The main attraction of the Loukhi region is the Paanajärvi National Park. It is located in the western part of the region near the Arctic Circle. The distance from the regional center – the village of Loukhi – to the park is about 200 km. A dirt road leads here from the village of Loukhi. The visitor center of the park is located in the village of Pyaozersky, which is 80 km from the park. A visit to “Paanajärvi” is possible only with a special permit, which can be obtained at the visitor center. The Visitor Center also issues fishing licenses. In the summer, the park is overloaded with tourists, so you need to book places in advance.
According to 3RJEWELRY, Paanajärvi National Park was established in 1992 to preserve the unique natural complexes of Lake Paanajärvi and the Olanga River basin. Its area is 103.3 thousand hectares. The park has a rather dissected relief. The West Karelian Upland passes through its territory. There are 10 highest points of Karelia in the park, among which the highest point is Mount Nuorunen (576.7 m). Most of the territory of the park is occupied by taiga forests, mainly spruce forests, pine forests are also common and, to a lesser extent, birch forests. Water bodies account for about 11% of the territory, and 13% of the territory is occupied by swamps. Swamps are formed even on steep slopes, for which they were called “hanging”.
In the central part of the park, Lake Paanajärvi stretches in a narrow ribbon from west to east. Its width reaches 1.5 km, and its length is 24 km. The lake is unique in that, with such a small size, it has a depth of 128 m. Brown bear, wolf, lynx, elk, reindeer, raccoon dog, wolverine, arctic fox, marten, blue hare, American mink, flying squirrel, squirrel live in the forests, lemmings, voles, muskrat and otter, which is listed in the Red Book of Karelia. There are 119 species of birds in the park, including dipper, white-throated thrush, bluethroat, scura, scoter, loot, hawk-owl, three-toed woodpecker, lapwing, woodcock, black-headed gull, titmouse, blackbird, starling and rare species – lesser white-fronted goose, osprey, golden eagle, white-tailed eagle and peregrine falcon. Among the inhabitants of the reservoirs of the park, one can single out such fish as brown trout, brook trout, char, whitefish, vendace, European grayling and smelt. Relic species of crustaceans dating back to the Ice Age live in Lake Paanajärvi.
There are 7 routes in the park. The main sights through which they pass are the Sami mountain and the highest point of Karelia – Nuorunen – with many cult stones (seids), one of the deepest small lakes – Paanajärvi, the Ruskeakallio rock near its northern coast, the multi-stage Myantyukoski waterfall, 9 km long Astervajärv nature trail and Mount Kivakkatunturi (499 m) with Kivakkakoski waterfall. There are several wooden houses for overnight stays and campsites in the park. It is worth remembering that in the park it is forbidden to raft along the rivers, hunt and make fires in places not equipped for this.
You can also get to the Paanajärvi National Park from the village of Kalevala , which is located 340 km from it. The village is located on the northern shore of Lake Srednee Kuito, 550 km northeast of Petrozavodsk. The first mention of a trading settlement on the site of the current Kalevala is found in documents from the 17th century. Today it is an attractive land of rivers, lakes and swamps in terms of tourism, where the songs of the Karelian-Finnish epic “Kalevala” originated. In the village itself and in its environs there are many memorable places associated with the creation of the Kalevala epic. Rune collector Elias Lennrot, a Finnish doctor, worked here in the early 19th century. It is believed that he recorded epic songs, sitting under an old pine tree, which is located in the village to this day and is called Lennrot’s pine. In Kalevala in the house of the storyteller Maria Remshu, the museum “Run singers of Kalevala” is located. Folklore festivals and performances by local folk ensembles are held here every year.
Lake Kuito, on which the village of Kalevala stands , is the main natural attraction of the region. It is an arc 140 km long, consisting of three lakes – Upper, Middle and Lower Kuito. There are 12 species of fish in its basin, including such valuable species as salmon, vendace, whitefish and grayling. Near the northeastern shore of Lake Srednee Kuito, in the lower reaches of the Kepa River, there is the largest swamp in Karelia – Yupyauzhshuo, 23 km long.
