The Biggest Mountain In Europe and Where To Find it

Updated On: January 18, 2023

Mount Elbrus-the biggest mountain in Europe

Our planet has been gifted with so many great natural treasures, one of which is the breathtaking mountains scattered across the earth, especially those located in Europe. With so many to admire, you can’t help but wonder; what is the biggest mountain in Europe?

Ok, this is a tricky one! The biggest mountain in Europe is actually in Russia. Well, the Western part of the country that falls in Europe, to be exact! The grey-haired Mount Elbrus is 5642 metres above sea level, and it is the highest point in Russia and all of Europe.

Elbrus ends up in Europe if you separate it from Asia along the Main Caucasus Range or to the south. That is why the peak is on the “Seven Summits” list, which includes the highest mountains in all parts of the world.

According to one theory, the biggest mountain in Europe got its name from the Persian “Alborz or Elbrus”. But each nation calls Elbrus in its own way: the Balkars call it “Mingi-tau” (Eternal Mountain), and the Kabardians call it “Oshkhamakho” (the mountain of happiness).

Its summits of 5642 and 5621 metres, divided by a saddle, which, by the way, is also a five-thousand metres peak, is a dream of every climber, and the flow of climbers coming here from all over the globe has not diminished over the years.

Eventually, Mount Elbrus became a centre not only for mountaineering but for alpine skiing, but it also attracts skiers and snowboarders.

Mount Elbrus is a mountain range of volcanic origin. It is believed that thousands of climbers reach the summit of Mount Elbrus every year.

But it is not only sportspeople who are attracted to Mount Elbrus. This place, for all its ruggedness, is also amazingly beautiful. From above, the mountain resembles a giant white star: large glaciers emerge from the summit like rays, and the snow on the slopes does not melt even in summer.

Not only can the fittest, strong and tough travellers find themselves in this realm of eternal winter, but all they have to do is use the chairlift on the mountain’s southern slope.

What to do at the Biggest Mountain in Europe?

Towering 5642 metres above sea level, up there above the clouds…there is so much to do and enjoy at the biggest mountain in Europe. Why should you add visiting the biggest mountain in Europe to your bucket list, you ask? Let’s find out!

Winter and Spring

In December, the biggest mountain in Europe opens its ski season with several slopes of varying difficulty levels (from green to red), stretching 23 kilometres.

The season lasts until the end of May, and some extreme skiers also ski in summer: they climb to the top with skis and snowboards and descend on the hard, wet snow.

The slopes are wide, and there are gentle slopes that are perfect for beginners and kids, for honing your technique or just for fun.

There are also opportunities for freeriding. The northern slope is sheltered from the sun and winds and is always covered in soft and fresh snow. While there, we recommend joining a group; the terrain on Mount Elbrus is varied, and a guide will show you the most interesting and safest routes.

Safety and security at the resort are carefully monitored: the EMERCOM rescuers are on duty. There are two ambulances and a private emergency room in Terskol village.

Summer and Autumn

July is the start month of the mountaineering season; the warmest months of the year begin, and the winds calm down. Climbing is a real adventure that requires some preparation; you need to be in good physical shape, choose an experienced guide, and choose high-quality clothing.

Visiting the Biggest Mountain in Europe and not a Fan of Skiing? No Problem!

If skiing isn’t your thing and conquering the summit of the biggest mountain in Europe doesn’t seem like a tempting idea, here are some alternative holiday ideas:

1. Take a snowmobile, quad bike, jeep, or horse-riding tour. Choose the option you like best and just enjoy the views. Guides will take you to the most scenic spots.

2. Visit the highest mountain museum in Russia. World War II didn’t spare Elbrus either; in 1942, fierce battles took place on the mountain’s slopes. The Museum of Defence of Elbrus will tell you about it. 

3. Trekking and exploring the surroundings and hiking trails will lead you to picturesque waterfalls, and there is also a trout lake near the village of Terskol, known for its healing properties.

4. Take a cable car ride and see the mountains from a bird’s eye view. There are cafés with local and European cuisine at the Mir and Krugozor stations; you can relax, taste local specialities, and enjoy the scenery.

