There’s a common misconception that the greatest places to visit in Russia are Moscow and Saint Petersburg (which we covered last week). But, do keep in mind that Russia is the largest country in the world and that you’d have to dig deep to explore the many fascinating and adventurous spots the country has. That’s exactly what I did after my trip to the beautiful city of Saint Petersburg.
Situated towards the north-western region of Russia, Ruskeala is one of the country’s most picturesque locations. To be honest, there’s a touch of Scandinavia in this region than anything else.
While scavenging for photos, all I could think to myself was how much the woods belonged in a (real) postcard or a movie. Heck, the lack of cell phone connection and internet only made me think about settling there – perhaps into a wooden cabin with only a bed and a blanket. Photos really don’t do justice to the locale.
Lakes, waterfalls, century-old trees and giant rocks galore, there’s just so much to like about Ruskeala. And since it is close to the village of Sortavala, you’re also treated to a stream of villagers who scavenge the forest for animals (Shh! Don’t tell PETA),wood and fresh water.
Not far from the settlement, there are marble quarries which were discovered in the late 16th Century. Most of them have now been shut down and turned into ponds.
There’s a marble lake in the vicinity that’s absolutely breathtaking to look at. I was also lucky to have camped the night there in an effort to reconnect with nature – and I couldn’t have been any happier the day after. There’s something eerily satisfying about gazing at the stars and drawing simulations – in your mind – of the several stars and galaxies wandering around the universe.
Ruskeala instilled in me a sense of appreciation towards the workings of the universe. It’s not something I often experience, but I guess strange things do happen when your mind wanders beyond the ends of the earth.
Coming back down to earth, I was then able to explore the Ruskeala Mountain Park. There were plenty of options to trek and even camp for the night. I was able to catch the skies (literally) light up at night. I couldn’t be sure if it was the aurora borealis, but it was nothing short of a heavenly experience.
The moment was short-lived, however, as tourists from around the world tend to flock the area. Ruskeala is now an international tourist route that starts from Norway and ends in Russia.
My favourite place Despite all hiccups, my time at the Ruskeala Mountain Park was the highlight of my trip. It’s the perfect spot for self-contemplation and meditation. Think about it as a shortcut to detox your mind and soul. The night skies — especially when lit up in green — is magical. Daredevils can also try bungee jumping from one of the tall mountains.
Highlights Ruskealais a rural locality within the Karelia region of Russia, and is known for the mountain park. It’s a man-made “natural” landscape that is now teeming with wildlife and greenery. But that’s pretty much it; there are no museums, art galleries or expensive opera houses. It’s one of those places you visit with your friends to enjoy the coziness of living in a forest. However, keep in mind that temperatures in this region are extreme. At the time of my visit, the temperatures stood at -12°C, and if you’re planning on a visit there, it’s best to prepare yourself with layers of protection.
Lowlights The weather: As I stated earlier, it can get very chilly. Apart from that, the obvious lack of amenities like toilets and restaurants can also hamper the experience.
Souvenirs There’s a souvenir shop in Ruskeala that allows you to make your own clay pots. Of course, if you’re happy with your effort, you can take it home.
Getting there If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can fly to Saint Petersburg and take a train to Sortavala. From there, there are several buses and taxis that can ferry you to Ruskeala. Once in Russia, the whole trip should take you about eight hours.
Where to stay Hostel Lampo is a great location for people to reside in. Albeit, Ruskeala is a small town, so people reside in the neighbouring town of Sortavala. Most of the hotels and residences look like they were built during the pre-Soviet era (which probably is the case) but they’re modern inside.