Russia Travel Guide

Russia Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration

PureTravel Says: “Russia is the largest country on earth, covers more than 12 percent of the earth’s land. Spanning over 11 time zones, it covers north Asia entirely and about 40 percent of Europe. The eternal snow of the North Pole, great forests and numerous lakes containing one quarter of the earth’s water offers visual delights, which is possibly unrivalled in the world. Wide geographic variation offers limitless opportunities for all kinds of adventure sports. As well as sports, visitors can enjoy the well preserved cultural heritage of the country which is one of the richest on earth.”

Holiday Highlights

Walking & Trekking – With many mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers scattered throughout the country, Russia offers hundreds of walks and treks. Most popular among visitors are the 1,200km stretch of the Caucasian ridge, Central Valley along the Baksan River, Mont Blanc, Shambala Lake and Kamchatka. Another famous and popular trek is climbing the highest summit of the Altai Mountains. Along the way, visitors will enjoy Mt. Belukha (4,506m) with its lakes, rivers, petroglyphs and spiritual sites.

Culture & History - Russia is a storehouse of rich cultural heritage as it is home to dozens of ethnic groups. All these groups have contributed to the beliefs and customs of the country. As a result, you will find rich and varied cultural heritage, be it art, theatre, music, architecture, language or custom. Russia has preserved its culture in the various museums across the country. The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, for example is full of famous Russian icons. The Heritage Museum and Russian Museum of St Petersburg are full of brilliant art collections.

There are many churches, monasteries and cathedrals, which are excellent examples of old religious architecture. Places like Andronikov Monastery and Cathedral of the Archangel along with St Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod and Monastery of the Transfiguration on Valaam Island are all worth visiting. Visitors will appreciate the lavish decorations and the ornate fixtures within the design of these buildings.

Rafting - Popular destinations for river rafting include Karelia, Altai Mountains and parts of Siberia and regions of Lake Baikal. Most of the river-rafting trips are suitable for both keen beginners and skilled rafters.

A vast spread of rivers across the country offers many explored and unexplored locations for rafting that will capture the interest of many rafters. One of the most popular rafting and kayaking tours runs from Hokkaido in Japan to the wilderness of Kamchatka. Along the way, travelers will cross through the volcanic landmass of the Kuril Islands. This kayaking tour will also guide you across large seabird colonies and rich marine life. Spruce forest, spongy tundra and forests of bamboo and birch along with active smoking volcanoes and hot springs offer ultimate pleasure on a kayaking and rafting trip. This tour also allows visitors the opportunity to visit some fascinating heritage sites. You could also encounter wildlife such as sea otter and sea lion colonies.

Wildlife - Russia is the home of a number of World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO. These sites include Lake Baikal and the forests of Komi. Lake Baikal, most commonly known as the Blue Eye of Siberia is located in southern Siberia. It is the largest (by volume), deepest and oldest freshwater lake on the planet earth. With a 636km long periphery, it is home to an abundance of wildlife. Russia is home to 1,000 different species of flora and 1,550 species of fauna.

The Komi Forests in the Urals are unique and home to conifers, aspens and birches along with peat bogs, rivers and natural lakes.

The volcanoes of Kamchatka are another celebrated UNESCO World Heritage Site and it's widely known as one of the most beautiful active volcanic regions in the world.

Boating & Sailing – Boating and sailing are popular in Russia and there are many trips that are a must for travelers. Some of the popular trips include; Moscow to St. Petersburg River Cruise, Volga River Cruise with the Russian National Orchestra, Caspian Sea to the Russian Capital Moscow and Ural Mountains to Kazan, Capital of Tatars, to the Russian Capital, Moscow.

The famous cruise between the two capitals of Russia; Moscow and St. Petersburg includes overnight stays with daily guided tours in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kizhi, Vallam, Svir, Goritzy, Yaroslavl and Uglich. This cruise is a cultural extravaganza and offers some memorable experiences.

Adventure Sports

Fishing For fishing, the popular destination is Sakhalin Island. Perch, Salmon trout, Silver Salmon and Flat fish inhabit the area during parts of the year.

Jeep Tours - Jeep tours are one of the favoured adventure sports here and one of the most popular destinations for these tours is Lake Baikal. Another popular jeep tour destination is the East Sayan Mountains.

