5 Greatest Nature Reserves in Russia
Only a few people know that Russia has one of the world’s premier systems of protected areas. It preserves millions of acres of wild landscapes, which are home to a countless number of plants and animals. There are 101 Russian nature reserves (zapovedniks) covering about 1.4% of the country’s total area – from the tundra in the far north to the steppe in the south, from the Black Sea to the Bering Sea.
Read our subjective list of the greatest nature reserves in Russia!
The Altay Reserve is situated in south-central Russia, on a joint of Altay, Sayan and Tuva ranges. The Altay region is one of the oldest areas of human settlement in all of Russia and Asia. Its territory is covered with more than 1100 lakes, with Teletskoe Lake being the biggest and the most beautiful one. The vast territory of the Reserve is home to numerous plant and Siberian animal species, including wolf, fox, brown bear and the snow leopard (listed on the Red List of Threatened Species). The territory of Altai Nature Reserve is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites entitled “Golden Mountains of Altai“. The Altai Mountains are often compared to the Alps, but they’re way more wild than their European equivalent. Tourism activity in this Russian Nature Reserve is limited, but if you love breathtaking landscapes, silence, hiking, and trekking – this is the place for you.
Located in southern Buryatia, around the world’s oldest and deepest lake, Baikal Nature Reserve is one of the most stunning and most important nature reserves in Russia. It hosts dark pine taiga, subalpine meadows, alpine tundras among other types of forests. Zapovednik is home to over 300 species of Siberian animals and 800 species of plants. Many of the plants and Siberian animals are rare or endemic (can be found only there). Baikal Nature Reserve is also known for developing new types of tourism, including ecotourism, birdwatching and wildlife tracking, as well as investments in modern tourism infrastructure.
Lake Baikal itself is inscribed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as the most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem on the basis of natural criteria. Many of those who visited this Russian Nature Reserve, hopelessly fell in love with Lake Baikal. Here you can listen to a very beautiful and moving Russian song about this outstanding lake.
Great Arctic Zapovednik
Great Arctic Nature Reserve is Eurasia’s largest protected area (and one of the largest in the world). Located in Krasnoyarsk Krai impresses with its unique landscapes of arctic deserts and arctic tundra. Major parts of its territory remained undisturbed by humans, but became home to numerous animal species such as Polar bears, walruses, reindeer, beluga and even rare migratory birds. The Great Arctic Zapovednik is possibly one of the most unique nature reserves in the world, with wildlife population that you will unlikely see anywhere else. Visit to this area will undoubtedly be an adventure of a lifetime!
Kurilsky Nature Reserve is located in Sakhalin Oblast region, the easternmost part of Russia, exactly on the boarder with Japan. The Kuril Islands is a volcanic archipelago, arced between Kamchatka and the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, which consists of 56 variously sized islands, and contain over 100 volcanoes, 39 of which are currently active. Famous for its unique and pristine nature, the archipelago is one of the last biologically unknown places in the world. The biggest part of the Kurilsky Nature Reserve lies on the Kunashir Island, which in 70% is occupied by forests.
Part of the island, Cape Stolbchaty is famous for its unique rock formations along a vertical cliff. It is listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Kuril Islands have some of the world’s richest fishing grounds. At the same time – overfishing of seafood, along with ongoing gold mining and mineral explorations are its biggest threats. The islands are not popular among travellers, which makes it even more attractive, and volcano climbing there will be a truly unforgettable experience!
Sikhote-Alinsky Nature Reserve is located in the southern parts of the Russian Far East. Zapovednik is famous for its picturesque terrain forms and exceptional biodiversity. The combination of boreal and subtropical forests results in a great variety of plant and animal life. There are 320 bird and almost 400 mushroom species. But most importantly, in these remote forested mountains in extreme southeastern Siberia, along the coast of the Sea of Japan, live endangered Siberian (Amur) tigers. Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik plays possibly the most significant role of any reserve in protecting this species and their natural habitat. Conservation projects are run by this Zapovednik in cooperation with several NGOs, like ALTA and WCS. It is one of the world’s greatest wildlife reserves. So this is definitely a place to visit by real adventure seekers and wild cats lovers.
Contact us if you’re interested in visiting one of them!