The travelling season starts soon! In Yekaterinburg it usually lasts from May till October.
Check out our new 0ne day tour to the Northern Urals and Siberian Deer!
Meet the inhabitants of the Visim Farm: Altai and Siberian red deer, Yakutian horses and yaks. Visit the village museum and see the Ural Mountains from the top of Mt Belaya.
More details at Yekaterinburg For You website: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours
Hope to see you in the Urals soon!
Karim Farah, an exchange student from Egypt arrived in Yekaterinburg in December for a few weeks. And of course, it sounded as a crazy plan in the first place, considering that last December was the coldest month in the Urals with temperatures around -25. For someone from the countries like Egypt it must be a one month long nightmare, you would think. However, Karim asked me to share his photos because he would be happy ‘to advertise the wonderful city of Yekat!'
So here’s the advertisement: Don’t be afraid to come to Russia in winter. There’s much more to do in Yekaterinburg in winter than going on conventional excursions in summer months.
Be different and try out a Russian style winter holiday in the Ural capital!
10 Must-dos in Yekaterinburg in winter:
1 Go to the Europe-Asian border and roll in the snow in the nearby forest
3 Go to a Russian banya (steam bath) and jump in snow this time absolutely naked!
4 Drink Russian vodka, that always keeps you warm, with Russian friends or without
6 Try Wikitravel’s must-dos in Yekaterinburg: English club at the Keeer restaurant on Wednesday night to meet new people. And the Limpopo Aquapark to feel like on a tropical island when it’s still – 25 outside.
7 Learn skating with your new friends from the English club
8 Make a snowman. Ask local kids to help you – they’ve been practicing since they were born
9 Do the city tour: dig out the QWERTY monument and walk on the surface of the city pond – something you can only do in winter!
10 At night take photos of the amazing ‘ice town’ in the Square on 1905
‘Khazakhi-Razboyniki’ (The Cossacks) Adventure park with a rope course is a great outdoor activity. I discovered it in September and have already been there twice with friends and colleagues.
It’s quite a challenge to walk the course till the end. The last level is a platform at a height of 16 meters and you are supposed to jump to the ground from it. In fact you are forced to do it as it’s the only way to return back unless you wish to do the whole rope course backwards. Exciting but also safe: the course has safety system and two trainers watch your efforts from the ground and tell you what to do.
The Cossacks Park is not only a team building activity (I brought the members of our local English Club there). It is a good chance to have fun with a small group of friends (max 10 people). Apart from this the park offers such group games as paintball and laser tag. The Cossacks are open all year long. It’s possible to do the rope course in winter at mild temperatures when you can wear a thin winter jacket.
The park is located at Peski (sand) resort near Shartash Lake. Therefore, there are cottages to rent for a weekend, a restaurant and summer pavilions for outdoor picnics and of course a Russian banya! Apart from it the organizers started building wonderful authentic wooden houses. The houses are have all modern facilities and at the same time are designed as the 18th-19th century Russian peasants’ homes.
Renting a cottage for two will cost you 1500-3500 rubles.
Picnic pavilions are from 300rub per hour while a heated Mongolian ger with a BBQ place is 4000rub but it accommodates up to 20 people inside.
Russian banya (steam bath) for 6-10 people will set you back from 1000 to 2000rub per hour
Rope course and other games (2hours) run from 640rub per person
More information in Russian at www.peski13.ru
In August 2012 I had a chance to visit a famously mysterious place called Arkaim. The archeological site of an ancient city of Arkaim (17th century b.c.) is in Southern Urals 432 km of Chelyabinsk near the northern border of Kazakhstan.
The place was discovered in 1987 by the scientists from Chelyabinsk. Presumably the people who lived in Arkaim in 17 century b.c. belonged to Iranian or an unknown branch of Indo-Iranian culture. Their settlement for approximately 1500-2500 people was protected by two circular walls. The ancient town covered 20 000 sq meters. The people lived there for 300 years then the settlement was burned and abandoned by its dwellers for unknown reasons.
All this you can learn in a local museum. However, today Arkaim is known as a ‘place of power’ is believed to be enigmatic and it attracts hundreds of pilgrims and esoteric organizations. Some people call it Swastika city or Mandala city. Others compare it with Stonehenge. Those who visited it (including my friends in Yekaterinburg) claim that they felt positive vibes and even healing effects. Obviously I had to go there to see and hopefully to feel something extraordinary!
A camping for pilgrims is located near the archeological site but not quite close to it. The guides say that there’s not much to see there in terms archeology though whilst the nearby mountains are much more interesting for they are the true places of power. In fact, the camping looks very much like a hippy village. Honestly, If you miss the 1970s, you should pay a visit to Arkaim. The flower children of Russia on tops of the hills, talk to ancient stones and sell souvenirs (probably drugs too) from India and China.
