There’s a lot going on in Russia.
There’s bound to be, as Russia is, by area, the largest country in the world. Its European section is by far the largest country in Europe, and its Asian section is by far the largest country in Asia. A full 11.5% of the planet’s land is Russian soil. But recent political upheaval and economic turmoil have given pause to tourists of late, as they wonder whether now is a good time to visit Russia.
In fact, there may be no time like the present. Visiting Russia is comparatively cheap now, and the country is so huge that it’s easy to stay far, far away from any geo-political troubles. And if you’re going to make the most of a Russia trip, why not go off the beaten path a bit? Anybody can recommend that you see Red Square in Moscow or the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (in fact, we kind of just did), but there are so many other things to do and see for the adventurous traveler. Here are just a few of them:
Unknown to most westerners before hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi is actually Russia’s largest resort city. Located as far south as Florence and Cannes, Sochi has mild winters and warm — even hot — summers. Average temperatures in July and August climb into the 80s, making it for all intents and purposes a beach town. It may have been a strange place to hold the Winter Olympics, but it could be a lovely place to visit in the summer.
Known to some as the “San Francisco of Russia,” Vladivostok is one of the nation’s most diverse cities. As the crow flies, Vladivostok is located 460 miles from Seoul, 660 miles from Tokyo, 1,000 miles from Shanghai… and 4,000 miles from Moscow. Vladivostok is almost as close to Honolulu as it is to its own nation’s capital, and its location gives it an international flair. For fans of Asian cuisine there may be no better place in Russia, with Chinese, Japanese and Korean influences joining traditional Russian fare. People may think of Russia as predominantly European, but Vladivostok is a uniquely Asian city within Russia’s borders.
Kaliningrad Oblast — “oblasts” in Russia are analogous to states or provinces in other countries — is not connected by land to the rest of Russia. It is a small (roughly the size of Connecticut) territory bordered by Poland to the south, Lithuania to the northeast, and the Baltic Sea to the northwest. The city of Kaliningrad, known as the Prussian city of Konigsberg for most of its history, is as European as Vladivostok is Asian. Konigsberg was the home of philosopher Immanuel Kant, who’s as German as anybody. Today Kaliningrad still exudes its Germanic history, though it has been part of Russia since the end of World War II.
Known as the “Galapagos of Russia,” Lake Baikal in southern Siberia is an environmental wonder almost unrivaled anywhere on earth. It is the oldest and deepest freshwater lake in the world and it holds a full 20% of the planet’s fresh water, more than all of the Great Lakes combined. The area is home to more than 2,000 different plant and animal species, two thirds of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The water itself is so clean and clear that on a good day visitors can see up to 130 feet down into the lake, and in winter the resulting ice hummocks offer up some truly breathtaking visuals. Lake Baikal is not exactly located smack dab in the middle of the beaten path, but determined travelers can get there through nearby Irkutsk, one of the largest cities in Siberia, which has a busy international airport.
The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia is not a realistic tourist destination, as only scientists have ever really visited it. But who knows what the future holds? An ambitious traveler may as well add it to his or her bucket list, if only for fun.
On June 30, 1908, in Siberia, there was a massive explosion. It was the equivalent of 185 atomic bombs, and the seismic effects could be felt by sensitive equipment as far away as England. Scientists now believe that a large meteor, probably about 120 feet across, entered earth’s atmosphere and detonated in the sky above the Podkamennaya Tunguska River. The blast leveled some 830 square miles of forest and would have been large enough to destroy a major metropolitan area, but remarkably, no fatalities were recorded. NASA estimates that a meteor of such size is likely to enter earth’s atmosphere once every 300 years or so.
VISIT WHILE YOU CAN!
If you want to see any of the things on this list, or any of the other vast and varied destinations that Russia has to offer, Choice Passport can help. Choice Passport will expedite your Russia tourist visa and even help you with your passport if need be, so you can worry about more pressing concerns… like whether or not another meteor is coming along any time soon.