Russia is truly a breathtakingly beautiful place to visit. A place rich in history and intrigue. While there are many interesting spots to visit, the experience is not the same with hundreds of tourists around. You may have heard about the more popular hotspots like St. Basil’s Cathedral, or Khizi Island, but there are some lesser-known sites for you to explore. Here we break down 6 of these must-see, more obscure spots and sites.
6. Dargavs Village: City of the Dead
The ‘city’ is more of a burial ground with almost 100 house-like structures filled with the remains of loved ones from long ago. Situated on a sloping hill in the middle of a 17 km mountainous valley. Located in the Republic of North Ossetia, Southern Russia and nestled in one of five mountain ridges. This mystical place is the home of many old legends and myths. In ancient times, locals believed that the recently departed soul needed to cross a river to reach heaven. Therefore, many were buried in boat-like coffins, one even being found with an oar. You will also find wells dotted throughout, filled with old coins. Loved ones would drop a coin and if it landed on a rock it meant that the soul had made it to heaven. This is one of the more morbid surprising destinations in Russia, that you’ll not want to miss.
5. Psychedelic Salt Mines
These abandoned salt mines are deep beneath the surface (650 feet, to be exact) of the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. A sea that dried completely over 280 million years ago, left behind a salty residue of evaporated minerals that created a swirl of beautiful colours throughout the rock. The resulting psychedelic patterns are almost mind-blowing. With deep hues of red, gold, and orange, they are truly a sight to behold. As one of the lesser known awe-spots, the mines should be on every visitor’s itinerary.
4. Lake Baikal
As the oldest and deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal is home to many species that can only be found there, including one of its most adorable residents, the Nerpa, the world’s only freshwater-exclusive seal. The earth underneath the lake is mysteriously heated from unknown sources and 300 plus, rivers and streams feed into it with The Selenga River being the largest contributor. Located in South Central Russia, this is a special place with an almost spiritual atmosphere. A great place to clear one’s mind.
3. Museum of Sin
This creepy attraction was dreamed up by a pathologist from the Tambov morgue by the name of Yuri Shchukin. For over 3 decades he collected body parts from those who have been injured or died while indulging in their vices, anything from adultery to alcoholism. One of their creepy exhibits is the severed finger of an adulterous man, while another is an amputated hip from a man who while getting a tattoo to impress a girl, developed a nasty case of gangrene. If you are intrigued by the gruesomely fascinating, then be sure to make time for a pre-arranged, but absolutely free tour.
A quaint little Georgian cafe, the Khachapuri was named after a delicious dish of cheese bread. This hidden jewel situated in the heart of Moscow was designed to give the feel of a bright New York loft, standing out amongst a crowd of more traditional eateries. With its delectable cuisine, large portions that encourage sharing, and cosy, intimate atmosphere, this is one of the more low-key surprising destinations in Russia you will definitely want to indulge in. Don’t let the understatedness deter you, this is one place your tastebuds will thank you for visiting. Be sure to try the Adjarian Khachapuri, and wash it down with a lovely homemade fruit juice.
1. Laika Monument
Laika was a Russian mutt rescued from the streets of Moscow in the late 1950s by the Russian space program. This adorable, little mongrel had quite the tragic destiny. She was to be the first animal to orbit the earth in outer space. She had a face that would melt the hearts of the world and she (and her mission) gained international attention. Laika was fitted with a specially made space suit and was launched on November 3, 1957. Unfortunately for our four-legged hero, she never made it back. It was initially claimed that the pup had completed her mission and had died from oxygen deprivation or planned euthanasia. However, the truth was revealed in 2002, Laika had perished within mere hours of the launch. She was crudely cremated when her spacecraft disintegrated upon reentry. Long overdue, this lovely monument was built in 2008.
I am sure that there are other sites that are waiting for an adventure. Always be aware of your surroundings and educate yourself. You, of course, wouldn’t want to do anything to offend the locals, which you are sure to run into a few deviating from the more touristy paths. To truly experience all this gorgeous country has to offer, you have to respect and appreciate it. The greatest way to show respect is by doing your research, not only about the locations, but about the customs and culture as a whole. Learning the basics of the native language couldn’t hurt either. Have a safe and amazing adventure!
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