An ordinary day in Arkaim is as follows:
6 a.m. climbing one of the mountains (they are hills actually) to see the sunrise.
7 a.m. doing morning exercises with a local trainer who also sells herbal medicine made of Arkaim herbs, of course.
9 a.m. – till the sunset: climbing the nearby mountains\hills of different significance: mountain of love, of wealth, of making wishes etc. The mountain of atonement is the most popular one as people crowds were walking there in circles (that’s what you are supposed to do to say sorry for your deeds). Surprisingly enough the mountain of love was the least popular that day. But then I understood why – it’s the highest and the steepest one.
Alternatively one can stay in the camp to listen to lectures given by various esoteric gurus, go swimming in a small river or riding horses in the endless steppes.
The night time goes more or less traditional in Arkaim: it involves drinking and eating shashlik in a local café. Alternatively one can go meditating on top of a hill.
My personal opinion is that Akaim is an amazing place for someone who arrived from Yekaterinburg surrounded by dense woods. The steppe looks beautiful and exotic, especially when you meet local Asiatic people selling fresh milk and herbal tea from samovar. The climate is fantastic (while it was miserable +16 in Middle Urals, it was +35 in Arkaim). As for the power I didn’t feel anything weird but it felt like a good day off. And the hippies, well they are quiet and harmless anyway, just like their American counterparts. So the place is worth visiting even though it’s 634km of Yekaterinburg.
On last Sunday of August the anual Baby Buggy Parade takes place in Mayakovskogo Park. All Russia and Yekaterinburg in particular is experiencing a baby boom at the moment. So it’s not a problem to find buggies but for the parade they should look extraordinary as well as the baby and its parents.
This year there were 112 participants. Yekaterinburgers were really creative. A few themes very especially popular: pirates and boats, princes and princesses and Yemelya, a lazy character of a Russian fairy tale who is sleeping on top of a hot oven all the time.
I didn’t stay till the end of the parade, so I don’t know which baby buggy won the first prize in 2012. All of them were charmingly beautiful and funny. Click on the gallery to see more babies, buggies and scrap sculptures in between.
Kungur is a popular tourist destination all year long but it attracts even more people from 30th June to 7th July when the city hosts a festival of air balloons. Last year my friends and I attended the last day of the festival. I was very impressed by the Mediterranean-like life of this old Ural town.
Lonely Planet guide book on Russia says: ‘Between the blandness of Perm and the blandness of Yekaterinburg, Kungur is like ice cream in a biscuit’. Well, we were certainly longing for an ice cream as we entered the city on a hot July day. Kungur looked like one of those Russian resorts on the Black Sea. People were swimming in the Sylva River in the center of Kungur, sunbathing on the benches of the main street and walking lazily back and forth in shorts and flip-flops with beach towels on their shoulders.
The Sylva River is a real pearl of Kungur. It’s very pure and slow enough for easy rafting. We rented a motor-boat and noticed that for the locals a boat or a raft is the main mean of transport and also the way of spending a weekend. Picnics onboard are as ubiquitous here as in Amsterdam.
Others, who weren’t lucky to be born in Kungur, come with their tents and spend weekends outside Kungur a few km down the city. By the way, you too should go 5 km out of town to visit the famous Kungur Ice Cave!
The passages stretch for over 6 km and only a small part has been explored so far. 1.5 km will be enough for you to explore. The grottos are "adorned" with columns of stalagmites and icicles of stalactites up to two meters in height. The best time to visit the cave is beginning of spring. That’s the time when icicles are especially big. We didn’t go inside because on that hot day I completely forgot about taking warm clothes and comfortable trainers. So these photos are from the Internet:
The cave is open daily 9am-4pm. Group excursions start every two hours and cost 600Rub. You can have an individual excursion for 1000Rub. An excursion lasts 1hr 20min.
Kungur was founded in 1663. The town is proud of its museum of tea, and old churches. To get a bird view of the city, you should climb the bell tower of this church:
As it got dark, the public in the center changed dramatically and we realized that Kungur is a very working-class town. In other words, to see the balloon show at night one had to be drunk on not to be there at all.
Accommodation: Kungur has two decent hotels which are always totally booked during the first week of July. Iren hotel is on Lenina st 30 in the center. Stalagmit Complex is outside the town but it’s just next to the entrance to the ice cave. However, many Russians prefer to stay in their tents on the banks of the Sylva.
Getting there: from Perm it takes about 2 hours by bus or suburban train. From Yekaterinburg – about 5 hours by bus from Yuzhniy Avtovokzal ( Bus Station) on 8 Marta st. 145
Click on photos to see more sights of Kungur and the river
I realized that we live in a small world when during my vacation in Kerala, India I met a local man who had lived in Yekaterinburg for 2 years. Joshy (that was his name) had worked as a chef at an Ayurvedic Spa hotel near my home city!
