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Being the largest Buddhist center in Russia, Elista is a worthy destination of Buddhist pilgrimage. The city amazes tourists with its identity and abundance of oriental sights
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The Pearl of  Russian Steppe

Elista is the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia. The Republic is populated by representatives of the oriental race, who confess Buddhism. They came to these lands about 400 years ago and brought with them traditions that had originated from Indian, Nepali, Mongolian, and Tibetan heritage.

The name “Elista” originates from the Kalmyk word “elst”, meaning “sandy”. The city is located among the Kalmyk Steppe, it`s in 2-hour flight from Moscow, and in 3-hour drive from Astrakhan.

short city information

Temperate and dry
104 thousand people
2 hours by plane from Moscow
The Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni, the Golden Gate, Chess City

types of tourism

A lady with binocular sightseeing


Two people wearing traditional clothes


A gilded statue of Buddha


A tree, fields, hills, sun, different natural zones: mountains, tundra, taiga steppes, mixed forests



Complicated Past of the Nation

Elista was founded in 1865, so it`s considered to be rather young among other Russian cities. During World War II the city was fully burned and all its citizens were deported to Siberia and the Far East. The Republic of Kalmykia was eliminated and disappeared for 13 years. After the change of Stalin`s regime Kalmyks were allowed to return and rebuilt their damaged capital. Later a memorial complex «Exodus and Return» was built in Elista in honour of those events.
A white nomad tent in a field with an open door
A horseman in a field

Oriental Wisdom

Spiritual Revival

The 1990s were a period of spiritual revival for Kalmykia. Elista was gradually replenished with religious structures, such as the temple “Syakyusn-Syume”, then the temple “The Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni,” Stupa of Enlightenment, Pagoda of the Seven Days and other amazing Buddhist places, which appear here and there among Soviet constructions of the city. Since recent years Elista attracts more and more tourists and pilgrims all over the world by its oriental wisdom.
Colorful arch in Oriental style symbolizing gates of a city

Sacred Sight

Golden Gate

Another interesting sight of Elista, its visiting card, is the Golden Gate. It is an architectural construction that contains 28 paintings illustrating the history and modern life of the Kalmyk people. The arch has a special sacred meaning: it symbolizes a doorstep, after crossing it, people get cleaned spiritually, throwing away bad thoughts and desires. Under the Gate, tourists can make a wish, which soon will come true. At night the Golden Gate is especially amazing, thanks to illumination, it shines very bright in a city view. Behind the Gate tourists can see a path paved with a white stone, leading to a Buddhist temple and the Stupa of Enlightenment.
Golden Buddha sitting under a tent

Learn more

Who Are the Kalmyks?

To visit Kalmykia and not to get acquainted with Kalmyk culture and history is unwise, therefore we offer tourists to visit the National Museum of Kalmykia Republic in Elista. There visitors will learn about the Kalmyk way of life in different periods, resettlements, joining to the Russian Empire, the history of Kalmyk Buddhism, the local nature and art, etc

In order to understand the taste of Kalmyk culture, tourists can try Jomba, a national Kalmyk tea with milk, salt, pepper, and butter.

Golden Buddha sitting in an decorative arch as an element of a Buddhist stupa

Mighty Magical Power

The Stupa of Enlightenment

One of the most noteworthy sights of Elista, that can deeply impress tourists, is the Stupa of Enlightenment. In Buddhism, the word “Stupa” means the nature of the mind, which has a beneficial influence on the force field of the Universe. The Stupa of Enlightenment symbolizes the victory over difficulties and obstacles in life. It keeps inside the sacred treasures: the ground from the birthplace of Buddha Shakyamuni, a piece of relics of the Third Buddha Kashyap, and others. The Stupa of Enlightenment has a mighty magical power, that helps its visitors to harmonize their lives and reach solutions of many bothering problems.


The Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni

The main touristic attraction of Elista is “The Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni”, the central Buddhist cathedral in Russia, opened in 2005. Sculptures, scattered throughout the territory of the temple, deserve special attention: tourists can see gilded figures of Buddhist saints sitting on a pedestal in 17 pagodas. When going inside, tourists can`t take their eyes off of the tallest in Europe statue of Buddha (9 meters). The walls are decorated with skillful painting, representing the stories of Buddhist culture.  

The temple proudly keeps the full monastic dress of the Dalai Lama XIV, who honoured the Republic with a visit 3 times. Tourists can also visit the Museum of the History of Buddhist Culture, located on the first level of the temple, and learn more about features of this religion.

Chess outside

For Chess Lovers

Chess City

Elista is also known as Chess City. Seeing chess-boards in the steppe city, someone may think that he is staying with Alice in the Looking Glass. The Chess City was built for the 33rd World Chess Olympiad which in 1998 was hosted there. Every building there has its own chess name: “Ferz,” “White Rook,” one of the squares is named in honour of the chess patron Kaissa. Visitors can walk along amazing green plants that are very unusual to see among the steppe of Kalmykia. The highlight of the Chess City is the beautiful Chess Palace with the world’s only Chess Museum and a playground in which more than 5,000 rivals can play simultaneously.

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