Russia Travel Guide

For most Canadians, Russia is associated with its European cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. This is the heartland of Russia, and these great and ancient cities often become the focus for most guests. However, there is much more about Russia, a country that covers more than 17 million square kilometres spanning 10 time zones, ending less than 85 km from North America. It takes about a week to cross the country by train and 10 hours by air.

Within this vast expanse lie the largest freshwater lake in the World, rivers and forests teeming with fish and wildlife, awe inspiring volcanoes, and towering mountains. Russia is the largest country of the Earth, with enormous tracts of land, its natural and cultural heritage waiting to be discovered. It has the largest river in Europe, the Volga; the world's largest lake, the Caspian Sea; the world's deepest freshwater lake, the Baikal; and Europe's highest peak, Elbrus.

Russia has a formidable pool of recreational resources, including natural landscapes of endless variety and inimitable beauty, monuments of history and cultural heritage, unique engineering structures, and unmatched cities, towns and smaller communities.

The most popular tourist attractions are the old Russian cities of Vladimir, Suzdal, Sergiev Posad, Pereyaslavl Zalessky, Rostov, Uglitch, Yaroslavl and Kostroma, the biggest gems of Russia's Golden Ring. Also high on every tourist's priority list are itineraries by boat from Moscow to St. Petersburg and the Valaam Island, a central point of religious piligrimage, or to Kizhi, the wonderland of old Russian wooden architecture, the Northern Caucasus and the Black Sea coast, to Mount Elbrus, the Ural mountains, and the Altai country, in different natural settings, from the Black Sea coast (like Gelenzhik and Anapa), the Baltic Sea (Sestroretsk, Komarovo, Zelenogorsk, Svetlogorsk, etc.) to the mountains of the Northern Caucasus (Teberda and Dombai), Ural (Kisegatch and Uveldy) and Altai (Chemal).

There is no doubt that the most celebrated among Russian balneological resorts, a craze since the early 19th century to our day, of course, are the Caucasian Spas, a cluster of mineral springs at Yessentuki, Zheleznovodsk, Kislovodsk and Pyatigorsk, with Naltchik a short way off. The most famous among the local springs are Slaviansky, Smirnovsky, Lermontovsky, Batalinsky, the narzan springs of Kislovodsk, and mineral treats No.17 and No.4 at Yessentuki.

Best time to visit Russia

Russia basically has just two seasons, summer and winter! The spring and autumn pass by so quickly. Summer generally lasts from late May until the end of August. September can also be quite nice but by October prepare yourself for rain and snow and in November, the snow begins in earnest. Russia in the summer is beautiful. The weather is usually balmy and in St. Petersburg, it stays light well into the night. The White Nights last from June to July and it will stay light until 01:30 in the morning. Summer is an excellent time to travel but be prepared for more tourists in the major cities. Museums may be a little crowded. The theatres and ballets operate until the end of July which is considered the end of the summer season.

The winter is also a great time to visit the country. Russia turns into a wonderland of snow and sparkling ice. If you dress correctly then the cold should not be a problem - think big coat, boots with lots of grip etc. There are hardly any tourists in the cities and this is truly the best time to visit museums or see the ballet or theatre, as ticket prices are cheaper.