Exploring Russian North: Solvychegodsk, Veliky Ustyug and Solovetsky Islands
Day 1
Kotlas — Veliky Ustyug
Arrival to the railway station «Kotlas Yuzhny» in the morning. Meeting with your guide and transfer to Solvychegodsk. Lunch. Walking tour along Solvychegodsk. We will see Lake Solyonoye (its name means «salty»), the local mineral spring and the embankment of the Vychegda River. Then we will visit the 16th century Cathedral of the Annunciation which is a part of the Solvychegodsk Historical and Art Museum now. Here you can enjoy the well preserved frescos and the iconostasis of XVII century. The bell tower of the cathedral gives a wonderful panoramic view on this small provincial town. We will visit the 17th century Vvedensky Monastery (the Presentation of the Mother of God Monastery) located near the lake. There you can admire the impressive seven-tier carved iconostasis with icons of the 17th century. Later we will explore the preserved saltworks building which is also located on the bank of Lake Solyonoye. Transfer to Veliky Ustyug. Accommodation in the hotel. Free evening. Dinner. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 2
Veliky Ustyug
Breakfast. Walking tour along Veliky Ustyug. We will start our excursion with exploration of the Cathedral Court which is the spiritual heart of the city. Here we will visit the 17th century Cathedral of Procopius of Ustyug. Saint miracle worker Procopius of Ustyug was the first holy fool canonized by Russian Orthodox Church and became the heavenly patron of Veliky Ustyug. Then we will visit the Archangel Michael Monastery which was founded still in the 13th century and admire some beautiful stone temples: the Transfiguration of Lord Church, the Presentation Church, the Ascension Church and the Saint Nicolas Church. We will have time to walk along the embankment of the river Sukhona, take pictures of masterpieces of civil architecture and buy presents in souvenir shops. Visiting the Museum of Old Russian Art. The museum occupies the building of the 17th century Church of Ascension and keeps a great collection of examples of Veliky Ustyug’s icon-painting school. Lunch. Free evening. For an extra cost: tour to the residence of Ded Moroz (Russian equivalent of Santa Claus), visiting the museum by the plant «Severnaya Chern» (the plant manufactures unique things in the northern technique of silver blackening) or other museums of Veliky Ustyug. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 3
Veliky Ustyug — Nyandoma
Breakfast. Transfer to Totma. Sightseeing tour of Totma. Today we will have a chance to walk along the quiet streets of this provincial town and take a close look at its wooden houses with angular balconies and carved platbands (typical for the Russian North window frames). We will see the amazing churches constructed in «Totma baroque» style. Our guide will tell us what the «cartouches» are and how they brought fame to Totma. Visiting the Museum of Church Antiquity. The museum is located in the Cathedral of the Dormition famous for its tall bell tower. It has an outstanding collection of wooden temple sculptures (which are very rare in Russia because Orthodox church believed them to be a sort of idols) as well as masterpieces of the North Russian icons, wooden and copper small statuary, and church utensils. The true brilliant of museum’s collection is the miracle-working «Joy of All Who Sorrow» icon of Mother of God painted in the 17th century. Transfer to Vologda. Depart for Nyandoma by a night train. Overnight in the train.
Day 4
Nyandoma — Kargopol
Arrival at the railway station of Nyandoma. Transfer to Kargopol. Accommodation in the hotel. Free morning. Lunch. Walking tour along Kargopol. The town of Kargopol is situated near the river Onega flowing from lake Lacha. In Middle Ages it was a well-known trading city, and its county occupied the vast area alongside the Onega river all the way up to the White Sea. A transit salt route from Pomorsky coast went through Kargopol making its citizens wealthy. Visiting the Cathedral of The Nativity of Christ. The cathedral was founded in 1552. This temple is the holy heart of Kargopol. During centuries of its history the cathedral went slightly into the ground and survived a big fire, but it still keeps its white stone exteriors and elegant stone carving. There is a rare five-tier carved iconostasis inside the cathedral with icons of the 16th - 19th centuries. Free evening. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 5
Breakfast. Excursion to the ethnographic museum «Oshevenskaya Volost». This open air museum consists of several northern villages and is devoted to wooden architecture of the Arkhangelsk province. You will explore the architectural ensemble of Saunino village’s churchyard with the 17th century wooden tent church of John Chrysostom. Oshevenskoye village is an outstanding historical and landscape monument of Russian North. The village has preserved its ancient planning and wooden houses as well as temple architecture (chapels, churches, buildings of Alexandro-Oshevensky Monastery) and pagan culture monuments (vow crosses, sacred wood and holy stones). Later we will see other masterpieces of wooden architecture in Pogost village. Its name means «churchyard» as well as a common trading space for several closely