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Russia Tourism And Travel Guide
-1.8° C / 28.7° F
May to February
6 to 10 Days
Leningradskiy Railway Station
Russia, the erstwhile state of Soviet Union, came into existence in the early 90s. It can hence be called a relatively young country. But the deep history of its land, with the Scandinavian kings who were invited to rule over it and establish a dynasty, the latter Bolshevik uprising and the resulting establishment of Communism means Russia has just too much culture and art and literature in its wake. Hence tourism in Russia is coveted, and is becoming more and more in demand.
From its beautiful cities to the northern reaches where skiing resorts dominate the game, from its opulent palaces to ballet-lit theatres, here’s a travel guide to help you trace your way to and through Russia.
How to Reach
The best way to go to Russia is by flight from India, although there are no direct flights. Trains from all over Europe also culminate in Russian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg.
You will find regular one-stop and two-stop connecting flights to Russia from India. Delhi and Mumbai are the two main bases to connect to Moscow and St. Petersburg, although there are airports in Kazan and Helsinki too. Air India, Lufthansa and Air France are major players on these routes.
Russia has many land-border sharing neighbouring countries from where you can drive in or take a bus or coach, including Ukraine, Georgia, China, Belarus, Norway, Finland and Estonia. Eurolines buses are the best for cheaper and comfortable travel. But the checks are tight on every crossing/ border.
RZhD Russian Railways in Russia make it possible to travel domestically without must hassle. It is has an intricate network that penetrates even the most rural locations. From elsewhere in Europe there are Eurail trains coming in regularly.
Many cruises dock at Russian ports from Nordic countries like Denmark and Finland as well as the Black Sea shores of Turkey - Trabzon. But waterways are not the best means of reaching Russia.
There is the Trans-Siberian Railway route that helps you traverse Russia easily by train, then there are domestic flights and buses too. For moving around in a city, you can either hail cabs or take the train/ metro.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Russian weather is cold most of the year but summer is a bright beacon for travellers looking for exploration. Spring is also a decent time to visit.
Spring (March to May):
The Spring temperatures in Russia average at around 30°C by May end, and while March and April see the melting of snow on streets, May is the best spring month to visit.
Summer (June to August):
Summer is an amazing time to enjoy all the sightseeing, hiking, nature parks, mushroom-picking expeditions and the legendary ‘White Nights’ in Russia. The temperature may warm up to 30°C by July and everything is bright and cheery.
Autumn (September to November):
The season of autumn sees cooling temperatures, rains and dampened air in Russia. While September is still warm enough, come October and the rain turns into snow, later turning to hail in many parts. But this is also the harvest season and most weddings happen at this time, before winter makes everything rein in the pace.
Winter (December to February):
Russian winters are a thing of legends. They are white, blinding and too cold for most Indians who are used to tropical winters. The temperatures may drop to anywhere between -20°C and -50°C, with snow blanketing the cities in thick sheets. This is one of the most beautiful sights too, as proven by tourism in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Things to Do
Explore Red Square in Moscow:
The Red Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Moscow and the biggest of its kind in the world. Fringed by Cathedrals and palaces and malls alike, the Red Square is a good place to spend a morning, scouting Russian history and indulging in some shopping therapy at GUM Department Store.
Visit the Winter Palace of St. Petersburg:
St. Petersburg is known for many things, but it is best known for the Tsar’s Winter Palace, that has become an uncrowned stamp of Russia. With its beautiful build and stunning art and gold work, the Winter Palace must be explored at least once in a lifetime.
Explore the Kremlins:
In Russia, a Kremlin was a fortified city, which later spilled over into the modern townships that we see. Moscow Kremlin is one of the most beautiful and touristy places to visit when in the capital. It has the seat of the Russian Government and the President’s Office, along with palaces where state dinners are hosted and cathedrals that are as beautiful as fairytale castles. You must spend a day around here.
Go to the City of Dead:
A tour of the City of Dead is really a mix of history, tragedy and poetic beauty. This village, known as Dargavs is really only a collection of empty time-ravaged houses and a cemetery with 100 crypts of the families that died here due to a plague back in the 1600s. The tour is highly coveted when in Russia.
Those who love winter and snow sports, Russia is your haven. Because the country is knee deep in snow for more than 6 months in a year, skiing resorts do great business. Visit the Red Valley, Baikal Lake and the Serbian stretch to enjoy breathtaking sceneries and thrilling slopes to snowboard and go skiing.
What to Eat
Russian cuisine doesn’t have the delicate nature of the fresh Greek or Italian or even French dishes. In fact, the Russians like their food heavy and chunky to fatten them up for the harsh times of winter. Some of the hot favourites on a typical Russian table are the sweet or savoury Blini (pancakes), the thick beetroot Borcht or broth (with meat, veggies and sour cream), Pelmeni or dumplings and the crusty Pirot pastries that come in savoury as well as sweet options.
Other delicacies to try when in Russia include traditional ginger breads with jam or honey, black breads, the popular and very expensive caviar, along with the national favourite drink - Vodka.
What to Buy
Russia is a great place to pick up souvenirs, maybe not the best to buy brands, as most of them come from the Italy-France-England belt anyway. When returning from Russia, make sure you bring local favourites like the organic Russian honey jars, jam jars, caviar and chocolate bars like Alenka Chocolate for your loved ones. Also worth buying are the legendary Russian dolls, Pavlovo Posad scarves, porcelain items, palekh or lacquered boxes, thin wool-lace shawls and the world renowned - Russian Vodka.