Samarskaya Luka National Park occupies the first position in the list of Samara attractions. It is situated on the territory of Samarskaya Luka – the biggest bight of the Volga River. One can spend wonderful holidays, weekend or a day off here. It is even possible to walk along the mountains. Even though the Zhiguli Mountains are not as high as, for example, the Caucasus Mountains, there are still places here suitable for both touristic and professional mountain climbing.
By the way the highest peak of the Zhiguli Mountains is the Nabludatel (Observer) Mountain which is 381.3 meters (1250.7 feet) high. We have already canoed around Samarskaya Luka – the route is called Zhigulyovsk World Cruise. The rout took us 6 days. Today our tour is not so long and is merely fact-finding.
Our journey is to Shiryaevo village in Zhigulyovsk urban district. The village is situated on a vast plane between the Zhiguli Mountains. Samarskaya Luka is famous for its amazing views that open from the Zhiguli Mountains. This is exactly why we go there – to enjoy one of such views.
How to Get to Shiryaevo
In fact there are plenty of variants! But only two of them are convenient. One can canoe here during Zhigulyovsk World Cruise, come here by bike, or take a ferry to Rozhdestveno. We already tried the last variant during the bike ride “The Heart of Zhiguli”. The most popular and the most domesticated way of travelling is by car through Zhigulyovsk or by motor ships. We will describe the last variant more precisely.
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Motor Ship from Samara to Shiryaevo
River navigation opens by the end of March or in the beginning of April. Timetable is available at the official website of Samara River Passenger Company. For riders with personal bikes it is possible to get to Samarskaya Luka by a ferry to Rozhdestveno. The ferry starts from Oktyabrsky slope. There are also plenty of private motor boats specially equipped for carrying both people and bikes. There are many such motor boats on the route in summer so it is impossible not to find a suitable transport. Those riders who want to depart from other piers should bear in mind that they might be asked to dismantle their bikes and pack them in a special case.
So, we found out timetable and the departure time, got on a motor ship “OM” that arrived in time and started out. Such motor ships “OM” spend two hours and thirty minutes to get to Shiryaevo from Samara River Station. But the way back lasts only two hours. There is a chance to shorten the time almost twice if you get on at Polyana Frunze rather than the River Station. But this is the matter of convenience.
Motor Ship “OM” from Samara to Shiryaevo
We decided to stay on the open deck of the motor ship. No one will want to die of heat inside the ship when there is a chance to enjoy beautiful landscapes and cool wind. By the way, do not forget that it is always cold wind that comes from the river, so, to be on the safe side, take a sweater with you. There was not a single cloud on the sky. Even such an early morning promised the day to be hot.
It was really cold from the water since it was only May 24. We soon saw one of the Zhiguli Mountains attractions – the Verblud (Camel) Mountain. It is the beloved place for Samara climbers and tourists. The open vertical chalky area of the mountain made it possible to organize a climbing wall here.
Both beginners and advanced climbers practice at the wall. Here is also a viewing point with a wonderful view to the Volga. We will come here later. Tourists like camping by the Verblud (Camel) Mountain in its shadow. They stay here for a few days to enjoy the nature. Besides, here are day-holes of the Verblud (Camel) Mountain. They used to produce limestone here some time ago.
We came to the pier. The Popov Mountain towered in front of us with a monument to the Bulgars – a tribe which partially migrated to the Volga Region in the 7th century and gave its name to Bulgaria. The Popov Mountain is the main attraction in Shiryaevo. By the way the origin of the name is quite interesting. The original name of the village was Shiryaevo Buerak. In the modern language it means a wide gulley. This valley between the Zhiguli Mountains is really one of the biggest in Samarskaya Luka. It is 35 kilometers (21.8 miles) long.
Shiryaevo, Samarskaya Luka
Private tourist companies immediately grabbed us as soon as we got onshore. Local businessmen suggest taking tourists to places which they can hardly reach on their own. There is an excursion to Stone Bowl with a blessed spring in 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Shiryaevo. There is an excursion to the Strelnaya Mountain with a viewing point. It is in Zolnoe village in 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from Shiryaevo. So anyone who feels like can make use of these excursion taxis.
We walked towards the village and met the first memorial. The memorial records the fact that lime burning had been the main industry in Shiryaevo since 1875. A factory called “Shiryaevetz” operated there since 1900 up to 1962. It is obvious that a part of the factory’s wall served as basis for the memorial.
Information center is right behind the memorial. You must buy a ticket to visit the recreational part of Samarskaya Luka. Shiryaevo has already turned into a recreational village that is why everyone has to pay a fee to visit its attractions. There are two routes. The first one consists of a viewing point at the Monastyrskaya (Convent) Mountain, a visit to the Verblud (Camel) Mountain and day-holes in Shiryaevo. The second route includes a visit to the Stone Bowl. Both of them cost 50 rubles. At the same time a walk along the village itself is free. One should not neglect buying tickets since it is easy to meet a ranger on one of the stops and he will surely want to see your tickets.
Day-holes in Shiryaevo
We decided to begin with day-holes in Shiryaevo. A day-hole is a mine opening for extraction of minerals. Usually it is horizontal. In that case they used to extract limestone there. There is an operating mine opening in a distance from the “touristic” ones. We were interested in the worked-out mine openings where tourists are welcomed. The amount of tourists who come here has grown noticeably. Some come from Zhigulevsk or Samara. Besides, Shiryaevo has recently become an obligatory stop for all cruise motor ships. As a result the village is being renovated very actively.
Day-holes are not deep and it is impossible to get lost in them. But it is pleasant to be here when it is 30C (86F) heat outside. One can have a rest here from the heat and gain some strength. Just do not overdo with it since it is easy to catch a cold. The temperature inside is about 5C (37F). However we are inside of a mountain.
The Popov Mountain, Shiryaevo
Another Shiryaevo attraction is a viewing point at the Popov Mountain. We had seen it when we approached the village on the ship. There is a carved roadblock on the way to the mountain. A Bulgar warrior and a Volga Cossack guard the road.
We walked a little bit more and found ourselves at the viewing point which opens a wonderful view to the whole valley, Shiryaevo village and the Monastyrskaya (Convent) Mountain. One can see a mine right ahead on the left bank by the place where the Volga turns right hiding behind a hill. These are the Sokolji (Falcon) Mountains. They used to be united with the Zhiguli Mountains before the river washed the rock away breaking its way. This place is called the Zhiguli Gates. There were times when the river was only 400 meters (0.25 miles) wide at that place.
The viewing point at the Popov Mountain is young. It was only opened in June 2014. It is pleasant to be here. The place is equipped with stone poles which most probably will soon be joined with chains. There is also a place with benches-boats where one can hide from the heat of the sun in the shadow.
Repin Museum in Shiryaevo
We had about one hour before our ship back to Samara. This time was not enough to get to the Monostyrskaya (Convent) Mountain. That is why we decided to walk along the village to the Iliya Repin Museum. He lived and worked here in 1870. There is a good view to the Popov and Monostyrskaya (Convent) Mountain from the village.
There are cafes not far from the pier. By the way, there is a bike rent in one of them and the price there is quite reasonable. Plenty of tourists come to the beach and to the tables in cafes while waiting for their motor ship.
We bought our tickets back to Samara and got back in a bit more than an hour. The daytime heat eased a little bit, but we were still very tired of heat, especially our necks and shoulders (do not forget to take sunblock with you). Such a journey will last a little longer than a half of a day and will cost you very little. So there is no reason to stay in the city, sail along the Volga to Shiryaevo and climb on the mountains!