The Volga, Samara
The sandy banks of the Volga in World Cup host city, Samara, is probably the best inland beach Russia has to offer. Parallel to the wide, long stretch of sand that fills up with sun-seekers during summer, is the Samara Embankment, an enjoyable promenade that buzzes in summer. The Zhiguli Brewery, the manufacturer of the iconic Zhigulevskoye beer, overlooks the northern end and is a great spot for a sundowner. Wheelchair access at various points makes this beach enjoyable and accessible for all.
Absolutely stunning and in the heart of Siberia, Lake Baikal is famed for being the world’s deepest freshwater lake and home to Olkhon Island, a popular spot for outdoor adventurists all year round. Endless blue water meets sweeping mountain ranges creating breath taking views that make this place prime for envy inspiring holiday snaps, if you can take your eyes off the nerpa seals and local wildlife, that is. It is also a good little detour from the Trans-Siberian for a couple of days, getting off at Irkutsk. If you visit in winter you can drive, walk or take a hovercraft across it.
Stretching across 78 kilometres, Lake Teletskoye or the Golden Lake, is Altai Republic’s largest body of water and is another vast, landlocked gem. Around 70 rivers and over 100 temporary water streams filter into it. Sitting between the Korbu and Al-tyntu ranges, it is surrounded by mountains to the north and the south, and has spectacular rugged vistas filled with gorges, creeks, caves and picturesque bays. Easily accessed by the villages of Artybash and Iogach, the more intrepid tourist can hike to even more serene spots and venture into the Altaisky Nature Reserve to get a proper taste of Russia’s vast wilderness.
Europe’s second largest lake is not just spectacular, but it is also an important historical site. Kizhi Island, one of the lake’s 1,650 islands, has over 80 wooden churches and buildings that date back to the 15th century scattered throughout it. Kizhi is also home to the World Heritage listed Kizhi Pogost, a 17th century church and bell tower complex, complete with a church topped with an impressive 22 domes. And along the lake’s eastern shores are around 120 rock engravings that date right back to the fourth and second century. North of St Petersburg and west of Finland, the city of Petrozavodsk, sits along the shoreline, but you can easily find a little pocket all to yourself should you want it.
Right in the heart of St Petersburg, scores of locals sun themselves on the banks of the Neva over summer and there is plenty of shoreline to sunbathe on. One of the most popular spots, next to the Peter and Paul Fortress, gives you a spectacular view of the Hermitage. Perhaps not the cleanest body of water Russia has to offer, in fact it is fairly polluted, people do still swim in it regardless. Taking a dip is your choice but the banks are prime summer time real estate for city-goers looking to soak up some rays.
However if you do feel like a swim and are up for a trip out of St Petersburg, Lake Ladoga, a water source for the Neva (and much cleaner), is only 25 kilometres north of the city. It is the largest lake in Europe, and you can definitely swim here. Being so big, forests, caves, springs, dunes and sand banks line the lake’s vast shores, so plan your visit or get excited about exploring. Most of the lake’s islands are north west, which also has several quaint, historical villages nearby too. Try Shilsselburg, Priozersk or Sortlavala to start your explorations.
Another Altai Mountain treasure, Lake Kucherla is a mountain top beauty that sits 5,870 feet above sea in the Katun Nature Reserve. Surrounded by alpine meadow and breathtaking mountain tops, this may not be the inland beach holiday equivalent of Sochi, but after the long trek to get here, the water will be just as refreshing. Together with Lake Teletskoye, Belukha Mountain and the Ukok Plateau, Lake Kucherla makes up the World Heritage site dubbed the Golden Mountains of Altai.