Anna Filatovskaya from the Russian Express visited as a tourist in early June, during the famous white nights, the islands of the Solovetsky archipelago. We kindly share her observations and recommendations with our readers: what is interesting about Solovki, how best to get to the islands, what not to forget to take with you, where to stay, what to see and bring as a keepsake.
< p class="x">More and more Russians are now interested in new places and opportunities to travel around Russia. Solovki Islands is one of the places that you should definitely visit. Especially in summer.
The pages of the history of the archipelago include both bright and dark periods. Solovki is both a harsh camp of the Soviet period and a famous place of pilgrimage. Some of them fled here themselves from the bustle of the world, others were exiled.
This is what summer looks like on Solovki. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
Solovki is the end of the world. And not only because they are located 160 km from the Arctic Circle. There is really a lot of light here all year round: in winter it is the aurora, and in summer it is white nights.
It is the period of white nights – the best time to explore Solovki: it is already warm enough, more often sunny, but there are still not a lot of mosquitoes. And the white nights themselves are much “whiter” than, for example, in St. Petersburg.
Going to Solovki, you should carefully prepare and plan your trip in advance. Ferry tickets, hotel accommodation and excursions will have to be booked ahead of time. We'll talk more about the nuances later.
HOW TO GET TO THE SOLOVETSKY ISLANDS
The logistics are not the easiest. There is an option to fly from Arkhangelsk, but there is a danger that due to bad weather (and this is a fairly common occurrence on Solovki) the flight will be canceled or rescheduled. Although in winter, when navigation is closed, this is generally the only option.
In summer, the safest way to go to the islands is by ferry. For example, from Kemi, or rather from Rabocheostrovsk located 20 minutes away from it.
You can get to Kemi from Moscow by train. The most convenient option is the Murmansk train (Moscow – Murmansk or Adler – Murmansk). On the way – a day, so you should stock up on snacks, books and download TV shows on the road.
The cost of travel in a compartment car (upper shelf) on the way there from the author was 6740 rubles. with meals included, back – 4710 rubles. without food.
The train schedule is designed so that, having arrived in Kem and reached Rabocheostrovsk, you will have to spend the night in a local hotel near the pier. In the morning – on the ferry. It (this should be borne in mind by motorists) is exclusively passenger. If you come by car, you will need to leave it in the parking lot at the pier.
Vasily Kosyakov and Metel-4 ferries run in the summer in 2022 s June 9 to August 30 twice a day. The schedule this year is as follows: 08:00 and 12:30 Kem – Solovki, 16:00 and 19:00 Solovki – Kem.
The distance is about 50 km. On the way – 2 hours. The schedule the day before is still worth checking: it happens that flights are rescheduled to an earlier or later time.
Ferry to Solovki in summer is the most convenient way to get to the islands. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
The ferry ride to Solovki is quite comfortable if there is no pitching. There is a cafe on board that offers quite decent coffee. You can take a seat in the cabin, where it will be stuffy, but warm, you can on the deck – it pumps less and the air is fresh, but cold.
The seating on the ferries is free, but you should keep in mind that large tour groups run first, which occupy the best places in the warm cabin. Independent “wild” tourists are invited last, they have to be content with the remaining places.
But do not worry, since most of the way, most likely, can be spent on the open part, it is important only to warm up – it is cold and windy on the ferry even in summer.
It is not recommended to feed the seagulls, passengers are specially warned and even announced the amount of the fine – 5000 rubles. Otherwise, the clothes will have to be cleaned of litter, and the ferry crew will have to wash the deck.
The queue, boarding the ferry to Solovki. Tickets should be booked in advance. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
The cost of a ferry trip from Kem to Solovki is 2200 rubles. one way. Children from 3 to 10 years old – 1100 rubles, up to 3 years free. Tickets it makes sense to book in advanceto be sure to be on the ferry. Passport data will be required for booking.
Many people get to Solovki as part of a cruise route with a stopover of 1-2 days. This time, of course, is very short for a full acquaintance with the archipelago. But after the first cruise impression, you will definitely want to come again – Solovki has a special magic to attract tourists.
For reference: all restrictions on entry to the archipelago have been canceled, PCR test or vaccination certificate is not required to visit Solovki.
WHERE TO ACCOMMODATE ON SOLOVKI
In the village There are not so many accommodation facilities in Solovetsky – a couple of more or less decent hotels and several guest houses with very modest conditions.
It is better to book accommodation well in advance. And yes – don't expect super service and then be disappointed. He won't. After all, this is not what people go to Solovki for.
In addition to hotels, you can find accommodation in the private sector. The cost depends on the conditions. From 500 rubles per day you can rent a bed in the house, 1000–1700 rubles. will cost a separate room with a shared kitchen and bathroom, for 2000–3500 rubles. per day you can rent an apartment or a house.
