Although they are not particularly easy to get to, the Solovetsky Islands are definitely worth a visit. The islands which are commonly just called Solovki in Russian are located in the White Sea and form part of Russia's Arkhangelsk Region. The main island in the group is the Bolshoy Solobvetsky Island. Despite their remote location the islands have played a significant role in Russian history. The main sight here is the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Solovetsky Monastery, which was founded in the first half of the 15th century. Since that period the monastery grew into a great citadel of Christianity. The monastery thick walls made out of boulders were able to hold back the Livonian Order and the Swedes in the 16th and 17th centuries and even the British who bombarded the monastery in 1854 during the Crimean War. A darker period in its history came in the Soviet period when the monastery and the islands were used as one of the first Gulag camps. Today the monastery is protected by UNESCO and restoration work is still continuing. In addition to the monastery the nature of the island is truly stunning and the whole sensation of being on the islands is something special and magical. There are two options to get to the islands, the easiest is to get a short flight from Arkhangelsk or to get a ferry from the city of Kem which can be reached by train from Petrozavodsk. However the White Sea is notorious for its bad weather and occasional rough crossings.

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