Arkhangelsk Oblast is huge, underdeveloped, beautiful and fascinating. In the north there are the reindeer-herding nomads of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, officially a part of Arkhangelsk Oblast. In the rest of the oblast a ridiculously poor (and often non-existent) road system links timeless log cabin villages with wooden churches and homes still standing from centuries ago. Time, adventurousness and some Russian language are required to get out there and discover the region’s hidden gems.

Old log church and bell tower, Saunino, Arkhangelskaya Oblast

Log church and bell tower in the village of Saunino, Arkhangelskaya Oblast

The northernmost point accessible by train from Moscow is Arkhangelsk town itself, from where the seriously adventurous can move east into the western part of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The southernmost major point accessible by train is Nyandoma, from where a road leads west through the historic old town of Kargopol, 5km from which in the village of Saunino the church and bell tower featured in the above photo can be found. From Kargopol a dirt road continues west through the village of Lyadiny (with two spectacular log churches and a log bell tower) on into Karelia and the town of Pudozh on the eastern shore of Lake Onega. Kargopol has a couple of hotels. The cafe owner in Lyadiny has the keys to the churches and can organise accommodation. In every village in fact, if you want to have a look in the church you should ask around for who has the keys and they should be happy to open it up for you.

Be warned – in the countryside in Arkhangelsk Oblast during summer mosquitoes will never stop attacking you. I’ve traveled in the Amazon and West Papuan jungles amongst others but Arkhangelsk Oblast is worse. In the north, in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, it’s literally so bad that they’re constantly in your nose, mouth, ears, eyes and hair. Local shops in Arkhangelsk Oblast often sell hats with attached mosquito nets that can be pulled down and drawn tight around your neck, thereby protecting your face.

Click here for my blog about cycling from Nyandoma – Kargopol – Lyadiny – Pudozh. It’s 2742 words and 25 photos.

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