For centuries the world has wondered what to believe about Russia. The country has been reported variously as a land of unbelievable riches and indescribable poverty, cruel tyrants and great minds, generous hospitality and meddlesome bureaucracy, beautiful ballets and industrial monstrosities, pious faith and unbridled hedonism. These eternal Russian truths coexist in equally diverse landscapes of icy tundra and sun-kissed beaches, dense silver birch and fir forests and deep and mysterious lakes, snow-capped mountains and swaying grasslands – those famous steppes. Factor in ancient fortresses, luxurious palaces, swirly spired churches and lost-in-time wooden villages and you’ll begin to see why Russia is simply amazing.
To get the most from Russia, head way off the beaten track. After taking in old favourites such as dynamic Moscow, historic St Petersburg and beautiful Lake Baikal, dive further and deeper into the largest country in the world. Visit the soft, golden sands of the old Prussian resort of Kranz, now known as Zelenogradsk in the far western Kaliningrad Region; the charming Volga river village of Gorodets, home to folk artists and honey-cake bakers; fascinating Elista, Europe’s sole Buddhist enclave and location of the wacky Chess City; the 400-year-old mausoleums of Dargavs, a North Ossetian ‘city of the dead’; or the hot springs of Kamchatka’s Nalychevo Valley in the Russian Far East.
Russia’s vast geographical distances and cultural differences mean you don’t tick off its highlights in the way you might those of a smaller country; the Russian Far East, for example, is the size of Europe. A more sensible approach is to view Russia as a collection of countries, each one deserving exploration. Rather than transiting via Moscow, consider flying direct to a regional centre such as Irkutsk to have an Eastern Siberian vacation, or to Yekaterinburg to explore the Urals mountain range.
If cultural and architectural highlights are what you’re after, stick to European Russia, which is all of the country west of the Urals. If you don’t mind occasionally roughing it and are in search of Russia’s great outdoors, train your eye on the vast spaces of Siberia and the Far East. Alternatively, boost your adrenaline on the country’s top ski resorts and raft-friendly rivers. You can also get a bird’s eye view of it all from the cockpit of a MiG-25 or even from outer space, as well as unique experiences such as getting a beating in a banya (traditional steam bath).
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
Best places to stay in Russia
20 free things to do in Moscow
The socialist dream has been officially abandoned, but it's still possible to have fun for free in Moscow. Here are our top picks for spending your time in the Russian capital without spending your money. Moscow metro by Jason Rogers. CC BY 2.0 Tour Moscow for free The innovative, entrepreneurial company Moscow Free Tour (www.
Russia destination guides
Moscow is a city of superlatives.
Take to the skies: the world's greatest airborne adventures
Got a head for heights? Soar into the ether in some of the world’s most inspiring locations. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Paragliding at Pokhara, Nepal Paragliders over Pokhara, Nepal by momo. CC BY 2.0.
Trans Siberian Adventure Naadam Festival
A spectacular train journey from Beijing to experience the wonders of Mongolia during Naadam Festival, Siberia, Moscow and St Petersburg
Come along on an awe-inspiring adventure traversing three great nations - Russia, Mongolia and China. From the opulence of Moscow and St Petersburg to the grace of imperial Beijing, travel along the most famous railway in the world through the heartland of Siberia and the vast grassy steppe of Mongolia - this trip showcases rail travel at its finest.
Ten of the world's best off-season adventures
Avoid the crowds and bag a bargain by travelling to the world’s best bits when everyone else isn’t. Here are 10 reasons to resist travel during high season, straight from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. 'Green season' safari, Botswana Hippos in Botswana by Mazzali / CC BY-SA 2.
Sights in Russia
Activities in Russia
Tours in Russia
Restaurants in Russia
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
It seemed like a lark.