Upon arrival on the island on the pier there will immediately be people, which will offer accommodation, taxis, and excursions. They say they can even provide a transfer on private boats to Solovki and back, but you need to find out through local residents.
Walking in the fresh air it will take a lot. It is worth stocking up on comfortable shoes and warm clothes. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
Recommendation: if it is difficult to fall asleep without darkness (white nights in the yard), you should take care of the blindfold. In a hotel room, for example, skylights without curtains and blinds can be found.
However, there will be so many impressions, walks and fatigue during the day on Solovki that even a white night is unlikely to interfere with sound sleep .
THINGS TO SEE IN THE SOLOVETSKY: SEVERAL MUST SEE POINTS
The Solovetsky Islands are very different. And each is interesting in its own way. There are so many attractions here that enough for a week. It is recommended to come for at least 3 days, but optimally for 4-5.
Excursions on Solovki are all very informative, and once you get here, it’s worth not missing anything and seeing everything.
This is not the place where people come to stroll along the picturesque streets, enjoying the views – so you won’t understand anything here and only “photos” will remain (and it’s not a fact that the most picturesque places you can actually find it yourself).
Therefore, on Solovki, as nowhere else, we need full guided tours.
The chapel next to the monastery on the Big Solovetsky Island. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
Excursion service was included in the author's itinerary. You can book group excursions on your own on the website of the Solovetsky State Museum-Reserve, which has the exclusive right to conduct excursions here.
In the summer of 2022, 18 routes are offered. All excursions are for groups. Demand in Solovki greatly exceeds supply, so you should not count on individual service. Important: you should also book excursions in advance.
Big Solovetsky Island. On the territory of the Solovetsky Monastery. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
On Big Solovetsky Island you should definitely visit the “visiting card from the five-hundred-ruble station” – Solovki Monastery, or the Kremlin, as it is called here . A sightseeing tour of the Solovetsky Monastery lasts about 3 hours.
The view is like from a postcard. Solovetsky Monastery, also known as the Solovetsky Kremlin. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
You can continue your acquaintance with the history of the island during a trip to Mount Sekirnaya. During the Gulag, a punishment cell for male prisoners was set up here. There is also a cemetery with mass graves – with the number of buried people instead of names. And at the top of the mountain there is an observation deck with a beautiful view of Savvatiyeva Hermitage and the White Sea.
This tour will end with a walk along Makarievskaya Hermitage is a local botanical garden, where you can see how the monks tried (and quite successfully) to acclimatize many plants.
Final point – Filippov gardens: a system of dikes separating the bay from the open sea to store a stock of fish caught.
Filippovskiye gardens on the shore of the White Sea. A dam made of large boulders to store caught fish. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
Those who are interested in heavy pages of history should also not miss the excursion”History of the Solovetsky Special Purpose Camp (SLON)” lasting just over 2 hours.
This is a walking route that includes a visit to the museum, which is located in one of the barracks. By the way, this is the only authenticity left from the Gulag times.
Anzer– the second largest island of the archipelago, but practically uninhabited. The monks moved here, tired of the bustle of the Big Solovetsky Island. Now only monks and novices live in two sketes – Crucifixion and Trinity.
Golgotha-Crucifixion Skete on Anzer Island. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
Trips to Anzer are usually organized for pilgrims, but tourists can also join. Excursions to Solovki are made by pilgrimage service, and just a trip to Anzer can only be booked through it.
Neighborhood in a group with pilgrims of different degrees of faith and its demonstration can also become a separate impression.
From Mount Golgotha on the island of Anzer, a gorgeous view opens up. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya.
This tour is the most expensive, it costs 1800 rubles. and lasts 12 hours (beginning at 6 am).
It is worth considering that you will have to walk around the island all day on roads of varying degrees of difficulty. There is no asphalt here. Roads through the swampy area are covered with logs, narrow paths are laid in places.
A birch in the shape of a cross grew on the site of the mass graves of the prisoners of the Solovetsky camp. Anzer Island. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
The way to the island is on a small boat, where it will not always be possible to move to a warm room, so you should not only dress as comfortably as possible, but also warm up, and also be sure to take care of a snack and water, since there is, in principle, neither a cafe nor shops, and you will have to spend the whole day here. Sun cream is also a must.
Another island of the archipelago, Big Zayatsky, is actually very small, but insanely interesting.
Andreevsky Skete of the Solovetsky Monastery on the Big Zayatsky Island. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
Here you can see the real tundra, from National Geographic textbooks and films: low crooked birch trees, small vegetation.
