Russia, with its 17 million square kilometers, is a huge country of no fewer than 11 different time zones stretching from the western part of the European continent to the eastern tip of the Asian continent. While we all know the large and central cities of this vast country, such as Moscow, St. Petersburg and Volgograd, you can imagine that there are dozens and even hundreds of smaller towns, villages, and cities that we don’t know about. That is why we’ve gathered 14 of these beautiful and unfamiliar places all over this huge country, and we invite you to get to know them a little more closely and be impressed by their charm.
This picturesque little town sits at a historical axis between the Volga River and the Silk Road, which in the past made it a strategic point of defensive importance and led Ivan the Terrible, the famous Russian ruler of the 16th century, to build the fortress that led to its founding and is now considered a top tourist attraction.
This small and ancient town was famous mainly for an exceptional case that occurred in the 16th century: the bells of its church were cut and "exiled" to Siberia by government officials - as punishment for being rung to announce the murder of Dimitri Ivanovich, Ivan the Terrible, in what government officials believed was just an accident.
Kirillov has been a leading tourist destination since the days of the Soviets, with this pleasant town being famous for its large and powerful monastery built in its territory, the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, founded in 1397. In fact, the town itself grew around the monastery, in whose small area more than 12 churches and one impressive cathedral were erected.
The powerful Oreshek fortress, which distinguishes the skyline of this town and attracts many tourists, was founded in 1323 and was constructed largely of wood but was destroyed by the Swedish King Magnus IV. As a lesson from its destruction, the Russians built it again in 1352, this time from stone - the town itself was established only 350 years after the restoration of the fortress by Tsar Peter the Great.
In Russian, the term "Kremlin" describes a large central fortress. The famous Kremlin is of course located in Red Square in Moscow, which serves as the seat of the Russian president, however the one in Rostov is considered the second most beautiful in the country and attracts many tourists who come as part of a tour of Russia’s "Golden Ring" - a series of towns located around the city of Moscow which are considered fascinating and particularly interesting.
Located near the border with Finland sits Sortavala, founded in 1632 by the Swedes and was part of the Finnish state until World War II. This is the closest town to Valaam, an archipelago of 50 tiny islands dotted with monasteries in the north of Lake Ladoga, which are quite the tourist attraction.
Some consider this picturesque town as one of the most beautiful rural areas in Russia. Ostashkov's small streets, embedded with exceptionally beautiful church buildings, blend into the neoclassical architecture of the 17th-century Russian architect Ivan Starov.
This ancient village sits close to the border with Estonia, and its name means "old Izborsk" - since it was founded sometime in 862 CE. The combination of the remains of the ancient stone fortress and the Church of St Nicholas - standing since the 14th century, makes Stary Izborsk an attractive stopover point for tourists who want to learn about the history and heritage of the region.
The endless peace of Plyos was perpetuated by the famous Russian-Jewish painter Yitzhak Levitan, who was renowned for his landscape painting as an expression of mood. In this pleasant town, founded on the banks of the Volga in 1238 and preserving its beauty to this day, you’ll find a large museum devoted to the honor of this esteemed artist.
As you may have already realized, Russia is full of charming towns, but Vyatskoye, about 300 kilometers from Moscow, is one of the most beautiful. Many thanks to Russian businessman Oleg Zaharov’s donation in 2007, which helped to rebuild the city’s most impressive structures and make it an attraction for tourists visiting the area.
In the past, Kargopol was one of the richest cities in Russia, and in the 16th century, it grew rapidly, due to it being situated on the ancient trade route between Moscow and the port city of Arkhangelsk. Today, Kargopol is a small sleepy town with more churches than people, but it is definitely worth visiting to get an impression of what was once one of the most important cities in the country.
The ancient little town was once the capital of the principality of Vladimir - Russian principalities held in the area in the 11th and 12th century - while Moscow was no more than a satellite town of minor importance. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since, but Suzdal remains a beautiful, fascinating and history-rich destination to visit and explore.
The tiny and isolated village which sits on the Kamchatka Peninsula wild eastern edge of Russia is the best destination for independent travelers and adventure seekers because from here, you can go out and see the area’s natural wonders, and take in attractions such as hiking trails, horseback riding, and even dog sledding.