Belonging to both Europe and Asia, the world’s largest nation is synonymous with onion-domed fairly-tale esque structures, epic train journeys, vast expanses of wilderness, controversial politicians, long harsh winters and vodka fuelled nights. It has long held a fascination with many a curious traveller and for those who do visit will find a country filled with culturally powerful cities, idyllic countryside, artistic riches and plenty of welcoming people. In such a huge country its hard to know where to start, but our guest blogger Daniil Timin – a Russian native – choses 10 of his favourite beautiful places to visit…
St. Petersburg is a city with a long and eventful history. In 1611, the town was born under the name Nyens and steadily grew in size and prestige. As regimes rose and fell around the great city, it was renamed again and again until it arrived at its present name, St. Petersburg. The history of the city has left numerous iconic relics, such as beautiful old churches with fantastically ornate architecture. Today, visitors to the city love to explore the culture of the city as well as participate in watersports and enjoy the fine arts that the city has to offer. The city boasts fantastic concerts as well as numerous museums and historic tours.
Altai is perhaps the most beautiful region of Russia. This area is nearly untouched, and the natural beauty is perfectly breathtaking. Altai is filled with glaciers and glacial lakes, as well as therapeutic hot springs. Both sightseers and health seekers love this area for its undefiled natural offerings, this is a wonderful unspoilt place for backpackers to explore.
Moscow is the capital of Russia, as well as the nation’s epicentre of arts, music, science, academics, and politics. This millennia-old city is a fascinating place to explore, with art and architecture from every era, besides plenty of modern-day pleasures to partake in. St. Basil’s Cathedral is a particularly interesting building, with patterned multi-coloured towers and balloon-like roofs. Although it looks a bit like something out Disneyland, the Cathedral and all of Moscow is no mythical fairy tale, but a real-life adventure. In the case of Moscow, reality trumps fantasy. A metropolis is a beautiful place, unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere.
For a step back in time, Olkhon Island is a wonderful place to visit. The culture of the local aboriginals is remarkably well-preserved, so you can experience a unique corner of Russia in an authentic way. This large island is in the middle of Lake Baikal, and its isolated location makes it both uncrowded and naturally breathtaking. If you’ve done metropolitan Russia and you’re looking for more, this is the place to go.
The Golden Ring
The Golden Ring is a series of cities that are considered the foundation of Russia’s formation and culture. For travellers especially interested in Russian history, a trip through some of these cities is a must. A few good ones, to begin with, are Yaroslavl, Vladimir, and Suzdal. Many of the sites within these cities are UNESCO protected because of their value not only to Russian history but to world history in general. Many of the structures date back to medieval times and beyond, so visitors to the area can get an experience of what life was like long ago. If you visit any cities in the Golden Ring, be sure to tour a few museums and monasteries.
The adventurous will love gorgeous Kamchatka, a large peninsular landmass in the north of Russia. Although Kamchatka is rather isolated, it continues to draw travellers because of its imposing volcanoes and ethereal landscapes. Between interesting buildings, strange geological formations, and numerous natural wonders, there is always something to discover in Kamchatka and it’s easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Russia.
Kizhi is a quiet island in the north of Russia. During the warm summer months, the small community is sustained by tourism to the Kizhi State Open-Air Museum of History, Architecture, and Ethnography. This is an open-air museum dedicated to educating visitors about 18th-century life in Russia. If you visit Kizhi, you can walk through this preserved town and learn about the everyday life, religion, entertainment, and families of rustic Russia. It’s an informative and unique experience that is worth the trip, especially during religious holidays.
Peterhof is a sub-district of St. Petersburg, and it’s worth a place on this list because its home to Peterhof Grand Palace. The Palace is an impressive structure dating to 1714 when Peter the Great of Russia began construction on his famous palace. In the years that followed, Czars continued to add their own wings, gardens, and ponds to the palace and grounds. Unfortunately, much of the palace was destroyed by Axis Powers during the Second World War, and repairs are still ongoing today. Still, the Peterhof Grand Palace is an amazingly beautiful and majestic place to visit. Visitors are able to arrange tours of the grounds and the ornately decorated interiors.
Kazan is an eclectic city, with its identity rooted in sports as well as arts, religion, and sciences. It is perhaps most famous for its athletic events, and is often called the “Sports Capital of Russia.” However, visitors to Kazan are more likely to encounter its numerous museums and religious centres. Huge mosques exist side-by-side with massive cathedrals, all equally beautiful and masterfully designed. Various museums from art to science to history are available for the lifelong learner, such as the Museum of Happy Childhood and the Museum of Soviet Life. It’s certainly an interesting and diverse city for the urban explorer to discover.
Sochi became famous during the 2014 winter Olympics, but it’s also awesome in its own right. This city is located on the edge of the Black Sea, which makes it ideal for both winter and summer sports. During warm seasons, amateur and professional athletes love to take advantage of water-sport activities such as kite surfing and during the winter, it’s a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding. If you’re looking for a place to get your athlete on, Sochi is a great choice and I personally think the views also make a trip here very worthwhile.
Any of these ten beautiful places to visit in Russia would make a wonderful destination for your trip. Wherever you decide to go, you will discover a unique and varied culture that Russia offers to the world. Get ready for a trip of a lifetime, seriously!
All words by guest blogger Daniil Timin. Daniil was born in Kirov, Russia, but is currently travelling and working around the world. He’s author of the blog russianblogger.me where he blogs about life and travelling in Russia.