White Sea Petroglyphs
The White Sea petroglyphs are of great historical and cultural value: they were created about 6,000 years ago. These rock paintings are dedicated to the themes of hunting, ritual rites, and battles. They are situated not far from the village of Vygostrov – you can get there from Belomorsk.
History of Belomorsk petroglyphs appearance
The White Sea petroglyphs are one of the largest archaeological complexes not only of Karelia, but also of the whole territory of Northern Europe. They are well preserved: the drawings are clearly visible on the rocks.
Photo: Yakovlev Sergey / Shutterstock.com
The very place where the White Sea petroglyphs are located is very picturesque. It is an area near the river Vyg. Archaeologists have found here a lot of ancient people’s camps, including household items – the remains of ceramic products, stone and iron tools, bronze jewelry and others.
How were discovered
The discovery of the cultural monument on the islands of the Vyg River belongs to A.M. Linevsky, a Russian archaeologist, writer and ethnographer. In 1926 he participated in an ethnographic expedition to Karelia: at that time Linevsky was a student at the Leningrad Geographical Institute.
In the course of the expedition A.M. Linevsky discovered about three hundred rock paintings near the town of Belomorsk. These images were called “Besov’s footprints”.
When Linevsky graduated from the university, he moved to Petrozavodsk to live. There he wrote many scientific works in the field of archaeology, ethnography and history of Karelia, including the story “Sheets of the Stone Book.” In it he presented his interpretation of the White Sea and Onega petroglyphs.
Later, other petroglyphs of the White Sea were discovered, named Zalavruga and Erpin Pudas. Archaeologists V.I. Ravdonikas, Y.A. Savvateev, and N.V. Lobanova contributed greatly to the discovery and study of the petroglyphs.
What are they?
In total, the White Sea petroglyphs have over 2,000 rock drawings made by fishermen and hunters in the primitive era. They contain drawings of boats, battles, rituals, scenes of hunting various animals (whales, bears, moose) – about 39 groups in total.
Some of the figures are up to 3 meters in size, but in most cases they are about 20-60 cm. They were carved by ancient people on flat rocks in the lower reaches of the Vyg River, as well as on the islands of Erpin Pudas, Shoyrukshin, Bolshoi Malinin and others.
Photo: Yakovlev Sergey / Shutterstock.com
What are the main locations of the White Sea petroglyphs stand out:
- “Besovy sledki” – located near Belomorsk, near the island of Shoyruksha;
- Staraya and Novaya Zalavruga – located about 1,5 km from “Besovye sledki” and contain a huge number of drawings;
- Yerpin Pudas – this is near “Besovye sledki” (the distance between the locations is about 400 meters).
One of the most famous images of the White Sea petroglyphs at the “Besovy sledki” location is a drawing of the so-called “besa” with a chain of footprints. The figure stands on one leg, left arm raised, one eye closed.
It is believed that this pose is characteristic of shamans during rituals. According to scientists, sacrifices could have been made at this place in the primitive era.
It is this image that gave its name to the location of the petroglyphs “Imps’ footsteps”. There are also other figures depicted on the rocks nearby.
Most of the White Sea petroglyphs are located in Zalavruga – it is about 6-8 km from the place where the river Vyg flows into the White Sea. What is near the archaeological monument:
- On the southern side is the village of Vygostrov;
- From the northern side – Belomorskaya hydroelectric power station;
- Vygostrovskaya hydroelectric power station from the west;
- from the eastern side – Kysly Pudas channel.
Besides, the Sosnovets-Belomorsk freeway passes from the southern side. You can go by it till the parking place, where you will reach Belomorsk petroglyphs on foot.
You can take a tour around Zalavruga that is organized by the museum “Belomorskie petroglyphs”. Duration is 1,5-2 hours.
In Zalavrug some of the most remarkable drawings are:
- figures of hunters walking on skis;
- figures of people sailing in boats;
- pictures of deer, reaching 3 meters in length;
- The figure of the “dancing shaman”: it is believed that if you touch him and make a wish, it will come true;
- drawing of a man with three fingers;
- Various scenes of hunting animals.
