The Solovetsky Islands are an archipelago located in the western part of the White Sea unlike any other place in the region. From massive monasteries to hidden stone labyrinths to intricate canal systems, the Islands offer endless attractions. Off of the coast on Belugas Cape you can watch the majestic and graceful beluga whales breach in the summer season. Be sure to visit the Solovetsky Monastery, which is not only a masterpiece of architecture, but the crown jewel of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
As shore excursions to be offered in this port are not yet confirmed, below is a list of those offered previously. We make every effort to have excursions finalized at least 240 days in advance of sailing, and often sooner, so please check back regularly.
Most Active or Strenuous
Minimal Activity Required
Cruise on a small boat through the manmade lakes and canals that crisscross the Solovetsky Islands, also known as Solovki.
After departing from the pier, you will enjoy a brief but picturesque drive to Middle Pert Lake, where you will board a boat for a cruise through the archipelago’s lakes and canals. Because there are no rivers on the island, early settlers and monks created the waterways in the 15th century to supply fresh water.
As you cruise through the narrow canals, some of which are hardly wide enough for a small boat, the guide will provide enlightening commentary about their construction over the centuries. The canals connect the lakes, of which there are more than 500 throughout the archipelago.
Building the canals positively altered the landscape in numerous ways. The surrounding land became less marshy, forests grew in the resulting meadows and the bird life in particular flourished. More than 200 avian species nest and rest on the islands, and while cruising you may well spot arctic terns, fish hawks and shell ducks.
The guide may also recount the history of the archipelago, which dates to the Late Stone Age. Excavations have unearthed stone labyrinths and tombs from this time period, which ended around 2,000 BC.
Still, it is the serenity and natural beauty of the lakes and canals that attract so many visitors to the Solovetsky Islands. Experiencing it on a boat provides a perspective like no other.
Please note: This tour is not recommended for guests who utilize a wheelchair. Casual, weather-appropriate clothing, comfortable, flat walking shoes and raincoats are suggested. Lakes and canals tour cannot be operated in case of stormy weather. Small open local boats with a capacity of 4 guests are used for operating this tour.
Stroll a botanical garden of plants that rarely grow this far north, planted during different periods.
After departing from the pier, you will soon arrive at Solovetsky’s lovely botanical gardens overlooking Nizhy Pert Lake. Although one of the northernmost botanical gardens in Russia, it sits in a favorable microclimate where plants from other climates and latitudes can easily thrive. Consequently, there is a great variety of plant species.
In 1822, the hermitage of the centuries-older Solovetsky Monastery was founded here and began to grow hothouse fruits and berries for export to nearby Russian cities. That small enterprise eventually expanded, as apple trees, dog rose and shadbush were cultivated. A few chapels, houses and a summer residence for the archimandrite were built, and the gardens became even more sophisticated with the addition of an ingenious system of pipes that heated the soil and hot houses. Then, the Russian Revolution erupted. The monastery closed and the complex was used as a forced labor camp.
As you follow your guide through the grounds, you will notice that the gardens are divided into those from the initial monastic period and those that supported the population of the concentration camp. In memory of those who perished, a serene path lined with larch trees was created. You will return to the main entrance through the larch alley of memory, looking at the Siberian fir planted by Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor, Prince of Wales. Then, you will re-board your coach and return to the pier.
Please note: Tour includes approximately 1-hour of moderate walking over mostly flat surfaces with cobblestone pathways and natural surfaces. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests and may not be suitable for those with mobility concerns. Weather appropriate clothing to include a wind/waterproof jacket, umbrella, sun protection, insect repellent and flat, comfortable non-slippery walking shoes are strongly recommended.
Ascend notorious Sekirnaya Hill, site of the world’s first church lighthouse, which was later used as an impossibly cruel isolation prison where untold numbers died.
After departing from the pier, you will enjoy a leisurely drive along a forested rural road to the base of Sekirnaya Hill. From here, you will start walking to the top, stopping every so often to admire the panoramic views of the island and the White Sea beyond.
It only takes about 20 minutes to reach the hilltop, and the rewards are well worth the effort. Built in the 1860s, the two-story Ascension Church perches at the summit and has the distinction of being both a religious building and a lighthouse. Oddly, there is a cross at the very top and a lighthouse lens directly below it.
While it’s difficult to imagine now, the church was converted into an isolation prison cell following the Russian Revolution, when the island became the first Soviet forced-labor camp or gulag. In 1937 under Stalin, the island became one of the empire’s harshest gulags, where countless prisoners died, many of them by execution on Sekirnaya Hill. At the bottom of the hill’s nearly 300-step stairway, there is a sobering memorial to the victims.
