Nominally independent before WWII, fascinating Tuva (Тува in Russian, Тыва in Tuvan) is culturally similar to neighbouring Mongolia but with an international cult following all its own. Philatelists remember Tannu Tuva’s curiously shaped 1930s postage stamps. World-music aficionados are mesmerised by Tuvan throat singers. And millions of armchair travellers read Ralph Leighton’s Tuva or Bust!, a nontravel book telling how irrepressible Nobel Prize– winning physicist Richard Feynman failed to reach Soviet-era Kyzyl despite years of trying. Now that visitors are allowed in, Leighton’s Friends of Tuva (www.fotuva.org) organisation keeps up the inspirational work with an unsurpassed collection of Tuvan resources on its website. With forests, mountains, lakes and vast undulating waves of beautiful, barely populated steppe, Tuva’s a place you’ll long remember.