12 Mysterious and Dramatic Natural Wonders of Russia

Mount Elbrus

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A non-active volcano that last erupted in the Holocene, Mount Elbrus is one of Russia’s most stunning peaks. Located in the western Caucasus mountain range, Elbrus stands at 18,150 feet in height. During the early years of the Soviet Union, it was a popular site for mountaineering, and between 1959 and 1976 it actually had a cable car system that took visitors as high as 12,500 feet. Mount Elbrus still sees a lot of hiking traffic in the summer, though winter is far to harsh to welcome any but the most experienced mountaineers.

Volga River

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The Volga is the largest river in Europe, flowing through central Russia and most of the nation’s biggest cities, including Moscow. It feeds some of the largest reservoirs in the world, which provide both irrigation and hydroelectric power. It freezes most of its length for three months out of the year and is home to pelicans and flamingoes. The river plays an important role in Russian myth and fairytales.

Virgin Komi Forests

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One of Russia’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Komi is the largest virgin boreal forest in Europe and is rich in conifers, aspens, birches, peat bogs, rivers and natural lakes and home to elk, gray wolves, beavers, wolverine and eurasian otters. Locate in the Urals region, the Virgin Komi Forest was named a World Heritage Site in 1995, saving it from imminent logging. Illegal logging and gold-mining is still a problem, and local governments often make efforts to move the site’s borders in order to access the lucrative gold-rich areas.

Putorana Plateau

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Among the most remote and untouched areas of Russia, the Putorana Plateau is a high-lying basalt plateau in the geographic center of Russia. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the plateau includes subarctic and arctic ecosystems, an isolated mountain range, forest tundra, arctic desert systems and untouched cold-water lake and river systems. It contains some of the largest-known nickel deposits in the world.