Mercifully, the gulag closed in 1939. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that the nearby monastery that served as the main concentration camp re-opened for religious purposes.
After visiting Sekirnaya Hill, you will descend and return to the pier.
Please note: This tour includes approximately 90-minutes of moderate to strenuous walking which includes a significant uphill and downhill walk. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests or those with mobility concerns. Weather appropriate clothing to include a wind/waterproof jacket; an umbrella; sunglasses; insect repellant; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Shorts are not permitted in the church and women must cover their heads.
Hike to an elevated point on Beluga Cape that is a popular site for spotting white beluga whales, which swim surprisingly close to the shore at low tide.
After departing from the pier, you will soon arrive at a trailhead on Beluga Cape, a point on the White Sea named for the beluga whales that migrate here to breed. You will follow a meandering natural path through the cape to a lookout where you can watch for beluga whales. It is the only way to observe these whales in their natural habitat, as boats are forbidden to protect the animals.
Commonly called white whales for their unusual white color, belugas typically congregate off the cape at low tide. Cape Beluga is supposedly the only place in the world where beluga whales come so close to the shore. It is estimated that 2,000 of them live in the White Sea.
Belugas communicate so noisily through chirps, whistles and squeaks that they are often referred to as “canaries of the sea.” Chances are, if you spot a beluga it will be among others, as the whales are highly gregarious and generally live in groups known as pods.
They are the easiest whale to identify because of their color, rounded foreheads and lack of dorsal fins. They resemble dolphins and can grow up to 20 feet long. Although related to narwhals, the so-called “unicorn whales,” belugas are not related to the sturgeon of the same name that is the source of caviar.
Please note: This tour contains approximately 3 hours of walking over even and uneven ground. It is not recommended for guests who utilize a wheelchair. Those guests with mobility concerns are cautioned to evaluate their personal level of ability and stamina. Casual, weather-appropriate clothing and comfortable, flat walking shoes are suggested.
This enlightening exploration of the Solovetsky Monastery reveals its varied history as a destination for worship, pilgrimage, commercial enterprises and a notorious prison camp, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Upon arriving at the pier on Great Solovetsky Island in the White Sea, you will walk to nearby Solovetsky Monastery, passing through its holy gate. Founded in 1429, the monastery expanded over the years to include secular commercial activities such as fishing, trapping and iron works. By the 17th century, more than 350 monks lived here with even more laymen.
Despite being remote and difficult to access, the monastery thrived economically, and it became a major pilgrimage destination. While walking the grounds, you will see many of the grand religious structures such as the Transfiguration Cathedral, refectory complex and several churches, including the hilltop Alexander Nevsky Church from which the views are spectacular. You will also notice that the monastery doubled as a frontier fortress or kremlin, as thick walls with defensive towers armed with cannons surround it.
However, after the Russian Revolution, life here changed dramatically. The monastery closed and became a forced-labor camp for “enemies of the people.” In 1937, Stalin turned it into one of the empire’s harshest gulags where countless prisoners died.
Finally in the 1990s, the monastery re-opened and was renovated to its present state, which has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of special significance. After touring the monastery for well over two hours, you will walk back to the pier.
Please note: This tour includes approximately 2.5 hours of moderate walking which includes uneven natural surfaces, cobblestone walkways and many steps to negotiate. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests and not considered suitable for those with mobility concerns. Weather appropriate clothing to include a wind/waterproof jacket, umbrella, sun protection, insect repellent and flat, comfortable non-slippery walking shoes are strongly recommended. Conservative attire is required to enter churches; shorts are not permitted and women must cover their heads.
Tender to a nearby island to see a collection of ancient stone labyrinths and rocky mounds whose exact purposes remain a mystery.
After departing from the ship by tender, you will soon arrive at Big Zayatsky Island, one of the six Solovetsky Islands. While walking among its boulders and large gnarled bushes, you will notice a collection of stone labyrinths, sanctuaries and hundreds of stone mounds. All of these structures were built at least 5,000 years ago during the Neolithic Period.
The purpose of the intricate labyrinths on the western part of the island and who built them is unknown. Nevertheless, the labyrinths are visually fascinating. Made of rows of boulders that form interconnecting spirals, each one has a single entrance, which also serves as the exit. Some researchers believe that the labyrinths were meant to represent the border between the real world and the underworld, but it’s only speculation.
