National Park Taganai in the Southern Urals, Chelyabinsk region is a popular place with hikers from all over the Urals. It’s easy to access, the tracks are not difficult and the highest point is 1178 m. above sea level, so you don’t have to be a professional climber to ascend the mountains of the Southern Ural ridge.
Taganai means a’ holder of the moon’ in the Bashkir language and there’s a romantic Moon river (the river Ai) flowing near the park. Total area of the park is about 568 square kilometres (219 sq mi), it stretches for 52 km (32 mi) from north to south and about 10–15 km (6.2–9.3 mi) from east to west.
I joined a weekend tour to Taganai organized by my colleague Ilia Gerasimov in December 2014. We left Yekaterinburg on Saturday at 7am and arrived in the park by noon. The distance from Yekaterinburg is about 270km, from Chelyabinsk 150km. The cars were parked at the entrance to the park, now we had to carry our rucksacks and sleeping bags to the nearest tourist shelter which was 10km away.
On the way we stopped at the foot of Perya Mt. That mountain was difficult to ascend in winter because the path leading to the top is very slippery. It took us over one hour to get up there. However, getting down is easier, faster and more fun in winter time as you simply slide down on your bottom – 10 minutes and we were back on the track where we’d left our luggage.
Our tourist shelter that should be booked beforehand was a simple room for 10 people in a wooden house with 5 wide berths, an oven in the middle for heating and cooking and a big table. We cooked pasta and after a very late dinner (because it takes hours to boil water on the oven) went to sleep. The next day there was another mountain to climb.
Otkliknoy greben is 1155m high but it turned out to be hard to climb mainly because we didn’t find the trail under the sick snow and had to make our own path. The weather was splendid on that weekend -10C, sunny and no wind at all.
From there we could see the highest peak of the National Park Kruglitsa Mt. But for climbing the peak one should plan a 3-day trip in Taganai.
My friends say that in summer time Taganai is also beautiful, so we are planning to go there again although sliding down on the bottom won’t be an option anymore.
Getting there from Yekaterinburg by car: go to the south down Chelyabinsk road and then turn to M5 highway towards Zlatoust. Use the main road in the town of Zlatoust in the direction of Magnitka village. As you leave Zlatoust there is a road sign Lesnichstvo (Forest area) and the road turns right to the park entrance.
Traditionally after Christmas I’m posting the photos of the ice town of Yekaterinburg. In 2015 the theme of the ice town is the 70s anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. The ice figures in the Square of 1905 were made by an international group of sculptors.
The Brest Forest is the pavilion in the center of the ice town. 3D films about the Second World War are played inside.
Of course, you will find an ice tank T34 in the ice town as the Soviet tank was produced in Yekaterinburg at the Uralmash Factory.
Other ice sculptures are located in front of the Church on the Blood. Every year sculptors create here religious-themed figures for Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January.
This year the ice town works till January 25th only. So hurry up to see the ice beauty!
Novo – Tikhvinsky Convent on Zelyonaya Roscha st, 1 is one of the tourists’ attractions in Yekaterinburg. Since the reopening of its main church of St. Alexander Nevsky in 2013 it has become a part of every city tour.
The convent was opened in the 18th century. Before the revolution it was the largest convent in Russia with 1000 sisters. The sisters received education and were taught crafts. There were six churches, residences for the sisters, and buildings where various workshops were located: gold-embroidery, iconographic, silk-embroidery, photographic, spinning, enamel, and the sewing one.
In 1920s the convent was requisitioned by the Bolsheviks and most of the sisters were killed. The territory of the convent was used as a park and partly given to the military hospital. The Church of St Alexander Nevsky was turned into a storage.
In 1994 the convent was given back to nuns. However, the area is much smaller now so the nuns (today there are over 100 of them in Yekaterinburg) have to live in the outskirts of the city. They come to Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent every day for their obedience such as icon-painting, sewing, at the publishing house, souvenir obedience etc.
The church of Alexander Nevsky is interesting from the mineralogical point of view. Inside it is decorated with various minerals, the so-called Ural gems.
Another must-visit place in the convent is the souvenir shop. In winter the shop looks like a museum of pre-revolutionary Christmas decoration. You can buy Christmas decoration and toys made according to the traditional design of the 19th century.
If you are looking for a unique hand-made Russian souvenir and not a corny matryoshka doll or shapka (Russian hat), Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent offers a good variety. This year I bought all New Year presents there
photos of the church were taken from the website of Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent http://www.sestry.ru/eng
Dear friends and travellers,
on Saturday January 24th 2014 we are off for a one day trip to visit huskies, Siberian deer and ostriches in Northern Urals!
