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Where Moscow Goes Fishing For Fun: Lake Seliger

Lake Seliger Sergey Rasskazov
Lake Seliger (Sergey Rasskazov)

At the headwaters of the Volga there is a region of vast hills and lakes, a paradise, halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Just to the northwest of this area, above the famous Valdai Hills, Lake Seliger offers tourists, and city dwellers, a respite from the madness that can be Russia’s urban sprawl. Come with us on a brief photo tour of vacation bliss, and some surprises too.

Fishing on Selinger
From the contest "How I Ended My Summer" (ninasweetgirl at

Nestled in a picturesque landscape of forested hills, Lake Seliger is a protected nature reserve, which is often called the "European Baikal," due to the diversity of flora and fauna they enjoy. The largest of the lake systems of Central Russia, Seliger is dotted with typical wooden cottages, and resort houses, where Russians rent out their vacation bliss each Summer.

Nilov Monastery is situated on Stolbnyi Island in Lake Selige
Nilov Monastery is situated on Stolbnyi Island in Lake Selige (Public Domain Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii)

For visitors, things worth seeing include: the Nilov Monastery on Stolbny Island (above);  the city of Ostashkov and its museum of folklore; the Bogoroditsky Jiten Convent; and the many churches and villages that line the lake’s shores. Selinger’s main attraction is its nature: fishermen to jet ski enthusiasts, campers and hikers, and families wanting for peace and quiet, find both rest and excitement here. The vast lake system, with more than 200 islands, is at the heart of an ecosystem perfect for those who love the outdoors.

Lake Selinger fun
Lake Selinger fun (courtesy

Fishermen can expect more than 30 types of fish living in the clear waters of Lake Seliger, including species of bream, pike, pickerel, perch and cat fish. Then, there is hunting in the colder months, ice fishing in Winter, horseback riding, speedboating, rock climbing, and even windsurfing for those interested in active pursuits. The best feature of this vacation lake land is its easygoing lifestyle: just sitting on the lakeside watching the kids enjoy the sunshine and relaxing is a fantasy for every hardworking mom and dad. 

Valdaysky National Park, situated at the North end of the lake, is also an UNESCO biosphere reserve, which included the town of Valday, the Valday Iversky Monastery, and a number of XIX century estates. 

The Seliger Palace Hotel
The Seliger Palace Hotel (Courtesy their Facebook)

Suggested accommodation covers the gambit from all-inclusive resort stays such as you will find at the Selinger Palace Hotel, to a vast array of cottage rentals as offered by the Ozernaya Resort, where international travelers can enjoy this wonderland like the locals. Foreign visitors will discover an added bonus where pricing is concerned: a suite at the Palace Hotel is far cheaper when compared to most other European destinations, while the cabins at Ozernaya go for as little as $25 a night for a three bedroom chalet.

Visiting Ostashkov, the central city of the region, tourists can choose to stay in the city, or to rough-it-by camping. Westerners introduced to this region for the first time, will identify characteristics akin to outdoor lake adventures in their own lands. Like many protected wilderness areas, Selinger attracts visitors young and old. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the 2014 Seliger Youth Forum (Kremlin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the 2014 Seliger Youth Forum (Kremlin)

Since 2005, an event known as the Seliger Forums, has brought together people from all around the world to study and discuss issues in political science, economics, art, literature and culture. Each season, organizers create the forum, which is made up of thematic modules, to engage the more than 50,000 participants who hopefully will become leaders in their respective fields of endeavor. In conjunction with companies like Rusnano, the initiative spawns projects funded by in excess of 100 million rubles. So for a weekend fishing retreat, a full scale family vacation, or even group educational activities, Lake Seliger lives up to the name “Pearl of Russia.”

Seliger Youth courtesy Harry Tiits, Tallinn, Estonia
A Seliger Youth Forum gathering (Courtesy Seleger Youth and photographer Harry Tiits, Tallinn, Estonia)
For more information on visiting Lake Seliger we suggest the National Park website, the Russia Info Center article, or the city of Ostashkov official portal

Additional photo credits: Fishing on the lake courtesy Flickr user Sergey, Overlooking the lake courtesy Dmitry Dzhus, The Youth Forum courtesy Seliger Youth on Flickr, and