Chalk Mountains: Donskoy Nature Park

Nikolay Galkin/TASS
Not far from Volgograd, just 75 kilometres (47 miles) away by the M6 highway, is another nature park: Donskoy Nature Reserve. Within the reserve are 52 springs of clear, icy water. Some of the springs have tables, canopies and benches nearby. The water in all of the springs is drinkable, barely mineralised and soft.

The park's main attraction is a unique white chalk ridge which stretches for 30 kilometres (19 miles) above the Don River. The chalk ridge was formed during the Jurassic period and the local history museum has rare exhibits of coral tubes, fossil relics and other artefacts dating back more than a million years. The vista point located 30 metres (93 feet) above the river provides truly breathtaking views.

From the Chalk Mountains, you can head down to the empty sandy beaches and enjoy swimming and a picnic. The water in the local rivers is amazingly clean (UNESCO has named Khoper River as one of the world's cleanest rivers), and the swimming season runs from May to September. The average daily temperature from the end of April to October is +21-25 °C (70-77 °F), but in reality, daytime temperatures rise to +30 °C (86 °F) and above from mid-May until September. By mid-June, the water in the lakes and slow rivers warms up to 28 °C (82 °F), while the summer temperature of the water in the Don and Khoper rivers is about 22-25 °C (70-77 °F). Some sections of the river have a muddy bottom, but there are plenty of sandy beaches with good access to the water.