located settlements. The settlements themselves were not remained but Pogost village survived and was even included in the List of the most beautiful villages of Russia. Lunch in Oshevensky style with home-made bread and pies baked in Russian stove. Excursion «Ancient villages of Kargopol area». After lunch we will visit Arkhangelo village known for its two wooden churches built on the left bank of the river Onega. These are the 18th century Church of Archangel Michael and the 19th century Church of the Presentation of the Lord. On the way back to Kargopol we will drive along the old post road and make a photo stop in Volosovo village with spectacular ruins of the 17th century Saint Nikolas Church. This village is also known as one of the «schismatics’ nests». Its is here one of the last self-immolations of the Old Believers took place in 1860 year. Return to the hotel. Free evening. For an extra cost: excursion to the «Museum of the craftsmen Shevelevs family and Kargopol clay toys» or visiting the «Medvezhy Krai» (Bear land) eco-park with wooden sculptures and the Museum of Kargopol platbands. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 6
Kargopol — Rabocheostrovsk
Breakfast. Excursion to Bolshiye Lyadiny village. We will visit the multi-domed wooden Church of Epiphany known for its intricate semicircular porch. We will have a nice walk along the village, explore old wooden wells with special rotary mechanism for water delivery and other authentic devices of Russian northern villages. We will also visit the local ethnographic museum «Lyadinskoye uzorochye» to see its collection of peasant’s domestic utensils and linen manufacturing instruments. Excursion to Kenozersky National Park. This highly protected natural area is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2004. Kenozersky National Park is one the last remaining refuges of original Russian way of life, traditions and culture. On route we will see the watershed of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans formed by a unique natural dam (geologists call such objects esker ridges). This ridge which was left by a glacier divides two neighboring lakes: one of them flows into the Baltic Sea and the other one into the White Sea. We will visit the wooden Church of Alexander Svirsky on Khizhgora. There is a great view on the vast lake system from the bell tower of the church. Later we will explore the open air museum "Kenozersky biryulki" with a great collection of wooden chapels, izbas (wooden houses) and outbuildings. Lunch with dishes of Kargopol cuisine. Transfer to Kem village and then to the port Rabocheostrovsk. Accommodation in the tourist complex on the bank of the White Sea. Overnight in the tourist complex.

Day 7
Rabochostrovsk — Bolshoy Solovetsky Island
Breakfast. Panoramic speedboat transfer across the White Sea to the Solovetsky Islands. On the way we can observe different sea mammals such as white whales, bearded seals and seals as well as numerous sea birds. Arrival to Bolshoy Solovetsky Island. Visiting the Solovetsky Monastery. We will explore the architectural ensemble of Solovetsky Monastery included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites. This impressive fortified monastery was founded yet in the 15th century. Accommodation in the hotel. Excursion in the Solovetsky Maritime Museum. The museum is located in an old boathouse built for row boats in the 19th century. Its collection includes old maps, navigation instruments, fishing gear and other things of Pomor people, models and authentic details of ancient ships. Free evening. Self-guided walking along the shore of the White Sea. During the walk you can see well-known «dancing» birch-trees of Solovki and reconstructed prehistoric »labyrinths». Overnight in the hotel.
Day 8
Bolshoy Solovetsky Island
Breakfast. Free day on the White Sea. For an extra cost: sea trip to Bolshoy Zayatsky Island or to Bolshaya Muksalma Island. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 9
Bolshoy Solovetsky Island —Kem
Breakfast. Excursion to the Mount Sekirnaya and in the Ascension Skit. Today we will ascend to the Mount Sekirnaya which is the highest point of Bolshoy Solovetsky Island. There you can enjoy a wonderful view on the northern part of the island and the White Sea. Also we will visit the Ascension Skit (hermit’s cell) and know its history. During first decade of the Soviet Union the Solovetsky Monastery was converted into a political prison and the skit became a punishment cell. There is a unique church-lighthouse on its territory. The skit is functioning again now, therefore you must follow the dress code. Visiting the Botanical Garden and the Makaryevskaya Hermitage. We will visit one of the farthest northern botanical gardens of Russia. It is located on the territory of the former Makaryevskaya Hermitage. We will see the unique plantations of different periods of Solovetsky Islands’ history and admire a wonderful view of the Solovetsky Monastery from Alexandrovskaya Gorka (Alexander’s Hill). Free time for visiting souvenir shops or the brand shop of Arkhangelsk Seaweed Plant. Speedboat transfer to the port of Rabocheostrovsk and then to Kem railway station. Depart for Saint-Petersburg by a night train. End of the program.
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