Top Places to Visit in Russia: Best Sights to See the Russian Nature

 

Russia is the largest country in the world! It occupies over 17 million square kilometers. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are many unusual and interesting places to visit. In this article, we tried to compile the unique tourist destinations that you can reach by yourself or with us.

 

1.The Valley of Geysers, Kamchatka

The Valley of Geysers is located in the Far East of Russia, on the bank of the Pacific Ocean. his is the only geyser field in Eurasia and one of the largest in the world. It covers an area of about 2 square km. It was recently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here you can find over 20 large geysers and springs, periodically throwing fountains of boiling water or steam. Today, the Valley of Geysers is one of the most visited places in Russia! However, the valley is difficult to access, and its territory is a reserve. Wild tourism is banned in the Valley of Geysers. You may take the helicopter excursions, which have very strict requirements to preserve the ecosystem. Independent access of tourists to the Valley of Geysers is strictly limited.

 

2. Putorana Plateau, Siberia

This is one of the most ancient plateaus of volcanic origin! It is composed of basalt from the Siberian Traps. Putorana Plateau is also the northernmost plateau in the world. As everything in Russia, the plateau is huge! We can compare its area to the area of Great Britain. “Putorana” means “lakes with steep shores”. Putorana State Nature Reserve was listed as a UNESCO site.

The highest mountain stands 1700 m above sea level. Because of the special mountain landscape, even the smallest river forms several waterfalls along its course. The plateau is often called the land of canyons and waterfalls, since here is the largest concentration of waterfalls in Russia.

The nature of the area is picturesque, there are rare species of plants, animals and birds. Walking tours, cycling tours, helicopter tours are organized on the plateau. Rafting along the mountainous rivers is also possible. Northern fishing may interest fishermen.

Photo by Sergei Gorshkov
 
Photo by S Kaznov

3. Lake Baskunchak and Elton, Astrakhan region

Lake Baskunchak is the Dead Sea of Russia. It’s the huge lake in 1000 km from Moscow with a 30% concentration of salt! The level of the lake is 21 meters below sea level. Since the 8th century, salt has been mined here. Now the pure salt of the lake accounts for 80% of the total salt production in Russia. Tourists also love to enjoy clays and mud on the bank of the lake in the summer months.

The natural conditions of the area are unique. Only a very special plant grows along the shore of the lake. They turn the steppe into a flowering carpet. Different water birds walk in the shallow on their long legs. Sun and clouds reflects in the lake surface, making a peaceful landscape. Because of the special bacteria coloring mud in the pink, so clouds and the water look pink, too!

 

4. Oymyakon, Yakutia

The city of Oymyakon in Yakutia is famous for being the coldest place in the Northern Hemisphere. Now it received the unofficial name “the Pole of Cold”. The officially registered minimum temperature was -69.6 С degrees. In 1916, the temperature dropped to -82 degrees, which is only 7 degrees lower than the record in Antarctica. We translate the name of the city as “ferocious frost”. The population is about 500 people.

The road near the Pole of Cold is often called the “Road of Bones”. Less than 100 years ago, in Stalin’s time, prisoners walked along this road on foot, but some of them hadn’t reached the GULAG camps.

The distance from Moscow to Oymyakon is about 9200 km by car. It takes 130 hours of extremely interesting driving (sarcasm) to get there! If you arrive by plane, you will see a strange wooden house with two forever closed windows and a sign “Oymyakon Airport”. You may comfortably wait for you plain in the nice room with broken doors and no furniture. This is a waiting room.

Despite its location, there are regular excursions and tours, rather unusual expeditions for those who want to do the real cryotherapy (cold treatment) and meet the local traditions and unusual lifestyle.

 

5. Elbrus, Caucasus

Elbrus is the largest mountain in Russia and Europe reaching 5642 meters above sea level. It is considered being one of the seven wonders of our country. Elbrus is sung by poets and glorified by climbers. In Elbrus it is possible to go skiing, drink mineral water narzan and enjoy Caucasian hospitality with a barbecue and wines.

The mountain is actually an ancient volcano, that erupted a long time ago. Most of the slopes of Elbrus are gentle up to a height of 4000 meters, then they become steep and rocky with snow and ice. Several dozen glaciers descend from Elbrus in all directions making the landscape spectacular.

The legendary mountain has always attracted people with its mysterious beauty. The Elbrus region is extremely popular among skiers, runners, and climbers since Soviet times. If you are experienced alpinist climbing to Elbrus from north, you may see a line of people climbing to the top every morning. It’s a Russian Everest!

 

6. Baikal Lake, Siberia

Baikal is unique! It is the deepest lake and possibly the oldest lake on the planet. It stores almost a quarter of the world’s freshwater resources. Water is so clear that you can see bottom through up to a depth of 40 meters! The lake is spectacular!

Baikal looks like a sea. Its serene blue expanse extends almost to the horizon, and on the shores sacred rocky cliffs give way to sandy beaches. Almost half of the species of the entire flora and fauna of Baikal are unique and do not exist anywhere else on Earth. For example, you may meet funny fresh-water animals similar to seals. They are cute and fat animals with huge saucer eyes and love to bask on warm coastal rocks.

