Is It Possible to See Russia from Alaska?

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Is It Possible to See Russia from Alaska?

Could you really “see Russia from your house” if you live in Alaska?

Far from the rest of the U.S., the “Last Frontier” stretches into the Arctic. Just across the water lies Russia, but how far away is it from Alaska, anyway?

We take a closer look at just how close these two areas are, as well as some other notable facts about this unique border region. 

Let’s explore!

What’s the Distance Between Russia and Alaska? 

If you didn’t already know, Alaska is pretty big! This is true not just in total area, but also from east to west. And that makes this answer a bit complicated. 

The closest distance between mainland Alaska and mainland Russia is just 55 miles. However, the distance is only 2.5 miles when measured between Russia’s Big Diomede Island and the U.S.’s Little Diomede Island.

On the flip side, the distance is nearly 3,700 miles when measured from Alaska’s southeastern border near Annette to the most southern point on Russia’s west coast, near Botchinsky State Nature Preserve. 

Woman looking out at ocean from Alaska.
From Big Diomede Island (Russia) to Small Diomede Island (Alaska) is only 2.5 miles.

What Lies Between the Two? 

The area between Russia and Alaska is covered by two bodies of water, the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea. The Bering Sea is the northernmost part of the Pacific Ocean. It splits into a shallower area in the north and east and a deeper section to the south and west.

It includes the Bering Strait, which provides the primary access from the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean. The area is home to many islands of varying sizes, including Russia’s Bering Island and St. Paul Island in Alaska. 

North of the Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea lies between the northernmost reaches of Russia and Alaska. This icy water is frozen for much of the year and is only navigable between July and October. It has relatively few islands or other landmasses, Russia’s Wrangel Island being the most prominent. 

Mountain view out car window in Alaska.
On a clear day you can see mainland Russia from mainland Alaska.

Can You Really See Russia from Alaska? 

Yes! It’s pretty easy to see from Big Diomede Island to Little Diomede Island. You can also see mainland Russia from mainland Alaska on clear days. You can glimpse mainland Siberia from higher elevation points on Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska.  At just over 50 miles, it’ll be a distant view but still proves that you can see Russia from Alaska.

Could You Swim Between Alaska and Russia? 

Not only is it possible to swim between Alaska and Russia, but several people have done it. The most notable of these is Lynne Cox. She swam between Big and Little Diomede Islands in 1987 as a Cold War-era peace gesture.

She completed the crossing in just over two hours in 38-degree water. The feat even made it into the conversation between then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. 

In another impressive swimming feat, a French swimmer who lacks legs and arms swam between Alaska’s Little Diomede Island and the Russian maritime border in 2012. He used special prosthetics to do so. Unfortunately, he couldn’t replicate Cox’s complete crossing to Big Diomede Island, as Russia denied him entry. 

Could You Drive Between Them? 

These days, the answer is no. The Bering Strait is relatively shallow at about 50 meters deep. But, it’s certainly still not shallow enough to tackle in a car or truck. However, if we could travel back in time about 10,000 years or so, it would be a different story. 

At the end of the last Ice Age, water levels dropped hundreds of feet as the water froze into massive glaciers. This exposed the vast, flat seafloor between modern-day Russia and Alaska. In fact, it created a land bridge that scientists believe likely allowed human migration to the Americas. So while you’d probably need a pretty sturdy off-road vehicle, a drive between Alaska and Russia was definitely possible. 

Pro Tip: Alaska is a vast and unique place to explore, but Can You Drive To Alaska Safely? Read more to find out!

Man in Alaska using binoculars to look into the distance at Russia.
There is currently no bridge between Alaska and Russia.

Could You Build a Bridge Between Alaska and Russia? 

Based on other bridges around the world, you could build a bridge between Alaska and Russia. This is true whether you’re considering a bridge between the small islands or even the main landmasses. The world’s current record for the longest bridge is the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China, which is more than 102 miles long. That’s nearly double the 55-mile width of the Bering Strait at its narrowest. 

While this is technically possible, the bridge wouldn’t get much use. The closest towns of Wales, Alaska, and Uelen, Russia, are tiny and unconnected to any existing road network. 

Pro Tip: Want to explore Alaska, but are worried about getting cold? Try out one of these Camping Heaters for Winter Road Trips.

How Similar Are the Two Regions? 

Both Russia and Alaska are pretty massive. Russia’s southwestern areas near the Black Sea, like Sochi, can be sunny and warm. Its huge metropolises like Moscow and St. Petersburg dwarf even Alaska’s largest cities. 

However, Alaska and Russia are quite similar if you’re considering just the areas where the two are geographically closest. These regions are populated by small, isolated towns that deal with long, cold winters, set amid vast expanses of unspoiled wilderness.

Like many international borders, the distinction between the two can get lost when the only difference is an arbitrary dividing line. 

Two tents set up in Alaska for camping.
While exploring Alaska, make sure to try to look out at Russia.

Why Doesn’t Russia Own Alaska? 

It seems like it might make more sense for Russia to control Alaska. Russia even claimed the area during the 18th century, interested in the region’s natural resources. However, it couldn’t invest in developing much of a permanent presence. So Russia offered to sell the area to the U.S. in 1859.

The sale went through in 1867 for $7.2 million, around $133 million in today’s dollars. 

You Can See Russia from Alaska, But…

The wild, sparsely populated region home to Alaska and Russia is one of the most distinctive international borders in the world. But in many ways, the nearby areas of both countries are quite similar.

It’s absolutely possible to see Russia from Alaska. But, it isn’t the easiest feat and certainly not for anyone other than the most dedicated travelers. Have you ever tried it?

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