Ice Diving – One of the popular sports among the Russians is ice diving, especially in the popular area of The White Sea. The White Sea in Russia is rich in marine and bird life and for the most part of the year, it encompasses an average 1.5m of ice. This ice cover makes it an ideal place for ice diving.

Aerobatic Tours - Aerobatics tours are another popular adventure sport in Russia. Visitors can choose between the two popular models of aircrafts, the L-39 Albatross and the MiG-29 Falcrum.

Snowboarding - Snowboarding is popular amongst the younger population in Russia. The best locations are Mount Elbrus and Volen Sport Park just outside Moscow.

Skiing – Russians enjoy skiing, snowboarding and many other winter sports - in fact there are many ski resorts across the country, the most famous of which is undoubtedly Sochi - the host of the Winter Olympics in 2014. Most of these resorts offer first class skiing facilities. One of the best locations for skiing is Mount Elbrus and it offers year-around skiing. The peak is reachable by cable car or helicopter. From the highest cable car station, visitors can enjoy a 2km ski run. Other popular ski resorts include Cheget located in the Caucasus Mountains and the Volen Sport Park located 60km from Moscow and has excellent facilities within its development.

When to Go

Russia is a vast country with varied climatic regions. The best season to travel depends on your chosen activities.

Caucasian ridge can be trekked all year round, whereas Mont Blanc is best trekked between June and September.

The best time for hunting game is between September and December.

Jeep Tours are generally organized from the end of spring until the middle of autumn.

Mount Elbrus offers year-around skiing.

Top Tips

  • Ensure you have all relevant documentation needed to enter the country
  • Seek professional guidance for your expeditions

Holidays In Focus

Walking and Trekking

The Caucasian ridge extends for 1,200km from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. It reaches a maximum width of 180km. This range separates Russia from the Caucasus region. Commonly separated into three regions, the Caucasus region comprises West Caucasus, Central Caucasus and East Caucasus. Between these three regions lie the Elbrus and Kazbek Mountains. Between these two mountains lie some of the most sought after adventure treks of the region. Along the path of River Baksan lie many valleys with beautiful peaks such as Donguz-Orun (4,492m), Shkhelda (4,300m), Tchatyn (4,368m), Ushba (4,710m) and Elbrus (5,642m), the highest mountain of the Caucasus. All these mountains and valleys offer many adventurous treks for the walking or trekking enthusiasts.

Between June and September you can visit two high valleys with spectacular lakes. On the way, you will see the 1.5km high glacier under the summit Belukha in the Altai Mountains. At this time of year, you can also visit Lake Sambala. Treks to Lake Shavlinsky are very popular among the Russians. Lake Shaylo is another popular destination for trekking. From January to December, you can visit Golden Lake, where the wooded shores around the lake offer excellent treks for visitors.

In the Kamchatka range, visit between July and September for a lengthy trek along the Shore of Kronotsky Lake, which is located at the foot of the Kronotsky volcano. You can trek to the top of two volcanoes in the area. Both these treks to the volcanoes Kizimen (2,450m) and Plosky Tolbachik (3,050m) are comfortable to trek and will provide amazing views from both. If you can also find time for a rewarding trek to the deserts of the area, which promises startling yet fascinating landscapes. These deserts resulted from the eruption of Tolbachik in 1975-1976.

Why not reward yourself with a well-deserved break at the enjoyable hot water baths in “Tumroks” during the course of the treks. The wonderful stretches of Southern Siberia offer a unique world of wild and virgin nature. During the trek to the Altai Mountains you will encounter an abundance of wonderful natural sights and experiences including lofty plateaus and towering mountains with permanent snow and deep forests.

Culture and History

The cultural heritage of Russia is so vast that practically every small and large town of the country is a living example of it. For the sake of visitors, Russia has tried to preserve it in a large number of museums. Most of these museums remain dedicated to different art forms and art movements that prevailed in Russia throughout the ages. Other museums like the Russian Ethnographic Museum relate to different aspects of the cultures that exist in Russia. Lomakov’s Automobiles and Motorcycles Museum is devoted to antique cars and motorcycles. The Museum of Wooden Architecture & Peasant Life is dedicated to the art and craft of wooden sculpture. The Vladimir Vysotsky Museum is devoted to Russian poets. The State Historical Museum offers displays of general historic items.

