22 best sights in Mari El – descriptions and photos

Mari El sights: what to see

The Mari El Republic is full of blue crystal rivers and lakes, impenetrable forests, interesting European-style architectural monuments and, of course, well-developed tourism. Start your journey through interesting corners of Mari El with the city of Yoshkar-Ola, where every tourist will find many unusual buildings and natural landscapes to create juicy pictures. Since the area of the city is small to only 108 square kilometers, all the historical places can be bypassed even in a day. Next, go to the protected areas of the republic, the beauty and mystique of which will simply strike the imagination.

Top sights of Mari El

Today, people are traveling to central Russia quite often compared to previous years, and one of the destinations that is very interesting to travelers is the Republic of Mari El. In the main city of the republic you can see many interesting buildings in the spirit of European architecture. Also Mari El nature reserves, which are quite wild and picturesque, do not go without attention. It is worth listing the most famous memorable places and beautiful architectural structures of Mari El.

Brugge embankment in Yoshkar-Ola

The central part of the city of Yoshkar-Ola is a picturesque place, where most likely the first thing guests of the city will be interested in is a walk along the local embankment. You can walk along the banks of the Malaya Kokshaga river right from the Teatralny bridge to the Voznesensky bridge. Tourists, who come to the embankment for the first time, are very surprised how much the atmosphere resembles the medieval Belgium. In front of the river Malaya Kokshaga built houses, made in the same Flemish style. The houses have bright facades of scarlet brickwork, bright roofs decorated with towers, spires of different lengths. The windows in the houses are decorated with stucco, ornamental paintings and arches. The promenade of Bruges is very reminiscent of the most beautiful and colorful European cities of Amsterdam or Belgium.

Patriarchal Square

This place is also on the Bruges waterfront. Patriarchal Square is the center of Yoshkar Ola. On the square there are various landmarks of culture and history of Mari El. Here is a famous pedestal with Patriarch Alexis II, who releases a dove into the sky. The square is named in honor of this man. There is also a pedestal of the Great Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, when she was still young. There is a monument to the Empress near the boarding school for gifted children with developmental delays. Also on the square there is a pedestal in honor of Peter and Fevronia – the embodiment of true fidelity, sincere feelings and family life. On the square you can also see the legendary “Twelve Apostles” clock, and it is worth finding out more information about it.

The “Twelve Apostles” clock

Along the promenade of Bruges you can see many monuments, and one of the most interesting, according to tourists, is at the Resurrection Bridge. The clock “12 Apostles” is a brick tower, which comes to life every three hours. After a specified time, the third floor of the tower shows an amazing show – you can watch as the figures of Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles appear almost in their normal size. The first figure appears at the sound of hoofbeats from the left gate. This gate symbolizes the gate of Jerusalem. The first figure is Christ, who rides a white donkey. He looks as if he is blessing those who look at him. Then the figures of Jesus are followed by the figures of his disciples. There are also guided tours to the tower on a regular basis.

Annunciation Tower

If you manage to walk around Virgin Mary Square in Yoshkar-Ola, the tower will be noticeable right in the center of the street. The image of the tower is made in a very familiar style – it is the Annunciation Tower. Its architectural style is reminiscent of the Kremlin Spasskaya Tower.

Stone Mountain” reserve

This picturesque and mystical place is situated about 280 m above the sea level. The reserve is a hilly rocky area, which gradually transforms into the Vizimbir Gorge. The stones in the area are mostly sandstone and dolomite. In the area grows about 14 rare representatives of the green world – a Siberian spruce and a rare species of orchid lady’s slipper orchid. The slopes of stony mountains look very picturesque. In these parts grow strawberries, wild mint, and the forest smells of pine because of the large number of relict pines.

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You can visit the reserve if you go to Kuzhener district in the Republic of Mari El. A bit of history of the reserve – it turns out that in the XX century before the 20s it was part of the lands of Urzhumsky County in Vyatka Province. The area has been inhabited by people since ancient times. Even in the twentieth century there was a Russian village, which was just boiling with cheerful rural life. However, in 1938 disaster struck. Suddenly there was a fire and not a trace of the village was left. You could meet only one grandmother, who lived here alone until the end of the twentieth century. She did not want to leave the area where her village had been. Now there are many lilac bushes growing on this spot where the tragedy happened.

