Top 10 Unknown Places in Russia?
Top 10 Unknown Places in Russia
1. Lake Seydozero
Up in the Murmansk Oblast near the Finnish border is where you find Lake Seydozero, a gorgeous corner of the world often overlooked. Meaning “sacred” in the local language, the lake is surrounded by imposing mountains and dramatic rock formations. It’s a mysterious place — ancient caves engraved with runes have been discovered there, and some people even believe that the lake has been a landing site for UFOs. We’re unsure of this rumor’s validity, but what we are sure of is that Lake Seydozero is a spectacular slice of Russia and worth a visit.
2. Summer Gardens
Russia’s second city and old capital is of course very popular with tourists and travelers. There are plenty of places that are easily found, but one spot in St Petersburg which is often overlooked is the beautiful Summer Gardens. When Peter the Great decided that he wanted somewhere to relax in the summer, he chose an island in the River Neva — and why not. The gardens nowadays are still as immaculately kept by the Russian Museum as they were by the royal court back in Peter’s time. French landscapers and Venetian sculptors were commissioned to decorate the space, and so as a result the gardens have a distinctly European feel, much like the rest of the city. The site opened its doors to the public again in 2012, and after complex restoration procedures, they have been brought back to their former glory.
A slightly more macabre sight next, but equally as interesting. Dargavs is located in southern Russia, near the Georgian border, and is home to an Alanian Necropolis (the Alans were a nomadic people who originated from ancient Iran). Built on the hillsides are many tombs and crypts, some dating back to the 12th century. Alongside these crypts, archaeologists have discovered wooden burial boats, as the locals believed that the dead would have to cross a river in the afterlife (despite there being no navigable rivers in the area). There are plenty of myths and legends about the necropolis — including a rather sinister one about the dangers of entering the site (which is why the locals hardly ever go there). Thanks to the tricky terrain, Dargavs receives barely any visitors but if you can make it along the single route in and out of town, then you’re in for a truly unique sight.
4. Stalin’s Bunker
There is plenty to see and do in our Moscow community, but one unique (and lesser known) place to visit is Josef Stalin’s emergency command bunker. Opened to the public just recently, the bunker is built underneath a sports stadium and was home to Soviet High Command during the Second World War (especially when the German army was advancing on Moscow). The expected meeting and situation rooms are accompanied by private living quarters and dining rooms. It is a bizarre place to go, but if you join one of the daily guided tours, you will learn a lot about an important time in Russian history, right in the spot where much of it was made.
If you live in Moscow you have no doubt taken a trip on the Moscow Metro, but have you ever stopped to marvel at some of the beautiful decoration at its stations? One of the best examples is the Komsomolskaya stop, located on line 5 of the sprawling system. Huge soaring ceilings tower over the platforms, which are decorated with several mosaics and paintings depicting key scenes in Russian history. Arbatskaya on line 3 is equally as stunning — chandeliers adorn the platform passages, with the ceiling looking more at home in a royal palace than a public transportation system. The best part of these sights is that you can visit all of them in a few hours for the price of a single ticket.
6. Museum of Cosmonautics
The last stop in the capital on your tour of unknown Russia is the Museum of Cosmonautics just a short hop away from the busy city-center. Throughout the Cold War (and beyond it), Russia and the preceding USSR was a world leader in space technology. Located a little further out from the city center, the museum does not get the number of visitors that perhaps it should. The site includes exhibitions on manned space travel, the international space effort, and a huge monument to the launching of Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite. The center sheds light on the race of two superpowers for dominance in space — the by-products of this battle are still being used today. .
7. Lena Pillars
Moving eastwards into the vastness of Siberia, there are of course plenty of places to see which have not been spoiledby masses of visitors. One of the most dramatic are the so-called “Lena Pillars”, a rock formation along the River Lena. Standing at between 150-300 m high, the pillars are imposing to say the least. They are, however, perfect examples of ancient geological processes and as a result are listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Pillars are reachable in a day’s sailing from Yakutsk along the river, during which you can admire the scenery of one of the most isolated regions on the planet.
8. Lake Baikal
If you decide to embark on the mammoth odyssey that is the Trans-Siberian express, then you simply have to stop off at Lake Baikal. The biggest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, Baikal holds a whopping 20% of Earth’s unfrozen freshwater and provides some of the most stunning landscapes in Asiatic Russia. Here you can try and spot Baikal seals — the only seal species in the world which live in exclusively freshwater. In fact, the lake is home to 1,500 animal species — 80% of which are only found at Lake Baikal. It’s a magical place and unique in the world, although we realize it is a bit of a drive from Moscow (just four days).
9. Altai Mountains
The Altai Mountain range covers a mammoth 845,000 square kilometers, and borders three countries (Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia). In a modern world where we have managed to explore and tame much of our planet, this is a place where nature shows its full force. Soaring peaks touch the 4,000 m mark, and rivers cascade through steep valleys where nomadic tribes make their temporary camps. It’s a magical place where mother nature starts to feel very tangible. Unfortunately, most of the range is very remote. The nature reserves are quite often off-limits to the general public anyway, but aside from this you’re facing a very long drive from the nearest big city (Novosibirsk) to even get to one of the “ecotourist trails”. Still, if you’re passing through, it’s worth a visit.
We finish with Russia’s furthest bastion in the far east. The fact that we started this list with a lake on the Finnish border, and we’re ending it with an island just 80 km from Japan should demonstrate the scale of this country. Sakhalin itself is also huge — extending out over 1,000 km and almost touching the Japanese home island of Hokkaido. The island is now home to a booming oil industry, but you can still escape the mod-cons of modern civilization in its thick forests and multiple mountain ranges. When you’re done for the day, head into the island’s biggest city Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk for some excellent freshly caught seafood, and a few fascinating exhibitions on the island’s history as a yo-yo for Japan and Russia over the centuries. To get here, you can either fly from Moscow, St Petersburg, or Novosibirsk, or get the ferry from Vanino on the mainland — a mere five days’ drive from Moscow.