Introducing Solovetsky Islands
Alternatively called Solovki, these distant, lake-dappled White Sea islands are home to one of Russia’s best-known monasteries. Transformed by Stalin into one of the USSR’s most notorious prison camps, Solovki was described in Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago as being so remote that a ‘scream from here would never be heard’.
Visiting the islands is an adventure. The brief summer is pretty much your only window of opportunity as the autumn brings storms and soup-thick fog, and during the long winter Solovki are swept clean by howling blizzards. Solovki warrant several days' exploration to properly absorb the history and the silence of the forests, bays and outer islands. Bring mosquito repellent, warm clothes and plenty of patience.
The archipelago has six main islands and more than 500 lakes. By far the largest island, Bolshoy Solovetsky (24km by 16km) is home to the main monastery, which dominates the rural idyll of Solovetsky Village, the islands' main settlement.