For a country that encompasses an area of over 10.5 million square miles, it is no coincidence most people know very little about Russia, aside, of course, from textbook blurbs of Tsarist rule, Mongolian raids, bloody revolutions and snowy, desolate Steppes. The mere expanse of the Russian border makes the country a more versatile destination than any other place in the world. Visit the arctic zone and navigate through sub-tropical regions without ever leaving the country! A closer look and a few tips can subdue your fear and pique your interest to travel to Russia.
Western Russia: Travel to Russia’s Heart and Soul
Western Russia includes Moscow, St. Petersburg, Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) and the Black and Caspian Seas, making this region the commercial and political core of the nation. Initially the capital of Russia, St. Petersburg was built by Peter the Great and is filled with both haunting and enchanting remnants of a time past. St. Petersburg is certainly the most European and best preserved city, adorned with stately architecture and regal cathedrals that echo of a romantic and prestigious era. In the early 20th century, the capital moved away from the European border to Moscow where the Kremlin, Red Square and Lenin’s Mausoleum (where you can view his embalmed body!) stand as testaments to Russia’s rocky history. In the Southwest, Volgograd is traditionally accepted as the origin of the Russian Empire and was fortified in the 1500s to protect tsarist Russia’s southern border from Cossack and Viking pillages. With these bases covered, leave the crowds behind and head east into a land with a history all its own.
Travel Russia from Europe to Asia
There is nothing quite like seeing six thousand miles of land in a single trip. The epic journey aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway is for those who consider the journey to be just as magical as the destination. The longest continuous rail line on the planet takes you from metropolitan Moscow through vast steppes and the Siberian taiga, the largest remaining forest in the world, to finally arrive in the commercial bustle of Russia’s main Pacific port city, Vladivostok. Three alternate routes and several extensions into European and Asian nations have also been constructed and provide more options to travel Russia’s breadth.
Many travel restrictions have been lifted since the 1990s and it is now possible to arrange overnight stays in many of the fascinating towns and breathtaking landscapes along the way. Make sure to spend a moment in the Siberian town of Ulan Ude, Russia’s main Buddhist center, and visit the Tibetan Buddhist monastery that has been restored since the oppressive rule of Stalin. The Baikal Lake region is also a very popular stop and a perfect place to be immersed in the natural beauty of Russia’s heartland. Baikal Lake is the oldest in the world, estimated at 25-30 million years old. The lake region is home to over 2,500 animal species including a unique Siberian species of freshwater seal and thousands of migratory birds.
Accessibility is the new attitude toward foreign tourism in Russia. A society that has long been closed-off, particularly to westerners, is now ready to embrace curious visitors with open arms.