One of the features of “Stone Mountain” here is a natural spring named after Our Lady of Kazan. According to ancient legends the water in the spring has healing properties. The spring is still being cared for, it is not abandoned. There is even a gazebo, a chapel and a font. To draw water from the spring, you need to bring a bottle or other container. Also, according to the legend, you can not tell anyone about the taste of the healing water, but about this legend is better to ask a local guide. It is desirable to come here for 1-2 days to see all the beauty of the area of the reserve. It is believed that in this mysterious area people have vivid dreams and visions of the past and the future.

There are also tall megalithic stones, which look like slabs of not quite natural origin. The size and shape of megaliths are not usual, so many ufologists believe that there used to be alien activity here and even some people have observed flying saucers. If you want to see the megaliths with your own eyes, then it is best to go here with a guide. Experienced guide will help you get to the megaliths the shortest way, he will tell about the local legends and truthful cases that occurred in this mysterious place. By the way, you can’t do without a guide here, as the area is wild and there are a lot of thickets and neglected trails around.

The Bolshaya Kokshaga State Nature Reserve

The protected area is named after the left tributary of the Volga River. The area is protected by the state. The reserve in the Republic of Mari El is impenetrable forests of pine or birch trees. This wilderness area is home to wild animals such as bears, wolves, wild boars and other ferocious members of the forest world in a protected area right by the banks of the Volga.

Karst Lake “Sea Eye”

In the Volga region near the village of Shariboksad you can visit the lake. This body of water is called by the local population as Mushyl. Translated from Mari, this lake is literally called a deep sinkhole. This type of body of water is considered a karstic lake. The lake was formed in the place of the failure of not hard stone rocks. The lake is located directly under the deepest underground voids. Lake Mushyl is classic at first glance – its shape is round. The depth is quite impressive, it is better not to try to swim in this lake, even though it looks like a small body of water.

ConclusionClimatic conditions in the Republic of Mari El are moderately continental. This allows tourists to travel here throughout the year. In summer in Mari El the heat up to +30 degrees, and in winter the frost -20 degrees, which is characteristic of the Russian climate. Many residents of the Republic of Mari El are Christians, and some of them live in the Old Believer way. Here is a very colorful atmosphere, which will appeal to travelers looking for something new, obviously.

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Holidays in Mari El 2022: fabulous capital and the Volga forests

On the left bank of the Volga Mari came almost 1500 years ago. Difficult fate of a small people, which has always been surrounded by stronger tribes and nations. However, during this time, the people have not disappeared or dissolved into history. In travel shows they are even called “the last pagans of Europe”.

The capital of Mari El, Yoshkar-Ola, is a mix of European styles and Russian architecture.

Mari El has something to surprise tourists. The republican capital Yoshkar-Ola is a vivid example of the eclecticism of Western Europe and Russian architecture. The region has many rivers, picturesque forests and original crafts. Fans of the literary character Ostap Bender come here, and you can stay overnight in a castle that was built two centuries ago. Here’s a complete guide to vacationing in Mari El in 2022: we’ve compiled information on prices, interesting places, compiled a guide to national cuisine and a memo on local souvenirs.

Seven reasons to go on vacation to Mari El

1. To feel the Mari people culture

On a trip to Mari El, immerse yourself in Mari culture.

We travel a lot to foreign countries, and then we bring back amazing stories about the culture of local people. At the same time, we often miss the equally fascinating history of people who live on the territory of the Russian Federation. The ancient Mari people, with their own cultural national costume, religion, language, poetry and traditions. Of course, no one walks around modern cities and towns in canvas shirts, caftans and bald shoes. Maybe you will be lucky to get to the national holiday in the sacred grove (kusoto) or at least hear about the culture of the Mari people in the museum.

2. to admire amazing nature

Nature lovers will love it in Mari El.