When Peter the Great visited the island for the second time in 1702, he ordered a wooden church to be built honoring Saint Andrew. As there were no trees, the church was built on the mainland, disassembled, and then shipped to the island for reassembly. You will see the church and a few its outbuildings on a boulder-strewn stretch of land near the water’s edge. Afterwards, you will tender back to the ship.
Please note: Tour includes approximately 90-minutes of moderate walking on uneven natural surfaces, wooden walkways and a few steps to negotiate. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests and not considered suitable for those with mobility concerns. Weather changes rapidly in the island and even in summer, it can be windy and cold. Weather appropriate clothing to include a wind/waterproof jacket, umbrella, sun protection, insect repellent and flat, comfortable non-slippery walking shoes are strongly recommended. Conservative attire is required to enter churches; shorts are not permitted and women must cover their heads. Zayatsky Island’s nature is strictly protected by law and visitors are admitted only in guided groups and must stay with their guide throughout their visit. No independent visitors are allowed. It is prohibited to remove any items from the Island. There are no restrooms on the island.
Discover how life drastically changed at the 15th-century Solovetsky Monastery by touring its religious buildings and a museum that details its conversion into a barbarous gulag.
Upon arriving at the pier on Great Solovetsky Island, you will walk to nearby Solovetsky Monastery, passing through its holy gate. Founded in 1429, the monastery expanded over the years to include secular commercial activities such as fishing, trapping and iron works. The monastery thrived economically and became one of Russia’s most influential religious centers, drawing pilgrims from all over.
While walking the grounds, you will see many of the grand religious structures such as the Transfiguration Cathedral, refectory complex and several churches, including the hilltop Alexander Nevsky Church. You will also notice that the monastery doubled as a frontier fortress or kremlin, as thick walls with defensive towers surround it.
However, after the Russian Revolution, life here changed dramatically. The monastery closed and in 1923 Vladimir Lenin turned it into the first Soviet forced-labor camp or gulag for “enemies of the people.” In 1937 under Stalin, it became one of the empire’s harshest gulags, where countless prisoners died and were buried in mass graves.
You will discover the nightmarish details of their imprisonment in the Gulag Museum housed in the former prison barracks. The eye-opening exhibits candidly present the grim realities of daily life in the camp. After browsing the museum, you will walk back to the pier.
Please note: GULAG exhibit can only accommodate a small number of guests at a time and exhibition signs are all in Russian. This tour includes close to 3-hours of moderate walking which includes natural surfaces, cobblestone walkways and stairs to negotiate; the terrain on the way to GULAG exhibition is hilly. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests and not considered suitable for those with mobility concerns. Weather appropriate clothing to include a wind/waterproof jacket, umbrella, sun protection, insect repellent and flat, comfortable non-slippery walking shoes are strongly recommended. Conservative attire is required to enter churches; shorts are not permitted and women must cover their heads.
Terms & Conditions:
Free Unlimited Shore Excursions are for full fare guests only, capacity controlled and subject to availability. Requested excursions may not be available at time of booking. Supplement will apply on Regent Choice excursions (indicated by the above) and excludes Private Arrangements and all Adventures Ashore programs. Concierge benefits do not apply to Executive Collection private cars or other private arrangements. In order to ensure quality guides and sufficient transportation, we must provide the tour operator with passenger counts at least 36 hours in advance. Therefore no refunds will be given within 36 hours of tour departure for cancellations or no-shows. Please pay special attention to scheduling and tour lengths when booking your shore excursions. In many cases, it is not possible to participate in more than one tour per day in a given port. Tour Departure times are subject to change so please reference your actual tour ticket for the correct departure time. Tours operate rain or shine. Minor children 17 years and under must be accompanied by a an adult 18 years or older on all shore excursions. Tours require minimum participation levels to operate so please sign up as early as possible. Tours may be cancelled if minimum participation levels are not met. Prices, Itineraries and General Information shore excursion prices are subject to change to meet unexpected cost increases or currency fluctuations. Please consult the Destination Services Desk onboard for information. During local or national holidays, access to certain facilities (such as museums or archaeological sites) may be limited or denied. In such instances, adjustments will be made to minimize inconvenience to guests. Some tours have limited availability. Tours are generally available for reserving 180 days prior to the beginning of a cruise. Please sign up early to avoid disappointment. Regent Seven Seas Cruises reserves the right to require guests to complete a liability waiver for select shore excursions. For more information, please visit the Destination Services Desk onboard.