If you like to tickle your nerves, visiting some of Russia’s most mysterious places could be a great way to do so. TourStat has identified four places in the world’s largest country that are worth visiting.
Olkhon is the largest island in Lake Baikal, the world’s largest and deepest freshwater lake located in the heart of Siberia. Its spectacular landscapes and virtually untouched nature are both enchanting and spiritual.
While Russia is predominantly Russia Orthodox with a sizable Muslim minority population, the island is special for those practicing Shamanism and Buddhists. Buddhist pray flags and ribbons wrapped around trees, poles and stones can be seen all over the island. Legend says that winds carry spirits, which can read one’s prays written on the flags and grant a person’s wishes. The island was once a special place for the Buryats.
Shaman Rock is a sacred spot on the island, lying along the shoreline; locals believe that only shamans have the right to approach it, as it is believed to have supernatural powers. According to the legend, Azhin, the lord of Lake Baikal, lived in a cave at Shaman Rock. Pagan priests still perform rituals in the cave associated with cleansing ancestral karma and removing curses.
Lake Svetloyar is a small oval-shape lake located near Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia, and it has become a tourist attraction particularly for Orthodox pilgrims. It is considered one of the most legendary and mysterious lakes in the country. Scientists have spent half of century just trying to understand how the lake was formed, but researchers still cannot come to a consensus. Legend says that the ancient city of Kitezh mysteriously sank beneath the waters of Lake Svetloyar, when the Tatar–Mongol army of Batu Khan came to besiege its walls.
The waters of Lake Svetloyar remain clean, free from overgrowth and built-up deposits of mud, regardless of how many people come to bathe in it. Water drawn from Svetloyar is supposedly able to be preserved for years in jars, without growing algae or bacteria.
If you are looking for a challenge, then take on Mount Belukha – Siberia’s tallest mountain, standing 4,500 meters tall – which is surrounded by the glaciers and turquoise lakes of the Altai range. Located in south-central Russia, where the country meets China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, Belukha is situated at an equal distance from three oceans, which is why some locals consider it to be the axis of the world.
Belukha means “white", and is derived from the Russian word beliy, thanks to the fact that the mountain’s top remains covered in snow year-round. Snowy peaks are coupled with plenty of myth and legend, as well as picturesque views that add to the area’s charm and beauty.
According to the local Turkic legends, Mount Belukha is a sacred place, where the goddess Umai lives. For the Buddhists, Mount Belukha represents a gateway to Shambala, a mythical “Pure Land” of peace, hidden from the eyes of the profane and able to be opened by those who remain pure in mind and body. They believe that the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, came here from ancient India.
A visit to the ancient settlement of Arkaim is great for those who love archaeology. Located in the southern Ural steppe, Arkaim is dotted with 20 settlements that are spread out over 350 square kilometers. It has become one of the most mysterious settlements in a complex known as the “Land of Towns.” Its central square is protected by fortress walls and a moat, having been established in the third or second millennium B.C. Its civilization is said to be five or six centuries older than Troy; therefore some historians believe it was contemporary with the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, dated to 3,000 – 1,000 years ago B.C.