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TOP 10 Nature reserves of Russia

On the territory of Russia there are more than 100 nature reserves and more than 60 national parks. A significant part of the reserves is located in remote places and is not visited by tourists. National parks are usually located in more accessible locations.

In this review, the online guide Geomerid offers its own rating of the TOP 10 Nature Reserves and National Parks. They are compact and very convenient for tourists to visit without special training and equipment :

1.    Caucasian Nature Reserve
2.    Ladoga Skerries Nature Reserve
3.    Krasnoyarsk Pillars Nature Reserve
4.    Lake Baikal Nature Reserve
5.    Taganay Nature Reserve
6.    Elbrus Nature Reserve 
7.    Divnogorye Nature Reserve
8.    Curonian Spit Nature Reserve
9.    Samara Luka Nature Reserve
10.    Bogdo-Baskunchak nature Reserve

1.    Caucasian Nature Reserve

The Caucasian biosphere nature reserve is located in the Central part of the Caucasus mountain range, North of Krasnaya Polyana. Free access is closed, passes are required. However, in any case, it is not easy to go to the reserve. You have to cross mountain passes. Behind them, there are wild places where there is no mobile connection or any tourist infrastructure.

The Caucasian reserve was founded in 1924. It is one of the largest mountain reserves in Europe. In Soviet times, several tourist routes were laid along the Caucasian reserve, the main ones being No. 8 and No. 30. Route 8 starts near Psebay and route 30 starts in Guzeriple. Both end in Sochi.

2.    Ladoga Skerries Nature Reserve

The Ladoga Skerries Reserve occupies the entire northern shore of Lake Ladoga in the Landepohsky and Pitkyarantsky districts. The word "skerries" comes from the Old Norse word "sker", which means "rock in the sea". The entire coast in the north of Ladoga is cut by numerous rocky islands, bays and channels. 

The archipelago of 650 islands that makes up the Ladoga Skerries Nature Reserve begins near the village of Berezovo, on the border of the Leningradsky region and Karelia. Then it stretches for 170 kilometers north to Pitkyaranta. The total area of the reserve is 120 thousand hectares. 

3.    Krasnoyarsk Pillars Nature Reserve

If you want to see the spaces of Siberia, there is a most interesting Krasnoyarsk Pillars Nature Reserve. You can see there a wonderful mix of taiga forest and scenic rock formations. The national reserve Krasnoyarsk Pillars is located on the southern outskirts of Krasnoyarsk. It is a protected environmental zone, but you can easily get there by urban transport.

Pillars or rocks are beats of syenites among taiga forest. They are composed of spar (pink), mica (lustre) and hornblende (black inclusions). Some rocks reach the height of 90 meters. The reserve takes the area of about 47 000 hectares. But the ‘Aesthetic’ Region is the most visited section of the reserve, and you should go there in the first place. There located, on a small territory, a bit more than 1 square kilometer, the most beautiful and famous pillars.

4.    Lake Baikal Nature Reserve

Lake Baikal is undoubtedly one of the most curious places in Russia. The lake is rather unique scientifically, and it is very suitable for ecotourism, hiking and adventurous tours. You couldn’t find such flora and fauna nowhere in the world. There are three nature reserves on the shores of Lake Baikal.

One or two days aren’t enough to see the real beauty of Baikal. It will be enough only for a short boat trip starting from Irkutsk or visiting settlement Listvyanka. It would be most preferable to go to Baikal for 1-2 weeks. This term is due to great spaces, which you need to overcome to see the most beautiful places (the length of the lake is 636 km.), as well as poor roads. The most popular tourist attractions are Olkhon Island and Eastern Baikal.

5.    Taganay Nature Reserve

The Taganai National Reserve may be considered the most beautiful in the Urals and one of the most beautiful in Russia. The entrance to the park is within the city of Zlatoust. It will be easier to get to it from Chelyabinsk. Zlatoust is 350 km from Yekaterinburg.

