The Must-See Spots of Tatarstan in 3 Days

5 june 2018
If we had to describe Tatarstan in four words, it would be: Land of 1,001 Pleasures. In this itinerary, we cut straight to the chase and show you the must-see spots of Tatarstan — the «leaning» Syuyumbike Tower, the Tatarstan Taj Mahal, the island town that will make you feel like a Pushkin fairy tale has come to life, and much more

Day One: Kazan

Whether you’re arriving by plane or train, your first taste of Tatarstan will probably begin with your arrival in the capital of the Republic - Kazan. Kazan is a versatile tourist city where you can stroll through its many parks, try the national cuisine, engage in active sports, immerse yourself in the history of the millennium centre of the Volga region, spend time with family and generally enjoy the local hospitality in a city where you are always welcome.

If you enjoy visiting cities with a rich history, you have chosen the right place. Kazan is over 1,000 years old, and definitely has something to show for it. The snow-white Kremlin reflects the atmosphere of peace and coexistence of cultures and religions in Tatarstan. It is here, where the majestic Annunciation Cathedral and the magnificent Kul Sharif Mosque - a symbol of the revival of Islam are located mere metres away from each other. Within the Kremlin complex, much has also survived from the Khan period - for example, the tomb of Kazan rulers and the “leaning” Syuyumbike Tower. In 2000, the Kazan Kremlin was included in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites list as a unique monument of Russian and Tatar architecture.

City break

a short outing to an unfamiliar city to “recharge”.

The capital of Tatarstan is ideal for city breaks. Lovers of strolls through the city will be rewarded by the breathtaking views, while fans of ecotourism are sure to enjoy the maintained parks with their developed infrastructure. Event tourism is also very well established in Kazan – international festivals, concerts and sports competitions often take place here.

Gabdulla Tukay (1886–1913)

Pushkin in Tatar poetry.

To experience the rich culture, head over to the Old Tatar Quarter (“Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda”) - the centre of public and religious life of the Tatars of the 18th - early 20th centuries. Begin your walk from Kayum Nasyri Street, where a string of colourful wooden houses and themed graffiti on walls will make you truly feel the history of times past in this cozy corner of Kazan. On your way, be sure to stop and admire the first stone mosque in Kazan - Al-Mardjani. Continue along Kayum Nasyri Street to reach Apanaeva Mosque, which stands on Kazan’s shortest street: Kunche Street (“Kunche” means “tanner” in Tatar, named after the popular profession of those that once lived and worked on this street). Next, head over to the castle-like Shamil House which is now a branch of the National Museum of the Republic housing the literary museum of the famous Tatar poet Gabdulla Tukay.

Day Two: The Great Bolgar

The Great Bolgar is a religious shrine and the historical homeland of the Volga Tatars. Among Muslims, it is known as the “Northern Mecca”. Apart from here, no other place in Russia has preserved samples of the material culture of Volga Bolgars and the late “Zolotaya Orda” (“Golden Horde”). Here, a unique monument of history was restored - the Cathedral Mosque. Next to it stands a tall minaret which you can climb all the way to the top, and according to believers, a committed sin is forgiven for each step you climb.

On offer for guests of the Great Bolgar are sites such as: the Museum of Bolgar Civilization which is combined with a river station and restaurant, the Commemorative Sign monument in honour of the adoption of Islam by the Volga Bolgars in 922 alongside the Museum of the Koran, the Museum of Bread and the White Mosque - the pearl of the city’s architecture.

Once a year, the city of Bolgar arrange celebrations associated with the adoption of Islam by the Volga Bolgars. This holiday gathers thousands of Muslim pilgrims from Russia and abroad. In August, the city hosts the festival of “The Great Bolgar” medieval battle with archery and equestrian tournaments between “soldiers” of the “Golden Horde”, Russia and Europe.

Day Three: Sviyazhsk Island Town

The place where the rivers Volga, Sviyaga and Schuka combine into one, is where the amazing island town of Sviyazhsk proudly stands. In the 16th century, the Sviyazhsk fortress served as a base for the Russian army when Ivan the Terrible was preparing for the last siege of Kazan. A year after the construction of the fortress, the Kazan Khanate were defeated and Kazan was finally conquered.

There’s an island in the sea,

 Shores as steep as steep can be 

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin,

“The Tale of Tsar Saltan”

Starting with the Sviyazhsk fortress, a major trading city grew and developed around it, but gradually lost its status. It went from being the centre of a province into a centre of a county, and then was demoted to a village. In the 1950s after the creation of the Kuibyshev reservoir, the Volga flooded, and the road connecting the island with land disappeared under water. Sviyazhsk was suddenly cut off from the mainland. Because of this very flood, the island town looks just like it did over one hundred years ago.

Sviyazhsk is a great place to spend an entire day especially for families and children. Here you’ll find the Trinity Church - the only surviving monument of wooden architecture of the Volga region. Nearby you’ll also find the Bogoroditse-Uspensky Monastery with a 43-metre church bell tower, as well as the “Konniy Dvor” (“Horse Yard”) where you can ride and feed the horses. There are also craft workshops located here, where you can make your own souvenir as a token of your trip to the island town. Make sure to pop into the “Buyan” cafe for some local fish soup – the staff will welcome you as a dear guest and will not let you leave hungry.

No matter where you decide to spend your time in Tatarstan, know that hospitality of the locals runs in their blood. They are awaiting you, you are always welcome, and they will welcome you back with open arms again and again.

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