It is a land of rivers and lakes – there are more than a thousand of them. This is despite the fact that the republic is small in area. Therefore, rafting on boats and catamarans, kitesurfing and wakeboarding are very popular in Mari El. More than half of the entire territory of the region is covered by forests. Therefore, the region is an ideal place for fans of eco-tourism. Visit the Mari Chodra National Park and the Bolshaya Kokshaga Nature Reserve.

3. Walk through fairy tropes in the residence of Mari Santa Claus – Yӱshtӧ Kugyza

When visiting the northernmost region of Mari El, you can visit the residence of Mari Grandfather Frost Yӱshtӧ Kugyza in the village of Kuknur. To see the real winter wizard, you have to pass tests, learn about the heroes of national Mari folklore and sights. Staying at the visit of Santa Claus, you can walk along the Fairy Trail, play old folk games and just plunge into the New Year’s fairy tale.

You can visit the residence of Mari Grandfather Frost – Yӱshtӧ Kugyza.

Vivid characters of Mari folklore, national riddles and wish-fulfillment, original souvenirs – Kukur clays – are waiting for you. Yӱshtӧ Kugiza is among the most popular New Year’s magicians in Russia.

4. Visit and see Orthodox churches

There are many beautiful monuments of Orthodox architecture in Mari El.

There are many real architectural gems on the territory. Lush modern cathedrals, laconic ancient temples and several samples of Russian wooden architecture. There are almost two hundred churches and chapels, pilgrims receive two monasteries – the Virgin Sergius hermitage and Myronositsky nunnery.

5. To see the great Russian river Volga

Here you can admire the views of the Volga, take a boat ride or go fishing.

Perhaps in Astrakhan, Volgograd and the Tver region this waterway is more majestic and wide. On the territory of Mari El flows only 70 km of the river, which is only 2% of its total length. But this does not prevent here to fish, swim or just admire the river. The opposite banks of the Volga in the republic are interesting: on one side are hills and slopes, and on the other are deaf forests. The most “Instagrammable” places on the border with Chuvashia.

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6. To see the city, where Ostap Bender was

There is a large ethnographic museum of national life in Kozmodemyansk.

We are talking about Kozmodemyansk. It was probably the prototype of Vasyuki. Today it is a small settlement of 20,000 inhabitants. However, there is an Ethnographic Open Air Museum named after Romanov. In the A. V. Grigoriev Museum of Art and History there are paintings by Aivazovsky and Kandinsky, there are also surviving structures of the XVII century. In the local Drama Theater performances in the Mari language are given. They can be watched not only by native speakers, as simultaneous translation into Russian is provided.

7. Drive the routes “Wonders of the Mari Land” and “The Land of Ringing Psalteries

You may get to know Mari El through the most interesting tourist routes.

These are two very interesting brand tourist routes in the republic. You can sign up for the trip at local travel agencies. The trip lasts for two days. Some tourists on their return describe that during this time they looked at Belgium, Italy, Holland and the unique Russian region. And all this spread out over some 250 kilometers.

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Russian Railways’ tourist train “Tales of the Volga Region” will take you to places where independent tourists don’t often get. You will enjoy a fascinating journey around Yoshkar-Ola and a walk to the “Russian Atlantis” – Sviyazhsk island. The comfort of the trip is guaranteed, because modern trains, like a hotel on wheels – with air conditioning, outlets and showers.

Excursions in Mari El

1. The center of Yoshkar-Ola

The center of Yoshkar-Ola is a corner of Europe in the center of Russia.

It is called a corner of Europe in the center of Russia. The capital’s calling card is the embankment of the Malaya Kokshaga River within the urban landscape of Yoshkar-Ola, which strikes with an unusual architectural solution. The interweaving of styles, forms, colors, historical eras creates a special multifaceted space. On the territory of the city is located “Tsarevokokshaisky Kremlin” – the youngest Kremlin in Russia. It is a new model on the place of the medieval stockaded town. Nearby is the National Art Gallery, which is interesting not only for its collection of works by local artists and other masters, but also for its architecture in the style of the Renaissance. Worth seeing are the Cathedral of the Resurrection and the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. From there by the Theatrical bridge you get to the embankment of Bruges.