And people come here to see on mysterious labyrinths lined with stone and overgrown with moss. What people and for what purpose they were put together is unknown, archaeologists only know that it was during the Neolithic period, approximately in the 1st-2nd millennia BC
Mysterious labyrinths, which are about 3 thousand years old, on Bolshoi Zayatsky Island, Solovki. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
You can stay on Bolshoi Zayatsky Island only with a guide, move strictly along a wooden path. Photo: Anna FilatovskayaAuthor's tour to Solovki for 4 days cost 45,500 rubles. It included accommodation on the Solovetsky Islands at the Sloboda Hotel in a double room with breakfast, overnight accommodation at a hotel in Rabocheostrovsk, transport and excursion services. The road to Kem, ferry and meals (lunches and dinners) were additionally paid.
There are good cafes not far from the Solovetsky Kremlin. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
Prices in cafes on the Solovetsky Islands comparable to Moscow. You can have lunch or dinner for 600-1000 rubles. per person – this is without drinks.
The menu has northern dishes with venison and fish. You should definitely try pinagor, this is a very fatty and tasty local fish. You can do this, for example, in the Pinagor cafe near the Solovetsky Kremlin.
Those who want to save money can eat in the monastery refectory. The food here will not be refined and lean. But it is here that there are excellent pastries.
There is always local fish in the menu of cafes and restaurants. Pictured is a cod dish. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
The only local products on Solovki are fish, seaweed and delicious bread. All other products are delivered here from the mainland, so the prices cannot be called low. The assortment in stores is not rich.
When paying for purchases don't rely heavily on bank cards. It's best to have cash on hand. Cards are accepted, but not everywhere. In addition, there is an option that the connection will be lost, and the payment simply will not be able to go through.
Landscapes on Solovki are perhaps the most “Russian” and the most “northern”. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
WHAT TO BRING FROM SOLOVKI
The choice of souvenirs in Solovki is surprisingly diverse. And they are very original.
Thus, a fairly large range of products is offered from algae, which are mined here – kelp and fucus. They are used to make dried and crushed food supplements, crispy chips, body masks, cosmetics, dietary supplements, marmalade, soap, salt and even … chocolate.
What is not made from Solovetsky algae … Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
In addition to chips, interesting dietary supplements and medicines are made from northern algae. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
You can buy game delicacies and dried meat.
A popular souvenir is roe deer, northern gingerbread, covered with glaze. Specimens with images of “hospitable Solovetsky residents”, mosquitoes look especially cute.
Solovetsky souvenir. Kozulya, northern gingerbread with the image of a local “hospitable inhabitant”, a mosquito. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
On Bolshoy Solovetsky Island, as locals say, three people keep souvenir shops, and each of them has three stalls.
Total on the island already nine gift shops. There are no problems with this. There is a feeling that everyone who comes to the islands is only interested in souvenirs.
But there are only a couple of food stores. There are also few cafes, and for some reason they open only at 12:00, so lovers of morning coffee should take care of this issue and take a thermos with them to brew it themselves.
More souvenirs from Solovki. I am glad that there is no mass Chinese plastic, all souvenirs are quite authentic. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya.
WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU ON A TRIP TO SOLOVKI
There are difficulties with mobile communications and the Internet on the Solovetsky Islands. Communication is satellite, and, as they say here, in case of bad weather (and this is almost daily), it may not be. Not only mobile – wi-fi also does not work well. Yes, the mobile operator Tele2, for example, does not work here in principle, you should take care of the SIM card of another operator for the period of the trip.
Mosquito repellents are recommended, but in early June, blood-sucking insects Solovki was not. They probably appear a little later.
Stock up on warm clothes, comfortable shoes and a raincoat. The weather on Solovki is capricious. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
As for clothes, even going to Solovki in summer, it is worth stocking up on warm windproof jackets and pants, thermal underwear, gloves and hats. And even if it’s warm on the islands themselves, you can freeze on the way on the ferry and on morning excursions.
It is worth taking care of comfortable shoes with thick soles in advance: you will have to walk a lot and in different ways road quality. Slates, sneakers and ballerinas are not suitable at all.
An umbrella is required, and even better raincoat. Raincoats, by the way, can be bought on the spot, but for some reason umbrellas are not sold on the islands.
As for medicines, in addition to an individual set, it is recommended to have remedies for motion sickness and allergies (antihistamines). Mosquitoes and midges, when they are, are ruthless here. If anything, there is a pharmacy in the hospital building in Solovetsky village.
The weather on Solovki is very changeable, but the sun often pleases tourists in summer. On the territory of the Solovetsky Monastery. Photo: Anna Filatovskaya
Solovki is an amazingly beautiful, unusual, unique place that is definitely worth seeing for tourists interested in the North of Russia. The islands immediately give a whole range of different emotions.
And while “overtourism” (in the European sense, like in Dubrovnik or Venice) is not here yet – it is worth seeing and falling in love with these islands.
Anna Filatovskaya, especially for ATOR Vestnik
Photo: < em>Anna Filatovskaya