Taking the hour long boat ride and climbing the hill up to the main church at Valamo monastery is worthwhile the minute when you enter. From the outside the white, blue and red church with gilded crosses is stunning enough but entering the churches inside is an even more awe-inspiring. Even for someone who isn’t so religious, like me.
Before you can enter the inner court and the main church, you must dress appropriately. All women must cover their head and shoulders. And as a tip of the day, unlike any other church I have visited, Valamo requires that women are dressed in a dress or a skirt with a hemline below the knees. But no worries. If you are wearing trousers on the day of your visit, you can borrow a skirt from the gates of the church. Then you can enter the inner court and the churches.
I’m saying churches because the main church houses two churches. The lower church is used all year round as it’s heated. It suffered greatly during the Soviet years, it was used as potato storage etc. but thanks to massive restoration work, it is in a very good shape today. It has a beautiful iconostasis with one of the original icons from before the wars. The lower church is in active use and has a quite cosy feeling.
The upper church is splendid! When you climb the stairs and the church unfolds before your eyes in all it’s glory, it’s truly humbling. It was locked during the wars and the Soviet years so it was preserved. Of course time and humidity left their mark during the years and also the upper church has gone through enormous restoration in the recent years. There are really not enough words to describe the upper church, you have to go there yourself! It’s also forbidden to take photographs on the inner court and in the churches.
After visiting the church it’s nice to take in all the splendour by sitting in a café for a while. There is a nice little café in the garden near the church. The Valamo Monastery is an interesting place that I would like to visit again and maybe spend a couple of days there. Definitely worth the visit!