5. Indulge in mulled wine and national cuisine, which will eliminate the feeling of starvation without unnecessary frills.

Interesting Facts About the Biggest Mountain in Europe

1. Elbrus is a dormant volcano. According to scientists, its last eruption was around 50 AD, i.e. more than 2,000 years ago.

2. The slopes of Mount Elbrus are one big ice field. The eternal snow begins at an altitude of about 3,800 metres.

3. The famous healing waters of the Northern Caucasus resorts of Kislovodsk, Pyatigorsk, Yessentuki, and Zheleznovodsk allegedly are born in the depths of Mount Elbrus.

4. While at the top, one can see the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea at the same time.

Where to Stay While Visiting Mount Elbrus?

There are many hotels on the Azau glade, from modest hostels to spacious chalets. You can also rent a flat in Terskol itself, but then you will have to take a minibus or taxi to the resort.

If you want something special, head to the mountain shelter LeapRus. There, in the middle of snow-covered ridges, there are cosy capsules offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

How to get to Mount Elbrus?

By plane

The nearest airport is in Nalchik.

From Moscow, a flight takes just over two hours, and round-trip tickets start at 4,500 roubles. From St. Petersburg, the flight takes three hours.

From there, you will need to catch a bus or minibus (the bus station is near the airport). It takes two hours to get to Terskol. There is only one transfer to Azau Glade. The taxi ride to Elbrus is a little over two hours.

By train

The nearest railway station is also in Nalchik.

From Moscow, there is a train 061Ch and a journey time of 36 hours. From St. Petersburg there are no direct journeys, you must change trains in Moscow.

You can get to Terskol from the railway station by regular bus.

By car

The distance from Moscow is 1,700 km, and from St. Petersburg, it is 2,500 km.

The M-4 highway leads to Mount Elbrus. There will be toll sections on the way through Voronezh and Rostov-on-Don and none on the way through Tambov and Volgograd.

The Must-Visit Places in the Region of Mount Elbrus

Azau Glade

Azau Glade-the biggest mountain in Europe

The Azau Glade is the highest spot in Elbrus, located at an altitude of 2,350 metres above sea level. That is why there are always many people there.

Azau is also an excellent ski resort, and if you want to ski exactly on Elbrus (and you probably want to because the other mountains are no match for it), then it is logical to stay here.

The combination of proximity to the majestic peak and relatively well-developed infrastructure makes this place quite popular among fans of skiing, hiking and, of course, mountain climbing.

Besides, it is worth remembering that Azau is a dizzyingly picturesque place, and one can come here without any intention of conquering the peak or testing the ski slope for the sake of this beauty.

Cheget Mountain

the biggest mountain in Europe-Cheget Mountain

Just a few kilometres from the biggest mountain in Europe, there is another famous mountain massif, Cheget. It is not at all similar to its neighbour, but that doesn’t make it less attractive.

People visit it for a shot of adrenaline in their blood, which is inevitable on the Cheget’s slopes. It should be noted that skiing on Cheget is not for the faint-hearted, and many of the local slopes are better not for beginners. However, there are always those who love extreme sports who boldly challenge these steep slopes with rugged terrain.

From Cheget Mountain, you will have the opportunity to admire this beauty that redeems all inconveniences. You will definitely agree with this already on the lift, which takes you to a height of 3,050 metres. Its speed must have been slowed down so that passengers could enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

Chegem Falls

Chegem Falls-the biggest mountain in Europe

Chegem waterfalls are known far beyond the borders of Kabardino-Balkaria in the North Caucasus. You can enjoy the beauty of these waterfalls if you visit the Chegemsky Gorge near Nalchik.

There are several waterfalls flowing down from the steep walls of the gorge and feeding the raging river that gave its name to the gorge.

Besides the big waterfalls in Chegem gorge, you will see numerous thin water streams flowing from clefts of rocks. They are often called “weeping” rocks.

In winter, Chegem waterfalls are no less picturesque than in warm seasons. Water frozen in the shape of giant icicles turns rocky walls into true works of art.

Baksan Gorge

There are two ways to reach Mount Elbrus: Mineralnye Vody or Nalchik. If you choose the second option, the last stage of your route – from the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria to the two-headed “patriarch of the Caucasus Mountains” – will take you through the wonderful Baksan Gorge.

