You'd be hard pressed to find an experience quite like a tour of Russia. Given its size, expansive history and unique culture, few countries can compete with the sheer number of intriguing landmarks, compelling cities and stunning landscapes. This impressive lineup of enriching destinations can also make it difficult to see everything you want, but there are a number of spots in particular that are truly one-of-a-kind. This is certainly the case with the coastal city of Petrozavodsk.
Located along the banks of Lake Onega, Petrozavodsk has played an integral role in Russia's history dating back to the 1700s. While it may not have the name recognition of cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow, it has plenty to offer in its own right, with many of its highlights being off the beaten path. A good place for you to start is Round Square, which is home to many of the city's iconic neoclassical buildings. Chief among them is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was completed in 1832. This beautiful, gilded structure is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city.
While Petrozavodsk’s historical buildings and streets are undoubtedly some of its biggest draws, the city's unique location on the banks of Lake Onega is also why you should make it part of your list of things to do in Russia. This strategic spot makes it easy to take a short boat ride to Kizhi Island, which is located almost in the geographic center of the lake. Much more remote than the mainland, Kizhi exudes a unique atmosphere that it's hard to find anywhere else.
To fully appreciate the island, head to the Kizhi Pogost - a historic and religious site that dates back as far as the 17th century. The unquestioned highlight of the complex is its Church of the Transfiguration. This building will immediately capture your attention thanks to its many onion-shaped domes, which are a staple in Russian architecture. Not only is its appearance unique, but it was built without the use of any nails, instead held together by notching together pieces of wood. The Church of the Transfiguration is not the only building on the island constructed this way; many of the churches and homes that dot the landscape feature this unique style of architecture.
Before leaving Kizhi Island, you should make a point to fully appreciate its beautiful scenery. Far removed from the city streets of Petrozavodsk, the wood settlements and churches seem to blend seamlessly into the lush meadow landscape.
Upon returning to the mainland, having a relaxing meal in the small village of Kinerma will be the perfect way to wrap up your experience in this oft-overlooked section of the country. Regardless of where your tour of Russia takes you, you'll surely walk away with a greater appreciation of all the country has to offer.