2. Museum of merchant’s life in Kozmodemyansk

Museum of the merchant’s way of life is called a monument to Kozmodemyansk merchants.

Located in the sky-blue mansion, which was once a large estate. It was built in 1897, but only the house survived. The building is poetically called a monument to Kozmodemyansk Merchant Society, which played a key role in the development of the city.

3. Bolshaya Kokshaga Reserve

There are several clean lakes on the territory of the reserve. The most ancient is Kosheer.

This territory was given a special status, here are engaged in researches of the basin of the river Bolshaya Kokshaga. The reserve is surrounded by dense forests of pines, birches and spruces. Dangerous swamps are interspersed with spacious meadows. Half a hundred species of mammals and almost all plant species that can be found in other territories of Mari El can be found here.

4. The Sheremetevs’ Castle in Yurino

The ancient castle is now a museum and a hotel, so tourists can spend the night in real count’s chambers.

Baroque castle on the bank of the Volga. It’s about three hours by car from the capital of the Republic. The palace was built 40 years and is not inferior to the grandeur of the capital’s manors. Fans of architecture spend hours looking at the hundreds of decorative elements in the exteriors of the castle. The most interesting thing is that now the old count’s chambers are not just a museum, but a hotel, where you can rent a room.

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5. The Myronositsky Hermitage in Jezhovo

Fans of pilgrimage tourism should go to the Myronositsky hermitage.

For fans of pilgrimage tourism. The monastery was founded in the 17th century. At that time it was a man’s monastery, but now it is a woman’s one. The monastery has never been crowded. As in tsarist times, that after the revival in the new Russia here lived and live a dozen novices and nuns. They come here for peace and prayers to the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the holy Myrh-bearer wives.

6. Sea eye

Mari El is a land of rivers and lakes.

This is a karst lake near the village of Shariboksad in the Volga region. It has water of emerald color. If you like quadcopter aerial photography, then launch the drone. You will be surprised how flat its banks form a circle. Access to the water is difficult. Lying down and sunbathing in the absence of a flat shoreline is impossible. Yes, and swimming is dangerous – the lake is small, but the depth is more than 40 meters. However, you can have a picnic with a view of the landmark.

7. Pugachev Oak

In Mari Chodra means “Mari forest” in Mari language. The national park is an ecologically clean area. It is a picturesque area that delights with its incomparable views.

The national park is famous for its purest karst lakes – Yalchik, Konan-Yer, Tot-Yer, Shut-Yer, Glukhoe, Kichier, as well as for its incredibly rich flora and fauna. It is here that a real giant tree, the Pugachev Oak, is located, which is covered with a multitude of legends. According to one of them, Yemelyan Pugachev’s detachment stopped near it in 1774. According to the legend, climbing the tree, the ataman watched the Kazan landings, which were set on fire by his army.

In the national park “Mari Chodra” grows a giant tree – Pugachev’s oak.

In 1969, the oak was declared a valuable forest site of historical significance, and to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Pugachev uprising in 1974, a memorial stone was placed on the site. In April 2013, the tree was granted the official status of a wildlife monument.

The height of the tree is 26 meters, and its trunk diameter is 1.6 meters. According to earlier research, the tree began to grow around 1500.

8. Ostap Bender Museum of Satire and Humor

There is a museum named after Ostap Bender in Kozmodemyansk.

Another museum in Kozmodemyansk. Fans of Ilf and Petrov’s literary masterpiece know that one of the prototypes of Vasyuk could be Kozmodemyansk. Simultaneous chess sessions are held here, to which the world’s grandmasters come. And also there are theatrical performances, auctions, and concerts.

What to Try

Layered pancakes

In Mari “kom melna”. They are baked in the oven. The dough is kneaded with the addition of kefir and sour cream. A dish of ritual cuisine, which even today has not lost its sacred meaning. Served with melted butter or sour cream.

In Mari El they bake pancakes “kom melna”.

Mari soups

Spicy and rich soups made on vegetable or meat broth. Sour notes dominate in taste.


