The 30 best places to visit in Western Russia

 

North west from the Russian capital, Moscow, around halfway to the city of Saint Petersburg in Tver Oblast Federal Subject is Lake Seliger, within which is Stolobny Island, home to the Nilov Monastery. Founded in 1594 AD most of the buildings that are visible today were built in the 18th and 19th century. In what was once one of the largest and wealthiest monasteries in the Russian Empire, it is today one of the most impressive ensembles of neoclassical architecture in Eastern Europe.

30. Nilov Monastery

 

In the south of North Ossetia-Alania Federal Subject, just north from the mountainous border with Georgia is the village of Dargavs, famous for the Alanian Necropolis, which goes by the nickname, 'City Of The Dead'. Comprising ninety-nine different tombs and crypts, some believe the oldest of these date back to the 12th century, though can certainly be confirmed from the 16th century onward. Because legend says if a man dares walk into the cemetery they won't come out alive, the locals almost never visit. And because of the long and tough road into the mountains, tourists are also very few and far between.

29. Dargavs

 

Established in 1398 AD, directly east from the city of Saint Petersburg within the Vologda Oblast Federal Subject is the Russian Orthodox Ferapontov Monastery, the last surviving medieval convent with original wall frescoes. The entire interior is covered with these invaluable frescoes by the greatest medieval Russian painter Dionisy, with experts considering it as one of the purest examples of medieval art in existence. As an exceptionally well preserved and complete example of Russian orthodox monastic complexes, Ferapontov Monastery has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

28. Ferapontov Monastery

 

North east from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, mostly within the Chechen Republic and partly within the Republic Of Dagestan is Lake Kezenoyam, the deepest lake in the Caucasus Mountains. Situated at an elevation of 1,870 metres (6,135 ft) above sea level, its location among the rolling mountain meadows makes it one of the regions most picturesque lakes.

27. Lake Kezenoyam

 

Built in 1974 in the extreme north west of the country, close to the borders with Norway and Finland is the Alyosha Monument of Murmansk, otherwise known as 'The Defenders Of The Soviet Arctic During The Great Patriotic War Monument'. Constructed to commemorate the Soviet soldiers, sailors and airmen who died in World War II, the monument stands 42.5 metres (139 ft) high, making it the third tallest statue in Russia.

26. Alyosha Monument

 

Founded in the late 16th century in the city of Astrakhan, the capital of the Astrakhan Oblast Federal Subject is the Astrakhan Kremlin, for centuries it was an inapproachable stronghold on the banks of the Caspian Sea near Russia's south eastern border with Kazakhstan. Situated on a hill surrounded by the Volga River on the west and north sides and lakes and marshes on the south and east sides, access to the fortress was only possible through the large and imposing Astrakhan Maria Ascension Cathedral. With its steep fortified walls, tall towers and inner church domes, the Astrakhan Kremlin is one of the most imposing in all of Russian history.

25. Astrakham Kremlin

 

Founded in the 15th century, within the Pskov Oblast Federal Subject, only a few miles from the Estonian border is the Pskovo Pechersky Russian Dormition Monastery, an important spiritual centre for the Seto people. Within its walls are an ensemble of colourful buildings, ornate churches with decorative towers dating back to the monasteries inception. 

24. Pskovo Pechersky Monastery

 

In the north of the country, in Arkhangelsk Oblast Federal Subject are the Slovetsky Islands, an archipelago in the White Sea, famous for the Russian Orthodox Solovetsky Monastery complex, once one of the most influential religious centres in Russia. First built in 1436 AD, the existing stronghold and its major churches were erected during the early reign of Ivan The Terrible. Having been one of the largest Christian citadels in northern Russia before being turned into a Soviet prison in 1926, the site today is a historical and architectural museum and one of the first places in the country to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

23. Solovetsky Monastery

 

Tucked between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea is Kaliningrad Oblast Federal Subject, a Russian exclave that was once the territory of East Prussia. The largest city of this exclave is Kaliningrad, almost completely rebuilt by the Soviets this new city has a few historic links to the old city, with many German-era buildings in the historic centre having been preserved and even rebuilt. Highlights of the city include the Church of the Holy Family, Königsberg Cathedral, the Fishermen's Village that has been built in pseudo historic style, the Brandenburg Gate and the Kneiphof Island Cathedral. Positioned as Russia's most westerly city, Kaliningrad has both a uniquely Russian and European feel.

22. Kaliningrad

 

In the far north of the country, at the northern tip of Novaya Zemlya, otherwise known as the Severny Island is the 14,260 square kilometre (5,505 square mile) Russian Arctic National Park, covering a large part of the Arctic Ocean and the Severny Island Ice Cap. Home to seal rockeries, polar bears, bowhead whales, walrus and a number of other animal species, the parks ecological value is said to be extraordinary. The harsh landscape, combined with its remoteness and difficulty of access means visitors almost never venture here.

 

Pictured is the Inostrantsev Glacier.

