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Retkelle Karjalan tasavaltaan

Regional Journalists in Park, picture by Kostomuksha Nature Reserve
Fancy a Hike in a Slightly Different Environment? Right behind the eastern border of Kainuu, in the Republic of Karelia, there are two large nature reserves, Kalevala National Park in the height of Suomussalmi municipality and Natural Park of Kostomuksha at the height of the northern parts of Kuhmo, called by the name Biosphere Reserve "Metsola". Hiking in the Russian nature conservation areas sets its own requirements for trip preparations but it is arrangeable.

Hiking in the Russian nature conservation areas sets its own requirements for trip preparations. In addition to the compulsory visa, a foreign traveller needs at least one more document, since hiking in Russian nature conservation areas is always subject to license. However, the authorization may be acquired quite easily and the fee is quite low, or in some cases even free of charge.

Both the Kalevala National Park and the Natural Park in Kostomuksha are also partly located in the border zone, which can be reached only after acquiring a special frontier zone permit. Acquiring the permit may last up to two months and it will not be granted without an existing visa.

However, both Finnish and other foreign tourists are warmly welcomed to the parks and there is help available for practical arrangements.

Kostomuksha Nature Reserve

Kostomuksha nature reserve, located between the town and the country border, covers approximately 49 000 hectares. It is a big area for example compared to the largest nature reserve in Kainuu, Elimyssalo in Kuhmo, covering 9 200 hectares, or the future Hossa National Park covering an area of ​​11 000 hectares. Kostomuksha nature reserve also includes a large part of lake Kamennoe.

Trails and water routes of different lengths have been marked at the Kostomuksha nature reserve and structures for visitors built. Also a short, 500-meter nature trail is accessible from behind the Visitor Centre, leading to the shore of Lake Kontokki with a fire place and a nature tower. Also a botanical park is being planned.

The park office and the visitor centre are located by the Lake Kontokki. The Visitor Centre will later be equipped with an auditorium, meeting rooms, and an exhibit space.

Kostomuksha nature park audience can use the marked trails of the park, but permission is required and a guide always required. However, the permit is quite affordable, only about a couple of euros.

Kalevala National Park

Kalevala National Park, starting its operations in 2006, is the first National Park established in Russia in this millennium. The park covers an area of ​​over 74 thousand hectares. A large number of rare and endangered animal and plant species live in the area of Kalevala National Park, that also contains the largest single old-growth forest areas of the Eastern Fennoscandia.

The permits for Kalevala national park are free of charge and you may also hike on your own there. The National Park Service facilities in Kalevala are weaker than in the Kostomuksha park, but improvements are being planned. In the outskirts of Kalevala National Park but inside the park, is the Venehjärvi village, where you can find accommodation facilities, as well from a village right outside the park, Vuokkiniemi.

See a video on the Biosphere Reserve “Metsola”

How to get started with trip planning?

  1. Tourist Visa is required in case you enter Russian Federation for tourism purposes. Tourist visa can be valid for up to 30 days and can be issued for single or double entry. Dates of validity of the visa will correspond with the dates mentioned on your tourist confirmation. Also note that for receiving a visa on your passport, the passport should be valid for a few months period forward of the visa dates. For further, official information on visas, please visit  for example the VFS Global website.  You can apply for a visa directly but also, for example, through a travel agency or other intermediary assistance.
  2. Both the Kostomuksha and Kalevala parks re under regime of Kostomuksha nature reserve management. Therefore, please contact the Kostomuksha Nature Reserve office for further information. The office is located at 2 Priozernaja street.  Services are available in Russian and soon also in Finnish.
  3. The nearest border-crossing point for passenger traffic is Vartius, about 140 kilometres to east from Kajaani that is open for car traffic. You may drive your own car (make sure you have all the documentations needed) or order a transportation to Kostomuksha from a local operator in Kainuu or Kostomuksha.