Think you know Russia? Think again.
The world’s largest nation has thousands of secret wonders to be discovered, from volcanic islands to cities full of bones. Moscow and St. Petersburg are cool, but don’t get stuck in the typical Russian destinations.
Check out our list of the top 18 places to visit in Russia below!
- Krenitsyn volcano, Kuril islands of Onekotan
When you think “Pacific Island,” Russia doesn’t usually come to mind. However, Russia does have some of its very own Pacific islands, although they aren’t exactly tropical.
Onekotan Island is an uninhabited Russian island that offers stunning views of Krenitsyn Volcano, which is located in the middle of the lake in the island. It’s an island within an island!
The volcano has only erupted once since people started paying attention to these kinds of things. That was all the way back in the 50’s, so you’re probably safe if you want to check out one of the most beautiful nature places in Russia.
- Dargavs – City of the Dead
Dargavs is a village that is shrouded in mystery. From afar, the town appears to be a friendly little village, but its houses are filled with macabre piles of death.
Once, this settlement was a living village, but today, hundreds of years later, it only houses the deceased. Many generations of nearby families have buried their dead in the little white houses on the hillside.
Nobody knows why, and nobody wants to get too close. Perhaps a plague swept through the village and the dead were left in the homes, which were eventually regarded as family tombs.
If you want to visit, be prepared for a rocky journey! Dargavs is difficult to get to, and the road is treacherous.
- Manpupuner Rock Formations
The Manpupuner Rock Formations is a collection of seven gigantic, oddly-shaped pillars standing up on a flat landscape, with no apparent origin and for no apparent reason. They’re like Russia’s Stonehenge or its Easter Island Heads.
They are a mystery to us—nobody even knows whether they are natural or were set up by ancient people. Locals have attached spiritual significance to the formations, believing that spirits meet here.
Rock climbers from around the world have tried—and failed—to scale their impossible sides.
- The Mirny Diamond Mine
Although the Mirny Mine closed in 2011, it remains a fascinating location. For half a century, it produced a huge mass of high-quality diamonds for Russia.
The hole left by the open-pit mine is almost as big as the town that grew up around it, and it has the honor of being among the top five open-pit mines in the world both for depth and for width. A very cool place to visit in Russia!
- Lake Baskunchak
Although you may never have heard of Lake Baskunchak, it has played a significant role in Russia’s economy since the 8th Century.
This lake has an apparently unending supply of salt; nobody has been able to find the bottom of the salt deposits within the lake. Today, Baskunchak provides over three quarters of Russia’s salt.
There is also archaeological and geological significance to the area. Near the lake is a hill, which contains interesting caves as well as a treasure trove of well-preserved fossils.
One of the largest natural explosions ever to occur happened in Tunguska, Russia in 1908.
This massive air burst was thought to have been caused by an exploding space object that entered earth’s atmosphere. While the explosion felled a good amount of trees in the forest and affected the atmosphere across Eurasia, fortunately nobody was killed.
Eyewitnesses say that the explosion looked like a second sun and sounded like gunshots. Today, the site’s vegetation has begun to recover from the blast, but a huge crater remains.
Does the coldest town on earth sound like a good tourist destination to you?
For a few, it’s fun to spend a couple days here and try to live like the locals. This involves using outdoor restrooms, leaving your car running all the time so it doesn’t freeze and die, and eating only horse meat and reindeer meat to stay alive.
It might not sound great to you, but for the 500 inhabitants of Oymyakon, it’s a way of life. Their key to survival in the freezing temperatures? Thermal pools nearby that never freeze, so cattle and people can get a drink.
- Veliky Novgorod
Novgorod is not particularly famous, but maybe it should be. It’s a World Heritage Site, and for good reason.
This place has a smorgasbord of interesting places to visit, from the Kremlin Wall to gorgeous cathedrals. It’s also existed since the 9th Century, so there’s plenty of history to explore.
The city is located between St. Petersburg and Moscow, so if you ever find yourself in either city, be sure to take a trip to Veliky Novgorod. You’ll be amazed at how much you can discover in here.
- Solovetsky Islands (Solovki)
Nothing says “remote” like monasteries and prison camps. How ironic that the monks came for hope and the prison camps came for hopelessness!
The Solovetsky Islands, located in the middle of the White Sea, are beautiful—a few weeks each year. The rest of the year, they are either foggy beyond belief or freezing cold. So if you decide to visit these historic islands, be sure to come in the summer.
And do visit, because there is much to see in the Solovetsky islands. The monastery has existed for centuries and is an important historical center. There is even a museum there now. Many tourists make this a top destination to visit while in Russia.
