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
With many mountain rivers the Ural region is ideal for rafting. The best rafting time is May and beginning of June when the rivers are full thanks to the melting snow. Staying in Yekaterinburg it’s possible to go for a short rafting trip on the Serga river, the Rezh and the Chusovaya. The latter is the most popular with tourists. The river is 592 km long and it flows in Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Perm Regions crossing the Urals from East to West.
Back in the days the Chusovaya was explored by the factory owners who transported wood, iron ore and copper to Perm. In spring with the first floods heavy loaded ships went down the fast winding river. Many of them crashed to the coastal cliffs. The navigation was dangerous, so in the 19th century some cliffs were blown up with dynamite.
Today, rafting on the Chusovaya is quite easy especially in mid summer. My friends and I decided to go rafting for a weekend in July 2012 which was good fun but could hardly be called rafting. That summer was very hot and the Chusovaya was extremely shallow – every 20 min our raft got stuck and we had to push it. But at least it was safe, one couldn’t drown even if you really wanted to.
Navigating a slow river gives you a good opportunity to look around. The main sites of attraction on the Chusovaya are picturesque river banks and the cliffs called boytsy (fighters). Every cliff has a poetic name and is under protection as a natural monument. Sometimes you can stop for visiting caves and grottos on the river bank or to see some old props for the movie filmed here many years ago.
Our place of destination was the village of Chusovoye (120km of Yekaterinburg). The village holds an annual rafting festival. It starts in the middle of July and includes art and folk performances. The closing day was on Sunday but by the time we arrived it had been over. We shouldn’t have slept so long in the camp I guess!
If you decide to visit the Urals this summer, try a bit of rafting to see more of the wild nature!
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!
On March 2 we organized a one day tour to the country to celebrate the pre-lent pancake festival called Maslenitsa. Maslenitsa is probably the only pagan celebration in Russia that has survived until nowadays with all the rites and traditions. After Christianity of Russia the Orthodox Church had to change the dates of the Lent so that people could eat pancakes and go crazy on Maslenitsa. As for the Russian Tsars, they liked to have fun too. Even the Soviet regime couldn’t change Russian habits.
To have a proper Maslenitsa fest it’s a good idea to go to the country. Our group of Russians and expats from Italy, France, USA, Serbia and India went to the village of Kostino 130km East of Yekaterinburg. Kostino is one of the most prosperous villages in the area thanks to the Kolkhoz (a collective farm) which is still active. Our Maslenitsa began in the local museum where we were greeted with bread and salt (a Russian tradition of greeting special guests) – everyone has to try a bit of bread with salt before entering the house.
After the excursion in the museum we had a workshop – learnt how to make an obereg – a special maslenitsa talisman that symbolizes the sun and protects from the evil spirits. Considering the fact that we met no spirits on that day, the talisman worked!
The folk performance in the museum consisted of songs and blinis. Some of the maslenitsa traditions were quite brutal. A son-in-law would beat his mother-in-law with a wooden stick thus wishing her good health and longevity. Another tradition was a mass fist fight of men. It was called a-wall-to wall fight. The most dangerous one was a fight with a bear. Surely, such fights involved drinking including drinking vodka with a bear!
Fortunately, there were no bears in Kostino and instead of vodka we were treated with a local liqueur. The main part of the festival was held outside. Having dressed up a little bit all the guests took part in fun skiing and horse riding competitions, a race with a frying pan full of pancakes etc. Finally we burnt down the maslenitsa doll saying farewell to the winter.
Even though we are still having minus temperatures in March in the Urals, the spring has come to the people who follow the traditions of their forefathers. Well, except for beating your mother-in-law!
special thanks to Irina Loktionova and Venu Panicker for the photos!
January 19th is known in Russia as the Epiphany. The blessing of the waters takes place in the middle of winter when temperature drop dramatically however, it doesn’t prevent many Russians from cutting holes in the lakes to bathe in the freezing water.
This period around January 19th is called Epiphany Frosts (Kreschenskie morozy). Somehow the weather worsens exactly for the Epiphany as if to test Russians’ bravery. This week has been very warm in Yekaterinburg -2 -4 but exactly on Jan 19th we expect -20 in the city and around – 30 in the north of the region.
