There’s nothing director Sesegma (aka Svetlana) and charming daughter Naran can’t arrange for travellers in Buryatiya. An award-winning tour company and by far the best folks to approach if you want to see the republic’s more remote corners, Old Believer villages, the Selenga Delta, the Barguzin Valley and the region’s Buddhist and Shamanist heritage.
Sanduny is the oldest and most luxurious banya in the city. The Gothic Room is like a work of art with its rich wood carving, and the main shower room has an aristocratic Roman feel to it. Recommended.
Ferries ply the Moscow River from May to September (every 20 minutes). Traditionally, this was simply a way to get from point-A to point-B, but visitors to Moscow realised that riding the entire route (1½ hours) was a great way to see the city. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket for the full day (adult/child R800/200), which allows you to get on and off at will.
‘Mountain Air’ ski area looms east of town. A chairlift runs all year (weekends only in summer) and leads up the mountain – another heads down the back side. It’s about 300m southeast of the 220-acre Gagarin Park , named for a cosmonaut and big with rides, shaded walkways and weekend concerts in summer.
Ask about rafting opportunities on the swift Bystraya River (its name means ‘fast’) at Altai guesthouse. Another interesting option is kayaking with Chip Levis (www.kamchatkachip.com; email@example.com), a posthippie American who offers small-group trips (of the lesser visited Koserevsk and Kamchatka Rivers) in kayaks he made himself.
Right by the turn towards the centre on the main Yaroslavl road, this countryside hotel is famous for its banya complex, which offers a dozen treatments, from traditional to slightly left field. Most involve quick shifts between boiling-hot and ice-cold tubs and a steam master beating the hell out of you with birch-tree twigs. You’ll feel heavenly afterwards, promise.
This chain of private gyms offers a range of fitness classes, including yoga, step-aerobics, Pilates and dance classes. There are six different classes a day, most of them in the evening. There is also cardio equipment and weights on site, although you have to upgrade your membership to take advantage of it. There is another outlet in Arbat .
When the temperatures drop, Gorky Park becomes a winter wonderland. The ponds are flooded, turning the park into the city’s biggest ice-skating rink. Tracks are created for cross-country skiers to circumnavigate the park. Ice skates and cross-country skis are available to rent (R100 to R200 per hour). Bring your passport.
Oliver rents all kinds of two-wheeled vehicles, including cruisers, mountain bikes, folding bikes and tandem bikes, all of which are in excellent condition. The place is conveniently located for bike rides along the Moscow River, in Gorky Park, Neskuchny Garden and Vorobyovy Gory Nature Preserve. Ride carefully!
Travel from St Petersburg Airport to your St Petersburg City Hotel. Transfer services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is a private transfer service so the price is the same for groups of 1 - 3 transferred in a private car or 4 - 6 transferred in a private minibus.
This soon-to-be world-class ski complex will be the largest venue for the Sochi Winter Olympics. Currently four lifts are operating, with 38km of open piste, though a staggering 18 lifts (and 80km of piste) will be operating once construction is complete.
The dirt road behind Solnechnaya Dolina hotel leads 6km up Alibek Valley to a mountaineers’ hostel , passing a climbers’ cemetery after 2km. From the hostel a trail ascends about two hours to Lake Turie near Alibek Glacier, via dramatic Alibek Falls.
This large Soviet-era boat was renovated and brought back into service in 2010. It contains an Altai museum and a café (meals R200 to R300) and offers trips around the lake from R800 a head. Opposite Pensionat Edem at km2.5.
Travel from your St Petersburg City Hotel to St Petersburg Airport. Transfer services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is a private transfer service so the price is the same for groups of 1 - 3 transferred in a private car or 4 - 6 transferred in a private minibus.
Riverfront totem poles and reception yurts make Tos Deer Shaman Centre the most photogenic. If someone has stumped up the cash, there might be sunset ceremonies here but shamans are touchy about (unpaid) photography.