Of all Eastern Siberia’s major cities, Chita is the least prepared for visitors. It was literally put on the map by the noble-blooded Decembrists, one of whom designed its street-grid layout. Today there’s nothing aristocratic about this regional capital where Soviet symbols still embellish Stalinist facades, shaven-headed conscripts guard pillared military headquarters and Chinese cross-border peddlers lug monster bales past a well-tended Lenin statue. Non-Chinese foreigners are still a rarity here; tourism is a thing that happens elsewhere.
Echoes of the Decembrist chapter in Chita’s history make the city just worth visiting, and a number of attractive old timber merchants’ houses grace its arrow-straight streets. It’s also the jumping-off point for important Buddhist sights in the south of Zabaikalsky Territory.