Last winter I was invited to the village of Chusovoye for the Epiphany by the organizers of the Ural-Scottish Festival.
Mt.Konzhak or Konzhakovsky Kamen (Konzhakovski stone) is the highest mount of the Urals in Sverdlovsk Region and Northern Urals: 1569.7 meters. The mount was named after a local mansi hunter Konzhakov who lived at the foot of it. When climbing Konzhak you walk through a mixed forest, taiga forests, tundra and alpine valleys. Since 1996 people from all over Russia and sometimes from abroad come there to take part in the Konzhak Marathon. Overall the track is 42 km: 21km up the mount and 21km to descend. The marathon is held on the first weekend of July.
The first weekend of November is another popular date when dozens of hikers come to Konzhak for winter climbing. Some take snowboards and skis to start the season. I had never been to Konzhak in summer and this November I got there for the first time with a group of hikers and snowboarders from Yekaterinburg.
We pitched our tents not far from the marathon trail and started next morning at 8 a.m. First 16km were very easy. We were walking in the forest enjoying the fresh air, drinking tasty water from mountain springs and rivers every now and then. But at the height of 900m we got to the Glade of Painters – a windy open area where you realize that the fun is over. That’s where we were told to put on everything warm from the backpacks.
At this stage the track gets very steep and you move through tundra with crooked dwarf cedar trees and birches. I thought it took us ages to get to something that looked like the summit – a stone with a plaque: 300 years of the Ural Metallurgy. It turned out that we had done just one more kilometer from the Glade of the Painters. Strong bitter wind and thick snow have reduced our relatively fast speed to 0.8km\hr. It sounded like a joke that’s why some people left us there. They decided to return back.
The rest of the ascending was nothing but white snow and thick fog. At some point the red flags that marked the marathon track disappeared. With visibility of maximum 10 meters it was hard to tell where to go. Fortunately, one of the guys had a navigator that helped not just us but also another group of hikers that we met at the top. Those hikers had been walking there for 30 min trying to find the summit. Finally, we got there: 21 km and several attempts to give up the damn Konzhak and go back but we made it!
Although I couldn’t tell how beautiful it was at the top of Konzhak I knew the Internet would help. So here we are:
The way back was surprisingly fast as you just slide down in the snow. However, our snowboarders had to carry their boards all the way up and then 4km. down because going down from the summit with little visibility would have been too crazy even for those guys. Overall trip took us 12 hours though we cheated a bit - 12km at the foot of the mount were covered in a minivan. So was it worth it? It certainly was. It’s still hard to believe that on Saturday I left rainy and muddy Yekaterinburg and on Sunday I was in the middle of sever arctic blizzard which didn’t feel cold by the way as we were moving all the time and had hot tea with us.
I can’t imagine how the marathon runners cover the track in 3 -4 hours though. Of course they don’t have to fight with snow conditions but there are other huge obstacles in summer, namely huge rocks on the trail that cause quite a number of injuries every year.
Konzhak marathon is the most difficult and the most populated of all 60 Russian Marathons. The record was set in 2001 – Mikhail Sumochkin from Kazan covered 42km in 2 hours 58 min. Dmitriy Vasilyev from Chaikovsky made it in 5:35 – he is the fastest runner in the category over 70 years old.
More photos and info about the marathon in English: http://marafon.krasnoturinsk.org/
Getting there: Mt. Konzhakovski Kamen is 420km north-west of Yekaterinburg. From Serovsky Trakt (highway) turn right to Karpinsk. From Karpinsk go down the road towards Kytlym village. Nearest towns with hotels and cafes: Krasnoturinsk and Karpinsk.
See the post: http://askural.com/2012/03/dyatlov-pass/
Since that I’ve got many questions about the book and when it’s realized. I’m happy to say that the book Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar was released on October 22 and is now available on Amazon!
