Mount Elbrus: a Short Guide to Europe’s Highest Summit

Mount Elbrus is truly a natural wonder to behold. This summit is in actuality an inactive volcano whose peak is covered by snow during much of the year. At 18,510 feet, Mount Elbrus is the tallest peak in Europe. Here is a quick guide about visiting Mount Elbrus as well as some interesting facts about the area.

Location

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Mount Elbrus is located in the Caucasus Range that divides European Russia from eastern Asian Russia. Mount Elbrus is considered to be one of the Seven Summits, the world’s tallest peaks that the most elite mountain climbers aspire to take on.

What’s in a name?

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Mount Elbrus is derived from the term “Mingi-Tau”, which was given to the summit centuries ago by the Balkars, a Turkic people who are native to the Caucasus region. In Turkic, Mingi-Tau means “resembling a thousand mountains.”

Greek mythology claims that Zeus chained Prometheus to Mount Elbrus as punishment for stealing fire and sharing it with the rest of the world. Ancient Persians named the peak Harā Bərəzaitī.

Getting to Mount Elbrus

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While you most likely won’t be climbing Mount Elbrus, you definitely want directions on how to get there. The easiest way to get close is to fly from Moscow or Saint Petersburg to Mineralnye Vody (MRV). There are daily flights available.

If you have more time and would like to see more of the Russian countryside as well as the Caucasus Mountains, there are trains that go to Kislovodsk. From there, you can take a bus tour or hire a driver. The distance is 1,550 kilometers, but worth it.

What to do on and around Mount Elbrus

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Mount Elbrus is in the Baksan Valley, a very isolated region of Russia away from major urban centers. If you plan on climbing the summit, it is wise to take precautions. Ensure that you have enough food and water. Each year, out of the thousands of people who climb Mount Elbrus, 15 – 20 die trying. The best months to climb the mountain are July and August. Even in June, there is still a considerable amount of snow.

For those of you who seek a safer, more relaxed trip, the region offers some fantastic skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. At lower elevations, the mountains are heavily forested. There are also pristine lakes for fishing and swimming.

Karakaya-Su Waterfall is an amazing tourist site. Polyana Narzanov, a canyon made of red rock that features some stunning waterfalls, should also be on your list of places to spend time.

Accommodation

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Although there are a few lodges and rather rundown hotels in the direct vicinity of Mount Elbrus, in all likelihood, you want to stay in nicer accommodations. For that, you will need to travel to the region’s larger towns. There’s the Smile Hotel in Razvilka Cheget as well as the Hotel Terskol. Other good options include the Andersen and Grand Hotel in Dombay and the Plaza Sanatorium in Kislovodsk.

Climate

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The climate of Mount Elbrus and the surrounding region can be characterized by long, cold and snowy winters and short though very warm summers. Believe it or not, the most adventurous climbers prefer to climb during the winter months.

Inspired to explore the pristine wilderness of remote regions of Russia? See also:

Into the Siberian Wild: Planning Your Trip to Altai

What to Expect from a Visit to Kamchatka

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