Stretching over a vast area of eastern Europe and northern Asia, the world's largest country offers tourists plenty of unique places to visit beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Caspian News has compiled a list of some of the best small towns in Russia that have turned into favorite spots for tourists this summer. These small cities with a population less than 10,000 people impress visitors with their uniqueness and simplicity.
If you are looking for peace and inspiration, one of the oldest towns in Russia is a perfect choice. Located northeast of Moscow and on the banks of the Volga River – the longest river in Europe – Ples attracts tourists with magnificent nature, which has earned it the moniker of ‘Russian Switzerland’.
Ples was founded in the early 15th century, however archeological digs in the area show that an ancient town called Chuvil dates to the ninth century. Initially established as a fortress to protect Moscow and other towns located along the Volga, Ples has transformed into an attractive spot for tourists with its charming museums and churches.
Try not to miss a visit to the Levitan Museum, Landscape Museum, Medieval Family Museum-Complex, Holy Spring, Alekseev and Milovka Estates.
Also northeast of Moscow is a sparkling gem on Russia's famous Golden Ring – the main and most popular tourist route around provincial cities of Russia. For those looking for some spiritual peace, Suzdal is a great place to visit.
Churches and ancient monasteries dot this small town located along the banks of the Kamenka River. Founded in the early 11th century, Suzdal has preserved its ancient monuments and churches in their original appearance, taking visitors back into history by just entering the town.
Among the religious places is the Intercession Convent, or Pokrovsky Monastery, a place that once sheltered women who disappointed Russia’s czars and were sent to live behind its walls. The Cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin, on the other hand, is made of white stone that dates to the 12th century. The Suzdal Museum of Wooden Art gives a glimpse into the life of the peasants.
With an abundance of wooden architecture, a peal of bells heard from churches every hour, towers and colorful nature, you may feel like you've stumbled into a storybook!
This town boasts the massive Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery that was founded in 1397. The town grew up around the monastery, and now contains 12 churches as well as the exquisite Assumption Cathedral. This lakeside town is far north of Moscow and east of St. Petersburg, and attracts visitors due to its natural surroundings.
If you know the Russian language then you will immediately notice how the name of the town of Myshkin is similar to the Russian word for mouse, or mysh. According to a legend, the prince that founded the city was woken up by a mouse who was trying to save him from being bitten by a venomous snake. The prince ordered that a chapel be built on the spot where the incident had happened, forming the legendary center of the town called Myshkin. Ever since, a brave mouse is a symbol of the town.
Located on the left bank of the Volga River about 175 miles north from Moscow, Myshkin has become a favorite place for tourists due to its rather peculiar attractions. These include the Felt boots Museum, the Flax Museum and the Museum of Russian Vodka. The Mouse Museum is another one-of-a-kind attraction, with hundreds of souvenirs in the shape of mouse.
Bolgar is the one town on our list that lies within Russia’s interior and relatively far from Moscow. Located on the left bank of the Volga River and 140 kilometers away from Kazan – the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, a federal subject of Russia – the medieval town of Bolgar was the first capital of the Golden Horde in the 13th century.
When visiting, do not miss what has been dubbed the Muslim world’s "Northern Mecca," as Islam is as prominent here as Christianity is in, say, St. Petersburg. The State Historical and Architectural Museum and Heritage Site is another ‘must see’, as it includes architecture from the 12th to the 13th centuries. The Cathedral Mosque; the Big and Small minarets; the Northern and Eastern mausoleums; Khan's tomb; Khan Palace; the Eastern, White and Black Chambers – these all make the trip worth it!