The Best Time to Visit Russia

Russia’s massive size and geographic isolation have given it a distinctive culture, distinct languages and unique natural features. It has a wide range of environments, from tundras and steppes to forests and ice-bound lakes. Its central location in Eurasia, far from the moderating effects of oceans, produces its characteristic hot summers and cold winters.

Russia is the largest country in the world by land mass, nearly twice as large as the United States. It has a European core around Moscow and St Petersburg, but then extends across the Ural Mountains into Siberia and the Russian Far East. The only way to cover the vast distances of the country is by train, and even a journey from St Petersburg to Vladivostok, the western and eastern termini of the Trans-Siberian Railway, takes about a week of constant travel.

Despite the hardships wrought by global events and domestic policies during the Soviet era, there were also significant improvements. Wealth that had previously been concentrated among the ruling aristocracy was now being shifted into private ownership of businesses, with workers having access to much more consumer goods. However, the emergence of capitalism caused property prices to skyrocket and forced many people out of their homes, as owners sold off apartments and business buildings to pay for new construction.

For those wishing to experience the best of the Russian cultural landscape, the peak season for visiting the country is from July through August. Moscow and St Petersburg are at their most glorious during this time, as the city’s parks and gardens come to life with bright blooming flowers. In addition, the white nights of July offer the opportunity to see the city illuminated at night in a way that is simply not possible during the rest of the year.

As the weather turns cooler, a visit to Russia in September and October will allow travelers to see the countryside at its most pristine and serene. The leaves of the trees turn a beautiful golden color, and many museums are less crowded than during the high season. The fountains at Peterhof, for example, close in mid-September.

Karelia, located in the northwestern corner of the country, exudes an air of magic unparalleled anywhere else in Russia. This pristine wilderness is blanketed with dense forest and idyllic lakes and is home to iconic animal species that are all but extinct in much of Europe – bears, wolves, wolverine, lynx and reindeer.