Valday

This charming town is located in the middle of a beautiful natural environment on the shores of Valday Lake and in the middle of Valday National Park, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is comprised of 76 lakes scattered throughout the breathtaking landscapes of the Valday Hills, the only elevations in the vast plain between Moscow and St. Petersburg. This is where some of the most important European rivers originate, including the Volga, Dnieper, and Daugava. Its forests of birch, spruce, and pine are populated with a variety of fauna, including moose and brown bear. Since the 18th century the area has been a favorite of the Russian elites, who choose this spot to build their summer estates. Even today the Russian president has a summer residence on Valday Lake next to the town. The city is home to some notable monuments such as Presentation Church and especially the Iversky Monastery, situated on an island in the lake.

Visit to the Valday Iversky Monastery. This beautiful architectural jewel is located on a small island in the middle of Valday Lake, looking out over the town of Valday. The Orthodox monastery was founded by Patriarch Nikon in 1653 and became one of the richest monasteries in Russia, owning vast lands. It was also a major spiritual and cultural center, and was even the second place in Russia to print books after the Tsar’s printing house in Moscow. In the 18th century after the foundation of St. Petersburg the monastery was put under the control of the new capital’s Alexander Nevsky Monastery and most of its treasures were transferred there. The Bolsheviks closed the monastery in 1927 and plundered many of its remaining treasures, including its major icon, which was never found again. It reopened in 1991 and has happily since been restored to its former glory. Inside we will see Assumption Cathedral (1656), its oldest building; Epiphany Cathedral; the Church of the Archangel Michael; and St. Michael Tower.