The main sights of the Taganai are: the Big Stone River, the Glade of Fairy Tales, the Otkliknoy (Respond) Crest, the Two-Headed Hill and the Kruglitsa. The Big Stone River is the most impressive. It is a «river» of big rocks of 3-4 tonnes with the length of 6 kilometers and the width of 400 meters. You can find no such stone rivers nowhere in the world, excepting India, but it is smaller there.

6.    Elbrus Nature reserve

The Elbrus Nature Reserve is located in a vast area around Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains. The double-headed Elbrus is the highest peak of the Caucasus mountain range. Mount Elbrus is located on the Side Ridge of the Caucasus mountains, which goes 10 km north of the Greater Caucasus range. Since the border between Europe and Asia in the Caucasus runs along the Great Caucasus Range, mount Elbrus belongs to the European part of Russia.

Elbrus is the highest peak in Europe (5642 m). The height of Mont Blanc, the second highest in Europe, reaches 4810 m. This volcano is one of the centers of tourism in Transcaucasia. Many people come here in winter for skiing, and trekking enthusiasts come here in summer to admire the beauty of the Caucasus mountains.

7.    Divnogorye Nature Reserve

Divnogorye Reserve  is a beautiful place in the Central Russia (near Liski of Voronezh Region), where one can see the Don feather-grass steppes, the chalk residual outcrops, called the «Divy», the Assumption Monastery with its cave churches, and the remnants of the ancient Mayatskaya fortress. In general, this place may be of interest both from the natural and cultural point of view.

At the museum-reserve you must visit such places as the Large Divy residual outcrops, the Church of the Sicilian Mother of God Icon, the remnants of the ancient Mayatskaya fortress and the chalk canyon. However, no one will remain indifferent to the surrounding landscapes. There one can have a wonderful view on the Don steppes at the foot of chalk cliffs.

8.    Curonian Spit Nature Reserve

In the northernmost part of Kaliningrad Region one can visit the Curonian Spit Nature Reserve, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site – . Its southern part belongs to Russia, while its northern part – to Lithuania. You can see large spaces of sand dunes in three places of Curonian Spit. All of them are on the territory of Russia. And only some part of the third zone with dunes is located on the territory of Lithuania near the village of Nida.

The length of Russian Curonian Spit from Zelenogradsk to the border of Lithuania is 48 kilometers. Totally, there are three settlements on the Russian side of Curonian Spit: Morskoye, Lesnoy and Rybachiy. Morskoye is considered to have the most developed tourist infrastructure.

9.    Samara Luka Nature Reserve

Samara Luka Reserve is in the immediate vicinity of the city of Samara. It acquired its name from a big bend of the river Volga, which it makes near Samara. This river bend begins near the city of Togliatti and ends at the village Perevoloki, where the neck between the two riverbeds is only 2 kilometers.

Within the bend of the river Volga is the territory of 150 thousand hectares. In the 80th of the past century all this territory was declared a reserve. Most part of the Samarskaya Luka is wooded steppe with low hills, which may be interesting only for specialists in ornithology and zoology. The most interesting places of Samarskaya Luka are the Zhigulevsk Mountains. It is there that one can see the abandoned tunnels, where limestone was mined in the 19 century, and the most picturesque landscapes.

10.    Bogdo-Baskunchak Nature Reserve

Bogdo-Baskunchak nature reserve is located in the north of the Astrakhan region. The two main attractions of the reserve are the Salt lake Baskunchak and the Big Bogdo mountain, which is sacred to Kalmyk Buddhists.

Salt lake Baskunchak is not only a unique attraction in Russia, but also a rare natural object in the whole world. The concentration of salt in its water is 300 grams per liter, and the salt consists of 99.8% of sodium chloride. This is one of the cleanest indicators in the world. A similar concentration of salt is in the Dead sea in Israel. A few kilometers south of the Salt lake Baskunchak is located the Big Bogdo mountain. Its height is only 171 meters. Not very much to consider it a mountain, but in the area of the Caspian Lowlands around the mountain are only endless steppes.