The petroglyphs of the Yerpin Pudas location contain fewer images – they are harder to find and see. Many of the drawings at this location are hidden under water or are not distinct enough. However, in the northern part you can see scenes telling about a mythical sea deity’s hunt for a seal.
How to reach the White Sea Petroglyphs
It is convenient to get to the petroglyphs from the town of Belomorsk: the distance between them is about 6 km. Below we tell you how to get to Belomorsk from St. Petersburg, Moscow and Petrozavodsk.
When you arrive to Belomorsk you can take a cab to Zalavruga parking lot: it is situated near Sosnovets – Belomorsk highway on the bank of Kisliy Pudas stream.
On the way from Belomorsk to Vygostrov village you’ll see the sign “Belomorskie petroglyphs” that leads you to the parking place. Then you are to walk about 1,3 km along the forest road.
By train to Belomorsk
The information about schedules and ticket prices is given as of 2022 according to the service Tutu.ru. Check prices, availability and departure times for the desired date when booking tickets.
From St. Petersburg to Belomorsk station there are the following rail services:
- The Double Decker train departs from Ladozhsky Station at approximately 9:24 p.m. After spending the night on the road, in the morning (about 9:44) you will be in Belomorsk: you can go straight to see the petroglyphs. Ticket cost – from 1 830 rubles.
- The train “Arctic” departs from the Ladoga station approximately at 10:10 am, arrives at Belomorsk station at 00:20 am. This option will suit those who plan to book a hotel here, to go to the petroglyphs in the morning. The ticket price starts from 2,516 rubles.
By the way, the train “Arktika” runs from Moscow. Therefore, it is convenient to use, if you plan a trip to Belomorsk from the Russian capital. In this case, the road will take 23 hours and 39 minutes. The ticket price starts from 2,780 rubles.
Important: these trains also make a stop in Petrozavodsk. So you can easily get to Belomorsk from the capital of Karelia, if, for example, resting in Petrozavodsk and decided to go to the petroglyphs.
In addition to trains, from Petrozavodsk to Belomorsk you can get by bus. The bus runs from the auto station in the street Chapaeva, 3 at about 9:00, 14:00 and 18:00.
The trip by bus will spend about 5 hours and 15 minutes. The ticket costs from 1 138 rubles.
Buy ticket for bus or train
Check the schedule and ticket prices, as well as buy a bus or train ticket in advance on Tutu.ru. Then you do not have to worry about whether there are seats left for the desired flight.
There you can compare bus and train departures for different parameters, read reviews and choose the right flight. After payment, the ticket will come to your email: after printing it out, just come to board.
If you go by your own or rented car, you should be guided by the following coordinates of Belomor petroglyphs (Zalavruga): 64°29’53.5″N 34°40’29.8″E.
The distance from Petrozavodsk is about 400 km.
Where is the museum “The White Sea Petroglyphs
Museum “White Sea Petroglyphs” is located at: Belomorsk, Oktyabrskaya ul. 5 “A”. There you can also order a tour around Zalavruga.
Museum working hours: every day from 10.00 till 17.00, except Sunday.
For more information, see the official site of the museum “Belomorskie petroglyphs” brkm.ru.
Hotels in Belomorsk and near petroglyphs
If you want to stay for a few days and see the petroglyphs in detail, there are several hotels and rest houses at your service. There are variants both in Belomorsk itself and closer to the archeological monument, for example:
- Hotel “Gandvik” 3* in Belomorsk on Pervomaiskaya Street, 18;
- Belomorsk hostel (Port highway, 24, 1) – not very far from Belomorsk railway station;
- Vygostrov” tourist complex, which is only 3 km away from the rock paintings at the address: Rybnaya No. 1.
