Off the Beaten Track
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 nation. Instead, view Russia as a collection of distinct territories, each one deserving separate attention.
Rather than transiting via Moscow, consider flying direct to a regional centre such as Irkutsk, Novosibirsk or Yekaterinburg and striking out from there. With a welcome spread of Western-style hostels along the Trans-Siberian route and the ease of booking trains and flights online, it’s never been easier to organise this kind of trip.
Arty & Adventurous
Whether you’re a culture vulture in search of inspiration from great artists and writers or an adventure addict looking for new horizons to conquer, Russia amply delivers. Tread in the footsteps of literary greats, including Tolstoy and Pushkin, on their country estates. Arrange a ski holiday in Krasnaya Polyana, newly spruced up for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, go trekking in the Altai, or even climb an active volcano in Kamchatka – the varied possibilities will make you head spin.
Historic & Contemporary
If ancient walled fortresses, glittering palaces and swirly-spired churches are what you’re after, focus on European Russia. Here Moscow and St Petersburg are the must-see destinations, twin repositories of eye-boggling national treasures, political energies and contemporary creativity. Within easy reach of these cities are charming historical towns and villages, such as Veliky Novgorod, Pskov and Suzdal, where the vistas dotted with onion domes and lined with gingerbread cottages measure up to the rural Russia of popular imagination.
A Riddle Worth Solving
A small degree of perseverance will be amply rewarded and one of the great joys of travel in Russia is being swept away by the boundless hospitality of the people.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it best when he talked about Russia’s ‘ancient, deeply rooted autonomous culture…full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking’. You, too, will be beguiled by the beauty of its arts and the quixotic nature of its people.