Epic Journeys

Trans-Siberian Railway The 9289km trip from Moscow to Vladivostok is the big one to do.

Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) The ‘other Trans-Sib’ route takes you through very lonely parts of Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Chuysky Trakt Hop in a shared taxi or hire a car to travel the 600km route through dramatic Altai landscapes, including glimpses of snowy mountain peaks and vertigo-inducing canyons.

Neryungri to Yakutsk An iron butt is required for this full-day classic 4WD ride through the Sakha Republic.

Frolikha Adventure Coastline Trail Pushed through virgin territory by Great Baikal Trail volunteers, this 100km-long lakeside trail is an eight-day Siberian odyssey.

Golden Ring Circuit around some of Russia’s oldest and cutest towns on a loop that begins and ends in Moscow.

Kolyma Highway The ‘road of bones’ makes for a tough three- or four-day journey between Yakutsk and the one-time Gulag town of Magadan.

Majestic Landscapes

Dombay This Southern Caucasus resort town is encircled by jagged, Matterhorn-like peaks of rock and ice, festooned with glaciers and gushing waterfalls.

Kola Peninsula Spot the northern lights reflecting off snowbound forests and tundra in the Arctic wilderness.

Olkhon Island This serenely beautiful island provides some of the best views across Lake Baikal.

The Barguzin Valley Isolated, virtually uninhabited and hemmed by high peaks, this is one of the most stunning Siberian landscapes in which to go astray.

Kamchatka This Far East peninsula is studded with several dozen snow-capped volcanoes.

Volga Delta Where the mighty river explodes like a firecracker into myriad raskaty (channels).

Blue Lake No permit is needed to hike to the gorgeous lake halfway up the side of Mt Aktru (4044m) within Altai National Park.

Arts & Crafts

Russian Museum As well the country's best collection of works by native artists, this St Petersburg institution has a fantastic folk crafts section.

Flyonovo Crafts are still produced at the pretty riverside estate of late-19th-century art-lover Princess Maria Tenisheva, 18km southeast of Smolensk.

Novgorod State United Museum Within Veliky Novgorod’s kremlin is an incredible collection of iconographic art spanning several centuries.

Kremlin in Izmaylovo A bustling market for all kinds of handicrafts where you can also watch them being made or try your hand at making your own.

Adyge Une In Nalchik you can find Kabardian and Circassian crafts as well as intricate Dagestani silver jewellery.

National Museum Marvel at 3000-year-old Scythian gold jewellery in Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva.

Yantarny The source of around 90% of the world’s amber. Look for attractive amber bracelets, necklaces and pendants in Kaliningrad's shops

Imperial Grandeur

Catherine Palace The vast baroque centrepiece of Tsarskoe Selo is famed for its Amber Room, dazzling Great Hall and beautiful grounds.

Peterhof Gape at the Grand Cascade fronting Peter the Great’s Gulf of Finland crash pad.

Yusupov Palace A canalside mansion offering a series of sumptuously decorated rooms culminating in a gilded mini-theatre.

Kolomenskoe Museum-Reserve An ancient royal country seat and Unesco World Heritage Site.

Tsaritsyno Palace The contemporary manifestation of the exotic summer home that Catherine the Great began but never finished.

Soviet Relics

Lenin’s Mausoleum Soviet relics hardly come more authentic than the embalmed body of VI, a fixture of Red Square since 1924.

VDNKh This park offers grandiose pavilions, gilded statues and fabulous fountains originally built to glorify socialism’s economic achievements.

Alyosha The ever-vigilant, utilitarian concrete statue keeps an eye on Murmansk’s wind-whipped and splendidly hideous Soviet architecture.

Mamaev Kurgan An astounding 72m-tall statue of Mother Russia is the memorial to those who fell in the bloody Battle of Stalingrad.

Lenin Head Installed to celebrate the commie leader’s 100th birthday, this gigantic bust dominates Ulan Ude’s main square.

