Samarskaya Luka is a unique area formed by the bend of the biggest European River Volga in its middle and the Usa bay of the Kuibyshev reservoir.
In this place Volga makes a wide bend heading the east and then turns south-west. The arc extends for over 200km. There ancient carbonate highly raised rocks form a sort of island. Zhiguli are the only mountains of tectonic origin not only on the Volga but throughout the vast territory of the Russian Plain. Their average height is about 300m.
Unique landforms, microclimate, flora and fauna, the amazing beauty of the mountains, have brought worldwide fame to Zhiguli and Samarskaya Luka in general.
Scientific value of the Zhiguli vegetation is exceptional. Six new plant species were discovered here, three from them were narrow endemics of the Zhiguli: Euphorbia zhiguliensis, Helianthemum zheguliense, Gypsophila zhegulensis. There are also less narrow endemics here,Thymus zheguliensis, for example.
Relict species surviving from ancient geological eras (pre-glacial, glacial and post-glacial periods) are a special interest. Glacier did not reach Zhiguli Mountains and had little impact on the natural environment of the Samara Bend. Most relics grow on rocky mountain steppes.
About 30% of Samarskaya Luka’s vertebrates live on the borders of their habitats, for example, common viper, viviparous lizard, fresh-water turtle, european bee eater etc. Even more curious are relict species that far removed from its natural habitat — common mole rat, Pallas' coluber, etc.
Samarskaya Luka is also inhabited by elks, wild boars, roes, wolfs, badgers, fox, hares, etc.
There are about 200 natural and historical heritages on Samarskaya Luka. It is rich in archeological finds. Murom town — one of the largest settlements of the Volga Bulgaria IX-XIII centuries, settlement in IV-V сenturies at Belaya Mount, burial mounds VII-VIII centuries near the village Novinki are of greatest interest.
History of Samarskaya Luka is associated with the names of well-known historical figures — Alexander Menshikov, Orlov brothers, outlaws Cossack Yermak, Stepan Razin, Yemelyan Pugachev, etc.
Molodetskiy mound is located in the north-west of Samarskaya Luka. This peak surrounded by many legends and stories rises from the waters of the Volga Reservoiras as a silent guardian of Zhiguli. The height of the mound is a little more than 200 meters (242.8).
One legend says that a strong and mighty young man loved the beautiful girl Volga. But grey-headed Caspian charmed her heart. Young man didn't give up on his beloved and blocked her path with his armed force. But Volga made him sleep with sweet words and ran away to the distant Caspian. For many centuries young man turned to stone and was transformed into Molodetskiy mound. His petrified warriors became overgrown with forest. Since that time Volga always lulls them with her incessant murmur. So here were born Samarskaya Luka and Zhiguli Mountains.
Cliffs and ledges give mound stern look. One of its slopes is covered with dense deciduous forest, relict pines grow on top of the mound.
The steppes consist mainly of endemic flora, many species are listed as endangered. In the vicinity of the Valiant barrow can be found very rare fauna species: white-tailed eagle, Saga pedo Pall., swallowtail and Apollo butterflies, etc.
Dev'ya (Maiden) mountain is situated at the embouchure of the ravine Zhygulivskaya pipe near the Molodetskiy mound. The height of the mountain is just 50 meters. The mountain was half flooded after the creation of the Kuibyshev reservoir. But it still looks majestic steeply breaking into the waves.
Many legends are associated with this rock. One of them says that a dashing ataman captured a beautiful girl. She decided to escape from the unloved man and persuaded ataman to sit on the edge of the cliff by the river. When he fell asleep in her arms, she pushed him down from the cliff.
The lookout camp of Stepan Razin was located at the bottom of this mountain in the XVII century.
The vicinity of the Molodetskiy mound and Dev'ya mountain is a favorite place of attraction for recreation travelers.
Verblyud (camel) mountain is located near the Krestovaya (Cross) glade at a short distance of the village Shiryaevo. It is a whimsical rocky peak, which resembles head of this animal (unfortunately, the rock is being permanently destroyed by erosion and its appearance is changing). From the top of the mountain you can see a magnificent view of the surroundings, of the opposite bank of the Volga and of the famous Zhigulevskie gates. Zhigulevskie gates are the narrowest place (700 m) of the river on the Volga valley.
Undeground tunnels penetrante the bowles of the mountain. There are rail tracks preserved from the early twentieth century in the tunnels. Along this tracks they pushed wheelbarrows of lime stones. It is cool here even during the hottest days. Today there lives one of the largest colonies of bats in the Volga region.
The unique nature of Shirayevskaya ravine, the historical past of the village of the same name, and magnificent views opening from the top of Verblyud Mountain attract to these places tourists from different cities and countries. Currently, according to the draft regional planning of the national park "Samarskaya Luka", Shiryaevo village is one of the main tourism centers. Here on Verblyud Mountain, climbers and trekkers equipped a climbing wall. All of the above objects are included in the sightseeing tours of the national park.
Visly Kamen’ - the rock that hangs over by water at a height of 70-80 meters. It is composed of heavy layers of limestone. Around the rock on the steep slopes grow oaks, lindens, maples. The species of herbaceous vegetation can also be found here: lilies, violets, Solomon's seal, bobovnik etc.
Top Visly Kamen’ is a small area (carnice) which hangs over the abyss. In profile, the rock resembles a bearded old man, so it has another name - "Stone Oldman". Up there on the top one can see stunning views of the Snake backwater and Shelehmetskie mountains, but standing there is not safe as rock gradually disintegrates.
Shelehmetskie mountains experience a greater human pressure from neighboring major industrial centers (Samara, Novokuibishevsk) and recreation areas.
A large affluence of tourists and vacationers comes to see these places mostly in summer. Besides Visly Kamen’, local caves attract tourists because Shelehmetskie mountains are composed of limestones and dolomites of the Permian system and are full of hollows and caves. One of the best known caves is the cave of Stepan Razin. There are the two highest point in the ridge of Shelehmetskie mountains – L’vov Mountain and Osh-Pando-Ner’. On top of the mountain Osh-Pando-Ner’ can be found the remains of an ancient fortification of XI - XII centuries.