Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 for its enchanting collection of preserved wooden structures – including 300-year-old churches and a 150-year-old Bell Tower – Kizhi is known as Russia’s sacred island and is located in Lake Onega, approximately 320 kilometres north east of St. Petersburg.
Just 6 kilometres long by 1 kilometre wide, Kizhi is remarkably small. Despite this, due to its fascinating history and cultural relevance, Kizhi continues to attract scores of tourists from all over the world each year. Settlements on Kizhi have been well known since at least the 15th century, and the entire island is considered a stunning open-air museum due to its 17th century architecture.
As one of Russia’s truly iconic attractions, Kizhi is a popular stop for cruises making the trip between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Ships dock at a small jetty on the banks of the island. The main attractions are all within walking distance from the pier, so transfers are not necessary.
The jetty at Kizhi is equipped only with the most basic facilities.
- Souvenir stalls and small supermarket
- Public toilets
- Café and restaurant.
There are no cars, taxis or accommodation options on the island.
How To Get Around
The only way to explore Kizhi is on foot.
The island is small enough to see most of the main attractions in less than a few hours. It’s an easy walk, but passengers are advised to wear suitable footwear to make their time on the island as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.
Passengers are also advised to stay on the designated paths at all times, as a decline in the island’s snake population has led to an increase in ticks carrying encephalitis.
Travel times from the cruise jetty:
- It is a 10 minute journey to the Church of the Transfiguration
- It is a 10 minute journey to the Bell Tower of the Kizhi Post
- It is a 10 minute journey to the Church of Intercession.
Currency – The local currency in Kizhi is the Russian Ruble (RUB). Coins come in 1, 2, 10 and 50 kopecks (100 kopecks equals 1 ruble), and 1, 2, 5 and 10 rubles denominations. Notes come in 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 rubles denominations.
Time Zone – Kizhi is on Moscow Standard Time (MSK), which is 3 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – The climate in Kizhi is quite cold, and often rainy. During summer (June to August), daytime temperatures average at just 18 degrees Celsius. Daytime temperatures drop to about -10 degrees Celsius during the winter months of December to February. The island sees approximately 375mm of rainfall on average each year.
The Church of the Transfiguration of Our Saviour – Built in 1714 in honour of Peter the Great’s victories over the Swedes, this octagonal, multi-tiered church features 22 miniature domes and is made entirely from pine, spruce and aspen. The church is easily the island’s most iconic landmark – and most photographed – and is a fine example of traditional Russian wooden architecture. It’s also one of the tallest wooden structures in the world at over 30 metres tall. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to enter due to safety concerns of the roof collapsing. However, the best views are from the outside anyway. Opening hours for the church are from 8am to 8pm during summer, 9am to 4pm during autumn, and 10am to 3pm the rest of the year.
The Bell Tower of the Kizhi Post – Nearly 150 years old, this octagonal bell tower stands between the Church of Transfiguration and the Church of Intercession. Built by the carpenter Sysoj Osipov, it was constructed using a traditional building technique in which no log protruded past the corner sections, thus making it easier to cover the walls with plank siding. Five flights of stairs lead to the tower’s belfry, which offers commanding views over the island. Entrance to the Bell Tower is included in the Kizhi open-air museum ticket. Opening hours are the same as the Church of Transfiguration.
The Church of Intercession – Hosting an impressive collection of 16th to 18th century devotional paintings of Christ and other religious figures, the nine-domed Church of Intercession was built in 1764. Unlike the Church of Transfiguration, it’s possible to enter this church and marvel at the artistic spoils inside. Admission to the Church of Intercession is included in the cost of the Kizhi open-air museum ticket. The same opening hours as the Church of Transfiguration apply here too.