How to save on a hotel in Karelia
The following services will help you to choose a suitable accommodation:
Ostrovok.ru is a site for finding hotels, hostels and apartments. It works with hotels directly, so it offers favorable prices. The choice of accommodation is huge – more than 900 thousand options. The site is easy to use: there is a map, filters, reviews. Operates around the clock support.
World of Camps – a service for booking tourist, fishing and hunting resorts, guest houses in different parts of Russia. The site has more than 5,000 accommodation sites. Find a suitable camping house easily using filters: by type of food, the presence of a sauna, distance to the lake and others.
Where to buy a tour or an excursion in Karelia
If you are planning to buy a tour in Karelia, we recommend the service Big Country, which collected group and individual programs from direct organizers without commissions and surcharges.
Individual tours are convenient to choose on Tripster. There you can find excursions of local authors with interesting routes.
White Sea Petroglyphs of Karelia – a message from the past
Natalia 2 565 1 Karelia Archaeology, History, How to get there Article posted: Last Updated:
There are many places in the world, getting into which the reality around literally freezes, and you are transported not only in space, but also in time, in the past, for decades, centuries, millennia. It is an amazing feeling to be able to touch the walls and stones, where Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar himself walked, to be inside the primitive caves, burial mounds, pyramids, and see the world as our ancestors saw it.
Imagining such places of the past, Greece, Italy, Egypt and many other countries come to mind. There are such places in Russia. I have already written about one of them, the ancient settlement of Tanais in the Rostov region. Today I will tell you about the ancient Sámi rock drawings – the White Sea petroglyphs of Karelia.
What are petroglyphs? Where are they situated?
Petroglyph literally means “carved in stone” in ancient Greek. In Karelia there are two large clusters of petroglyphs – in the Belomorsky area in the north of the republic and in the Pudozhsky area near the shores of Lake Onega in the east. Most accessible for tourists White Sea petroglyphs, therefore our story will go about them. By the way, near the White Sea petroglyphs in Karelia you can see a site of ancient man. The camp and the petroglyphs date back to approximately IV-III millennium BC.
The petroglyphs in the Belomorsky region are more than 2000 figures representing the life and ways of ancient people. Exactly thanks to petroglyphs people could pass their knowledge to the following generations. It was in the petroglyphs that the most important scenes from life were carved – hunting, rituals, battles, people and animals. Earlier drawings were replaced by new ones, sometimes old drawings were completely or partially destroyed. Many of the figures are now barely distinguishable and it is difficult to understand what they mean without an experienced guide.
Groups of White Sea petroglyphs on the map (click to enlarge)
Three large clusters of petroglyphs have been discovered near the shores of the White Sea.
The first is the so-called “Besov’s footsteps” – the earliest and most ancient find. Visitors are not allowed here. To avoid damage to the ancient images, they were covered with a special pavilion.
The second cluster is called Yerpin Pudas. It is located about 400 meters from the “Besovye traces”. It is extremely difficult to see the drawings here. Some of them are hidden under water, while others are so erased by time that they can be seen only in the rays of the rising and setting sun.
And finally, the last, most visited cluster of petroglyphs in Karelia, is in the village of Zalavruga, one and a half kilometers north-east of the “Besovye footprints”. Tourists usually take them there.
How to reach the White Sea petroglyphs?
It is not very difficult to reach the White Sea petroglyphs in the place Zalavruga. It is approximately in 6 km from Belomorsk.
About how to download a google map and use it offline, read here.
If you drive a car to Belomorsk, before 4 km to the town turn left between 33 and 34 km. The unpaved road about a kilometer long will lead you to the turning area where you can leave the car.
You can also get to Petroglyphs by public transport. To begin with take a train ticket to Belomorsk, and then ask local cab drivers to drop you off.
For your information! By the way, if you’re planning to stay in Belomorsk for more than 1 day, I recommend you to choose the hotel Gandvik. We stayed there on our way to Solovki. It is not bad variant. And you can try national Pomor cuisine in the restaurant menu.
