The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Russia

The ice caves on Olkhon Island in Siberia are one of the most stunning sites on a visit to Baikal Lake
The ice caves on Olkhon Island in Siberia are one of the most stunning sites on a visit to Baikal Lake | © Pakorn Chunhaswasdikul / Alamy Stock Photo
Zita Whalley

It’s no surprise a country as vast as Russia has a lot of top-of-the-bucket-list travel destinations. Truly, this is a country of immense natural splendour. From ancient mountain ranges to ocean-sized lakes, from remote rugged wilderness to picturesque countryside, here are some of the most beautiful spots to visit in the world’s largest nation.

1. Lake Kardyvach

Natural Feature

Russia. Caucasus. Mountains are reflected in the lake Kardyvach.
© ivan_abornev / Getty Images

Sandwiched between three mountain tops and fertile alpine meadows, Lake Kardyvach’s beauty is topped off by cascading waterfalls. It is just 44km (27mi) away from the popular Krasnaya Polyana in the Sochi region, and a good hiking destination for those adventurers who want to dip into Russia’s remoteness.

2. Olkhon Island

Natural Feature

Mountain Shamanka, Burkhan Cape, one of the nine most sacred places in Asia on Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal in Siberia Russia
© Remo Savisaar / Alamy Stock Photo

Craggy cliffs and serene bays mark Olkhon Island’s coastline, the largest island in Lake Baikal. Tucked away in Siberia’s vast wilderness, it is an important shamanic site for the Buryat people who are indigenous to Siberia.

3. Ussuri Bay

Natural Feature

Popular place Steklyannaya also known as Kitovaya Bay near Vladivostok in autumn.
© Alex-VN / Alamy Stock Photo

A short drive out of Vladivostok – a city less than 500km (311mi) from the borders of both North Korea and China – Ussuri Bay is a unique anomaly of nature. Over time, thousands of discarded bottles and broken bits of glass have been smoothed over by Mother Nature, and now appear as multicoloured pebbles lining the rugged shoreline.

5. Ruskeala

Natural Feature

Ruskeala marble quarry, Karelia, Russia (1)
© Roman Evgenev/Shutterstock

The northwesterly region of Karelia is known for its lush beauty, and the scenery surrounding the small town of Ruskeala is the region’s crowning glory. Ruskeala Mountain Park is a water-filled ravine, where holidaymakers can boat, hike and swim.

6. Krasnaya Polyana

Architectural Landmark

Cableway of Krasnaya Polyana resort. Sochi, Russia. Image shot 11/2019. Exact date unknown.
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

The 2014 Winer Olympics put Krasnaya Polyana’s snow-capped mountains on the map and they remain a popular ski destination today. It is a scenic drive from Sochi up to the mountain village of the same name, from which the world-class ski fields and views can be accessed.

7. Solovki Islands

Natural Feature

Russia. Arkhangelsk region. Solovetsky monastery
© Andrey Soloviev / Alamy Stock Photo

In Russia’s northwest, the remote Solovki archipelago in Onega Bay in the White Sea used to house a notoriously grim gulag during Soviet times. Now, however, ancient cemeteries and old monasteries lure travellers to these windswept islands.

8. Dargavs

Architectural Landmark

Dargavs, the medieval city of the dead in the mountains of the Caucasus. North Ossetia. Shot on a drone.
© Aliaksei Skreidzeleu / Alamy Stock Photo

In the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, an ancient cemetery attached to the village of Dargavs remains, built into the dramatic, misty mountainside. Also called the City of the Dead, there are over a hundred stone tombs where villagers used to bury their dead along with their possessions and clothes.

9. Lake Teletskoye

Natural Feature

Transparent cleanest water of Teletskoye or Golden lake. Altai mountains summer landscape, Russia
© Rvo233 / Alamy Stock Photo

The Altai Republic is one of Russia’s most beautiful regions and this mountaintop lake is one of the region’s must-sees. Along the shoreline of this 70km (43mi) lake are steep gorges, rugged rockface, caves, waterfalls and beautiful bays.

