Home to eleven time zones and a border spanning two continents, Russia, the world's largest country, is truly a world of its own. As a country that has seen the rise and fall of great empires and unions, its history only adds to its distinct identity. With vast and immensely beautiful landscapes in Siberia and the Kamchatka Peninsula, culturally rich heritage sites in the North Caucasus, and pulsating cities such as Moscow, Russia makes for a destination worth a visit for travelers of all kinds.
St. Petersburg is known as Russia’s cultural capital, and rightly so. Home to more than 200 museums, such as the spectacular Hermitage, the city’s links to heritage from the past can also be seen in several buildings such as the opulent Catherine Palace and the magnificent Church of Saviour on Spilled Blood. St. Petersburg additionally can be a delightful destination for book lovers, with spots to explore Russian authors such as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s legacy. Further, book lovers can visit old bookstores and several libraries in the city, such as the National Library of Russia, are open to the public through pre-arranged tours. A final reason why St. Petersburg is a top destination in Russia is the exciting nightlife of the city, which one can start exploring in and around the Nevsky Prospekt.
The capital city of Moscow is definitely among the top places to visit in Russia, for its variety of experiences on offer: art museums such as the Tretyakov Gallery, high-end restaurants such as the White Rabbit to the impressive ballet culture, most prominently in the Bolshoi Theatre.
While the Red Square is a vital part of the city to see the essentials such as The Kremlin and Lenin’s mausoleum, other places in the city, such as the Izmailovo flea market, are also worth a visit.
Arctic Circle (Murmansk)
The vast Russian territories on the Arctic Circle hangs as the crown of country, marked by Tundra and snow. As the northern edge of the world, this region attracts those looking to go stargazing and, if lucky, to catch the Northern Lights. Head to the largest city in the Arctic circle, Murmansk, from where you can head to villages such as Teriberka close by for views of the vast sky and a boat graveyard, beaches at the northern edge of the world, making for a thoroughly surreal experience.
Murmansk is also home to the Lenin Nuclear Icebreaker, the world’s first nuclear-powered ship turned museum. A visit to a husky farm near the city where one gets to interact with the royal, adorable Huskies in their natural habitat is also recommended.
Capital of Tatarstan region, Kazan is one of the most aesthetically delightful cities in Russia that is home to the Islamic heritage of this part of the country while also incorporating Orthodox Christianity. The highlight of Kazan is thus its heritage architecture, which displays both colorful orthodox Christian churches as well as stunning mosques such as the Khul Sharif mosque.
Other must-see buildings include the Suyumike tower and the Temple of All Religions, an eclectically styled prayer complex where several faiths can go to pray.
A peninsula full of vast volcanoes, stunning natural formations such as Valley of Geysers and a habitat of bears, a visit to Kamchatka is a real immersion into Russia’s natural beauty. There are several trekking and camping tours available inside the numerous bio-reserves located in the valley, making it ideal for those who want to disconnect with the outside world and dive deep into nature.
The city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky can be made a base to further explore the region, where once can sample some of the seafood delicacies such as Kamchatka crabs.
A resort town by the black sea, Sochi is surrounded by stunning snowcapped mountains, which form a backdrop to beaches. Among the most popular summer destinations within Russia, this city, however, this city also makes for an excellent place to try out winter sports activities such as skiing.
Besides lounging around the beaches, the city is a good place to try out adventure sports such as bungee jumping, and one can also head to the SkyPark Sochi for rollercoasters and other adventure activities with stunning views.
Republic of Dagestan
A somewhat offbeat destination in Russia for tourists, the culturally unique and naturally stunning region of Dagestan, which translates to The Land of The Mountains, can be a top choice for those looking to explore the diversity of the world’s largest country. While Dagestan is perceived by many as a dangerous place to visit owing to political movements in the area, visitors to the region attest to the fact that prior planning and taking general safety measures can make for a rewarding experience.
The city of Derbent, with the Caspian Sea on the coast, owing to its old-world charm and stunning mosques, is one prominent place to visit and to explore the heritage and culture of the region.
Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is a vast region full of villages around the lake that make for excellent summer holidays and comes highly recommended for visitors looking to unwind and relax. The famous trans-Siberian railway route passes through this vast water body, which can be navigated after making a base in the city of Irkutsk.
While there are several villages and spots such as Olkhon Island where you can rent a Dacha and proceed to kayak, boat, or simply lounge around the lake, a recommended place to visit is the Peschanaya Bay, which is a stunning beach-like landscape with slanted rocks to form a backdrop.
Marked with history and home to several heritage monuments, Nizhny Novgorod is a top choice for Russian history lovers. Once known as ‘Gorky,’ this city was also considered an important center for the production of military equipment, but these days, the highlight of the city is its architecture.
Places to explore include the city’s Kremlin, with its 13 towers, and the historic Rozhdestvenskaya Street. Other activities to indulge in include watching the sunset over the confluence of the Oka and Volga Rivers, which can be viewed set against the city’s Kremlin.
Vladimir and Suzdal
The two cities of Vladimir and Suzdal, located very close to each other, are part of a cluster among the "Golden Ring" cities around Moscow. While Vladimir was once the capital of the Russian empire, the adjacent Suzdal extends the sense of history and heritage through the numerous churches to be found here. Wooden houses with ornate window panels, large church and monastery complexes, and charming markets delight visitors.
Spectacular, awe-inspiring rocks that go up to impressive heights and nicknamed Mountains of Rising Gods among locals form the Lena Pillars Natural Park. A one-of-a-kind landscape that's worth a visit in Russia's Yakutia, Lena Pillars can be accessed from Yakutsk. River cruises around the park offer a spectacular view, but one can also opt for a helicopter or air tour of the area.
A winter wonderland located on the banks of the Kama River, Perm can be a surprising delight for those looking to visit ice caves such as Kungar Ice Caves in the nearby region. In itself, the city also has an impressive ballet scene as well as other cultural activities. Visitors can also take a day trip to the Memorial Complex of Political Repressions, Kuchino, Permsky Krai, also known as the Perm 36 Gulag Museum, which was once a forced labor camp.
A stunning city in the Far East of Russia, Vladivostok is a port city located close to both China and North Korea. The beauty of this city, marked by mountains and bays, is most prominent in its Golden Horn Bay. Meanwhile, the city's Eagle's Nest Hill is one of the best places to get views of the cityscape.
As a big city, Vladivostok has several notable museums, with the S-56 Submarine Museum, a World War II museum located inside a submarine, being a unique choice for visitors.
Kizhi Island, Karelia
Russia’s wooden architecture is among the many things unique to the county, and the Kizhi Island, located in the Karelia region, is an open-air museum of these detailed and classic structures. Kizhi Island is increasingly becoming a popular site for visitors, with ancient structures such as the Church of Transfiguration as well as an arranged display of rural life. The island, which houses the oldest wooden church in Russia, can be visited from Petrozavodsk and can only be visited for a day trip.
A large industrial city in the Ural Mountains, Yekaterinburg is among Russia’s crucial spots with a significant history in the Russian Revolution: it is where Russia’s last Tsar and his family were executed. Exciting for history and culture enthusiasts, this city is home to a thriving theater and dance scene. Further, Yekaterinburg also houses over 30 interesting museums.
Those in the city can also plan day trips to fascinating spots close to the town, such as the quirky Kirillov’s House in the Kunara village or opt for a nature trip to the mountains.