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Where is the division between Europe and Asia? What are places where we can cross it? Are there roads that go from one continent to the other?

Bonus particularly scenic locations or places of historical significance?

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    This sounds like the setup for a joke. A Thracian Turk, a Greenland Dane, and a Siberian Russian walk into a "European" pub…. – choster May 27 '15 at 18:55
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    @choster They meet a Spaniard from Ceuta, a Frenchman from Guiana and a Dutch from Curaçao. Is the landlord from West Kazakhstan? – Gilles May 27 '15 at 20:41
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    Itai .. "europe" and "asia" are not official things. Quite simply, there is no border, whatsoever. As everyone has pointed out, everyone has always said that "Istanbul straddles Asia and Europe!". But that's nothing more than one of those things like "Melbourne! It's the Paris of Australia!" "Europe" and "Asia" have no boundaries whatsoever - they are just casual phrases, just like saying "the first world" or "the poor part of town". – Fattie May 29 '15 at 9:42
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    @JoeBlow - They're official enough that we learn about these continents in grade school. I've been taught this and my children too. It's also in official education book! I don't think you analogies hold up, those are comparisons while Europe and Asia are distinct continents in a huge number of publications. – Itai May 29 '15 at 12:34
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    If you want to swim from Europe to Asia, check this out. It's a very historically loaded swim, there is at least one legend that is based on it, then there is the fact that Lord Byron swam that distance, and the importance of the strait in conflict between the two sides. – user29220 May 29 '15 at 19:22
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There is only one location that checks all your boxes, and no others come close: Istanbul. The west part of the city (its historical center) is considered to be in Europe, the part on the eastern side of the Bosphorus strait is in Asia.

There is a bridge that you can drive over, the city is extremely scenic with many beautiful mosques and the Hagia Sophia, and it doesn't get much more historically significant; it was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, of Byzantium, and of the Ottoman Empire.

Other than that, the border between Europe and Asia is ill-defined and although the concept of the border is of historical significance, there won't be much of a historically significant or even visible physical border on the ground.

The usual convention is that the border runs along the Caucasus and Ural mountain ranges, mostly in Russia, but I don't think you'll find nice marked crossing points there.

Some people opine that Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus is also on the border, but according to Wikipedia it's actually north of the Caucasus watershed that is usually used as the border. It's Europe's highest mountain at 5642m, relatively easy to climb and some scientists have actually managed to get to the summit with a Land Rover (see the article), but I don't think it qualifies...

Edit: actually it is apparently wrong to say that the border is invisible elsewhere -- in the Urals there seem to be some monuments marking it, see e.g. this site offering tours, which has pictures of a few of them west of Yekaterinburg.

  • It might not be a single clearly defined line on the ground but I am not sure it makes sense to write that the border between Europe and Asia is of little historical significance. As a concept, it certainly is. – Relaxed May 27 '15 at 18:51
  • Yes, but border crossings that are of historical significance? – RemcoGerlich May 27 '15 at 18:53
  • My point is that it's not what you wrote in your answer. Vague abstract borders can matter, I think. If you merely meant that there is no single point in the Ural that would be as significant as Istanbul, then I can only agree. – Relaxed May 27 '15 at 18:57
  • I reworded it a bit. – RemcoGerlich May 27 '15 at 19:05
  • @pnuts You're right, there has been two for a very long time (first 1973, second 1988) but the third one is still under construction, current estimate is 29 October 2015 (29 October is the Republic Day in Turkey). I personally think it won't be taken into use before 2016. – downhand May 28 '15 at 6:05
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Istanbul is a massive city. If you wish to visit the European-Asian border but big cities are not your thing, you can take the train up to the Arctic Circle in the Russian Polar Ural.

Asia-Europe border
(source: wikimapia.org)

Asia-Europe border. Source: Wikimapia.
In Northern Russia, there are trains between Vorkuta (infamous for its history as a penal labour camp) and Labytnangi, just outside Salekhard (the only city in the world located exactly on the Arctic Circle). Stalin tried to force prisoners to continue this railway to Igarka. Some 100,000 forced labourers were involved.

Note that unless you are the train driver, you cannot drive across the Arctic Circle here, at least not with an ordinary car, as there are no (all weather) roads (perhaps you can drive a snowmobile across?). I don't know how close to the actual Asia-Europe border the nearest train station is, but for what it's worth, HAFAS reports lots of small stops. The stop Polyarnyi Ural might be what you need — just 45 hours by train from St. Petersburg, or a direct 41-hour train from Moscow.