Vehicles can go only to the turning point. Further, over the bridge along the picturesque road you will have to walk another 1.3 kilometers.
White sea petroglyphs. Our impressions
We went to the petroglyphs on our way to Belomorsk, during the excursion to Solovki. The way from Petrozavodsk to Belomorsk is not so close. We left at 10 am with three stops, we reached Zalavruga about 7 pm.
The bus dropped us off at the headland, from which we still had to walk. At the turnaround point, we could tell at a glance where we were. Ancient images cut out of life-size cardboard tell of the strangeness of the place. Here at the site you can see the information boards: the history of petroglyphs in the world, the history of petroglyph research in Karelia, and the very drawings, which are to be seen when you get there.
The figures at the turning point remind of the ancient petroglyphs
On the stands you can read information about the studies of petroglyphs, and find out what the drawings mean (click to enlarge)
We cross the bridge and find ourselves in a real forest fairy tale. The forest here is like a living incarnation of the kingdom of king Berendey, tall pines and spruces, trunks of trees covered with moss, blueberry bushes by the side… But only the day before it rained here. The path was covered with slimy mud. I had to watch my step to make sure I didn’t get into a puddle.
On a side note! If you are going to visit the White Sea petroglyphs, take mosquito repellent and, if possible, closed clothes and footwear. Otherwise, in an hour there will be not a single living spot on your body.
Already stepping over the bridge you realize that you are in a fairy tale.
A picturesque forest envelops you on all sides.
The real kingdom of Tsar Berendei.
There are some smaller trees.
And such bizarre fluffy vegetation
The instruction about rules of behavior in the forest is made in the style of this place.
We were running through the forest to keep up with the guide.
Finally, soon there was the coveted sign that we were there.
The sign said we were there.
The open area with giant boulders around the perimeter is fenced in with wooden walkways. However, you can walk not only on the paths, but on the boulders, too. It is hard to believe that you are walking on a living history that is over 5,000 years old!
Most of the petroglyphs are extremely difficult to find by yourself, especially if you don’t know where and what to look for. Of course, some drawings are easily distinguishable, and some can be seen only with special lighting.
A herd of deer is the largest petroglyph in Zalavruga.
Two boats with people sailing on a sea hunt
It is recommended to observe the petroglyphs in Karelia at dawn and at sunset, when the relief pictures are seen best. Also an ordinary camera will help you to see the drawings. Apparently, this is the only landmark that is better to look at through the lens .
The images are also great to see after it rains. The water around the drawings quickly dries up, and the small indentations carved (the depth of the drawing is no more than 2 mm) become apparent in the smallest detail. This is why researchers and scientists, when they come to inspect petroglyphs, pour water on them.
We were lucky enough to meet petroglyph researchers during the tour
The drawings mostly depict hunting scenes, forest animals and birds, people in boats or on skis. By the way, there are quite a few skiers here. It is believed that these are the most ancient images of man on skis.
The oldest images of skiers
Another group of skiers on the hunt
The ancestors of the Lapps loved to depict boats and people
Here is another petroglyph with a boat
Often the petroglyphs are located in small groups of several pictures
Sometimes the drawings are very difficult to find.
For a better view, the petroglyphs are lightened.
There are everyday scenes as well. For example, you can see the ritual dance of two pregnant women. Or a scene called “Crime and Punishment”, when a group of three people are chasing one who stole a basket.
The most famous of the White Sea petroglyphs is the dancing little man (or white shaman). It is believed, that good luck will attend those who touched it.
After viewing the petroglyphs you can also buy souvenirs that will remind you of your visit to this amazing place. And a pleasant surprise was waiting for us by the bus in the form of hot and fragrant Ivan-tea from samovar.
Well, that’s all for today. While planning your trip across Karelia, be sure to visit the White Sea petroglyphs. You’ll remember this trip for a long time for sure!
And from Belomorsk you can also take a trip to the White Sea-Baltic Canal or to Solovki, but it is already another story.