Visit a family of huski dogs and Siberian deer. Try dog sledding and climb Mt. Belaya to see a beautiful landscape of Northern Urals
Itinerary: Jan 24
8.00 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg
We are taking a comfortable bus or a mini-van to get to the village of Visim
11.00 Visiting a deer farm near the village of Visim (195km of Yekaterinburg). You will be able to feed Siberian deer and Yakut horses. There are also three African ostriches in the farm. Learn from the farm workers how the ostriches live through Russian winters.
Take some white bread, cabbage or other vegetables to feed the animals!
13.00 Belaya Mount ski resort. You will be able to get to the top of Mt. Belaya (705m) for a beautiful view of Northern Urals.
14.00 Dog sledding in the village of Chernoistochinsk.
17.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
Price per person:
Book the tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tour
For many foreign tourists and expats Ural winters seem to be very cold. But we have something hot to offer in the winter time – hot springs near the town of Turinsk.
Turinsk hot springs also known as Akvarel spa were discovered and then modernized only a year ago. The temperature of the water is 37C. and the organizers say it’s a natural spring as opposed to the ones in Tyumen (the nearest rivals in the western Siberia) where the mineral water is supposedly heated and mixed with the water from tap. http://askural.com/2011/01/hot-springs-in-tyumen-siberia/
The hot springs of Tymen have been working for many years attracting tourists from the Urals but the spa near Turinsk is 100km closer to Yekaterinburg, the price is more reasonable than in Tyumen.
Be ready that the water of the hot spring is not cristal-clear. It’s brown due to the high quantity of iron. The water also contains iodine, natrium, hydrocarbonate, magnesium, calcium and other minerals. It’s required to stay in the bath for 20 minutes then to have some 20 min rest.
Apart from the open-air mineral bath visitors can also relax in a Turkish bath (t +60C, Humidity 100%), Finnish sauna (t +80C), bio-sauna (t +60C, humidity 60%, light-therapy, aroma-therapy) and salt-banya (t +50C, humidity 60%).
The hot spring of Turinsk is open daily from 6.00 to 24.00.
Entrance fee: 500rub for 3 hours + 200rub for the saunas.
Bu bus: You can go by bus to Turinsk and then to get a taxi to the hot spring.
Going there by car: first go in the direction of Turinsk. Pass the right turn to Turinsk and continue going straight down the bridge over the Tura river. From the bridge take a left turn to the village of Chekunovo. Go down the main road of the village. You will see a sign Vodoistochnik on the left. Follow the sign. There is only one road to the hot spring. Parking fee 50rub
The distance between Yekaterinburg and Turinsk is 280km which is a 4 hour drive but it will be longer if using public transport.
On the way to Turinsk you can stop in the town of Irbit – a famous producer of the Ural motorbike. http://askural.com/2014/08/irbit-fair-and-ural-motorbikes/ It also has an interesting Museum of Fine Arts with a large collection of European engravings and works by Rubens given to Irbit by the Hermitage in St.Petersburg. Turinsk is another place of interest – from 1600 it was the first prison over the Ural mountains for the people exiled to Siberia by the Russian Tsars. The museum and the cemetery of Turinsk tell the history of Russian aristocrats imprisoned there.
Did you know that the Ural region has a Buddhist Center, the only one in Russia outside the Republics of Buryatia and Kalmykia? Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist monastery is located on Kachkanar Mount. The latter is a worthy place of attraction itself. Being the highest mountain in the Middle Urals (887.6m) with stunning views and peculiar rocks at the top, Kachkanar Mt has even got its own website: www.kachkanar.org
To get to that in many senses incredible place you need to drive 260km north of Yekaterinburg to the town of Kachkanar and from there about 50km more to the village Kosya. Here on the Is river people mined gold and platinum in the 19th century. A stone on the side of the road reminds you about it and also about the fact that you are crossing two borders here: the border of Europa and Asia and the border of the Middle and Northern Urals.
You don’t have to be a skillful mountain climber to get to the Buddhist Monastery at the top. It took our group of amateur hikers 2 hours to climb Kachkanar by the shortest and the steepest trail. By the way, our local guide Ivan Mikhailovich was 80 years old! Another longer and wider road (about 9km) can be very muddy after rains as it’s often used by off-road jeep drivers. So we were sweating but at least our feet were dry and clean.