Southeast of Kalevala, in the eastern part of the Kalevala district, there is an ancient the village of Panozero. The first mention of it dates back to the beginning of the 13th century. The traditional Karelian wooden architecture has been preserved in the village – houses, barns and baths. Yushkozero, Voinitsa, Kepa, Luusalmi and Kuusiniemi can also be distinguished from the ancient settlements of the region with unique monuments of ancient architecture.
Another distinctive region of the Republic of Karelia, which is inextricably linked with the folk epic “Kalevala” is the Kostomuksha urban district. It is located on the border with Finland. Just 30 km from Kostomuksha there is an international checkpoint “Luttya-Vartius”. Name Kostomuksha translates as “place of death”. It was given to a settlement that suffered devastating attacks by the Swedes in the 16th and 17th centuries. The settlement has not survived to this day, as it was wiped off the face of the Earth during the Great Patriotic War. The modern history of the city dates back to the 70s of the 20th century, when the construction of a mining and processing plant began at an iron ore deposit discovered in 1946. Kostomuksha is a young industrial city, which includes original old villages located in the vicinity. In Kostomuksha, in addition to the mining and processing plant, the Kostomuksha City Museum is interesting. It was opened in 1981. The museum presents collections that tell about the history of the formation of the urban district, about the construction of the plant, about the culture of the Karelians and the work of the writer Ya.V. Rugoev.
From Kostomuksha you can go to the ancient villages – Voknavolok, Ladvozero, Pongaguba, Sudnozero, Tolloreka and Pirttiguba. The most popular village is Voknavolok, which is located on the shores of Lake Upper Kuito, 50 km from Kostomuksha. 90% of the local population are Karelians. Voknavolok became the cradle of Karelian and Finnish culture, the songs of the epic “Kalevala” were born here and the most famous rune singers lived here. Today in the village you can see monuments of Karelian wooden architecture – residential huts, outbuildings and places of worship. In 1991, a monument to rune singer Miikhkali Perttunen was erected here. In 2006, the ancient villages of the northwestern part of the Kostomuksha urban district became part of the newly formed Kalevalsky National Park in the same year.. Its area was 74 thousand hectares and covered the cultural and natural landscape, which became the basis of the world-famous Kalevala epic. Ancient taiga forests, lakes and swamps and rapids flow in the park. All this territory has remained untouched by man for several thousand years, which makes it unique.
25 km southwest of Kostomuksha in the vicinity of Lake Kamennoye and the Kamennaya River on the border with Finland, the Kostomuksha Reserve was founded in 1983. In 1991, the reserve, together with the Finnish nature park “Kuhmo”, became part of the Russian-Finnish reserve “Druzhba”. The visitor center of the Kostomuksha Reserve is located in the city of Kostomuksha. The territories of the reserve cover the eastern slopes of the West Karelian Upland. Most of the slopes are covered with pine forests, spruce forests are less common, and relief depressions are occupied by birch forests. Reindeer, elk, brown bear, lynx, wolf, fox, wolverine, pine marten, ermine, weasel, American mink, otter, squirrel and 182 species of birds, including rare white-tailed eagle, osprey and golden eagle, are found here.
The main natural attraction of the reserve is Stone Lake. The area of the lake is 95.5 sq. km (about 20% of the territory of the reserve), and the depth reaches 26 m. The coastline of the lake is heavily indented, there are many bays and capes, as well as small islands. Also of interest is the Stone River flowing from it with the beautiful Tsar Threshold, sandwiched between sheer cliffs. Salmon, grayling, lake-river whitefish, ide, vendace, pike, roach, burbot, perch, ruff and sculpin are found in the rivers and lakes of the reserve. There are several routes in the reserve – hiking, water, ecological, skiing and winter on snowmobiles.