikov restored the Transfiguration and Intercession churches, as well as the bell tower. Thus was the beginning of the open-air museum. In 1966 a reserve museum was created on Kizhi island, and monuments of wooden architecture started to be brought there from other regions of Karelia.
In 1990 the architectural ensemble of Kizhi Island in Karelia was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as it remains in 2022.
How a church in Kizhi was saved from destruction
The famous wooden church could simply have crumbled over time, if restorers had not taken up the work in time. It took more than 40 years to save one of the symbols of Russian culture. And in the process of restoration it turned out that by all laws of architecture, it just … can not stand! Read our report about how architects of 18th century without drawings and complicated instruments created such a miracle.
Where is it on the Russian map
Kizhi is an island in Lake Onega in Medvezhyegorsk district of the Republic of Karelia in northwest Russia. One of the five hundred islands of Kizhi skerries. Small, only 5.5 kilometers long.
The nearest Karelian towns are Petrozavodsk, Kondopoga, and Medvezhjegorsk.
Weekend in Karelia: how to explore the region in two days
The northern beauty of Karelia attracts tourists: they come to the republic to see the white nights, northern lights and unique natural monuments. The best way to make a comfortable tour is to take a tourist train of Russian Railways “To Karelia”. Every Friday it departs from the Leningrad Station and follows the route “Moscow – Petrozavodsk – Sortavala – Karelia – Vyborg – Moscow”.
Choose the best accommodation in Petrozavodsk
There are no hotels on Kizhi Island. You can stay in Petrozavodsk or in guesthouses and cottages on neighboring islands: in the villages of Ersenevo, Garnitsy, Longasy, Potanevshchina and others. The hosts will bring you and take you by boat, feed you and heat up the sauna.