India is now much closer than it seemed to be. To be precise it’s only 30 km South-West to Yekaterinburg in Kungurka village. IndRa Spa hotel is an ideal get away for yoga lovers with authentic Indian food and Ayurvedic massages. And because I got hooked on Indian massages in Kerala my friend and I went out on retreat to Kungura. Besides, Rimma Ozorina who runs the place was kind enough to show us around.
Accommodation prices range between 2 and 5 thousand rubles (incl. three meals at an Indian vegetarian restaurant). IndRa has also got two designer rooms: “Maharaja” and “Indian Princess” suitable for honeymoons and special occasions for 8500 rubles.
Body massages start from 2000 rubles. It’s not as cheap as in India, but definitely more affordable compared to Moscow saloons. No wonder, the hotel has become popular with Moscow businessmen who come on business to Yekaterinburg but prefer to stay in a quiet place overnight. It takes about 40-60 min by car to get from Yekaterinburg to Kungurka.
After a delicious lunch and a massage session we were way too relaxed to try other activities that IndRa offers: tennis court, sauna and horse riding at local stables.
Kungurka is not only an Indian Spa retreat. First of all, it’s a traditional Russian village that has a certain rustic charm: old wooden houses with banyas and Orthodox churches with golden onions.
Getting there: From Yekaterinburg drive down Moskovskaya Ul. To Polevskoy Trakt (P-355). Pass Kurganovo and after the bridge turn right to Kungurka. Follow the sign “IndRa”
p.s. Good news for expats in Yekaterinburg. Some of you asked me about yoga classes in English: IndRa has Yoga and Ayurveda center on Belinskogo, 54 with English-speaking teachers from India.
More information (in Russian): http://indra-ayurveda.ru
I made this video two years ago. It looks like I've put on a few kilos since that while the city hasn't changed at all. Enjoy and come for a visit this summer!
Nature park Bazhovskie Mesta is one of the largest in Middle Urals. It is also the nearest to Yekaterinburg (60km) that makes it attractive for tourists. At the end of February the managers of the park invited Yekaterinburg guides including me to check out their new route: a hiking tour with a local shaman down to the woods and to the believes of the ancient Ural tribes.
As we got to the park in an authentic Russian UAZ jeep, we were greeted by a shaman by the fireplace. We expected to share a peace pipe but he offered us herbal tea which was a good idea, considering it’s still winter here. Having put on something like Mansi overcoats we followed the shaman to learn what our ancestors believed in.
The tour lasts about three hours. It can be longer if you wish to go swimming in the lake in summer time. We learnt about bad and good spirits that inhabit forests, thanked the god of the winds for guiding us and found out that Mansi newly-weds had a honeymoon too..in a very transparent shelter.
The tour with a shaman is 6000rubles (200$) for a group of 6-10 people. You can also have it at night! In this case you walk with flaming torches which makes a whole experience very exciting.
I’ll definitely go there in summer to try out a night tour. If you are interested too, just let me know 🙂
For more summer activities in the park click here: http://askural.com/2011/06/sysert-eco-tour-on-horseback/
This post is for those tourists who asked me about riding a horse in the Urals.
Nature Park Bazhovskie Mesta (Bazhov’s Places) is located near the town of Sysert 60 km south of Yekaterinburg. The park is named after Pavel Bazhov, a writer from Sysert and an author of fairy-tale stories about Russian gems and jewelers based on the Urals folklore.
The forest became a nature park in 2007 almost accidentally. The government of Sysert decided to reorganize 38 hectares of forests into a park. The real purpose of the officials was to use the park partly as legitimate hunting grounds. Luckily for bears, the area was certified as Nature Park by the Regional Government which means it is now ‘especially protected natural territory’.
There is a lot to protect there. The pine tree forest is full of animals: squirrels, beavers, minks, roebucks, wild boars, elks and famous Russian brown bears. The river Chernaya, Sysertski pond and small lakes in the park are good for swimming and fishing. One of the park’s main attractions is Talkov Kamen (Talc Stone) – an old flooded talc mine. The mine is popular with divers and a glade near the mine is an ideal place for picnics.
There are numerous trails for hiking and riding horses. The park offers short and long riding tours (from 1 to 4 days) and provides the necessary equipment and meals. You can also rent a snowmobile in winter. Bicycle rental is to be opened this summer. 4 hour horse riding tour is 2.500 roubles. Book a tour a few days prior to your arrival. From summer 2012 the park offers short and long kayak trips for groupes of 2 to 6 people.
For more details call the office: +7 34374 74870, +79221235850
www.bm-park.ru (in Russian)
Getting there: from Yekaterinburg down Chelyabinski Trakt, turn right to Kashino and Sysert. Drive through Sysert further to the village of Verkhnyaya Sysert. To date, entrance fee 50 roubles, car park is free.