Russia is the largest country in the world, spanning 11 time zones over its 6.6 million square miles. Its diverse terrain includes lowland glacial deposition, rolling plains, and morainic ridges with peaks up to 1,050 feet (320 metres). Its capital, Moscow, has a rich history dating back to Czar Ivan the Terrible in the eighteenth century. After the revolution that toppled the Russian monarchy in 1917, the city became St Petersburg, and later Petrograd and then Leningrad before returning to Moscow in 1991, when it was renamed in honor of revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin. With its vast size and diverse regions, Russia is a fascinating country to visit.
Cosmopolitan cities like Moscow and St Petersburg offer world-class symphonies and ballet, and renowned tourist attractions such as the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral. Despite the stereotypical image of drab Communist-era concrete buildings, these cities are attractive and buzzing with culture in museums, art galleries and nightlife venues.
For a more rural experience, you can head to the far east of the country, where the Ural Mountains cut through the landscape and form several major rivers, including the Volga. The region is dotted with large forests and home to the birch-bark canoe, a traditional craft still used on some lakes. You can also hike in the rugged mountains and camp out at a wilderness tent lodge.
The far north of Russia lies above the Arctic Circle, and the arctic conditions can be bitterly cold. However, the region has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful in the country. The ice-covered lakes are a mesmerising sight, and the snow-covered peaks are a picture-perfect backdrop for outdoor activities such as skiing and snowboarding.
It’s best to visit in late Spring or Autumn, as the weather is warm and dry. This is also the best time to see the famous “White nights” of Saint Petersburg, which occur at the end of May and into June, when the city is illuminated for a few hours at a time. This is a unique experience and it’s a great time to take advantage of the open-air music shows and cultural events that occur in the streets. The Hermitage Museum is particularly crowded at this time, but you can beat the crowds by visiting on a Wednesday or Friday. The museum is open until 9pm on these days. You can purchase tickets online ahead of your trip or in person when you arrive.