The city of Astrakhan has given rise to the word “astrakhan” in English and French. The latter refers to the dark curly fleece of the central asian Karakul lamb that is killed when it is two or three days old. During the XIX century, such fleeces transited through Astrakhan from Uzbekistan to be sold in Europe. After the Tatar-Mongol invasion, Ivan the Terrible built the Kremlin of Astrakhan to protect the country’s continental borders, which were growing during the XVI century. It was in this city that central Russia, the Caucasus and the Orient met: Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Armenians, Uzbeks and Kazakhs all lived in this region. In the green oasis of the Volga and the Akhtuba, giant watermelons are grown under the hot sun and fish farms produce sterlet, sturgeon and beluga. Lotus flowers blossom on the cusp of the Caspian, where the sea meets the Volga delta.
The city of Astrakhan is 1,300 km south of Moscow in a semi-arid zone. The summers are hot and dry. The best way to get from Moscow to Astrakhan is by plane (direct flight 2h15). By train, it takes about 30 hours.
We recommend visiting between early July and the end of October for three days or more. The lotus flowers blossom from the beginning of July to the end of August. From September to October, the autumn is warm and sunny. Avoid travelling here during “fly” season, which lasts from mid-May to the end of June around the Volga delta.
A trip to Astrakhan can be combined with a visit of Volgograd, previously Stalingrad. From Astrakhan, the train journey to Volgograd is only 5h30 and leaves Astrakhan at 16h30, arriving in Volgograd at 21h53.