As the world’s largest country, Russia is full of relatively little known natural wonders that receive few international visitors. The difficulty of reaching them puts some travellers off but if you fancy a real adventure for your next trip, this post on the most beautiful places in Russia may provide a bit of inspiration.
5 of the Most Beautiful Places in Russia
Located in the extreme east of Russia, the Kamchatka Peninsula is home to a large group of volcanoes which flank the winding Kamchatka River. The Kuril–Kamchatka ocean trench is the source of plenty of seismic activity meaning earthquakes are quite common while 29 of the volcanoes are considered active. The most famous is Kronotskaya Sopka – considered one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world.
The Kamchatka peninsula’s most striking feature was the famous Valley of Geysers, a stunning basin of geysers and hot springs. However sadly it was partially destroyed by a large mudslide in 2007 meaning visits today aren’t quite as impressive as they were in yesteryear.
A few hundred kilometres north of the Mongolian border, you will find the vast Lake Baikal. It is a true natural wonder in every sense, being the world’s deepest lake with a reported depth of around 1600 metres in parts. It is also the largest lake by water volume with over 20% of the world’s fresh surface water in Baikal.
For visitors, the lake has plenty to offer. You can enjoy its beaches and islands, dive into its pure waters, hike around its shores and even enjoy its thermal saunas. Overall, it’s the sense of being free and so far from modern civilization that really stands out in what is unquestionably one of the most unique places in Russia.
Stolby National Park
Continuing west through the enormous Siberian region which accounts for most of Northern Asia, you reach the Stolby National Park, another of the most beautiful places in Russia. It’s relatively easy to get to, as it is situated just outside the city of Krasnoyarsk which is served by direct flights to most major Russian cities.
Stolby is best known for its dramatic rock formations which jump out of green forests, some of which are easy to explore on foot. Access is restricted in other areas due to the difficulty of the ascents and efforts to preserve nature. The region has attracted explorers for many centuries and has emerged as one of Russia’s biggest destinations for ecotourism.
Mount Elbrus is the highest peak in Europe and one of the tallest mountains in the world outside of Asia. At 5642 metres above sea level, Elbrus is a difficult ascent but is an appealing destination for climbers based in Europe looking for a big challenge closer to home.
Once the snow sets in, the region is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Russia in winter and Elbrus towers high above the Caucasus Mountain Range which separates Russia from neighbouring Georgia. Mount Elbrus has two peaks of a similar height and those not wanting to brave the climb can take advantage of the cable car system which takes visitors over halfway up the mountain to a height of around 3650 metres.
Finally we head to the northwestern Kola Peninsula, situated almost completely in the Arctic Circle, adjacent to Northern Finland. It’s one of the best places to visit in Russia in summer or winter, although depending on when you come, the experience will be very different!
During the winter months, the big freeze sets in, days are short but the Kola Peninsula rewards visitors by offering up some of the best opportunities to witness the northern lights that you will find in Russia. In summer, it turns into the land of the midnight sun and it’s a bit easier to get around and visit the lakes and discover spooky abandoned villages.
Getting a Russian Visa
The challenge of getting into Russia does put some travellers off visiting. The majority of visitors require a visa in order to enter the country and the exact requirements will depend on where you’re from and your reasons for visiting.
There are Russian embassies across the world that can assist you in the process and in most cases it is only necessary to meet basic requirements in order to get access to the country. There are also various travel agencies that can help you with the paperwork. It is nothing special, however can be a little confusing for first time visitors.
It is necessary to have a valid passport that won’t expire in the next six months at the moment of submitting the application. As well as the application form, two photos of the same size as those in your passport are typically required.
A Russian invitation is also a helpful document when it comes to supporting your application, and you may get the visa more easily if you possess one of these.
This article was published in August 2021.