Korobozha lake is located in the middle of the beautiful wild moss-covered Taiga forests in Novgorod region about half-way between Moscow and St. Petersburg, near Valdai national park. It is easily accessible by public transport, car or bike. The whole area is full of pristine lakes with dark waters, pine trees, forests full of berries and mushrooms. It's a perfect place for a camping trip, as there are many wild camping spots along the shore of the lake. You can also stay in nearby villages with the locals.
It's a truly healing location, very quiet, serene. Even though the lake is popular with the car tourists and campers from St. Petersburg, it is still easy to find an empty spot just for yourself. There are a few villages around (making it easy to get supplies), but the area is vast, so it's pretty easy to find a spot where you will not meet anyone for days, especially if you're prepared to walk a little bit.
Korobozha lake was formed at a tectonic break in the ice age like many other lakes in that region. It's not that big (for Russia, that is): about 12 kilometers long and 1 km wide. As it's surrounded by pine trees and swamps the waters are dark, but very clean, having a healing and soothing effect on the skin when you swim. It's also great for fishing: you can get small fishes like perch or big fishes like pike, depending on your skills, patience and equipment. If you have an inflatable boat or a kayak, you can easily access some more remote parts of the lake and explore it much better this way.
Wild Camping Spots at Korobozha Lake
There are several spots where you can do wild camping along the lake shore (see the map below). The best is the northern side of the lake, just 3-6 km after Ustreka settlement (where you can get to by bus). The road (accessible with a car) goes along the whole shore and there are at least 4-5 spots along the way where you can get closer to the lake and set a camp.
Some of these roads need a car with a high ground clearance (like an SUV), but even a standard car can usually get through without a problem: it's just a normal forest road with no big stones and no rutted tracks. Of course, if you're walking, it's even easier: you are more likely to find a spot where there will be no other people.
Most of the camping spots are already prepared by other travelers or the local fishermen. Some of them even have wooden tables and shed-like structures for tarps, fireplaces, and easy sandy access to the lake's water. During the high season (June - August) some of these spots may get a bit messy with plastic and stuff, but you can usually clear it all out in about an hour and get the place back to its original pristine state.
The northern side of the lake closer to Ustreka has 3G internet coverage from Megafon and Skylink, so you can check your emails and even watch movies during rainy weather. The coverage is patchy, depending on the spot you choose, but it should work along the first 6 km of the shore from Ustreka.
If you need to get food, you can walk or drive to the nearby Ustreka village (about 30-60 mins by foot). There are two shops (one is a supermarket) open daily from 9.00 to 20.00 there, so you can get some really nice food, buckwheat, rice, potatoes, veggetables, alcohol and drinking water. You can also boil and drink the water from the lake.
The nearest village is Stolbovo (about 30 mins by foot) — you can ask locals to sell you the local potatoes and milk, which are super delicious, organic quality :)
If you need camping supplies like fishing equipment or camping gas, you might get some of it in Moshenskoe (20 km away) but your best bet is the nearest big town Borovichi (80 km). It's highly recommended to get your camping gas supplies in Moscow or St. Petersburg, so you make sure that it's compatible with your stove. But all the basics, like batteries, lighter, toilet paper, etc. you can get in Ustreka.
When to Travel There
The best time to travel to the lake is from the beginning of July until the end of September. You get a really pleasant weather and not as many insects as in June or May. It also stays pleasantly warm to about mid September and September is also the best season for picking mushrooms and berries. The area around Korobozha (and even directly at some of the camp spots) are full of lingonberries, cranberries and blueberris. It is also full of chanterelles, boletus, and other mushrooms that you can eat.
How to Get to Korobozha Lake
The easiest way to get to the lake
is if you rent a car in Moscow or St. Petersburg
(SUV costs only about €30 per day) or by a train or a public bus. You will get to the lake in about 6 hours (from Moscow or St. Petersburg) and you can also stop in the beautiful town of Novgorod Veliky
along the way.
In order to get to Korobozha by car,
take the new M11 toll highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg (or the old E105 for a more authentic, but slightly slower ride). Then make a turn towards the town of Borovichi (you can stop there for camping and fishing supplies, but not much to see there). Then drive towards Moshenskoe settlement, which is about a 40-minute ride from Borovichi and further 20 minutes to Ustreka village, located at the mouth of Korobozha lake. You can get your food supplies in Moshenskoe or Ustreka and then continue driving along the northern side of the lake towards Stolbovo village. After about 10 minutes you will start seeing forest road tracks leading towards the lake. You can check them all, choosing the one that you like the most. The total trip is about 500 km, meaning you'll use up about 50 liters of petrol, which will cost you about 2000 R / €30 one way.
The roads next to the lake are all dirt roads, but pretty good quality (with occasional bumps and holes and paddles) you don't even need high ground clearance to drive them, but you should not do more than 30 km / h.
If you have to use public transport
, you can get to the town of Okulovka by train
from Moscow or St. Petersburg and then take a taxi to Ustreka. The total trip will take you about 4-7 hours (depending on the train you take) and cost about €50 - €110 per person one way (so it may be cheaper to rent your own car). If you take the fast-speed Sapsan train, it'll only take 2 hours and cost about €30-€80 one way, depending on ticket availability. If you take a cheaper passing train, it'll take about 5 hours and cost about €20 one way. From Okulovka the easiest way is to get a taxi from the train station directly to Ustreka, which will cost you about 2200R (€30) one way and take about 1 hour and 40 minutes (you can do it any time of the day and night and it's not such a high price for the ride). If you're on a tight budget, you could get a public bus to Borovichi and then to Moshenskoe, but the schedules are patchy (you'll have to spend a night in Borovichi or Moshenskoe) and it'll cost you at least €13 per person, so it doesn't really make sense and it's much better to get a local taxi driver to bring you to the destination. We recommend to contact Elena, who is a great driver who lives in Okulovka. Her mobile number is +7 921 707-2812.
Bonus Track: STELS 555 Team Field
One of the camping grounds along the lake, about 2km from Ustreka is a bike-only field set up by Alexander Praushkin of the STELS / 555 Team. He rides his mountain bike about the lake and enjoys living on his own not far from the lake in the Russian countryside. He's an avid yoga practitioner and has written several articles on Interpretation of Diploid Genome
and various spatiotemporal properties of the living matter. He sometimes comes to the field and is happy to talk to strangers, so if you meet him, feel free to ask Alexander about his work. He'll tell you about Avatars that control the energy flows on our planet, about your lifepath, and various ways to live a healthier, more enlightened life. Alexander also practices yoga and can tell you about some amazing spots around the lake, especially if you also have a bike. He's built a beautiful field at the lake, which you can see on the photo below and he comes to swim there and to enjoy the view on the wooden chair that he's built himself.