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Karelia

If you’re looking for wilderness, powerful history and even the Finnish soul, your search starts here.

Densely forested and gloriously remote, the region is a paradise for nature lovers. Bears, wolverines and wolves roam freely across the Russian frontier, and animal hides allow visitors a close encounter. Opportunities to get active abound: the landscape is threaded by hiking routes, white-water rapids and waterways navigable by canoe, and lakes offer idyllic kayaking and boating. In winter, outdoor pursuits include fantastic skiing, dog-sledding, snowshoeing and ice fishing.

Karelia straddles both sides of the Finnish–Russian border, and has a distinct culture, language, religion, cuisine, music and architecture. In Finland's Karelian regions, lakeside Lappeenranta is still strongly connected to its sister cities that have been part of Russia since WWII. Once-battle-scarred Joensuu is now a vibrant university town, and Imatra still recalls its 18th-century golden age as a Russian aristocracy playground.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Karelia.