21. Russian Arctic National Park

 

East from the capital, Moscow, lies the city of Nizhny Novgorod, the capital of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast Federal Subject. As a great trade centre of the 19th century Russian Empire, the city is blessed with a wealth of historical buildings and opulent churches, with more than 600 unique historic, architectural and cultural monuments within the city centre. Whilst much of the downtown area is built in the Russian Revival and Stalin Empire styles, the dominating feature of the city skyline remains to be the grand Kremlin with its red brick towers. Constructed around 1510 AD, much of the Kremlin was destroyed during the Russian Revolution of 1917, with most of what stands today reconstructed after 1923.

20. Nizhny Novgorod

 

To the east of the capital, Moscow, in the neighbouring towns of Vladimir & Suzdal are eight medieval limestone monuments from the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Of these unique architectural creations are the Church Of Boris & Gleb, The Monastery Of Saint Euphymius, The Church Of The Intercession, The Golden Gate, The Cathedral Of Saint Demetrius, The Castle Of Andre The Pious, the enormous Assumption Cathedral and the impressive Suzdal Kremlin with the Cathedral Of The Nativity. Holding an important place in the countries architectural history, all eight monuments have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Pictured is the Monastery Of Saint Euphymius.

19. White Monuments Of Vladimir & Suzdal

 

In the Republic of Dagestan, located in the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucuses Mountains just north of the Azerbaijan border is the city of Derbent, the southernmost city in Russia and some would say the oldest too. Within it stands the 6th century Naryn Kala Citadel, of which a large portion of the walls and several towers still remain fairly well preserved. With such important historical relevance the citadel, ancient city and fortress buildings have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

18. Naryn Kala Fortress

 

Under construction since 1992, in the city of Kazan, the capital and largest city in the Republic Of Tatarstan is the Temple Of All Religions, also known as the Universal Temple. Consisting of several types of religious architecture, the building will eventually have sixteen dome structures corresponding to the sixteen major religions in the world today, including some past religions that are no longer practiced. The mish-mash of architectural styles has made for a rather unique and colourful building.

17. Temple Of All Religions

 

First built in 1525 AD, south east from the Russian capital, Moscow, in the town of Kolomna within the Moscow Oblast Federal Subject is the Kolomna Kremlin, a huge stone fortress that was constructed to imitate the famous Moscow Kremlin. As grand as its counterpart in Moscow, only seven of the original seventeen towers remain to this day, with highlights inside the walls including the 17th century Dormition Cathedral, the Tikhvinsky Cathedral built in pseudo Russian style, as well as the Novo-Golutvin and Brusensky monasteries, the Trinity Church, the Cross Cathedral and a number of other historic buildings.

16. Kolomna Kremlin

 

North east from the capital, Moscow, within the Yaroslavl Oblast Federal Subject is the town of Rostov, founded in 862 AD it is one of the oldest towns in the country and part of the famous Golden Ring. The main sight in town is undoubtedly the Rostov Kremlin, surrounding and surrounded by a large number of elaborately painted and decorative churches, cathedrals and monasteries of varying sizes dating from the 11th century onward. The view of these many tall and colourful domes makes for a most impressive sight. 

15. Rostov

In the Komi Republic, west of the Ural Mountains within the Pechoro-Ilychski Reserve that straddles Western Siberia are the Manpupuner Rock Formations, sometimes called the 'Seven Strong Men' or the 'Poles of The Komi Republic'. The rock formations consists of seven abnormally shaped stone pillars rising between 30 to 40 metres (100 to 130 ft) from a grassy plateau. The pillars are all that remain of ancient mountains that have been eroded by rain, snow, frost and wind over millions of years.

The Pechora-Ilych Nature Reserve also forms the core of the Virgin Komi Forests, the largest virgin forest in Europe, making the whole reserve a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

14. Manpupuner Rock Formations

 

Northeast of the Russian capital, Moscow, in Yarosalvl Oblast Federal Subject is the city of Yaroslavl, one of the Golden Ring cities, a name given to a group of historic cities just north of Moscow that have played an important role in Russian history. As the oldest of these famous cities, Yaroslavl's historic city centre with its incredible number of architectural wonders including the 1680's St. John The Baptist Church and the Church Of Elijah The Prophet has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Church Of Elijah The Prophet.

13. Yaroslavl

 

Constructed in 1967 between Kazakhstan and Ukraine in the Russian city of Volgograd is the giant statue known as The Motherland Calls, sometimes referred to as 'Homeland Mother Is Calling'. Built to commemorate the Heroes Of The Battle Of Stalingrad the statue stands 87 metres (285 ft) high, which at the time of its construction made it the tallest statue in the world. As of 2017 it was one of the ten tallest statues on Earth, the tallest in Europe and the tallest freestanding non religious statue on the planet.

