Whether sipping a cocktail at a rooftop bar in Moscow, wandering the cobblestone streets of Kazan or gazing at the volcanic moonscapes of Kamchatka, Russia’s landscape is breathtakingly diverse. As the world’s largest country, it has something for every traveler – from history buffs to nature lovers, art enthusiasts to foodies, and anyone in search of the extraordinary.
With 26 UNESCO World Heritage sites, this massive country contains some of the planet’s most spectacular natural treasures. Its vast expanse encompasses everything from pristine forests to arctic tundras, and its climate varies as much as the people who live here.
Its mighty size is reflected in its magnificent palaces and churches, but Russian culture is also about refinement and grace. Think of the elegant swankiness of the ballet, the elegance of classic literature and the genius behind the country’s architecture. But to really grasp Russia’s scale, you need to leave the city and head into the wild.
The landscape is dominated by type D (continental) climates, which are characterized by extreme seasonal variations. The winters are long and frigid, while summers can be hot and dry. The far north borders the Arctic Ocean, and polar air masses swoop down to swoop through the central portions of Russia each year. This means that the area is snow-covered and frozen over from November through February, while summers are short and warm.
These dramatic climates are tempered by Russia’s incredibly diverse and abundant plant life. Over eight million square kilometers of Russia are covered by forest. The vast majority are pine forests, but the country is also home to a variety of deciduous and birch trees.
Russia’s flora is complemented by a diversity of fauna and birds. Over 400 species of birds migrate to Russia each year, and the country is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Many of these species are rare or endangered. The wildlife of Russia is as varied as its climate, and it is a treasure trove for those willing to seek it out.
A Nation of Many Ethnicities
While the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state, the Russian people are a multicultural society. Some 160 distinct ethnic groups call Russia home, and a broad spectrum of religions are practiced here. The most common is the Eastern Orthodox Church, but Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, the strict Russian Orthodoxy of Old Believers and ancient animistic religions survive in remote parts of the country as well.
Russia is a safe destination for most travelers. It is recommended to use common sense and stay aware of your surroundings. There is little to no crime in the cities, but thefts of money and electronics are more prevalent in rural areas. It is best to leave electronics and valuables at the hotel, and do not carry large sums of cash around town. It is also a good idea to not put your wallet in your back pocket, as this can be an easy target for pickpockets. Overall, though, Russians are savvy and if you use caution, you should have no trouble enjoying your trip to Russia.