10. Kaliningrad

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

The historic city center of Kaliningrad, Fishing Village, Russia
© PhotoRoman / Alamy Stock Photo

Russia’s most westerly enclave is home to Germanic architecture, a Baltic coastline and a green Birch forest. It is the Russian gateway to the windswept Curonian Spit.

11. Kizhi Island

Natural Feature

russian wooden architecture on Kizhi island. Image shot 09/2015. Exact date unknown.
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Another beautiful spot in Karelia, the 18th-century wooden churches that sit on the banks of Onega Bay’s Kishi Island are Unesco World Heritage-listed. It is estimated that the structures were built in 1713 (a clock tower was added in the 19th century) and they remain quality examples of medieval northern Russian and Scandinavian architecture.

12. Red Square

Shop, Store

Red Square, Moscow, Russia
© Karl Kost / Alamy Stock Photo
Moscow’s immense Red Square is the heart of the nation and time hasn’t weakened its historical importance or its grandiose presence. Flanked on one side by the Kremlin’s red walls and the historic GUM department store on the other, it is home to the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s mausoleum.

13. Peterhof Palace

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Grand Cascade in Peterhof, St Petersburg
© Sergey Borisov / Alamy Stock Photo

Technically located in a suburb of Russia’s second city, St Petersburg, the grounds and architecture of Peterhof Palace is a lavish display of baroque design and style. Often referred to as the Russian Versailles, the elaborate estate was built during Peter the Great’s reign.

14. Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Interior of Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia, Europe
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Domed churches and monasteries are scattered up and down Russia, but only a few are as rich in religious iconography as St Petersburg’s Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood. Built in the late 19th-century, the church is covered in intricate mosaics inside and out.

15. Mount Elbrus

Natural Feature

Mount Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe, and the tenth most prominent peak in the world. A dormant volcano, Elbrus is in the Caucasus Mountains
© Vladimir Glinskii / Alamy Stock Photo

The Caucasus mountain range in Russia’s south, near the Georgian border, boasts the highest peak in Europe. A dormant volcano, Elbrus reaches 5,642m (18,511ft) above sea level and offers spectacular views for experienced mountaineers and eager amateur adventurers.

16. Kola Peninsula

Natural Feature

Landscape at Polygonal Lakes, Khibiny mountains, Kola Peninsula, Russia
© Cultura Creative RF / Alamy Stock Photo

Almost completely within the Arctic Circle, the Kola Peninsula boasts the midnight sun in summer and brilliant displays of the northern lights in winter. The port city of Murmansk is an ideal base from which to depart into the wilderness of low mountains, tundra, abandoned villages and lakes.

17. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Natural Feature

© Aleksandrs Tihonovs / Alamy Stock Photo

The Kamchatka Peninsula was dubbed ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ thanks to a string of over 160 volcanoes, 29 of them still active. The peninsula’s main city, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, is flanked by two and is far more accessible than the volcano belt itself.

18. Mount Belukha

Natural Feature

Mount Belukha, also spelled Belucha, Russian Gora Belukha, one of the Katun Mountains, a series of snowcapped peaks in Russia. The highest mountain in
© photograch / Alamy Stock Photo

Mount Belukha is the highest peak in the Unesco-listed Golden Mountains of Altai. While climbing the peak requires mountaineering skill and experience, there are trekking trails for beginners as well.

19. Ural Mountains

Natural Feature, Building

Ural Mountains with sunrise illumination, Iremel
© Evgeny Prokofyev / Alamy Stock Photo
The ancient Ural mountain range runs through the middle of Russia, north to south. However, the most accessible point would be around Yekaterinburg where day trips and short hikes will take you through breathtaking scenery.

20. Dykh-Tau

Natural Feature

The view of north face of mount Dykh Tau in morning sunlight with a clear summit, in the mountains of the Russian Caucasus _
© Oleksandr Mazur / Alamy Stock Photo

Another Caucasus snow-capped peak, Dykh-Tau hulks over the Bezengi Valley, which is known as the ‘Russian Himalayas’ because it contains the highest snow tops in the region. Its altitude and remoteness means only a smattering of people live in the valley and even less attempt to climb the majestic mountain.

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