12. Motherland Calls

 

Just north of the Russian capital, Moscow, in the Golden Ring town of Sergiyev Posad that falls within the Moscow Oblast Federal Subject is the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, considered the most important monastery in the Russian Federation. Within the complex visitors will find 14th century buildings such as the Trinity Cathedral, the picturesque Assumption Cathedral with blue and white domes and many other beautiful and historical structures considered masterpieces of Russian history. The Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

11. The Trinity Lavra Of St. Sergius

 

Originally built on the command of Ivan the Terrible, the Kazan Kremlin was built and re-built between the 10th and 16th century and is the chief historic citadel of the region of Tatarstan. The oldest remaining buildings on the site are the blue domed Annunciation Cathedral of 1562 and the enormous Söyembikä Tower of the same period, with the newest construction being the 2005 addition of the Qolsarif Mosque, the largest Mosque in Europe outside of Turkey. With so many historical buildings from many different periods, the Kazan Kremlin has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

10. Kazan Kremlin

 

In the far south west of the country, north east from the resort town of Sochi within the Adygea Republic in the Western Caucasus is the Bolshoy Thach Nature Park, protecting an area of pristine forest, plateaus, alpine meadows and the Acheshboki Mountains. Wonderful for hikers and climbers, the most notable landmarks are the amazing jagged crests of rock that appear to spring out from the ground, creating some of the most easily accessible and picturesque mountains in the Western Caucasus Range. As part of the Western Caucasus, Bolshoy Thach Nature Park has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Pictured are the Devil's Gates.

9. Bolshoy Thach Nature Park

 

In the Chelyabinsk Oblast Federal Subject, just north of Kazakhstan is the 568 square kilometre (219 square mile) Taganay National Park, its name deriving from a group of ridges in the Southern Ural Mountains. With an almost untouched and precious eco-system, this relatively small area of protected land encompasses huge craggy peaks, mountain tundra's, flower filled meadows, sparse woodlands and ancient growth forests.

Pictured is the Otkliknoy Crest.

8. Taganay National Park

To the north east of Saint Petersburg, within the Republic Of Karelia, on Kizhi Island in Lake Onega is the incredible historical site known as Kizhi Pogost, a place famed for its beauty and longevity considering it is built exclusively from wood. Though there are more than 80 historical wooden structures in the nearby national open air museum, the Kizhi Pogost is in a league of its own. Within this fenced area stand three large wooden structures, namely the 30 metre (98 ft) high Belfry from the late 18th century, the 32 metre (105 ft) Church of Intercession with its 9 domes dating back to the late 17th century, and the enormous early 18th century Church Of The Transfiguration, standing 37 metres (121 ft) high with its 22 iconic domes. All three structures under the name of Kizhi Pogost have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7. Kizhi Pogost

 

In the far south west of the country, north from the border with Georgia in the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic is the Bermamyt Plateau, located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. Desolate, rocky and rugged in the most beautiful of natural surroundings, visitors can enjoy scenic views of the snow covered peaks of the Greater Caucasus, even gaining a glimpse of the distant dormant volcanic dome of Mount Elbrus. Standing at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft) above sea level it is the tenth most prominent peak on Earth.

6. Bermamyt Plateau

 

North of the Pechora-Ilych Nature Reserve, located in the Komi Republic and straddling Western Siberia is the 18,917 square kilometre (7,304 square mile) Yugyd Va National Park, the largest national park in Europe and second largest in Russia. Covered in taiga boreal forest, small alpine meadows, river valleys and large areas of higher elevation tundra, the park is known for its boating, hiking and skiing, though its remote location keeps a lot of potential visitors away.

5. Yugyd Va National Park

 

In the far south of the country, at the continental divide of Asia and Europe between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea is the 549 square kilometre (212 square mile) Alaniya National Park, protecting a heavy glaciated and mountainous section of the Central Caucasus Mountains. Home to a number of vulnerable species in an area of high bio-diversity, the landscape is one of high peaks, glaciers, mountain river valleys, alpine forests and widespread archaeological ruins from several notable past civilizations.

 

Pictured is the Karaugom Glacier.

4. Alaniya National Park

 

In the far south of the country, covering an area of some 10,100 square kilometres (3,900 square miles) is the Prielbrusye National Park, encompassing a part of the central Caucuses Mountains that includes the giant Mount Elbrus. Standing 5,642 metres (18,510 ft) above sea level it is the tenth most prominent peak on the planet. Famed for skiing, hiking and climbing, the park with its relative isolation and steep almost impenetrable gorges has led to high levels of bio-diversity, creating what is one of the most biologically diverse eco-regions in the world. This incredibly rugged terrain, with the inclusion of one of the worlds most prominent peaks has made Prielbrusye National Park a must visit location for nature lovers.

3. Prielbrusye National Park

 

Founded by Peter The Great in 1703 AD, its name was subsequently changed to Petrograd in 1914, then to Leningrad in 1924 and then back again in 1991 to what we all know today as Saint Petersburg, Russia's second city. Home to some of the most famous buildings and landmarks in the world, its entire historic centre and related groups of monuments has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

With so much on offer, click here for the Must See Places In St. Petersburg...

2. Saint Petersburg

 

In the western centre of the country, just beyond the borders of Eastern Europe is the Russian capital, Moscow, the most populated city in Europe and one of the largest by area in the world. Steeped in history, home to incredible and instantly recognisable landmarks, iconic buildings and monuments that define the Russian style, Moscow really is one of the great destinations of our planet. 

With so much on offer, click here for the Must See Places In Moscow...

1. Moscow

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