Can You See Russia From Alaska?

Do you know what Russia and the state of Alaska have in common? Two islands that are just a little over 2 miles apart. Russian territory extends to two continents; Europe and Asia. It tops the list of the world’s biggest countries. Alaska is a state on America’s West Coast.

So, can you see Russia from Alaska? You can see Russia’s Big Diomede Island from Little Diomede Island in Alaska. The two Diomede Islands are the closest points between Russia and Alaska. Another part of Russia that you can see are the Siberian Mountain tops. 

In this article, I have explained how you can see Russia from Alaska and the specific locations. If you wonder whether you can see Alaska from Russia, read on to find out.

How Far Is Russia From Alaska?

Mainland Russia is 55 miles away from Alaska. However, there are two islands between the two places, Big Diomede and Little Diomede. The two islands belong to Russia and the USA, respectively. The islands are 2.5 miles (4 Km) apart, making this the shortest distance between Russia and Alaska.

Back in 2008, former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, was misquoted to have claimed that she could see Russia from her house in Alaska. According to Independent, what she said was, and I quote:

“They’re our next-door neighbors,” Ms. Palin told ABC in 2008. “And you can actually see Russia, from land, here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

In another quote, she says that she could keep an eye on Russia from Alaska. Palin’s remarks had nothing to do with outdoor adventures. They were political opinions for which she received lots of criticism.

Literally, though, a person of average height can see as far as 3 miles (4.8 km) while standing on flat ground. The distance between Russia’s Big Diomede Island and Alaska’s Little Diomede Island is less than 3 miles. This proves that you can see Russia from Alaska.

It gets even better; in winter, there is an ice bridge that forms between these two islands. With the bridge, it is possible to walk from the USA to Russia and back.

However, the Cold War led to the formation of a political border between the two countries. This border, known as the ‘Ice Curtain,’ restricts air or water crossing between the two islands. This is according to a report by Yale University.

Would you like to know more about the Ice Curtain between the USA and Russia? Read all about it in the book Melting the Ice Curtain.

On the brighter side, you don’t have to cross the ‘Ice Curtain’ to see Russia from Alaska. Let’s find out how you can do it.

Where Can You See Russia From Alaska?

On a clear day, from the coastline of Little Diomede Island, you can see Big Diomede on the other side of Russia. Other locations in Alaska where you can see parts of Russia are St. Lawrence Island and Cape Prince of Wales.

Do you know what else you can see from Alaska? The Aurora Borealis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. To put this unbelievable phenomenon in simple terms, it displays 100% natural and colorful light in the night sky.

The Video below is just a peek of how the Aurora Borealis looks from Alaska.

Back to Big Diomede and Little Diomede, the islands are separated by the Bering Strait. This is a water channel of the Pacific Ocean that separates Russia and the USA. From mainland Alaska, it is impossible to see Russia. This makes Little Diomede the closest you can get to Russia.

Little Diomede

This Island is located 16 miles (25 km) west of Mainland Alaska. It is about 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2) in size.

The 2010 census indicated that this Island has about 115 people who are all settled on one edge of the Island. 

You can see Big Diomede in Russia from the coastline of Little Diomede. Better yet, standing on the highest point of the Island will give you a broader view of Big Diomede. The highest peak on this Island is 1621 feet (494 meters), and it is located halfway along the west coast.

This peak directly faces the southern tip of Russia’s Big Diomede. This view is so captivating that you will want to capture some shots. For such moments, I suggest bringing an excellent Camera.

How to Get to Little Diomede

The only way to get to Little Diomede is via air or water, but it turns out there is no airport on this Island. There is a heliport, though, an area set aside for the landing and take-off of helicopters. The heliport is open for use by the public.

During the winter months, the Bering Strait freezes, and locals manually carve a runway for planes. Helicopters fly all year long from Nome, Alaska.

Fun Fact: Little Diomede is also called “Yesterday Island,” while Big Diomede also goes by the name “Tomorrow Island.” Why? The International Date Line across the Bering Strait separates the two islands. The time difference makes it Saturday 9 am in Little Diomede, while just across the water in Big Diomede, it’s Sunday 6 am.

Other Places You Can See Russia From Alaska

As it turns out, little Diomede is not the only place where you can see Russia from Alaska.

St. Lawrence Island

Located west of Alaska in the Bering Strait is another island known as St. Lawrence Island. This Island is closer to the Russian mainland than it is to Alaska. It is about 36 miles (56km) from the Chukchi Peninsula in Russia.

There is a tiny village called Gambell, home to about 700 residents. From this village, you can see Siberia, a Russian territory in the Far East.

Cape Prince of Wales

The westernmost city of Alaska is known as Wales. This city is about 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2) and has a population of about 145 people. On a clear day, you can see parts of Russia. However, you won’t see much of it; only a glimpse of the Siberian Mountain peaks.

One thing is clear; Little Diomede gives the best and closest view of Russia from Alaska.

When Is the Best Time to See Russia From Alaska

The best time to see Russia from Alaska is in the summer season, which runs from mid-May to mid-September. Summer comes with clear days and nights for the best views. Alaska experiences an arctic climate with long cold winters and cool summers.

The long winter season in Alaska runs from October through March. It is characterized by cloudy skies and fog that could hinder your views.

Can You See Alaska From Russia?

You can see the Island of Little Diomede in Alaska from Russia. The Island is 2.5 miles (4km) from Russia, making it the part of Alaska closest to Russia.

Where Can You See Alaska From Russia?

You have to stand on Big Diomede Island to be able to see Little Diomede in Alaska. Little Diomede is too close to Big Diomede. The two islands are very close to each other such that you can see Little Diomede while standing anywhere in Big Diomede, without the need to position yourself strategically.

Big Diomede

Big Diomede 1 2014-08-17

Big Diomede is a Russian island located in the Bering Strait, Pacific ocean. This Island is 28 miles (45km) from Russia’s mainland. It is about three times bigger than Alaska’s Little Diomede and occupies an area of about 11 square miles (29km2).

This implies that Big Diomede is closer to Alaska than it is to mainland Russia. The Island, therefore, provides you with the only chance of seeing Alaska from Russia.

This Island was previously occupied, but after World War II, it became a military base. Following the Cold War, all people residing on this Island were relocated to the mainland. The Island is, therefore, unoccupied by civilians to date.

Traveling to Big Diomede is not a walk in the park. There exists no official border station where you can arrange for permits.

At the very least, you need to have a Russian Visa and a special permit that lets you have access to the Chukotka region. More so, you will need another permit to access the Island since it is used by the military.

Final Thoughts

You can see Russia from Alaska, and vice versa. If you’d love to do some more activities, the Diomede Islands might disappoint. There is not much to do as they are both military bases for their respective countries. 

Still, you can do some traveling or backpacking in either mainland Russia or Alaska. Check out Alaska’s travel guide for some inspiration. 

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