Worth a Trip: Konevets Island
Around 100km north of St Petersburg, and 6km off the western shore of Lake Ladoga, this peaceful island with clean beaches and lots of forests to wander through is home to the beautiful sky-blue domed Konevets Monastery (www.konevps.ru), founded in 1393 by Arseny Konevetsky. Part of Finland between world wars, in Soviet times the island became an off-limits military base. The monastery reopened in the early 1990s and has since undergone massive restoration with Finnish funding.
From May to late October, tours (including transport and some meals) are organised by the monastery’s St Petersburg office. One-day tours make for a very long day, while two-day tours include accommodation in simple guesthouses for pilgrims (R1500 per night if you are not on a tour, also arranged via the monastery office).
The monastery’s website has a good map of the island. Wandering Camera (www.enlight.ru/camera/290/index_e.html) offers a visual preview.
It's possible to do the trip by public transport, but far more complicated, and you'll need to overnight on the island anyway. Take an elektrichka (suburban train) from St Petersburg’s Finlyandsky vokzal to Otradnoye, then a bus to Vladimirovka. From here, hire a boat to sail the 5km to the island. The total trip is around seven hours.