The world’s largest country offers it all, from historic cities and idyllic countryside to artistic riches, epic train rides and vodka-fuelled nightlife.
Historic & Contemporary
If ancient walled fortresses, glittering palaces and swirly-spired churches are what you’re after, focus on European Russia. Here, Moscow and St Peters-burg are the must-see destinations, twin repositories of eye-boggling national treasures, political energies and contemporary creativity. Within easy reach of these cities are charming historical towns and villages, such as Veliky Novgorod, Pskov and Suzdal, where the vistas dotted with onion domes and lined with gingerbread cottages measure up to the rural Russia of popular imagination.
Arty & Adventurous
Whether you’re a culture vulture in search of inspiration from great artists and writers or an adventure addict looking for new horizons to conquer, Russia amply delivers. Tread in the footsteps of literary greats, including Tolstoy and Pushkin, on their country estates. Ski or climb lofty mountains in the Caucasus, go trekking or white-water rafting in the Altai Republic, hike around Lake Baikal, or scale an active volcano in Kamchatka – the variety of possibilities will make your head spin.
Off the Beaten Track
Russia’s vast geographical distances and cultural differences mean you don’t tick off its highlights in the way you might those of a smaller nation. Instead, view Russia as a collection of distinct territories, each one deserving separate attention. Rather than transiting via Moscow, consider flying direct to a regional centre such as Rostov-on-Don, Irkutsk or Yekaterinburg and striking out from there. With a welcome spread of Western-style hostels and hotels around the country and the ease of booking trains and flights online, it’s simple to organise this kind of trip yourself.
A Riddle Worth Solving
We won’t lie: bureaucracy and occasional discomfort and inconvenience, particularly away from the booming urban centres, remain an integral part of the Russian travel experience. However, a small degree of perseverance will be amply rewarded: one of the great joys of travel in Russia is being swept away by the boundless hospitality of the people. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Winston Churchill both wrote famous lines about Russia being an enigmatic riddle. Embrace this conundrum and you, too, are sure to find yourself swept away by a passion for Mother Russia.