It’s easy to associate Russia with endless Arctic conditions that characterize the country’s Siberian region while forgetting its many coastal locations. In reality, Russia has some 23,612 miles of coastline — a number that nearly doubles the amount in the United States. In a country that spans eleven time zones and is more or less 6,213 miles from East to West, the number of places to visit in Russia can seem overwhelming. Luckily, we’re here with a list that narrows down options for a fantastic beach holiday.
Sochi surfaced on everyone’s map during the 2014 Winter Olympics when it famously became a host city with conditions that may have been a tad too toasty for the Games. Located on the coast of the Black Sea near Russia’s Southern border with Georgia, Sochi, aside from its picturesque beaches, treats visitors to neo-classical architecture, nearby mountains, and a good laid back vibe. With a population of around 350,000 people, Sochi is considered Russia’s largest resort town, offering travelers a compromise between an isolated resort experience with fine dining and a city where fast food like blini is readily available.
Spanning a great distance in Southern Siberia, Lake Baikal is the world’s largest freshwater lake, the world’s deepest lake (5,387 feet), argued to be the world’s oldest lake (25-30 million years old), and in the discussion for the world’s clearest lake. And, oh yeah, contains about 22% of the world’s entire supply of surface freshwater. The facts alone make it worth a visit but if the numbers are not enough for you, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of its size, is home to any number of beach locations where tourists can camp, stay in a hotel, or generally get some needed relaxation. While lounging lakeside keep your eyes peeled for the Baikal Seal, a rare freshwater seal species.
The first destination in the list situated along the sometimes forgotten East Coast of Russia, Ussuri Bay is now beginning to retain the affectionate nickname of Pebble Beach. Ussuri Bay is special because of its dirty past. During the Soviet reign the area was used as a dumping ground for glass bottles, but thanks to the hard work of Mother Nature, the waves have taken the broken shards and turned them into smooth, colorful sea glass, or “pebbles.” No longer deemed dangerous, travelers are now welcomed by a kaleidoscope beach. For those willing to brave the cold, visit in the winter as many claim the vibrant glass peeking through the snow is unlike any other beach scene.
Located along the shores of the Kaliningrad Oblast, the region of Russia separate from the mainland in between Lithuania and Poland, the Curonian Spit is an extremely narrow portion of land that extends from north of Kaliningrad up to Lithuania’s third largest city, Klaipeda. With a lagoon to the East and the Baltic Sea to the West, the spit is a great place to visit, having been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 and designated as a National Park for both Russia and Lithuania. Much of the land is comprised of shifting sand dunes that extend dramatically upwards from both sides of the thin park. Also, the beach promenade of Yantarnyy, famous for its long wooden walkway above the sea and white sand beaches, is just a day trip from both the Curonian Spit and Kaliningrad.
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the body of water that flows past the Estonian and Finnish capitals, straight to the front door of Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg. While it does have the capability of completely freezing over in harsh winters, the gulf serves as an excellent weekend getaway in the summer. Although the harbor of St. Petersburg offers many water activities, smaller suburbs like Repino, give travelers more of a taste for the outdoors as the waters are lined with pine forests rather than buildings.
The Kamchatka Peninsula is not necessarily known for any singular famous beach, it may not even be known for much of anything, but it has recently been gaining traction amongst the adventurous types for a surprising sport. Surfing, in a portion of Russia that has no roads connecting to the rest of the motherland, has suddenly put Kamchatka on the map. Pioneered in the late 90s by Russians who clearly had no regard for personal warmth, Khalaktyskii Beach, near the city of Petropavlovsk, now features a surf hut for travelers and a newly built boardwalk. For those hoping to catch some waves, there are many options including both reef and shore breaks, in swells that are usually chest high. While temperatures in the summer reach the mid-seventies, don’t expect warm waters and be sure to pack a wetsuit.