On one side of the asphalt road passing through the gorge, the river Baksan rushes noisily, while on the other side, steep rocky slopes overhang. Almost all the way along, you will see Elbrus gradually approaching you.

The Narzan Valley

The Narzan Valley-the biggest mountain in Europe

The Valley of Narzan is a site located at an altitude of about 1000 metres above sea level in the area of the Rocky Ridge, where the Hasaut River flows. There are 17 mineral springs flowing from the ground in this picturesque valley.

The valley has a mild climate, with temperatures rarely dropping below -2°C in winter and not reaching sweltering heat in summer.

The high proportion of iron compounds in the water gives the area an orangey, rusty colour. It looks pretty unusual against the background of the lush vegetation around it. The tourists come to the Narzan Valley not only for its beauty but also for the healing properties of the water of the Narzan springs.

Emmanuel’s Glade

Sitting at the left bank of the Kyzylkol river, the Emmanuel’s Glade towers 2,500 metres above sea level. It was named after Georgy Arsenievich Emmanuel, who led the first Russian expedition in the early 19th century to collect precise information about Elbrus and its vicinity.

One of the expedition members became the first man to conquer the Eastern peak of Elbrus, earlier considered impregnable.

The Emmanuel Glade, with its carpet of green blossoms, continues to serve as a camping site for climbers today. And once there, you can easily get to some other natural landmarks of the Elbrus Region: Emir and Sultan waterfalls, the hot springs of the Dzhily-Su tract, and the Stone Mushrooms glade on the Northern slope of Elbrus.

Maiden’s Braids Waterfall

The southern slope of Terskol Peak, in the upper reaches of the Baksan Gorge, is embellished by a waterfall of breathtaking splendour with a very poetic name, Maiden’s Braids Waterfall (Devichi Kosy). The Maiden’s Braids Waterfall is one of the most famous locations in the region of the biggest mountain in Europe. Many streams of water flowing down on stones really remind the loose hair of a girl.

The water stream, fed by water from the melting Gara-Bashi glacier, falls from a height of about 30 metres, and the width of the waterfall in its lower part is 15-18 metres. Something not many people are aware of is that behind the waterfall; there is a cave.

It is possible to go there, but don’t expect to be soaked to the skin. By the way, Maiden’s Braids Waterfall is a familiar exotic place since some episodes of the Russian film “Vertical” were shot there in 1967.

Adyr-Su Gorge

Adyr-Su Gorge-the biggest mountain in Europe

The Adyr-Su Gorge, with the river of the same name in its bed, is one of the most picturesque places in the Elbrus Region, which is beloved by many tourists. The gorge’s length is just 14 kilometres, but the height difference in this area is almost a thousand metres.

It is easy to guess that with such a gorge’s slope, the river Adyr-Su, which is fed by the glaciers of Ullu-Tau Mountain, rushes down in a violent torrent. In winter, it is relatively mild and stable; in spring and early summer, on the contrary, the thermometer column jumps nervously.

The almost total absence of tourist infrastructure in the gorge will truly please those who wish to dive into nature. There is no mobile phone reception. There are only mountains, meadows, turbulent water streams, thundering waterfalls, century-old pines…and yourself.

Terskol Gorge

Terskol Gorge-the biggest mountain in Europe

Terskol Gorge is an incredibly beautiful place, like everything else in Elbrus Region. The gorge is tiny; its length is less than five kilometres. This means that walking there back and forth will take approximately 4-5 hours. But you will definitely want to stay here longer because who will rush to leave this natural magnificence?

The road along the gorge is very picturesque. The trail runs through the woods along the river and then emerges into an open space covered with lush grass and scattered with stones. The beauty of the magnificent mountains that surround you all the way is breathtaking. And ahead, in upper Terskol headwaters, you can see a homonymous glacier that looks like a polar bear pelt hovering over the gorge.

If you make it all the way to the end, you will find the beautiful waterfall of Terskol. It is not very big and fully flowing, but its roar, reinforced by multiple reflections of rocks, you will hear long before you see this beauty. Wandering around the gorge will certainly re-energise you and put you in a good mood.