In the autumn, storms with strong winds blow. Baikal freezes only in the second half of January, the ice melts only in May. The Baikal ice is like the water; it is surprisingly clear. People travel Baikal in winter to see huge fields of transparent ice with wonderful cracks and bubbles.

The Circum-Baikal Railway is a historic railway; in the past it was part of the Trans-Siberian Railway 94 km long. Now it is a kind of museum of railway architecture with many monuments of engineering art, including tunnels and more bridges.

Olkhon is the largest and the most famous island of Baikal Lake. Its natural beauty and diversity of landscapes are marvelous. Steppes, dense forests, swamps, harsh cliffs and dunes with sandy beaches attracts many tourists. Olkhon is also great to experience the culture of shamanism.

 

7. Altai Mountains

The Altai Mountains is a huge mountain system between Kazakhstan and West-Siberian Lowland. Actually, it’s the gate to four countries: Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

Altai is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thousands of tourists come there with tours or as independent travelers. The latter is easy! Just fly to Gorno-Altaisk, rent a car and travel the Chuisky Tract, an amazing road crossing Altai. Or take an amazing tour!

Altai has everything: snowy peaks, wild rivers, endless plains, pristine lakes and landscapes of incredible beauty. The nature is full of contrasts here. In the northeast, people live in the taiga surrounded by small mountains, in the south there are no trees at all, and the land itself rises 2,000 meters above sea level. In the south, herds of camels and yaks graze, in the north only cows and horses are bred.

The local life has hardly changed for decades: herds of horses are still grazing here, people believe in spirits, and mobile communications appear sporadically. There are villages here that cannot be reached by car for most of the year, and the people carry water by the beams and bake bread themselves.

Before the Soviet times, indigenous Altai people settled here a few kilometers from each other and walked a lot, driving cattle for the winter to the mountains, where the wind exposed grassy slopes. Children mount horses earlier than they walk. Now you may still meet their way of life.

 

8. Vasyugan Mires, Western Siberia

Largest wetland system in the world is located in Western Siberia, stretching for hundreds of kilometers in every direction. Its area larger than Switzerland! Vasyugan bogs are 10 thousand years old. The peat depth reaches 10 meters here. It’s also the main source of fresh water with many rivers originating from it. Flora and fauna include rare species. Cranberries, blueberries and cloudberries are widespread among wild plants.

Vasyugan Mire is amazing from the air! You may see all forms of wetlands and feel the distance. You can also have a walk in the mire. Don’t worry, it’s absolutely safe! These wetlands do not bog you down, so you may enjoy its peaceful landscapes and even enjoy swimming in one of the many small lakes.

 

9. Pinega Caves, Russian North

Pinega caves are one of the unique and unexplored sights of the Russian North! Only rare Russians visit it… majority of tourists go to Kungur Caves or just pass these amazing structure of the Earth.

Pinega is a small village in the picturesque corner of the Russian north, not so far from Arkhangelsk town. Pinega village is surrounded by Pinega National Reserve famous for its pristine, untouched nature. Until the 20th century, a man’s foot did not step on this area! Here you can see how northern nature would look without human beings.

Pinega is also unique for gypsum (not a regular limestone!) caves. For many years, water destroyed rocks forming colorful mineral deposits with many stalactites and stalagmites. Long halls and tunnels, small chambers and the disappearing lakes attract tourists in winter and summer. Every year new corridors are discovered, entrances open and close, failures and oddly shaped ice structures arise. In the winter, Pinega caves look like the Ice Kingdom with frozen rivers and waterfalls or just thick cover of huge snowflakes and ice crystals on the cave walls.

Even more interesting is to see the local life of Pinega people. Wooden houses, a road full of potholes, no supermarkets and rare gas stations. The area is wild but easily accessible by a car that makes it a perfect idea of authentic travel!

 

10. Ergaki National Park, Sayan Mountains

The Ergaki natural park is a mountainous area between Khakassia and Tuva. It lasts for 80 kilometers, forming one of the Western Sayan ridges. For the unique natural conditions, Ergaki is also called the “Pearl of Siberia”. The beauty of the place may impress every traveler: wild taiga, majestic mountain ranges with cliffs, crystal clear of mountain lakes. In 2005, the park “Ergaki” received world recognition and a special status of the hundredth number in the WWF list.

In Siberia, Ergaki is a very popular place for outdoors recreation and climbing. But in the European part of Russia, few people know about the mountain park. Most of the tourist trails and sites are marked on the map available in the Internet. All trails and passes are marked with different colors according to the level of complexity which is not usual for Russia!

Ergaki attract tourists also with its accessibility. You can reach the park driving the federal highway. Only three or four hours of road tripping from Krasnoyarsk, and you find yourself in the heart of the Western Sayans! What an amazing place to see along with the famous Stolby Nature Reserve.