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Russia

Russia

Great Destination:

4

Value for Money:

2.5

Total Stars:

6.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

Most Venturesome personality types like it, along with a few Centric-Authentics

Did You Know … ?

  • Siberia’s Baikal, the world’s deepest lake (5,715 feet), holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water.
  • It’s a 16-mile walk to visit the more than 360 rooms in St. Petersburg’s Hermitage museum.
  • Life expectancy for Russians is the lowest in the developed world (62 for men, 74 for women).
  • Soviet airline tickets listed departure times using Moscow time regardless of itinerary; Russia’s rail tickets still do.
  • The Soviets estimated more than 14 million people passed through the Gulag from 1929 to 1953.

Bigness defined

Russia is the world’s largest country. It spans nine time zones and occupies one-eighth (12%) of the world’s surface. It has access to three oceans, the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific, although it lacks access to major sea lanes. Nearly 40% of the land is permafrost. The whole of Siberia is so huge it covers 75% of Russia, and hence 9% of Earth’s total landmass.

Every description of Russia must focus on the element of bigness, but that also translates into an incredible variety of manmade and natural attractions, as well as languages and cultures.

Westerners are attracted by Russia’s history, especially from the era of the tsars although the country’s experiment with communism and communism’s impact on society are of much interest to westerners as well.

Key attractions include the art collections and performing arts; restored cathedrals and monasteries; the treasures and palaces left by the tsars, and Moscow’s Kremlin both as the political heart of Soviet and modern Russian government but also for its historic churches and museum collections.

Great rivers cut paths through historic centers and across grand landscapes, making river cruises an attractive way to see a slice of this country. The Trans-Siberian Railway provides the world’s longest rail journey, around 5,770 miles, and requires much fortitude.

The considerably more ambitious may consider some exotic fishing expeditions, ski trips or trekking adventures. Any visitor — no matter the length of stay — will experience only a small portion of this huge destination. It’s a matter of narrowing the choices and making a plan.

Many tourists, depending on personality type, will likely be happiest traveling on an escorted tour, which means the guide can deal with any problems along the way. It requires a more venturesome spirit, as well as more time, money and patience, to travel independently in Russia. Tourist facilities are underdeveloped outside major cities.

Finally, crime and corruption can be an issue and the police can be part of the problem. Read what the U.S. State Department or other western governments advise. Travel to the North Caucasus region, including Chechnya, is discouraged.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Cross Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok. This will take at least a week. You can schedule stopovers along the way, to see more and to break up the journey.
  • Siberian Sheregesh near Novokuznetsk, eight hours by air from Moscow, is said to have the best powder for skiing in Russia and is especially popular with snowboarders. It’s also very cold. There are plenty of other choices for skiing.
  • Hike in the Western Caucasus around Sochi, or go rock climbing in the area. These tours leave from Krasnaja Poljana. Or, trek on the southern coast of Lake Baikal in Siberia. The starting point is Sludjanka, which has a railway station built entirely of marble.
  • Arrange a homestay in Russia. Or, spend part of your trip overnighting at a dacha (country house) outside of Moscow.
  • Spend a week fishing on Kamchatka Peninsula, which rates as the world’s best place for steelhead fishing. This will be expensive. Or, fish the Volga delta where you may get sturgeon on the line, among other species.
  • For extreme adventure, book an organized ski hike or snowmobile safari to the North Pole.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Go to the country’s most popular site for cross-country skiing, Karelia, near the Finnish border.
  • Book a cruise on the Volga, Ob or Jenisei River.
  • Visit Lake Baikal from Irkutsk. Photograph the area’s traditional wooden houses.
  • Put Sochi, the Black Sea resort and the host to the 2014 Winter Olympics, on your itinerary.
  • Book a bird-watching tour that would take you to the Volga delta. The Volga, which empties into the Caspian Sea, is Europe’s longest river.
  • Eat borscht, one of the best known of Russian specialties. Or try other soups, such as okroshka (based on summer vegetables) or shchi (based on cabbage).

Things to do for Authentics

  • Shop for amber from Kaliningrad, balalaikas, caviar, fur hats, hand-painted lacquer ware, matrioshkas (nesting dolls), vodka and other things that say Russia to you. You can buy red caviar, but it is illegal to export the black.
  • Visit Russia’s top cities, such as Moscow, Novgorod and St. Petersburg, on an escorted tour.
  • Or, come to Russian ports on a cruise ship; no visa is required for guided shore excursions.
  • Attend a ballet performance. Or, a circus if a show is available.
  • Tour historic Russian Orthodox churches. Also, visit a monastery. Hundreds of renovated churches have services in Russian cities, and monasteries are popular pilgrimage sites.
  • See as much art as you have time for at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. Besides, this counts as a visit inside a former tsar’s palace.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism at www.russiatourism.ru and click on the button for English if necessary.