Getting there & away
Sortavala's bus station is on ul Kirova, just off pl Kirova. Marshrutky heading to Petrozavodsk via Kolatselga (R250, four hours) leave at 4.30am and 3pm, with a bus at 5.30am (R178, five hours). There's also a marshrutka (R300, seven hours) at 6.30am and a bus (R241, 7½ hours) at 4.30am on the longer route via Olenets.
The Finnish Savo-Karjalan Linja (42300; www.savokarjalanlinja.fi) departs for Joensuu, Finland (€19, three hours) at 3.45pm daily from June to September, and on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in other months.
Train 349/679 leaves from St Petersburg's Ladozhsky vokzal for Sortavala (R362 to R443, six hours) at 4.11pm on odd-numbered dates (except the 1st of some months), with some carriages bound for Petrozavodsk (R360 to R445, 9½ hours from Sortavala). In the opposite direction train 680/350 from Petrozavodsk to St Petersburg stops at Sortavala at a drowsy 3.41am on odd dates. Sortavala station is 1km south of pl Kirova.
During the main tourist season (mid-June to late August), hydrofoils (45 minutes one-way) and boats (up to three hours) to Valaam leave the Sortavala dock, 300m from pl Kirova, at variable times between 9am and 3pm. You can make your own arrangements at the dock, returning on a different day if you wish, but it's easy to take a day-trip with a tour firm. Earlier and later in the season, don't count on being able to get to the island every day.
Overnight river cruises to Valaam leave St Petersburg's river terminal every day or two from late May to mid- September. Double cabins to Valaam and back cost from R5000 to R15, 000, including meals and excursions. A reliable cruise agent in St Petersburg is Solnechny Parus (812-327 3525; www.solpar.ru; ul Vosstania 55).