Krasnoyarsk and Stolby Nature Sanctuary turned out to be quite special to us. Not only did they both surprised us, but we made some very cool friends! Unlike Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk has a historical core with several interesting streets and dozens of charming wooden houses (Happy Frog just loves them). There is also a very nice park, across the Yenisei River, packed with lakes and surrounded by water. We were pretty tired after Altai and heading to Baikal, so we planned to rest for a couple of days (yes, we really like resting).
On the first day we explored all that Krasnoyarsk has to offer. Most of the historical buildings are located along the beautiful avenue Prospekt Mira or on the two parallel streets on both sides. The avenue is lined with cool coffee bars and very good Russian restaurants. We stayed there, at the soviet style Oktyabrskaya Hotel, within walking distance to anywhere. The room was big, comfortable and with a balcony overlooking the street.
The city boasts a couple of architectural jewels. We visited both the Orthodox Cathedral of the Intercession and the Catholic Cathedral of the Transfiguration. Then we spent some time around the monumental Revolution Square and walked across the pedestrian bridge to Tatyushev Island. Though you can walk around the park, it is better to rent a bicycle. Be sure to have your camera ready. The park and the bridge are a favorite spot for wedding pictures. We saw several elegantly dressed brides and grooms posing around the park.
Though our initial plan was to do nothing and rest, we met our lovely friends Dima, Andrei and Arseniy and had no time to rest. They showed us a side of Krasnoyarsk few tourists get to explore. They took us to the gorgeous Stolby Nature Sanctuary, where we walked through dense forests and enjoyed magnificent views from huge rocks. Additionally, our friends drove us to a couple of secluded natural spots on the mighty Yenisei River.
We even went all the way to the Chapel on Karaulnaya Hill from where we enjoyed a killer sunset and the best views of Krasnoyarsk. On top of that, we had superb dinner at a fancy restaurant (we were starving so we ate like pigs!) and even partied the night out. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better they gave us a local chocolate and took us to the airport. Russian hospitality at its best!
Stolby Nature Sanctuary
We were planning on visiting the Stolby Nature Sanctuary on our own, by taking bus no. 50 directly to the park. But when our friends offered to take us there we couldn’t say no. They picked us up early in the morning, we stopped for coffee on Prospekt Mira and in half an hour we were at the park’s door. Everything is pretty clear, all you have to do is pay your inexpensive ticket and hop on the chairlift that takes you all the way to the top.
The whole place is absolutely beautiful. They’ve done a great job at providing for safe pathways but not damaging nature. Additionally, there are no crass shops. Yes, you won’t see any western style monstrosity selling industrial crap. Don’t forget to take your re-usable bottle of water. Take your time, who knows when you’ll have the chance of being in such a place? We walked for no less than 14km in total bliss. At one point it rained like hell, but nobody seemed to mind so we didn’t stop either. It was a weekend and the park was packed, but it is so big you will be on your own for quite some time. The place is full of massive rocks. I have to admit I didn’t climb a single one. But Eitan and Andrei did and came back with fantastic pictures.
Stolby’s Flora and Fauna
The word Stolby means pillars in Russian. Please take note that this place is not to be confused with the much larger Lena Pillars Nature Park (also called Stolby). Stolby National Park is an ecological reserve of Taiga type. Not only is everything big and luscious but the smell is something else. Fresh pure air, of the type we can’t get in our European cities anymore. I reckon that’s why though we were exhausted we felt refreshed.
The Park’s rich flora and fauna include more than 740 different vascular plants, 260 types of mosses and 290 kinds of vertebrates. We didn’t see the cute Sable, or the Siberian musk deer, but we did see plenty of Long-tailed ground squirrels happily jumping around. The beauty of the Sanctuary lies in the fact that of its more than 47000 Hectares only 3.5% is open for hiking.
Other places near Krasnoyarsk
On our third and last day our friends took us all along the mighty Yenisey where we visited three interesting places. First we went to the observation desk near Ovsyanka village, crowded, but nice. Then we went to the Divnogorsk, remnant of Soviet times and finally to the huge Krasnoyarsk Dam. We learnt that it used to be the world’s largest from 1971 to 1983. Our favorite spot was Dima’s secret place. He took us to a hidden lookout near Mana River to enjoy breathtaking views. And we were all by ourselves. Amazing!
Siberia is unique
We heard so many times how Russia is a great country, but its people, the Russians, are not so friendly. It seems a Western obsession. However, even some Russians feel the same way about Siberians. A charming girl in Saint Petersburg told us Siberians were a bit cold and awkward. We couldn’t disagree more.
From hour hotel personnel to people at coffee houses, everyone was professional, nice and welcoming. Of course having a close experience is quite a privilege. We met our Krasnoyarsk friends through Instagram and didn’t have many expectations. They turned out to be some of the warmest, friendliest and most genuine people we ever met.
Open your mind
I suppose some people will say that our Siberian experience was just an exception that confirms the rule. But we felt the same all across Sibera, and in Russia in general. Perhaps other people have a different impression because of the language barrier. I believe some of us can’t get away from the dominant narrative in which the Russians are the bad guys. That’s all you hear in the news! In Krasnoyarsk we had one of the most memorable times of our lives. And we owe it all to our dear friends. Spasibo rebyata!!!