And here’s the first review by Booklist: "The Dyatlov Pass incident is virtually unknown outside Russia, but in that country, it’s been a much-discussed mystery for decades. In 1959, nine Russian university students disappeared on a hiking expedition in the Ural Mountains. A rescue team found their bodies weeks later, nearly a mile from their campsite, partially clothed, shoeless, three of them having died from injuries that indicated a physical confrontation. What happened here? There have been a lot of theories, ranging from misadventure to government conspiracy to freak weather to extraterrestrials, but no one has managed to get to the truth. Drawing on interviews with people who knew the hikers (and with the lone survivor of the expedition, who’d had to turn back due to illness), Russian case documents, and the hikers’ own diaries, Eichar, an American documentarian, re-creates the ill-fated expedition and the investigation that followed. The author’s explanation of what happened on Dead Mountain is necessarily speculative, but it has the advantage of answering most of the long-standing questions while being intuitively plausible. A gripping book, at least as dramatic as Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (1997).”
— David Pitt
You can also check the official website http://deadmountainbook.com/ to read more facts, see the photos and to watch the book trailer.
P.S. Some time ago 9 students - the friends of mine went hiking to Northern Urals. They went on the same dates as the Dyatlov team in the same number and pitched their tent in the same place of the Dead Mointain. That evening they were trying to keep cool but were trembling with fear. Finally, they went to sleep and woke up in the morning safe and sound.
As you can guess the place is not dangerous anymore and it attracts more and more tourists both in summer and in winter. Come to visit it but first read the book!
By the way, the Hollywood movie on the Dyatlov Pass was a bit of a flop because zombie is the last thing the students might encounter there. What will be your explanation then?
all the photos from http://deadmountainbook.com/
I know many Russians who moved abroad for better lives and I know just a few foreigners who came to Russia to change things here for better. I truly admire such people. One of them is Stefan Semken from the Ural village of Bingi.
Stefan is a German entrepreneur, together with his Russian wife Olga he decided to buy a house not far from Yekaterinburg. He liked Nevyansk area 80km to the north of Yekaterinburg. In 2007 Stefan found a 140 years old wooden house in Bingi, a village of the gold diggers. Stefan and Olga converted their house into a guesthouse with a banya. Guests can also stay in three yurts erected in the yard. Budget-conscious travelers can even pitch their own tent in the back yard. Even though the house looks small Stefan assured that he can accommodate up to 25 people. At least that was a record broke by his Russian friends who came for a visit in a group of 25 persons which made the Semkens spend that memorable night in their minivan. I imagine the house looked like a refugee camp but the hosts didn’t seem to be bothered at all.
I heard about Stefan from many tourists (they especially praise Olga’s cooking and Stefan’s hospitality) but only got to his place this September before the end of the season. As there is no gas in the house and Olga has to cook in the summer kitchen, their house is closed when the temperature drops to +12 C and lower, that is from October till beginning of May. The house looks like a very cozy place with lots of antiques. Stefan will show you some old coins of the pre-revolution days that he had found in his garden and a tusk of a mammoth – a gift from a local gold digger.
Apart from the stay in the farm house, guests are offered a transfer to Yekaterinburg, tours in the area and most importantly an excursion in the village including a ride in a neighbor’s Ural motorbike. Bingi is a pretty village of Old Believers who were persecuted by the Tsar and had to move to the Urals in 17th-18th centuries. The Old Believers were known as hard working people who didn’t drink alcohol. Things have changed though and one of Stefan’s concerns is that it’s difficult to hire local people to help.
The Semkens have to do everything themselves. Next year Stefan is planning to build an extension of the house and says it would be great to find a German carpenter. Germans have always played an important role in the history of Russia, starting from Peter the Great who was found of German culture and traditions. By the way, one of the city founders of Yekaterinburg was a German General Wilhelm de Genin, sent to the Urals by Peter the Great to manage the production of iron ore. Stefan could become a good manager of his area too. He already knows what to do to improve life and ecology in the place where he lives and he never hesitates to say it to the mayor of Nevyansk. He is a good friend of the new mayor of Yekaterinburg Eugeni Roizman and helps Roizman’s fund The City without Drugs. Needless to say if you stay at the Semkens’ place you will learn a lot about current political, economical and cultural affairs in Russia and in the Urals.
I’ll definitely go there again next season for a countryside weekend and for a banya!
Check the website www.semken.eu to learn more about accommodation in GuLAG Bingi as Stefan puts it.