The world’s largest country stretches for more than 5,000 miles and nine time zones between the Atlantic and the Pacific, from sophisticated St Petersburg to the wilderness of the Kamchatka Peninsula. Intrigued? Azimo has lined up six reasons to get some roubles and head for Russia.
Russia is bigger than Pluto
Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet in 2006, but this is still a pretty impressive statistic. Russia covers 17 million sq km, compared to Pluto’s 16.6 million sq km, making it the largest country in the world by far – Australia and Brazil would both fit quite comfortably inside its borders. But it’s home to a smaller population than Bangladesh, which means there’s an awful lot of empty space to enjoy. On the downside, 77% of the country is covered by sub-zero Siberia, but there’s still a lot more to see than on Pluto.
St Petersburg is like Venice, but colder
Built some 300 years ago and awash with rivers, canals and ornate bridges, as well as amazing buildings such as the Hermitage and St Isaac’s Cathedral, Russia’s second city has a much more European feel than the capital, Moscow. Peter the Great called it his ‘Window on the West’ and the historic centre is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come for the annual White Nights arts festival, when the city celebrates the long summer nights with concerts, parties and gigs galore.
Lake Baikal has a fifth of the earth’s fresh water
Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700m) freshwater lake in the world. It’s also home to one fifth of the world’s unfrozen freshwater reserves and contains more water than all of North America’s Great Lakes put together. That means there’s plenty of room for exotic underwater life to thrive, including the bizarre, see-through Baikal oilfish and the freshwater Nerpa seal, thought to have sneaked in from the sea during an Ice Age two million years ago.
You can ski by the Black Sea
Host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi sits on the shores of the Black Sea along the fancifully named ‘Russian Riviera’. In summer, the place is heaving with bars and clubs packed with the Moscow jet-set. It’s pretty warm in winter too – the city didn’t have a flake of snow to offer athletes in 2014 – but 40km away in the Caucasus mountains are a string of ski resorts where the alpine events were held. The cost of the Olympics was astronomical, but the legacy is impressive – a vast, modern ski area just an hour’s drive from the beach.
Kamchatka is closer to California than the Kremlin
If you really want to get away from it all, the Kamchatka Peninsula is the ideal place. It’s about as far as it’s possible to get from the bright lights of Moscow, a nine-hour flight, whereas Alaska is just a three-hour hop across the Bering Strait. This is a snow-locked land of volcanoes, geysers, tundra, bears and little else. In Soviet times, it was a closed military zone, but now the wonder of one of the world’s last great wildernesses is open to all. Just don’t forget your hat and gloves – inland, the temperature can drop as low as -40C.
You can catch a train from Moscow to China
This is one for the bucket list if you’re not in a hurry to get where you’re going. The Trans-Siberian Railway leaves Moscow every Tuesday night on its epic 7,600km, six-night journey across Siberia, through Mongolia and the barren expanse of the Gobi Desert, before finally coming to a halt in China’s buzzing capital, Beijing. Along the way, the train passes the likes of Irkutsk, Lake Baikal and Ulan Bator as it trundles its way through three different countries and three different cuisines – the restaurant car switches menu from Russian to Mongolian to Chinese along the way.
Looking to send money home to Russia? Visit our dedicated Russia country page to get started and enjoy Azimo’s brilliant rates.
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