Russia's Southern Region enjoys the warmest weather in the country, which is handy for the Black Sea holiday resorts. By way of contrast, this region is also home to Russia's most exotic cultural destinations - and most mountainous ones - in the North Caucasus. Like all Russian regions, it's vast, bordering the Central and Volga regions to the north, Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea to the east, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the south and the Black Sea and Ukraine to the west.
Russia's oldest city is here - Derbent, in Dagestan, established some 5,000 years ago, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thought by some to be the location of the mythical ‘Gates of Alexander' built to keep the uncivilised barbarians of the north out. Another curiosity of Southern Russia is the region of Kalmykia, Europe's only Buddhist region. Its capital, Elista, made famous by hosting the Chess Olympia in 1998, is home to several Buddhist monasteries - the sight of statues of Buddha interspersed with those of Lenin is rather surreal.
But for many, the Black Sea coast - the Russian Riviera - is the most compelling attraction. Sochi, perhaps the most famous resort of them all and host of the 2014 Winter Olympics is surprisingly urban, but this once decidedly Soviet spa town is seeing a drastic transformation and is rapidly going from basic to glitzy. Besides, the sea is delightfully warm and there's plenty of coastline to choose from - while the slopes of Krasnaya Polyana are close enough to enjoy both skiing and swimming in the spring.