Or sokta. Homemade sausage, which the cook has assembled from finely chopped meat, with the addition of lard and blood. Beef liver, lungs are used. All in natural casing and with seasonings. Sometimes grits are added inside, and sometimes the garnish is served separately.

What to bring from Mari El


The republic has historically developed a traditional plant and runic ornament: on a white cloth bright red threads with green inserts. The ornament is embroidered on fabric pendants, women’s jewelry, towels, napkins, towels, amulets. A hit of the season – shopper, i.e. reusable bag for a trip to the store. There is a culture of making miniature dolls that are hung in homes or given to children. The toy is believed to protect against the evil eye and guard family happiness. And also they are sometimes stuffed with wild herbs.

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The inhabitants of Mari El have a traditional plant and runic ornament.

Ornaments of the Mari women

It seems that their style absolutely does not fit into the image of a modern business woman. There is no laconic diamond shine or golden casts. Pendants, decorative pins and monistos are in the style of steppe nomads. For decorating use cowrie shells (they are small mollusks), coins, beads and branded tassels of Mari artisans. In fact, with a competent choice of outfit, they can be combined with both everyday suit and evening wear.

Products from birch bark

Birch is the main tree of Mari El. According to the reports of the local forestry, it grows the most on the territory of the republic. And also it is a sacred tree of the Mari people. Sacrifices were brought to it, important rituals were performed next to it, it was used for medical treatment. Birch trees are used to make wonderful knick-knacks – horses, ships, rattles. Birch is also used for kitchen utensils such as napkin holders and bowls – a vessel in which you can store loose products or pickled mushrooms.

Yoshkin cat

It is a symbol of Yoshkar-Ola, which sits on the bench in the center of the city. It is a symbol of Yoshkar-Ola, which sits busily on a bench in the center of the city. Souvenir shops sell miniature figures of the tailed one and paperweights. There is even vodka with this cat.

Yoshkin cat is the symbol of Yoshkar-Ola.

Mari gingerbread

A gastronomic souvenir that will please children, relatives and colleagues at work. With the addition of ginger, apple and berry jam. Stay soft for a long time. Often decorated with national patterns.

Herbal gatherings.

Fans of tea ceremonies and authentic drinks will appreciate. Most gatherings are based on willow-herb, collected from local forests. Many variations in gift packaging, with inscriptions and pictures of Mari El. Connoisseurs say that the local gathering is especially delicious in combination with a drop of strong balsam.

Prices in Mari El.

Tour of Yoshkar-Ola. From 700 rubles per person
Individual guided tour in Mari El (different routes) From 8000 rubles per person for two days
Bus tour as a group to one location From 800 rubles
Standard room for two in a hotel 1500-3000 rubles
Studio apartment in Yoshkar-Ola From 1000 rubles
Hostel in Yoshkar-Ola 350-550 rubles/night
Average bill at a restaurant 800-1000 rubles
Dinner at the canteen 200 rubles per person
Car rental From 1100 rubles per day
River rafting 2000-4000 rub.

* These prices are average in Mari El in 2021.

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How to get there

Airport “Yoshkar-Ola” is located about 8 km from the city center. Without traffic jams you can get there in 10-15 minutes by car. There are flights from Moscow “Vnukovo” and St. Petersburg “Pulkovo” – not every day. At 300 meters from the main entrance there is a stop of public transport with a lot of fixed-route taxis and buses. Airport Information Service: +7 (8362)53-51-67

The station is located nearby in the center of Yoshkar-Ola (Yanalova Street, 3). There are many stops of public transport around. Every day from Moscow from Kazanskiy railway station there is a brand-name train. In the way about 14,5 hours.

Bus station in Yoshkar-Ola in the central part of the city (Kokshaiskiy proezd, 19). From Shchelkovsky bus station in Moscow there are several daily departures, most of them in the evening. The trip takes 12 hours. Bus station information: +7 (8362) 45-03-05.

Between Moscow and Yoshkar-Ola on highways about 750 km. Go eastwards to Noginsk, then to Vladimir, Nizhniy Novgorod, Cheboksary, over the bridge across Volga on freeway R-176 “Vyatka”. It will lead right into the center of Mari El.

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