Nikola Lenivets is an integral work of art, to be visited for camping, education or a leisurely art-loaded retreat. Created by the Russian sculptor and educator Nikolay Polissky within the Ugra National Park, it is a unique Art Park in Europe, embracing 600 ha of exceptional UNESCO-preserved landscapes. Dedicated to both nature and culture it draws together camping and contemporary art.
There are green spaces throughout, and the backdrop for the mammoth sculptures is the Ugra river, flowing through what can be described as an iconic Russian scenery. Various art objects can be stumbled upon in the woods and along the forest paths – you can find them using a handout map or just wandering around and surprising yourself with what you discover along the way.
This landscape art project is Russia’s largest collection of architectural wooden sculptures in a public outdoor space. But, far from being a cultural overkill, it reveals itself gradually offering the changing exhibitions, festivals, and regularly scheduled events like tours and classes. The park is open all year-round, so you are welcome in December through March for skiing, winter BBQ, and snow art experiences.
The 7 things to do
Explore the wooden art objects scattered around the park. The wooden sculptures resemble the results of alien visitation to earth centuries ago. Some look haunted or reminiscent of pagan rituals. They provide shade for a pause along the route and also serve as viewpoints, so climb upstairs for the best pics!
Take a turn on a bicycle. The park covers 600 hectares. If on foot, you’ll need at least an hour to get from the reception to the campsite. That’s why you may want to bring your bike over or rent one (≈9$ per 3 hours). In fact, the bike will help you to explore the entire site and enjoy the summer at its fullest.
Have a yoga class. The tranquility and silence of Nikola Lenivets invite for yoga and meditation. Sign up for a class (≈10$) or roll out your mat near the river and step aside from all the hustle and bustle of city life. You can take a swim in the river afterwards, only be aware of the current.
4. Ride a horse. There are stables in the village of Zvizji near the art park, and their horses are the kindest and gentlest creatures. The guide will take you along the scenic trails through woodlands and meadows of the Ugra National Park (≈18$ per 1 hour).
5. Check out the eco-farm and the bee-yard. Farmers Anna and Sergey Morozov cultivate more than 75 kinds of agricultural plants. They supply local products for the salad bar, which is one of the dining spots on site. The bee-yard across the road from the Art Kazarma Hostel is home to ten colonies of non-aggressive Carpathian honey bees. Here you can learn about bee breeding and taste the local honey. Visiting is free; all products are available for sale.
6. Learn to make wooden sculptures. Local artists and artisans of cottage industry show how to shape an expressive form of natural materials. You will create a wooden toy and take your creation home as a souvenir. Make sure to sign up for the class (≈18$ per person). If you’d like to study architecture and land art professionally, enroll into the summer school to set up your own landmark. The course is taught in Russian and English in collaboration with the Global Practice Unit borderless MA in architecture.
7. Experience the Russian banya. Similar to Finnish sauna and Turkish hammam, banya is a bathing ritual, consisting of wet heat session and massage with a birch or oak besom (venik). Bureau Ob’em presents an architectural banya with a steam room, shower and a terrace. You can book it at the reception (≈35$ per 2 hours).
Where to eat
The Ugra café is open daily from 9 AM to 10 PM in the summer season; they serve simple and straightforward food made from local products. The salad bar at the farm always has great vegetarian meals to treat you with. There’s a canteen at the guest house in Koltsovo, 4 km away from the entrance to the art park. Also, you can rent a grill and make your own bbq (≈6$ per 3 hours).
Where to stay
You can rent one of the designer houses or book a room in the Art Kazarma Hostel or the guest house in Koltsovo. There are two campsites – near the farm and near the Ugra Café that are open June to August. Shower, WC and a phone charging station are available. Alternatively you can bring your own tent to one of the tent camping sites within Nikola Lenivets.
How to get there
Nikola Lenivets is located in the Kaluga Region near the village of Kondrovo.
Option 1: You can rent a car to drive there from Moscow; 200 km can be covered in 3,5 hours. UberX offers trips for ≈85$; if split between 4 passengers, it’s quite reasonable.
Option 2: The Kaluga airport (KLF) offers regular flights from Vnukovo, Moscow, and Pulkovo, Saint Petersburg.
Option 3: The railway: Kaluga is connected to all the major Russian cities by railway. If you are going from Moscow, take a commuter train from the Kiyevsky railway terminal to the Kaluga-1 station (≈8$, 3 hours). Then get a taxi to the park (72 km, ≈21$ per a car for 4 to 6 people).
Option 4: There’s a regular bus to Kaluga from the Teply Stan bus terminal, Moscow (≈8$, 3 hours). The bus from Kaluga to Kodrovo costs ≈4$, and you’ll need a taxi to the park.
Have some spare cash, the park is located in middle of a wilderness, so local business is not in the position to install payment terminals and AMTs over there. You can find enough ATMs in Kaluga. Entrance fee is ≈5$ unless you book housing or purchase a ticket to an event. Paid car parking is provided. Wi-Fi is available in eateries, guests houses and hostels.