Borovno Lake at Valdai National Park
Valdai national park is a well-known destination for people who love nature. It's full of beautiful lakes, pristine pine forests, you can do fishing, swimming, pick berries and mushrooms in Summer, ride snowbikes and do fishing in winter. The most popular destination there is the Valdai lake itself along with Iver monastery (Putin has his summer residency nearby), but that area is a bit too popular, not very accessible, and the camping spots are not that nice.
Borovno lake is a great spot for camping as it's not too crowded, located only 30 minutes by car from the new M11 highway and fast-speed train route connecting Moscow and St Petersburg. This means that it's perfect for a short break from the busy city life as you can get there in just 3 hours and the beautiful Novgorod town is just 1.5 hours away.
The lake is surrounded by the beautiful Taiga forests full of moss-covered hills and pine trees. You can walk around the lake for hours, picking lingonberries, cranberries and mushrooms. You can also do fishing in the lakes or just stay camping and chilling at the lake. Even though it's inside the territory of Valdai national park, the rules are not so strict there meaning you can do open fires and camp without running the risk of getting fined. It's also pretty safe there and not that crowded.
Wild Camping Spots at Borovno Lake
There are a few spots where you can do wild camping along the shore of the lake. The best ones are near Gorneshno village and you can get there easily by car, bus or bike. The road may look a bit difficult, but you can get there with a standard car, although a car with a high ground clearance (like an SUV) would be more suitable especially when the weather is not so good.
The spots have some space to put tents up and are not too crowded. You might get some locals during the morning and evening, but if you avoid weekends, it's going to be empty most of the time. High season is June to August, but you can easily camp there all the time, even in the begining of October.
The best spots start, however, when you walk a little bit deeper into the forest or if you get an inflatable boat. Then you can get to the fishermen's spots, scattered all over the lake. Otherwise, in just half an hour walk from Gorneshno village you can get to some really remote places along the lake's shore surrounded by the beautiful forests where you are not going to meet anyone, but where you'll already have some basics like a clear spot for camping and a ready-made fire place you can use.
You might want to shop for everything you need in the big city you're traveling from, like Moscow (4 hours), St. Petersburg (4 hours), Novgorod (1.5 hours) or Tver (2 hours). The nearest town is Okulovka and it has a shop that stocks some travel gear as well as a really good fishing store that has all the necessities for camping. So even if you forgot to get some stuff, you can buy it all there.
The mobile networks and mobile internet (3G) works pretty well along the lake's shore, especially if you're using Megafon or Beeline operators. The spots that we marked on the map have 3G coverage, although it can get patchy, so you might have to wander around a bit to get a good signal.
Okulovka has a good hospital in case of emergency and it's only 30 minutes away.
Finally, if you get tired of camping you can always stay with our friends at Gorneshno village (we call it Gorneshno SPA:), they have a great house, Russian sauna, and it's only a 10-minute walk from the lake.
When to Travel There
The best time for camping at Borovno lake is May through September, although you might get some good sunny days in October as well. Winter is really beautiful there, but in that case you might want to stay at a house, unless you like camping in minus 20.
If you like picking berries and mushrooms the best time is September, as that's when you've got them growing all around the lake.
How to Get to Borovno Lake
Borovno lake is great for short trips out of Moscow or St. Petersburg. The fastest way to get there is to take the Sapsan speed train connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg to Okulovka station (it's a 2-hour train ride). The ticket costs from €30 to €80 one way, depending on availability. But you can always take an unpopular train arriving in daytime, it's going to be the cheapest that way. There are also slower trains that cost much less, like €15-€20 one way and there are many of those per day as there's lots of passing ones. They take about 5 hours.
From Okulovka train station you can take a taxi to Gorneshno village and you will then need to walk to the camping spot for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending where you get dropped off. The taxi ride is about 20-30 minutes and will cost you 500 R (€8) one way. You can take the driver's phone number to arrange her to pick you up. We recommend to contact Elena, who is a great driver who lives in Okulovka. She can also recommend you some great places around the lakes and show you around. Her mobile number is +7 921 707-2812.
Another train station not so far away from the lake is Bologoe, about 1.5 hours away by car from Borovno lake (and about 2000R / €30 for a ride), which is a major train hub. There are many passing trains there, including the high-speed Sapsan. You might want to use that station if there are no trains in Okulovka.
It's also quite easy to drive to Borovno. You can rent a car (for about €30 per day only) take the new high speed M11 toll highway and in this case you can get there from the center of Moscow in about 5-6 hours. Petrol is cheap in Russia, so you're going to spend about 2000R / €30 on it plus about 1000 R / €15 on the highway tolls. You can also get a more authentic ride along the E105 old motorway, but that one tends to get busy during the peak hours, so check the traffic before.
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