It was very windy and cold at the top. That is why I was shocked to see ducks and a cow grazing amid the rocks. But you will be shocked even more when thinking how on Earth the monks managed to lift all the stuff up here to build their monastery with a white stupa!
The monastery is still in the process of construction but the monks always find time to leave their duties in order to show tourists around and to answer their questions. On Saturday as we got there the monastery was crowded with hikers, as usual on weekends. The monks offered us a spare room and tea and also the kitchen as we had a plan to cook pasta in there. It’s always a good idea to bring food or necessary building materials for the monks.
Shad Tchup Ling Buddhist monastery was founded by a veteran of Afganistan War Lama Sanye Tenzin Dokchit aka Mikhail Sannikov. After the war he studied Buddhism in Buryatia and Mongolia. In 1995 he started building a monastery on Kachaknar Mt., the place that had been chosen by his teacher. Technically, it can’t be called a monastery as there are no monks, except for the Lama, who have received a proper education. But the place can surely be called a rehab as most of the young men who come to Lama are trying to get rid of drug and alcohol addiction. Many run away after a month or two but they usually return back. Probably because there’s something unbearably beautiful in the severe landscape of the Northern Urals. Have a look yourself…
However, there’s a possibility that Kachkanar Mt and the monastery will no longer be here. The mountain is a rich bed of iron ore and the Ore Mining Enterprise of Kachkanar is planning to turn it into a deep quarry. The company belongs to EVRAZ holding headquartered in London and led by Russian tycoon Abramovitch. The activists keep on writing letters to President Putin but chances are the owner of FC Chelsea will win the battle against one solitary Lama.
On August 22nd we went to the annual fair in Irbit. Irbit is a town on the Eastern slope of the Ural mountains 200km east of Yekaterinburg. Back in the days Irbit was a gateway to Siberia. Thanks to its favourable location, the town became an attraction for Russian merchants who came to buy and sell goods from Siberia at the fair.
In 19th century Irbit Fair was the second largest in Russia after Nizhni Novgorod. The fair was famous for fabrics, Siberian furs and tea from China. In the Soviet period the fairs were not held in the Ural town but the tradition came back in 2002.
In the past the fair took place in winter and lasted for a month. These days the fair is held every 4th weekend of August from Friday till Sunday. Irbit Fair is an exhibition of various crafts in the Urals from making feltboots valenki to baking gingerbread. Local craftsmen invite you to the workshops. The guests are treated with tea and blinis.
Irbit is also famous for its Motorcycle Museum as the town is the home of the IMZ Ural motorcycle factory. In the USSR Ural bike was a very popular transport but in the 1990s the factory went bankrupt.
Fortunately deallers abroad were found and today Ural bikes are craftwork. The factory produces 1200 motorcycles a year, 95% of them are exported. One of the Ural bikes with a sidecar belongs to the Hollywood actor Brad Pitt.
Irbit has the Motorcycle Museum but thanks to the Center of Tourism Development of Sverdlovsk Region my colleagues and I were lucky to get to the factory.
By the way, the Ural factory has a nice website in English, in case you decide to buy one http://uralmoto.ru/en/
Click the gallery to see more photos from the motorcycle factory and of the fair
Dear readers, I’m happy to announce that the oldest English speaking club in Yekaterinburg is celebrating its 5th anniversary on August 13th at the Keeer Reastaurant. And you are very welcome to join the party!
The English club at Keeer is held every Wednesday at 8.30 in the banquet room of the restaurant.
Originally the idea was to make a discussion club for English learners but over time the club has become a meeting place for expats and random tourists from all over the world. According to Wikitravel, this is one of the two main things to do in Yekaterinburg: ‘Great place to meet other foreigners and local Russians who speak English.’
Every week there is a particular theme for discussion: sports, relationships, careers etc. The participants share their thoughts while eating and drinking Keeer’s specials. For the English learners it’s a great chance to practice speaking and listening skills. For a new, lonely expat it’s a chance to have fun and to make new friends.
‘I have been traveling continuously for the last 27 months around the world to 96 countries, 250 cities and 500 sacred sites on 6 continents so far. One of my most memorable experiences on my amazing Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian journey in the summer of 2011 was my time spent in Yekaterinburg. It is a beautiful city with very warm and welcoming people. Such a refreshing break from Saint Petersburg and Moscow where I had recently come from. One of my fondest memories there was my evening with the English Club and getting a chance to talk with many local Russians that were born and grew up in the area. My favorite topics that we discussed were about life in Russia and the culture and traditions of that part of Russia. Learning about the Russian people through their food, art, dance, religion and architecture. I look forward to visiting the city again in the next 2 years and I hope to get invited back to the English Club while I am there.’
