Bolshoy Zayatsky Island

© Pukhov K/Shutterstock

Bolshoy Zayatsky Island

Top choice in Northern European Russia

This small, wind-whipped island is famous for its 13 labyrinths, including the largest one in northern Russia. A boardwalk loops around the island from the dockside wooden church. Bolshoy Zayatsky Island was used for female solitary confinement during gulag years, but not a trace remains. Independent travel to the island is prohibited, but there is no obligation to stick with the tour guide once you arrive. Buy tickets for daily tours at the tourist office. Boats make the trip in around 40 minutes.

The island was once covered in crosses, but they were removed and burned by the atheist Soviet authorities in the 1920s. According to locals, it took days to incinerate them all.

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