© Getty Image via CNTraveler.com Americans are lucky in one respect: The monument that marks the geographic center of our country may be inaccurate, but at least it's easy to visit. It's in hospitable Kansas, just off a rural highway. Russians aren't so lucky. The monument that marks the center of the world's largest country is literally in the middle of nowhere.
In the middle of Siberia is a "country of lakes."
There are more than 25,000 lakes on the pristine Putorana Plateau of central Siberia, which is why "Putorana" means "the country of lakes with steep banks." One of those lakes is Vivi, a 55-mile-long expanse surrounded by endless bear-tracked tundra. No one knows how deep Lake Vivi is, because it's never been visited enough to be studied closely. It's a gorgeously rugged wilderness, the kind of place you'd expect to see a shirtless Vladimir Putin posing for vacation photos of his improbable adventures.
The location of Russia's center was a top Cold War secret.
In 1974, when the Soviet Union's chief cartographer learned that Lake Vivi was the center of Russia, he strongly objected to building a monument there, on the grounds that the lake might become a military target for America. Even mentioning the existence of the center was officially banned by the government, which at one point led to 400,000 copies of a Soviet tourism magazine being mutilated to keep the secret from getting out.
The monument might be the world's least-used chapel.
That finally changed in 1983 when, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, a silver column 25 feet tall and topped with a golden ship was placed as a monument on the shores of the lake, at the literal center of Russia. In 2006, a small chapel was built nearby, but all the workers and materials had to be brought in by helicopter. That's because no one has lived at Lake Vivi since its only inhabitant—a geologist-turned-hermit named Anatoly Denisenko—died in 2003.
Lake Vivi is remote even by Siberian standards.
Are you now filled by a deep burning need to the see the center of the nation that sends us the vodka and social media bots we love? I have some bad news for you: Lake Vivi is really, really hard to get to. It's 200 miles from the nearest city, Norilsk. It can snow there even in August. There are no roads to the lake, so you'd have to sledge in on frozen rivers or rent a helicopter. Today, the only tourists who see the exact center of Russia are sport fishermen, who sometimes camp at Lake Vivi to fish for the 110-pound Siberian giant trout that swim at the Arctic Circle. Take a minute to think about that: Russia is so huge that its center point is actually located on the Arctic Circle! View our complete list of the best places to visit in the U.S.
WATCH: Tourist attractions not worth your time (provided by Wochit News)