Despite being open to tourism for decades now, Russia remains, as Churchill once observed ‘a riddle wrapped in an enigma'. Mysterious, mighty, modern yet medieval; beautiful and brutal, romantic but cynical, poetic and pragmatic, this is an endlessly contradictory country, but large enough to allow all opposites to exist.
Russia's sheer scale is difficult to imagine, let alone thoroughly explore. Western Russia on its own, from the borders of Belarus to the Ural mountains, is the largest country in Europe, and that's just a fraction of the whole country. The Russian Federation only finishes when the sea separating it from Japan begins, a great sweep of steppes and Siberia in between. There are silvery birch forests too, and snow capped mountains, the warm sands of the Black Sea, rivers, deep lakes and every kind of physical beauty to enjoy.
If the landscapes soothe the soul, urban life in Russia stirs it. The cities are exciting, or enchanting, and in some cases both. From the chaotic yet compelling charm of Moscow, the enchanted feel of the ancient towns on the Golden Ring, the elegance of St Petersburg to the exuberance of Vladivostok in Russia's Far East, there's something for everyone here, from adventure holidays to cultural city breaks or both combined in a tailor made trip.
This is one country where working out an itinerary designed to take in as much variety as possible is recommended, due to both its size and scope. Preferably an itinerary that will allow for sociable stops in steamy bathhouses and chatty teahouses and bars for shots of what is known as ‘a little drop of water' in Russia - and consumed with as much regularity - vodka.
Click on a place name below to find out more. Alternatively, to start planning where to go in Russia, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0618.
The Practical information displayed here is taken from The Traveller's Handbook, published by WEXAS (2009). While all possible care was taken to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, we are aware that situations change, so for the latest information and up-to-date visa requirements, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0618.
Warm summers (June to August), freezing winters.
International Folklore Festival is held in Moscow between August and December. The Russian Winter Festival held over the 12 days of Christmas is hosted in Moscow's Izmailovo Park with folk games, dancing, and sleigh rides. The Malenitsa Festival is held throughout February and March in Moscow to celebrate the coming of spring and advance of Lent. St Petersburg celebrates the founding of the city on 27 May for City Day. The summer solstice is marked with The White Nights, a period of all-night parties as the sun barely dips below the horizon, leaving a magical night sky.
Varies from region to region, but national favourites include borsch (beetroot soup with sour cream), blinis (small buckwheat pancakes) with sour cream and caviar or smoked salmon, and beef stroganoff. Pirozhky (filled rolls like ravioli) and pelmeni (dumplings) are popular. Although vodka is the drink to drink, local champagne is cheap and surprisingly good.
Dress conservatively, but consider the weather. Avoid displays of wealth and keep expensive items hidden. Gifts are welcomed. Normal social courtesies apply.
Moscow (VKO) 28 km from the city, St Petersburg (LED) 16 km from the city.
Some domestic flights, very poor safety records. River transport, mainly on the Volga and Don rivers, especially in the summer. The rather slow rail network is vital as the road system is poor. Buses are good for short distances.
The itinerary ideas listed below are designed to give you a flavour of the things to do in Russia. We can adjust any element and tailor-make your trip though, to suit your individual needs and available time. To start planning your trip, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0618.
Cecile Musgrave - Europe Specialist
To make an enquiry or to start planning your trip talk to our team of specialists on 020 7590 0618