Vodlozersky national park

General information
Natural resources
Historical and cultural heritage
Tourist routes
Fishing, mushroom and berry picking
Park services
The rules of behavior



General information

Vodlozerje is the ancient cultural region of the Russian North with its unique culture, traditions of the local population and toponymy.

National park "Vodlozersky" was founded in 1991 by the decision of the Russian government in order to preserve the natural and historical heritage of Vodlozerje, to hold researches and to develop ecotourism. It became the first national park  of this type in the European north of Russia. The park is situated on the southeast border of Fennoscandia. Its northern part is in Archangelsk region, the southern one – in the Republic of Karelia. In area extent (about 0.5 million hectares) the park is one of the largest nature reserve in the world. The park is a federal nature-conservative, scientific and ecological institution with a large staff of different experts on preservation of the environment.Two branches of the park have their centers in the villages of Kuganavolok and Onega.

The territory of the park is dvided into three forest areas: Vodlozerskoe with the center in the village of Kuganavolok, Ilikskoe with the center in the village of Onega and Pudozhskoe with the center in Valdai. Nowadays the national park is the place where international scientific expeditions, seminars, conferences and ecological camps are held. All the ancient traditions are now being revived. These are crafts, holidays and songs. New museums and exhibitions are being organized. Forest wardens take care of nature and equip tourist routes of the park.

The administrative center of the park is located in the village of Kuganavolok of Pudozhsky region. In the capital of Karelia the park has an ecological center, which includes the departments of tourism, interpretations and science.

Natural resources

The world of primeval forests inhabited with a great number of animals and birds, the silence of deserted bogs, numerous lakes and rivers, islands with chapels – all of these can be found in Vodlozerje.

The territory of the park is the unique area of primeval nature in Europe. A huge storage basin of one of the largest lakes of  Northern Europe – Vodlozero Lake – is located on the territory of the region. The unique nature complexes of the European taiga are being kept here: pure lakes and rivers, coniferous wood and bogs.

The area is ruled by three elements: water, wild forest and marsh bogs.


Freshwater lakes make up more  that 10% of the territory of the park. The largest of them is Vodlozero with the area of 358 square kilometers and a very intended coastline 438 kms long. There are two hundred large and small lakes of the territory. River Ileksa, which flow into Vodlozero, is the main waterway of the park. It gathers its waters on the area of 5.2 thousand square kms. The rivers and lakes of the park are rich with fish. There are 21 fish species, including whitefish, zander, salmon, bream and pike in them.


The forests of the park are the unique old-age forests of the European taiga. They have never been cut down and never suffered conflagrations. Fir and pine woods prevail on the territory of the park and huge Siberian larches can also be met here. The average age of the forests are 200-280 years, but some trees are 500-600 years old. The originality of flora and fauna of the Vodlozersky Park is concerned with the domination of primeval forests and bogs. The migration route of the birds of passage crosses the territory of the park. Numerous flocks of geese, swans, brand geese, sandpipers and wild ducks come to the lakes and bogs of the park for feeding and rest. The forests are rich with numerous taiga inhabitants – bears, lynxes, gluttons, martens, elks and reindeers. The number of wood grouses and other grouse-like birds is large. The territory of the park is a shelter for rare and vulnerable species. The park is inhabited with birds of prey enlisted in the International Red Book: erne, osprey, golden eagle and peregrine.


The high level of bogging of the park is considered to be a phenomenon. The territory of the park is bogged for more than 40%. The territory of the park is located on a rather high flat tableland which is why such a number of bogs seem to be a mystery. The bogs of the park are different in type, structure and growth. All of them are of great interest for scientific researches and ecological tourism.

Historical and cultural heritage

The history of  man in Vodlozerje started about 8 thousand years ago in the era of mesolite. "For a long time one of the main ways of developing the North of Saami and later Russian people have been laying through Vodlozero and Ileksa". More than a hundred of archeological monuments dating from the era of mesolite to the Middle ages were found here. In the Middle Ages with the arrival of people from Novgorod, the unique culture of Vodlozerje with the traces of the ancient Slavs started forming here. Even nowadays one can see a lot of traces of the past – in the everyday communication of the locals, in their magic and folklore.

A lot of monuments of the ancient Russian architecture are preserved here. These are chapels, houses and utility rooms. The most outstanding historical and architectural monument of the Park is the ancient Ilyinskiy churchyard, which is located on the lonely island in the middle of the large lake. In the antiquity period there was a pagan sanctuary on this place. Its remains are still seen. Nowadays the Ilyinsky churchyard still remains the ecclesiastical center an the main orthodox relic of Vodlozerje, which is being revived as the Vodlozerje hermitage of the monastery of Murom.

Tourist routes

In its work with the visitors the Park gives preference to small groups of tourists. It also avoids modern conveniences  and the facilities of the city, but tries to make the stay cozy as far as it is possible. For the comfort of the tourists there are 80 stops, houses, saunas and berths on the routes. On the very place of a famous “road to nowhere”, an equipped guest house “Okhtoma” is located now. In summer, risk-lovers can make a canoe voyage down the rapid Ileksa river. It is also possible to raft down the rivers of Vodla, Vama and large lakes of the Park. For those, who prefer a quite rest, there are excursions and motor boat voyages. During these trips you will have an opportunity to see the monuments of wooden architecture of the 18th century, sites of the era of the late Stone Age and unique nature objects. The territory of the park is popular  for skiing tourism. Besides ski routes there are the exotic ones – snowmobile routes.

