The world’s largest country, the vast land of Russia stretches from the western shores of Europe to the far east Asia coastline. Inextricably interwoven with world history, Russia was a tribal melting pot of Tartars, Huns, Finns, Vikings, Turks, and Mongols, all of whom have left their mark on today’s culture and civilization.
The topography of the huge landmass is as varied as its origins, from volcanic hotspots to frozen Siberian wastelands and the great cities of Moscow and St Petersburg. Through the years, Russia continues to attract increasing numbers of visitors to its magnificence and mystery.
Russia’s highlights are its two major cities, crammed with architectural masterpieces on a grand design. Moscow’s biggest landmark is Red Square, home to St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin. The former Imperial city of St Petersburg holds the Winter Palace, the Hermitage Museum, and many other magnificent buildings. The picturesque Golden Ring towns and cities surround Moscow and are known for their historical sights, while remote Kamchatka lies in an active volcanic region of hot springs and geysers with brown bears casually roaming the streets.
Russia’s reputation as a cruel, harsh country of extremes may be true in regards to its politics, climate and topography, but its diverse people are some of the friendliest, proudest and most loyal once you get to know them.
Tourism is becoming increasingly important to the economy, with accommodation ranging from five-star luxury to comfortable mid-range hotels in most major cities. Russian cuisine is diverse, a melting pot of over 100 varieties of peasant food, utilizing the rich sources of fish, game, poultry, vegetables, and grains.
Russia exhibits a humid continental climate in most areas, except for the extreme southeast and the wide expanse of Siberian tundra. The climate of the Northern European region are sub-Arctic, with northern Siberian winters reaching a bone-chilling -90°F and lower, and the Russian Arctic Islands experiencing a polar climate. In July and August, Moscow weather hovers around 73°F, with occasional spikes to 86°F, and winter daytime temperatures stay around freezing, with nighttime drops to 14°F. Snow begins to fall in November, clearing by mid-March. Between November and February, humidity is also high.
Russia from west to east measures 5,000 miles and spans nine time zones, with travel by air the most practical option. If you have time, the train is a great way to see the country and meet the people, and taking the Trans-Siberian railway is the experience of a lifetime.
Trains are comfortable, but not luxurious, and almost always run on time. Given the distances involved, trains are cheap, but flying is only slightly more expensive. Local subways and buses offer a comprehensive network to get around, and the Moscow Metro stations are famous for their extravagant décor and chandeliers.
- Moscow, with its landmarks, amazing Metro stations, world-class museums, and cultural glories
- St Petersburg for breathtaking architecture, the Hermitage Museum, and Imperial heritage
- Freezing Irkutsk, Russia’s most easterly city
- The Tartar heartland of the Volga region and Kazan city
- Spectacular, volcanic Kamachatka for its hot springs and brown bears
- Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world, and its surrounding landscapes
- Kizhi Island in Lake Onega, a UNESCO World Heritage site for its open-air cultural museum
- Siberia’s massive rivers, lakes, tundras, steppes, forests, and snowy isolation