  • Yandex.Schedules confirm that trains stop at Polyarnyi Ural for one minute. The obelisk is about half mile from the station so it's hardly possible to leave the train, walk to the obelisk and back before the trains departs and one will have to use one train to get to the station and another to get from there. I'd guess the views are scenic but have no idea of what threats can exist in such remote and nearly inhabitant region. – sharptooth May 28 '15 at 12:49
  • Does anyone have an idea of what that fence is for in such a remote area? – sharptooth May 28 '15 at 12:50
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    @sharptooth Similar fences in Lapland are to stop domesticated reindeer from running onto the track. Although I've never been to Russia I guess it'd be similar. For safety, this question may be relevant. An outdoor-loving Moscovite told me that urban people and foreigners are disliked by locals in the north and that drunk groups of people can be scary. But when far from people I don't see why the Ural tundra should be more dangerous that tundras in Lapland, Alaska, or Yukon. Prepared with clothes, gear, food, satphone, etc. it should be fine. – gerrit May 28 '15 at 13:38
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According to Wikipedia:

the modern border between Asia and Europe remains a historical and cultural construct, defined only by convention. The modern border follows the Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles-Sea of Marmara-Bosphorus, the Black Sea, along the watershed of the Greater Caucasus, the northwestern portion of the Caspian Sea and along the Ural River and Ural Mountains to the Arctic Ocean, as mapped and listed in most atlases including that of the National Geographic Society and as described in the World Factbook.

This border goes through Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan.

Istanbul, Turkey straddles the continental boundary, and is generally considered worth visiting (there is much to see there besides two continents).

Looking at Google Maps, either of the two big roads between Russia and Georgia will cross the continental border at some point (one along the Black Sea coast between Sochi and Sokhumi, the other through the Caucasus), as does the road along the Caspian Sea coast between Makhachkala, Russia and Baku, Azerbaijan.

Relations between Georgia and Russia are poor; border crossings may be closed (and in fact the road from Sochi goes through the disputed area of Abkhazia). According to Wikivoyage, the border between Azerbaijan and Russia can be crossed and there are buses, so this may be practical by car.

Numerous west-east roads in Russia and Kazakhstan cross the border.

  • This is a good geographical answer. However, if you consider Europe as a political entity, then you might take the borders of the nation states that consider themselves European as the boundary. If you did this, you'd probably find Georgia and Azerbaijan were European, while Kazakhstan was Asian. The big problem would be in Russia - but you could apply the same alogrithm at a provincial level to get the boundary. – Oscar Bravo May 28 '15 at 8:59
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Europe is a complex historical construct and it's not unusual to talk about the “Eurasian landmass” to highlight the fact that it has no obvious stable border.

Among the most commonly offered boundaries, you could travel to the Bosphorus, the Ural mountains and the Greater Caucasus. The Bosphorus is very easy to locate and visit, the rest not so much. It's difficult to pinpoint a specific division line but the Trans-Siberian railroad or Georgia would be places/ways where you go from one “continent” to the other.

  • +1 for mentioning the Ural mountains. I was always taught this was the divide between Europe and Asia in school. – davidb May 28 '15 at 9:03
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There are also different definitions seriously considered and taught in schools. I was always taught that the border is at the ridge of Ural, and then it continues to the river Emba the to the Kuma-Manych depression. That makes Mont Blanc the highest peak of Europe. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundaries_between_continents

The Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits are certain and Istanbul is a nice place to visit. You can see the statue of the bull (Zeus) which abducted Europa at Kadıköy (not that far from the ferry terminal).

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In pointed out by Vladimir F in the north the ridge of the Ural mountain range is universally considered to divide "european Russia" and "asian Russia" (especially Sibiria).

Although Russia has colonized sibiria for centuries the Ural still is a very prominent dividing line. Everything changes there beginning at the availability of high quality petrol and ending in travel insurance coverage.

Since russians are grad builders of nice signposts at borders of all significances (city level to nation state level) the roads crossing the Urals are full of "Border Europe-Asia" Signs, Monuments, etc.

To the left Europe, to the right Asia

See here and here for some northern border crossings.

  • Where is the monument in your photo exactly? – gerrit Feb 20 at 8:23
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    Between Perm and Serow. filez.foxel.org/c54687ede1e6 – max Feb 23 at 8:47
  • Aha, interesting that it's 11 km west of the border between Perm Krai and Sverdlovsk Oblast, I would have expected those borders to coincide. – gerrit Feb 24 at 8:37

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