Europe > Russia > Northwestern Russia > Arkhangelsk Oblast
Arkhangelsk Oblast is a region in Northwestern Russia, which borders Karelia to the west, the White Sea to the north, Nenetsia to the northeast, Komi Republic to the east, Kirov Oblast to the southeast, and Vologda Oblast to the south.
Arkhangelsk Oblast can be divided into 3 parts from north to south:
- Northern part - the White Sea coast and Northern Dvina's delta. Home to biggest cities (Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk), but less populated in rural areas outside the delta.
- Middle part - the less populated part, with worst roads, a gap between North and South. Plesetsk Cosmodrome is located there.
- Southern part - agricultural and more populated part with an array of old towns, as Kargopol, Velsk, Solvychegodsk, and Kotlas.
- Arkhangelsk—the region's capital, chief sea port of medieval Russia, which houses Europe's largest museum of wooden architecture (Malye Korely). Claims itself the cultural capital of Russian North.
- Belushya Guba
- Severodvinsk—the second-largest city in the Oblast, 35 km from Arkhangelsk, at the White Sea coast. Home to the military Russian Northern Fleet and a principal submarine base and construction site.
- Kargopol—a 1000 year old historic town in the south-west of the region, located near Kenozersky National Park, notorious for sasquatch/bigfoot sightings
- Kholmogory—Lomonosov's birthplace, a historic village with a museum and few abandoned churches.
- Kotlas—an important rail junction in the region's southeast, transit point to Veliky Ustyug.
- Mirny—a military town, forbidden for tourists, home to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
- Onega—a small, old port and a base for tours heading out to Kiy Island.
- Solvychegodsk—a historic town on the Vychegda River with an impressive Blagoveshchensky Cathedral and Vvedensky Monastery
- Mezen—a small subpolar town in the northern part of the Oblast.
- Solovetsky Islands—home to a hauntingly beautiful monastery which has served as a Russian fortress in numerous wars for the past 500 years as well as one of the first Soviet gulags; a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Malye Karely - large and locally famous wooden architecture museum, 24 km from Arkhangelsk.
- Kenozersky National Park - at the border with Karelia, near Kargopol.
- Vodlozero National Park - also at the border with Karelia, but more remote from roads.
- Pinega - a beautiful river, a small town, and the only Oblast's national reserve, famous for its caves.
- Golubinsky Proval - the biggest cave at Pinega, open for tourists, best to visit in winter.
- Krasnaya Gorka ("Red Hill") - the highest point of Arkhangelsk oblast near Pinega with beautiful monastery ruins. The only alpine skiing place in the Oblast.
- Antonievo-Siysky Monastery - a beautiful lakefront monastery near Yemetsk.
- Kiy Island—an uninhabited island in the White Sea that is a popular tourist destination for its disbanded Kiysky Monastery
- Permogorye - a Northern Dvina's riverside village on the road from Arkhangelsk to Kotlas, famous for a beautiful wooden church and local handicraft.
- Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya, large polar archipelagos in the Barents Sea which are included in Arkhangelsk Oblast but populated mainly by military forces, are very hardly reachable for foreign travellers and even for Russian visitors. Novaya Zemlya was the main Soviet nuclear testing polygon.
- Narrow-gauge railroads - lost in taiga, they are partly abandoned, and partly operated by timber producers. Often constructed by prisoners, started to operate in Stalin's Gulag times. Going deeper into taiga, it's possible to find abandoned gulag locations and even small unpopulated towns.
Locally called Pomorye, Arkhangelsk Oblast is a very large region (about the same size as France) in the Russian north. Sparsely populated (1.5 million for all this area), it is filled with taiga, beautiful lakes, wide rivers, and wast swamps. The nature is kin to Finland, especially its subpolar part. Most famous destinations are Arkhangelsk (regional capital) and the Solovetsky Islands, where a beautiful northern monastery/citadel served as a brutal gulag prison during the Soviet years. There are other less-visited, but very picturesque towns in the Oblast (Kargopol, Solvychegodsk), but the main reason to visit the region is to discover its severe beautiful nature mixed with wooden rural architecture. There are 2 national parks and 1 natural reserve, which are truly worth to be seen in Arkhangelsk Oblast'.
Russian is spoken everywhere. Outside of Arkhangelsk city center it's hard to find English-speakers.
See Russian phrasebook.
Flights arrive at Arkhangelsk airport from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Riga, and Tromso. The airport is served by Aeroflot, Utair, Nordavia, Rossiya air companies, and also by low-costs, as Avianova and Air Baltic. The cheepest one-way ticket from Moscow costs about 2 000 RUR.
At the moment of writing there were no regular interregional bus services to Arkhangelsk Oblast.
It's the most interesting way to enter and explore the region. M8 road connects Arkhangelsk with Moscow and Saint Petersburg through Vologda. It is paved at all distance, but some parts are in poor condition. There are about 700 km from Moscow to the region's border, and more than 500 km after it to the north to reach Arkhangelsk.
Another way to Archangelsk Oblast is through Veliky Ustyug (Vologda Oblast). The road is not so good as M8, but still available for all types of cars, allowing to see picturesque villages beaded at river Northern Dvina's high bank.
There are no regular ship service to the region, yet Arkhangelsk is a seaport, so it's possible to reach it by a commercial ship.
The main Arkhangelsk airport serves a regional flight to Solovetsky Islands (2 per week in winter, 4 per week in summer), while the other airport Vaskovo has local regional flights to remote locations inside the Oblast.
It's possible to reach by train from Arkhangelsk such destinations as Severodvinsk, Onega, Plesetsk, Nyandoma (transit point to Kargopol), Velsk, Kotlas, and Karpogory (at Pinega river). The quality of trains is poor comparing to European standards or to interregional Russian trains.
There are no international car rentals in Arkhangelsk, but it's possible to rent a car via local agencies.
Taxi can be a good alternative for short distance rides, like from Arkhangelsk to Severodvinsk (35 km), or where other transport is not developed (e.g. from Nyandoma station to Kargopol). Most destinations inside the Oblast are quite distant, so expect very expensive taxis.
Navigation period lasts from mid-May to mid-October. There is regular commuter ship service from Arkhangelsk to neighboring locations (mainly to isolated island villages in Northern Dvina's delta). There are many points it Oblast, which are accessible only by riverboats.
Hitch-hiking is very possible in the region with general safety precautions. But most drivers will hardly understand English.
- - hiking
- - skidoo rides (in winter)
- - alpine and plain skiing (in winter)
- - fishing
- Kulebyaka - a local pie with fish.
- Kozuly - local sweets.
Northern Russians are kind and hospitable, but a foreign tourist looking significantly richer than locals can provocate someone for a robbery. So, use general safety precautions and keep low profile while surfing the region with no Russian guide. Avoid wooden part of Arkhangelsk at the left bank of Northern Dvina and keep out of unattended dark places in cities at night.