Nature and Wildlife

A visit to the wildlife reserve of Lake Baikal is one of the most popular wildlife destinations. Taking a walking tour to Tshersky Mountain is popular and the best way to experience a panoramic view of the lake.

Katunsky ridge is one of the other popular destinations for wildlife lovers. If you visit in July and August, you can observe the alpine meadows in bloom, which is beautiful. In this ridge, you might also encounter the Siberian wapiti, musk deer and brown bear along with sable, Siberian weasel and Siberian ibex. The snow leopard and Altai snow cock are some of the rare animals found in this area.

Kamchatka Peninsula is famously known as the Jewel of the Ring of Fire, and is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas to be found anywhere in the world and can be seen in Russia. A cruise to the treeless Commander Islands is trip of a lifetime and offers a wildlife extravaganza. A UNESCO biosphere reserve is home to numbers of fur seals and sea lions. Other animals that one may encounter during the trip include sea otters, tufted puffins and guillemots along with kittiwakes and auklets.

Kayaks offer one of the ideal ways to experience close contact with the wildlife in the reserve. July and August are the optimum times of the year for this. The popular rafting expedition from the Chuysky Trakt to the mouth of the Yaloman River will also be very rewarding.

Classic Itineraries

  • Volga River Cruise accompanied by the Russian National Orchestra
  • Boating from the Caspian Sea to the Russian Capital, Moscow
  • Boating from the Ural Mountains to Kazan - Capital of Tatars, to the Russian Capital Moscow
  • Visit the old Russian City of St Petersburg
  • Visit the famous Lake Baikal
  • Cruise to the treeless Commander Islands
  • Trek to the summit Belukha in the Altai Mountains
  • Trek to Lake Sambala
  • Visit Mount Elbrus for skiing

National Holidays in Russia in 2014

Tuesday January 1 - New Year's Day
Wednesday January 2 - New Year Holiday Week
Thursday January 3 - New Year Holiday Week
Friday January 4 - New Year Holiday Week
Monday January 7 - Orthodox Christmas Day
Tuesday January 8 - New Year Holiday Week
Monday January 14 - Old New Year (Observance)
Thursday February 14 - Valentine's Day (Observance)
Saturday February 23 - Defender of the Fatherland Day
Friday March 8 - International Women's Day
Wednesday May 1 - Spring and Labor Day
Thursday May 2 - Spring and Labor Day Holiday
Friday May 3 - Spring and Labor Day Holiday
Sunday May 5 - Orthodox Easter Day (Observance)
Thursday May 9 - Victory Day
Friday May 10 - Victory Day Holiday
Friday May 10 - Defender of the Fatherland Day
Wednesday June 12 - Russia Day
Monday November 4 - Unity Day
Monday December 30 - New Year Holiday Week
Tuesday December 31 - New Year Holiday Week

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Russian Federation

There are a total of 26 World Heritage Sites within the Russian Federation;

- Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow
- Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg
- Church of the Ascension at Kolomenskoye
- Kizhi Pogost
- Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Islands
- Historic Monuments of Novgorod
- White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal
- Lake Baikal
- Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad
- Virgin Komi Forests
- Kamchatka Volcanoes
- Golden Mountains of Altai
- Western Caucasus
- Curonian Spit
- Central Sikhote-Alin
- Ensemble of the Ferrapontov Monastery
- Historic and Architectural Complex of the Kazan Kremlin
- Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent
- Uvs Nuur Basin
- Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent
- Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve
- Historical Centre of Yaroslavl
- Struve Geodetic Arc
- Putorana Plateau
- Lena Pillars Nature Park

Festivals, Anniversaries and Events in 2014

The 2014 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXII Olympic Winter Games will be held in Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea coast from 7 to 23 February 2014. The Olympic Fame is currently making its way through Russia via ski, BMX bike and troika (carriage pulled by three horses). In total 88 nations will compete in 98 different events, spanning 15 different sports. Prepare to become transfixed by the alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding and speed skating.

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By Julie Bowman


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