Photo-gallery№ 2 September 2017

Ice caves (Buryatia, Irkutsk region).
Baikal is the largest lake on the planet. Despite being located in a region with a harsh climate, the lake takes several weeks to ice over and usually this process only finishes in January. However, much sooner, as soon as the temperature drops below 0°С, sprays of water splashing on to the cliffs during storms help to form unusual ice figures on the rock, which remain right up until spring.

Wrangel Island (Chukotka).
This island is Russia's northernmost nature reserve. Despite the fact that two thirds of its territory is taken up by cliffs, it is the most diverse area in the Arctic in terms of flora and fauna. The main local star is the polar bear; this island has the highest concentration of bear lairs in the word. Every year, up to 500 female bears lie down in them.

Kungur Ice Cave (Perm region).
This is one of the largest caves in the country, and a pioneer in cave tourism: expeditions were coming here as early as the 19th century. The total explored length of the cave is 5.7 km, and 48 grottoes, 70 lakes and around 150 'organ pipes' (shafts leading to the surface) have been discovered. The largest 'organ pipe', located in the Efirny cave, has a height of 22 metres.

Magic island of Yankicha (Sakhalin region).
The word 'yanke', from which the name of the island comes, means 'raised' in the language of the Ainu people, the ancient settlers of the Kuril Islands. It is known that, at one point, there was a volcano in the centre of the island. Later, the southern wall of its crater was destroyed, creating a picturesque cove called, appropriately enough, Crater Bay.

Valley of Lotuses (Astrakhan region).
Each summer, the Volga Delta (incidentally, the largest river delta in Europe) turns into a pink field. This is because of the lotus, a flower which in many cultures is considered a symbol of purity and integrity. It is a unique flower that can endure temperatures as low as -30 °С, and there are known cases of its seeds retaining the ability to germinate after 1,000 years of dormancy.

Elton saltwater lake (Volgograd region).
Russia has its own dead sea -the Elton saltwater lake in the north of the Pre- Caspian lowlands. The lake is small: in spring, it is only 1.5 metres deep, and is fed by underground sources. However, the lake’s mineralisation is 150% higher than the Dead Sea. Salt was extracted from the lake since the time of Ivan the Terrible, although now it is a nature reserve and a resort district.

Lena Pillars (Yakutia).
The Pillars are found for many kilometres along the Lena, the largest river in Central Siberia. According to scientists, these sheer cliffs began to form around 550 million years ago. Later, the limey rock wore off, forming a beautiful stone 'forest'. Local residents consider it a symbol of courage, as, according to legend, a young warrior and the evil dragon he defeated turned into the pillars.

Sikhote-Alin (Primorsky region).
It was not by chance that the writer Vladimir Arsenyev called this mountainous region 'the great forest'. Here, there are living plants that ‘saw the dinosaurs,' as is often said. One of these is the Fori rhododendron, an ancient tropical shrub that has survived millions of years. Sikhote-Alin is the only place in continental Russia where this plant can be seen.

Golden Mountains of Altai.
The Siberian taiga, the crystal clear lakes, the subalpine and alpine mountain ranges, and the tundra and steppe highlands: all of this is contained in only one Russian nature reserve, usually called the Golden Mountains of Altai. The challenging terrain, up to 3,500 metres high and boasting diverse climate conditions, has given rise to a wide variety of flora and fauna in the area. There are around 1,500 species of plants alone.

Curonian spit (Kaliningrad region).
This is the largest sand dune in the world, formed by the sea and wind. This unique and very fragile natural object is a long (almost 100km) and very narrow (in some places only 350 metres) sandy peninsular, separating the freshwater Curonian lagoon from the Baltic Sea.

Volcanoes of Kamchatka.
Almost 40% of the Kamchatka peninsula is made up of volcanoes, both active and dormant. It is difficult to even work out exactly how many volcanoes there are in total – sometimes it is estimated that there are more than 1,000. However, Kamchatka is not only volcanoes, but also a unique paradise of flora and fauna. In one park alone, 'Klyuchevskoy', there are over 420 plant species, many of which are featured in Russia's Red Data Book.

Arkhyz (Karachay-Cherkessia).
The Western Caucasus is one of only a few large mountainous regions in Europe, practically untouched by humans. Arkhyz is one of the most popular tourist regions in the Western Caucasus, with surviving plants from the tertiary period, even before the last ice age.

Putorana Plateau (Krasnoyarsk region).
This seemingly-endless elevated plain was formed between 10 and 12 million years ago as the result of a strong earthquake. The northern Arctic Circle is the notional southern border of the plateau. The local lakes and hills are considered among the most beautiful sights in Siberia. The Northern Lights, visible from the plateau, bring in tourists; April is the best time of year to see them.

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