Jefre C. Outlaw, USA
By the way, Jefre did come to Yekaterinburg and the English Club once again in January 2014!
While the Birthday Party will be held on August 13th, you can visit the English club any other Wednesday of the year. To join the club you just have to be there on Wednesday night (the meetings last from 8.30 till 11.30 or longer). 300 Rub ($10 US) minimum purchase required .The restaurant is in the same building as Havana Club on Mamina Sibiryaka, 36. If you can’t find it, ask the waiters for assistance.
You can find the theme of the next English club on the Facebook page: Yekaterinburg For You
On Sunday, August 3d we are off for a one day treasure hunt in the fields of gems near the town of Rezh!
Learn the secrets of the Ural Mountains, see beautiful landscapes and collect all types of the Ural gems at the Lipovsky mineral deposit also known as the Field of Wonders.
Itinerary: August 3d (Sunday)
9.00 Meeting at Dynamo Metro Station, Yekaterinburg
We are taking a comfortable bus to get to Rezh (80 km of Yekaterinburg)
10.30 Pershinskie Rocks – an excursion to the geomorphological area where you will see how the Ural Mountains were formed. Enjoy a beautiful view of Rezh district from the top of the rocks.
12.00 Lunch in the country - natural products from the locan farm, home-made dumpings, bread from the local bakery.
13.00 Barskaya Yama – our first stop for collecting quartz and other gems
14.00 A stop at the mineral spring Tochilny – here you can have a cup of fresh water from the spring which it is believed can heal.
14.30 A stop at the monument of newly-weds in the village of Sokolovo. See how local craftsmen decorated an area near the village to attract newly-weds.
15.00 Lipovsky mineral deposit – here you can find treasures literally under your feet. But one should know how to recognize them. Add it to an incredible landscape with red rocks similar to the surface of Mars and a lake with emerald water. Don’t forget to take a bag or a basket to collect the minerals as we promise you an abundance of them!
19.30 Arrival to the city back to Dynamo Metro (arrival time is approximate)
Price per person:
Adult – 1700rub \ child – 1600rub
The price includes: transfer in a bus, lunch, excursions with a mineralogist
Take with you:
- A raincoat or an umbrella in case of rain
- A bottle to fill in with water from the spring
- A bag\basket for collecting gems
- Insect repellents
for booking go to http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/weekend-tour
This summer my colleagues Katya and Denis bought a large truck URAL for off road tours in the Urals. It’s a very useful vehicle in this area. There’s a Russian saying that Russia has two main problems: fools and roads. And while one problem is trying to fix the other it doesn’t bring any result. So the best way out is to own an off-road truck!
My friends found the Ural truck in the Northern Urals. Previously it had been used by the special police forces called OMON. The interior of the truck has been altered and hey presto, we have a comfortable bus for twenty persons which can bring you to the top of the Ural Mountains!
Last week we went on a testing tour. At the sight of the Ural truck moving in the woods many hikers and bicycle riders were staring with astonishment to say the least. Some might think that the OMON police force went on a mission. Our mission was as follows: to visit the rocks also known as the Devil’s Settlement and to stop at the lake for a swim and BBQ.
The Devil’s Settlement (Chyortovo Gorodische) is a range of 300 million years old peculiar granite abruptions of volcanic origin which looks like a thick black wall. When the Russians first came to the place they thought it was a wall of the devil’s dwelling. Today the wall is popular with rock climbers and tourists from Yekaterinburg. You can get to the place on foot from the nearest Iset train station or with a bicycle but to arrive in the formidable Ural truck is much more fun.
Although the height of the rocks is only 20 meters it’s quite a risky adventure to get to the top. A crooked unstable wooden ladder at the top makes the whole climbing enterprise is even more hazardous. However the view from up there compensates your risks.
And yet, it would be far from a brilliant idea to climb the Devil’s Settlement on a rainy day or in winter, especially alone. Don’t do this!
Our next stop was at Peschanoye lake. The lake is only 20km of Yekaterinburg therefore the shore is a popular destination for many citizens. The rivers and lakes in the city are not good for swimming so Peschanoye offers a wide range of entertainments on water. You can rent a boat here and a veranda for BBQ. And that’s what we did.
The testing tour went well so you can try it out from now on every Saturday through the summer 2014.
The trip takes about 8 hours. The price is 1800rub per person. Please check availability beforehand
To book this tour go: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/off-road-tour