The Most Spectacular Natural Wonders of Russia

WORLD'S LARGEST COUNTRY - Did you know that there are amazing natural wonders in this vast country? Spectacular landscapes with their mysterious formations tell us the  geological history of the Earth. Because many parts of Russia are scarcely populated and unspoiled, nature can still be seen there as it was millions of years ago.

Ural Ancient Giants - Photographer Sergei Makurin Sergey Makurin

Ural mountain range and the giants of the Komi Republic

The Ural mountain range is some 1,600 kilometers long and extends from the Aral Sea to the Arctic Ocean. It is impressive in length, and forms the border between Europe and Asia. It also causes climatic differences between Western and Eastern Russia. The Ural mountain range is not very high though, compared to other mountain areas. That’s because it is extremely old: about 300 million years. It emerged from a collision between two ancient continents. A special feature of the Ural Mountains are the “Seven Giants” in the Komi Republic. These mysterious rock formations look like giant men, frozen in time. Local legend has it, that these giants were actually alive in the past and that they roamed the Siberian mountains.

Lake Baikal: the deepest lake in the world

Lake Baikal is one of the better-known natural wonders of Russia. It contains the largest volume of freshwater compared to any other lake in the world. That is because Lake Baikal is large (31,722 km2),  but mainly because it is very deep (1,642 meters at some points). In fact, in geological terms, Lake Baikal is an ocean that never happened. It is an extremely old lake, formed about 25 million years ago. At that time, a process was going on like the one that split the world’s continents. It just stopped here, leaving Lake Baikal as a snapshot from Earth’s pre-history.

Lena's Stone Forest

Lena’s Stone Forest, also called Lena’s Pillars, is a remarkable stone formation in Russia’s Yakutsk region in Siberia. The rocks structures – a World Heritage site since 2012 - got their name because they look like a giant ancient forest. Lena’s Stone Forest is a stunning 80 kilometers long, and up to 300 meters high. The pillars were formed relatively recently by geological standards: the Cambrian period. In those days, the formation was a reef under water. Because of the layered way in which it was built up, it contains precious information about life on Earth. The Cambrian period is known for an “explosion of life”: many lifeforms developed, and then disappeared. Lena’s Stone Forest holds a wealth of fossils that tell this story.

The Kamchatka Peninsula

On the Kamchatka peninsula, there are too many wonderful sights to mention here. It is Russia’s Far East. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, many people have moved away; whole towns are now deserted. The natural wonders of Kamchatka remain. First of all, the area has the most volcanic activity on the Eurasian continent. This leads to some spectacular sights, such as Lake Troitskoe in the Volcano Maly Semyachek. This is an acid, hot lake with a very specific blue color. Another attraction on Kamchatka is the ice cave, or rather ice tunnel. It is a kilometer long and has a magical atmosphere because of the light that that shines through the ice.

The Putorana Plateau Photographer ilvinas Vasiliauskas

Putorana Plateau in Russia's Siberia

The Putorana Plateau is a huge stair-shaped basalt plateau, located some 100 kilometers North of the Arctic Circle. It consists of so-called Siberian Traps (“traps” as in “stair-shaped”, not as in “caught”). The area features thousands of lakes and waterfalls, but is difficult to access and travel in. The Putorana Plateau is actually the end result of a unimaginably large volcanic eruption, that happened 250 million years ago. And “happening” is a relative term in geology: it was bubbling and spewing for one million years! Putorana’s volcanic activity is held responsible for the extinction of 80% of all life on Earth at the time. Scientists are not sure if the volcanic activity started due to processes inside the Earth, or because of the impact of a meteorite. Photographer Ċ½ilvinas Vasiliauskas