8 natural wonders in Russia that are (relatively) easy to reach (PHOTOS)

Legion Media
Want to wander through a permafrost kingdom or see smiling seals? Come to Russia.

Russia is full of geographical wonders, but many of them are far away from big cities and quite a challenge to reach. Fortunately, we’ve put together a list of incredible places that are relatively easy to get to.

1. Lake Baikal, Irkutsk Region

One of Russia’s most famous natural wonders and the symbol of Siberia, Baikal is both the largest lake and the largest source of fresh water in the world. In the summer, you can travel to Olkhon Island and encounter smiling Baikal seals. During the winter, the lake turns into a gigantic ice rink and attracts snow-running enthusiasts. The closest cities to Baikal are Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude, both of which are well connected to other big cities by plane and train.

2. Curonian Spit, Kaliningrad Region

Enjoy stunning views and long walks along the sand dunes at the scenic Curonian Spit National Park in western Russia. Almost a million tourists come here each year to enjoy dunes the size of multistory apartment complexes, tranquil pine forests and Baltic beaches that stretch on for kilometers. You can easily get there from Kaliningrad by bus.

3. Kungur Cave, Perm Region

The Urals’ freezing treasures can be found in the Kungur ice cave. Here you’ll get to see huge stalactites hanging over your head, look down at seemingly eternal glacial blocks beneath your feet and bottomless underground lakes. After emerging from a 40-meter tunnel, you will suddenly find yourself in a permafrost kingdom made up of ancient ice. The cave is located near the city of Kungur, which is easy to get to from Perm. 

4. Stolby Nature Sanctuary, Krasnoyarsk

The Stolby Nature Sanctuary with its stone pillars and mountains are located in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. You can easily spend the whole day in the taiga, surrounded by gigantic pink and grey cliffs. Centuries of battle against water, wind, and temperature fluctuations have produced some bizarre shapes and rock formations. It's the perfect place to escape the chaos of the city.

5. Elton Lake, Volgograd Region

Lake Elton is one of the most mineral-rich lakes in the world, making it kind of like Russia’s answer to the Dead Sea. Framed by the endless chamomile steppe, the saltwater basin is easy to reach by bus from Volgograd, Saratov or Astrakhan.

6. Ruskeala National Park, Karelia

Karelia is often called the “land of forests and lakes.” Over half of the region is wooded, and 40 percent of the land is covered with lakes, rivers and swamps. This incredible geography makes Karelia a popular destination for outdoor adventures. Perhaps the brightest place in Karelia is the Ruskeala mining park, which is famous for its crystal waterfalls. The nearest city is Sortavala, which you can get to from Petrozavodsk or St. Petersburg by train and then take a local bus.

7. Elbrus, Kabardino-Balkaria

Mount Elbrus, located in the Caucasus, is actually a composite volcano. It is the highest mountain in Russia, but you can get a good view without climbing to the top. Plus, climbing to the top of Elbrus is a serious endeavor that requires preparation and a professional guide. The closest big cities are Nalchik and Mineralnye Vody. From there, you can take local transport to Terskol, the most area’s popular resort town.

8. Altai Mountains

You may know that these mountains are often compared with the Alps because of their picturesque views and vast green meadows. The highest point is Mount Belukha, a UNESCO World Heritage site and part of the Golden Mountains of Altai. Russians call it Belukha, which comes from the world bely (“white”), since its peak is covered with snow year round.  The nearest cities to the Altai Mountains are Gorno-Altaysk and Barnaul, both of which have plenty of connections onward to other destinations.

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