When you think of travelling in Russia, all the usual tourist hotspots probably spring to mind: the Black Sea, Saint Petersburg, Moscow – anywhere else is ‘just too far away,’ right? Livejournal Magazine disagrees. We're on hand with a list of great Russian destinations that are worth the long trip to cross off your bucket list.
The Putorana Plateau is one of the few places on Earth where nature has not been disturbed by man. Located in the north of Krasnoyarsk Region, it isn’t a hugely popular tourist haunt thanks to its remote location. The mountain group reaches to a dizzying 1701m high and covers some 250 000 km2, roughly the size of Great Britain. The area’s indigenous population, the Evenks, originally believed that the plateau was the home of the Fire God, master of hell.
The habitats found here are incredibly diverse: from mountain fenlands, scrub forests, magnificent fir forests to Arctic stone deserts, and glaciers. The wildlife also includes a number of endangered species including lynx, reindeer, sea eagles, sables, and gyrfalcons.
Dare to travel this far into the wild, and you’ll see a unique landscape of flat mountain tops and vertical cliffs, river valleys and lakes, and the dried out beds of river and waterfalls.
Established at the end of the 20th century, the Putorana Nature Reserve takes up the greater part of the plateau. Guided hiking tours are very popular, as are canoeing and fishing trips with the abundance of graylings, whitefish and burbots in Lake Keta beyond the Arctic Circle. A vacation here will require you to be in good physical shape, but the primeval nature and the clean air of the Siberian mountains are very much worth it.
Another area renowned for its wild beauty is Taganay, a group of mountain ridges in the Southern Urals of the Chelyabinsk Region. Soaring to its highest point on Mount Kruglitsa at 1178 m, the mountain range stretches some 25 km. In the rocky saddle between Mount Kruglitsa and Otkliknoy Crest lies the Valley of Fairy Tales, where wind, water and other natural forces have shaped the residual rocks into the shapes of various fairy tale creatures.
Taganay translates as ‘moon pedestal’ in the native Bashkir language, and at nights it sometimes looks as if the Moon is comfortably resting on the peaks of the mountains. The national park is 260 km from Yekaterinburg, 140 km from Chelyabinsk, and 265 km from Ufa. Every year, hundreds of tourists come to see the old mineral mines, travel through several habitats in an hour, and try to catch a glimpse of the numerous wild birds and animals. A variety of guided tours are available, ranging from several hours to several days long. Some of routes are wheelchair accessible.
Another item on our bucket list is the 116-kilometer-long River Ivdel, which runs through the regions Tyumen and Sverdlovsk. The river banks are famous for their natural and archeological secrets. There are several stone age campsites here, as well as a large cave once used as a place of sacrifice.
A number of other attractions are found not far from the river, while the mountain views have to be seen to be believed.
There is no such thing as too many trips to the mountains, and our next choice is the Ergaki National Park in the Krasnoyarsk Region. Stretching for 75 kilometers over 343,000 hectares, the mountain tops were named after their strange shapes: the Star Peak (the park’s highest point at 2264 m), the Youth Peak, the Bird, the Dragon’s Tooth, the Parabola. There is a large number of glacial lakes in the national park, and its wildlife includes many endangered plant and animal species.
Guided tours are available, and one of the most popular and mysterious sights in the park is the 80 ton hanging rock that teeters over the edge of Lake Raduzhnoye. Locals believe that when the rock does fall, the mythical Sleeping Sayan warrior will wake. The mountain bearing the Sleeping Sayan name is clearly visible from the lake.
The next item requires no introduction. Lake Baikal is a dream destination for practically everyone, but few people actually make it here thanks to its remote location. The fact that most of the animals in the area are endemic species adds to the charm. The area of the deepest freshwater lake on Earth is comparable to the size of Belgium, Moldavia, or Albania. The lake’s coastline is over 2000 km long and at their deepest, the waters plunge 1642 m. Despite the recent spread of spirogyra algae in the area, the water is so clear that you can see the bottom as deep as 40 meters down.
The ice which forms on the lake is a story of its own. By the end of winter, it can reach two meters thick - during severe frosts it cracks, dividing the lake into separate zones. These ice cracks sometimes reach 30 km in length and three meters in width, and the sound of ice cracking is often compared to thunder. The forms the ice takes is also unique to Lake Baikal, forming hills several meters high.
Last, but not least, are the enigmatic Caucasus mountains in Russia’s south. Thanks to their generous climate, you can find things to do here all year round: enjoy winter sunbathing, go skiing, hike to see Europe’s tallest mountains, caves, lakes, and waterfalls, drink mineral water straight from the spring, and learn about dozens of different local cultures.
You can go mountain climbing or horse riding, hike to the glaciers, take a course of mineral water treatment, or indulge in numerous other activities offered by the region. Travel infrastructure here is much better developed than in other mountain regions of Russia thanks to its popularity and location. The possibilities are endless.