- Kolomna Kremlin
Kolomna is not very popular among foreign tourists and you rarely hear something about such city, as Kolomna. But in the 16th century, Kremlin in Kolomna was considered one of the largest constructions of the time and has very rich history.
Unfortunately, up to now the Kremlin didn’t remain in the original state – over time some monuments of architecture were lost.
- Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd
Mamayev Kurgan – the memorial architectural complex devoted to heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad of World War II. Volgograd (in Soviet past Stalingrad) – the city in the south of Russia where in 1942-1943 passed fierce battles between the Soviet and fascist armies.
As a result of 200-day fights in Stalingrad the victory was won by the Soviet army, and it became a turning point during World War II. In total number, in battles of Stalingrad from both sides more than 2 million people perished.
The architectural complex Mamayev Kurgan was constructed in 1959-1967 in a place where hundreds of thousands of soldiers perished. Center and most famous part of Kurgan’s memorial is the monument “The Motherland Calls” which height makes 85 meters. Here I compared “The Motherland Calls” statue and statue of Liberty in New York.
- Kizhi Pogost
There are some places in the world that look as if they sprung from a fairy tale, and Kizhi Pogost is one of them.
This beautiful church was built entirely of wood, supposedly without a single nail. The wood was fit together just so, holding itself together without the help of spikes. The builders apparently knew what they were doing, because it’s been standing for about 300 years.
And it’s not your fourth-grade pop-sickle stick hut, either. The main building is an incredibly intricate structure with dozens of teardrop-shaped roofs. The two smaller buildings are impressive, too, with a similar design created on a smaller scale.
- Valley of Geysers, Kamchatka
Geysers – a rather unusual natural occurrence, meeting in the USA (in Yellowstone Park), Iceland and New Zealand. Geysers can also be watched in Russia, on one of its most eastern territories – the Kamchatka islands.
It is necessary to mark that Kamchatka is well-known for the unique nature. And those who are financially stable (a week visit to Kamchatka costs no less than $2,000) – should travel to Kamchatka with no doubt!
- Trinity-Sergius Monastery, Sergiev Posad
Trinity-Sergius Monastery located in the city of Sergiev Posad near Moscow. The Monastery is the largest religious sight in Russia and its one of the most beautiful Russian churches.
The ensemble of Trinity-Sergius monastery includes more than 50 constructions, which are most known from the Trinity and Assumption Cathedrals (Uspensky sobor). Since 1993 the known Russian sight is under UNESCO protection.
In case you visit the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius and other religious places in Russia, it is recommended to observe orthodox orders. So, women shouldn’t wear short skirts. Below the knee and other defiant clothes should be worn, along with a scarf on the head. Before men enter the temple remove hats. Shorts and undershirts here aren’t acceptable even in hot weather.
- Lake Baikal, Siberia
Lake Baikal is worthy to be in the top 3 places to visit in Russia, but there are even more famous sights located in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Certainly, Lake Baikal is the most famous natural sight in Russia. It is necessary to mark the fact that Baikal is the deepest lake on Earth – the greatest depth here makes 1637 meters (it’s around 5370 feet).
The purest air, unique landscapes, feelings of freedom and tranquility – all this Baikal grants to its visitors. You can learn more about Lake Baikal in my travel guide.
- Peterhof, St. Petersburg
Peterhof – the small town which is less than an hour drive from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Peterhof was based in 1710 and was the country of residence of the Russian emperors. This is a very popular place to tourists visiting the northern capital of Russia. Peterhof is surely should be in your list of must things to do in St. Petersburg.
The most interesting places in Peterhof are the Lower Gardens, the Upper gardens and the Grand Peterhof Palace.
- Palace Square, St. Petersburg
Palace Square – the heart of St. Petersburg. The architectural structure of the area is formed by the Winter palace, General staff building with the Triumphal arch and the Alexander column.
The Winter Palace, built in the 18th century, is the best-known landmark on Palace Square. From the moment of the end of construction, from 1762 to 1904 it was used as the official winter residence of the Russian emperors.
These days the Winter palace is part of the Hermitage – one of the largest cultural and historical museums of the world.
- Red Square, Moscow
Red Square in Moscow is the #1 place to visit in Russia. It’s possibly the most popular and recognizable place in the country.
On Red Square there are such known sights, such as Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum, a monument to Minin and Pozharsky, the State historical museum, the Kazan cathedral and Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
The Moscow Kremlin is the official residence of the president of the Russian Federation. Expansion of walls on the Kremlin makes 2500 meters and it is the largest remained and operating fortress in Europe.
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