Kirovsk Founded in 1929, this northern Russian mining town is littered with industrial detritus and abandoned Soviet buildings such as its former railway station.

Lenin Mosaic Beautiful public art in Sochi created in 1980 to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of the father of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Literary Titans

Anna Akhmatova Museum at the Fountain House Celebrating the life and times of the famous 20th-century St Petersburg–based poet.

Spasskoe-Lutovinovo The family home of Ivan Turgenev, surrounded by beautiful grounds, is a short trip from the literary town of Oryol.

Dostoevsky House Museum The author, famously associated with St Petersburg, lived for many years in this modest, riverside home in sleepy Staraya Russa.

Mikhailovskoe Stand in the shade of Pushkin’s beloved oak tree on his family’s estate near the small town of Pushkinskie Gory.

Lermontov Museum The 19th-century Romantic writer lived in this thatched cottage in Pyatigorsk before meeting his death in a duel.

Yasnaya Polyana The estate where Leo Tolstoy was born, lived most of his life and is buried.

Religious Buildings

St Basil's Cathedral Easily the country's most famous church; its candy coloured domes and swirly spires face the Kremlin across Red Square.

Grand Choral Synagogue A lavish place of worship indicating the pivotal role played by Jews in imperial St Petersburg.

Ivolginsk (Ivolga) Datsan The centre of Russian Buddhism continues to expand into its dramatic setting.

Transfiguration Monastery A gleaming white and sky-blue building topped with red crosses that is the highlight of the Valaam archipelago.

Kul Sharif Mosque Dominating Kazan’s World Heritage Site–listed kremlin is this enormous mosque named after the imam who died defending the city against Ivan the Terrible’s troops.

Church of the Intercession on the Nerl Revered for its exemplary perfect proportions and beautiful setting.

Sergiev Posad Russia’s holiest of holies, the beautiful Trinity Monastery of St Sergius.

Quirky Places & Experiences

Permafrost Kingdom A never-melting pod of elaborate ice sculptures in a cocoon of permafrost and neon.

Bunker-42 Cold War Museum A secret underground Cold War communications centre now open for exploration.

Sumarokovskaya Elk Farm Meet some friendly moose and drink their milk at this farm-cum-scientific institute outside Kostroma.

Dancing Forest Marvel at the twisting and turning pines, sculpted by the winds that whistle across the Kurshskaya Kosa National Park.

Chess City Sit on the 12 chairs of the Ostap Bender monument in this literary fantasy come to surreal life in Elista.

Multicultural Encounters

Jewish Museum & Centre of Tolerance Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov’s bus depot gets a thrilling makeover as one of the country's best museums.

Tuva With its throat-singing, yurt-building, milk-fermenting traditions, this isolated republic in southern Siberia is a revelation.

Lovozero This dilapidated outpost is worth the trek for those wanting to come into contact with the reindeer-herding Sami (Lapp) people of the Kola Peninsula.

Elista The capital of Kalmykia is home to the only Buddhist national group within Europe.

Esso Make contact with Evenki and Even people in this pretty village in the hinterland of Kamchatka.

Kosh-Agach With a population made up almost entirely of ethnic Altai and Kazakhs, it’s easy to forget you are still in Russia.

Off the Beaten Track

Zyuratkul National Park A remote and beautiful part of the Ural Mountains, with a lovely lake, hikes, log houses and a banya (bath house).

Teriberka Tourism is slowly taking off in this Sami village, one of the most picturesque spots in Arctic Russia.

Cherek Valley & Upper Balkaria Hike among the ruins of 18 Balkar villages in the spectacularly scenic Cherek Valley.

Shoana Church An early 10th-century Alanian church, claimed to be the oldest functioning chapel in the Russian Federation.

Solovetsky Islands Make a pilgrimage to these White Sea islands, home to one of Russia's best-known monasteries and also a former gulag camp.

The Kurils There are 49 active volcanoes in this Russian Far East chain of 56 islands, as well as beautiful lagoons, rivers and lakes.