Water routes and excursions
The most popular among tourists is the route down the Ileksa river. The length of the route is 180 kms. It passes through the non-populated territory with the system of large lakes, starting from the Ileksa source on the Kalgachinskoe lake and finishing on the Vodlozero lake. The duration of the route is 7 – 9 days. It is possible to make halt and overnight stops on a specially equipped tourist stops and cordons. There are 20 rapids of the 2nd and the 3rd complexity category on the route. The last part of the route passes through Vodlozero and finishes in the village of Kuganavolok.
The exciting trip down the Ileksa river may be forestalled with the raft down the quick and rapid Njuhcha river with the portage to the source of Ileksa. The route starts at the former Juzhnyi village in Arkhangelsky region. It is easy to get there by the timber-carrying road from Unezhma station. There are lots of difficult sections on the 45-km long way from the Njuhcha river to the Njuhchezero lake. Then there is a 7-km long portage till Kerazhozero, where the next part of the route starts. The general length of the route is 255 kms.
After the voyage down the quiet Ileksa you can take a raft down the, famous for its rapids, Vama which runs from Vodlozero. This route of 25 kms has about 20 large and difficult rapids. The length of the whole route is 50 kms and it ends in the village of Vodla. There is also a network of the water routes of different complexity category down the inflows of the Ileksa river and Vodlozero. The most exciting are 1 or 2 day routes down the Vodlozero lake and its islands. It is possible to make the voyage on the motor ships or rowing boats with a guide, who will show the tourists the beauty of the islands, ancient villages and museums and the Ilyinskiy churchyard.

Foot routes
Tourist can also choose a foot route along the ancient hunting paths. All the foot routes on the territory of the Park are in the wild taiga and some of them are difficult to go through. The main foot route of the park passes along the ancient monastery path, which connects Vodlozerje with Pomorje. The route is 40 kms long and it starts in the village of Varishpelda on the Vodlozero lake and ends in the former village of Luza. The section of the route between Varishpelda and Luza (40 km) is developed and not very difficult.

Winter routes
In winter the Park is especially attractive for its snow-covered woods and lakes. The permanent snow cover and temperatures below zero last here for 6 months. However,  the best time for trips is February and March. There are lots of routes for skiers, both amateurs and professionals. The easiest are the 1- or 2-day long routes of 10-40 km long in Vodlozero. They all start and finish in the village of Kuganavolok. Winter trips on snowmobiles are also very popular. These routes can be planned for any length.

Fishing, mushroom and berry picking

Fishermen can have a good catch of pike, bream, whitefish, burbot and perch on the lakes of the Park. From July  until September,the woods and bogs here are rich with mushrooms, cloudberries, cranberries, bilberries and cowberries.

Park services

The Park can accommodate its visitors in small dormitories in Petrozavodsk and Kuganavolok, in guest houses in Novguda, Koskosalma, Kanzanavolok, Varishpelda, Luza and other villages. Guest houses are located near the cordons and thus have radio communication and transport.
In Kuganavolok and Varishpelda visitors can rent tourist equipment, including sleeping bags, rucksacks, inflatable boats, canoes and life saving equipment. In winter there are snowmobiles for rent.

The services of the Park also include transportation around its territory and from the railway stations of Petrozavodsk, Medvezhegorsk, Kusha, Shaka and Pudozh. At the tourists’ service there are well-qualified guides and instructors.Board can be organized by request. For more information on the services of the Park call (8142) 764-417 or e-mail - tacvodlo@karelia.ru

The rules of behavior

Being in the Park, always remember about the following restrictions:

  • it is possible to make stops, fires and tents only in the specially designed places made on all the routes
  • leave the garbage in the specially designed places only
  • Do not cut down trees and bushes, do not tear off the bark of the birches. There is a store of firewood in the guest houses.
  • It is possible to make a trip down the rivers and lakes of the Park on your own using motorless boats only.
  • Travelling in the Park try not to make noise and do not leave traces of you stay in taiga
  • Fishing in the Park is possible using hook cordage only, mushroom and berry picking for your own use only. A person can have a catch of no more than 3 kg a day, for a group of more than 5 people – 15 kg.

The limit for berries is 5 kg a day.
Nature has its own rules. Do not save helpless elk cub, hare or baby bird. Try not to get close to nests – they can be found and ravaged by a beast of prey.

How to get

- there is a highway from Petrozavodsk to Kuganavolok (420 km), to Okhtoma guest house or to Pilmasozero cordon (320 km).
- a high-speed motor ship will take you to the port of Shala and then you should take a highway until Kuganavolok (90 km)
- with the transport of the Park from the railway station of Kusha to the Kalagachinsky cordon.
- helicopter flight is also possible from the cities of Arkhangelsk or Petrozavodsk.


Full information about the park you can get in the visit-centers in the cities of Petrozavodsk and Onega and the village of Kuganavolok.

Visit-centers addresses:

  • Administartive center of the Park – Parkovaja st., 44, Petrozavodsk. Ph.: (8142) 764-417, (8142) 764379.
    E-mail - tacvodlo@karelia.ru, vodloz@karelia.ru;
  • The Onega branch – Popov emb., 5, Onega city, Arkhangelskaja region. Ph.: (81839) 7-15-06.
    E-mail - parkoneg@atnet.ru;
  • The Vodlozero branch – Kuganavolok village, Pudozhsky region, Republic of Karelia. Ph.: (81452) 30-110.
    E-mail - vodloz-les@onego.ru

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