Russia’s Top 5 Experiences
To coincide with the release of the updated Russia travel guide, the experts at Lonely Planet have provided us with Russia’s Top 5 experiences!
1. Walking Across Red Square
Stepping into Red Square never ceases to inspire: the tall towers and imposing walls of the Kremlin, the playful jumble of patterns and colours adorning St Basil’s Cathedral, the majestic red bricks of the State History Museum and the elaborate edifice of the GUM department store, all encircling a vast stretch of cobblestones. Individually they are impressive, but the ensemble is electrifying. Come at night to see the square empty of crowds and the buildings awash with lights.
2. The Hermitage
Little can prepare most visitors for the scale and quality of the exhibits at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Comprising an almost unrivalled history of Western art, the collection includes a staggering number of Rembrandts, Rubens and Matisses – the latter being displayed in new galleries in the General Staff Building. In addition, there are superb antiquities, sculpture and jewellery on display, not to mention the stupendously decorated public halls and private apartments of the Romanovs, for whom the Winter Palace was home until 1917.
It seems almost trite to describe Kamchatka as majestic. To many it is the most beautiful place in the world. It’s Yellowstone and Patagonia rolled into one, and it teems with wildlife free to frolic in one of the world’s great remaining wildernesses. Traditionally the domain of well-heeled tourists who could afford helicopter rides to view its trademark volcanoes, geysers and salmon-devouring bears, parts of Kamchatka can now be explored by independent travellers on more limited budgets. Now if only they could fix that weather…
4. Suzdal’s Idyll
Ding-dong ring the bells of a few dozen churches as you ride your bike through the streets of Suzdal, which are lined with wooden cottages and lush gardens. This is Russia as it would have been, if not for the devastating 20th century – unpretentious, pious and very laid-back. Some of the best religious architecture is scattered around, but you can just as well spend all day lying in the grass and watching the river before repairing to a banya (hot bath) for the sweet torture of heat, cold and birch twigs.
5. The Caucasus Mountains
Photos simply don’t do them justice: the astonishing beauty of the Caucasus Mountains is best appreciated on a trek among the jagged peaks. You can take short hikes through meadows, past waterfalls and up into alpine heights from the villages of Dombay and Arkhyz. Those seeking to conquer Europe’s highest mountain set their sights on Elbrus, the twin-peaked overlord that tops out at 5642m – one of Russia’s most challenging adventures. Wherever you plan to go, be sure to arrange any necessary permits well in advance.