What to do in Russia

Photo: Pexels

Russia’s in the news a lot, but most of our images of it are hopelessly outdated Cold War cliches. The largest country in the world has 6.5 million square miles of mind-blowing mountains, lakes, dense forests and thriving cities. Here’s a selection of experiences to have in the nation.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

The Transsiberian

 The TranssiberianKhuzhir, RussiaMagic view over one of the must-do stops along The Transsiberean road
#transsiberean #russia #trains

Travel the world’s longest and most famous train ride. Start in Moscow and make a number of stops on the way to either Vladivostok or Beijing through Mongolia.

Lake Baikal

 Lake BaikalIrkutsk, RussiaThe magic of Baikal in winter
#extreme #snow #ice #russia

Baikal is the world’s deepest freshwater lake. If you come in winter, the lake will be completely frozen, peppered with picturesque cracks and bubbles of air. I’d recommend hiring a four wheel drive and cruising over the ice, you won’t forget that in a while.

The Circumbaikal Railway

 The circumbaikal railwayListvyanka, RussiaGet on the train at Listvyanka station and go around the deepest freshwater lake in the world. #railway #trains #siberia

To see more of Baikal you can take a Circum-Baikal railway. It does not actually circle the whole lake but it gives you a chance to get away from the more touristic places and find your own secret spot.

Curonian Spit

 Curonian SpitKonigsberg, RussiaYou can witness some peculiar ways of the nature not far from Kaliningrad, the most Western city of Russia
#hiking

Curonian Spit separates Curonian Bay from the Baltic Sea. I recommend visiting The Dancing Forest — one of the strangest natural phenomena on Earth. The unusual pine forest is made of trees of various shapes, most of them twisted in circles and spirals, along the ground.

Red Square

 Red SquareMoskva, RussiaShow off your ice skating skills on the main square of Moscow!
#sport #winter #iceskate

When in Russia, you won’t escape Red Square. So make it a little more entertaining. Every year Moscow builds skating rink on its central square. If you happen to be there, join the locals in one of the most popular winter activities!

Kola Peninsula

 Kola PeninsulaMurmansk, RussiaThe utmost north of Russia has fantastic landscapes
#nature #extreme #snow

The Russian North might seem very stern, but here you can see one of nature’s greatest miracles — aurora borealis. Kola Peninsula behind the polar circle is the best place to see it, but if you are lucky you might even spot aurora borealis near St.Petersburg.

The Valley of Geysers

 The Valley of GeysersPetropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, RussiaFar far away and nine hours ahead of Moscow, there lies the land of volcanos, Kamchatka

Kamchatka Peninsula is on the bucket list of most Russians. The Kamchatka River and the surrounding central side valley are flanked by large volcanic belts containing around 160 volcanoes, 29 of them still active. The hazardous beauty of around ninety geysers and the highest active volcano in Russia gave the area its nickname: the Land of Fire and Ice. You can reach The Valley of Geysers only by helicopter, but it is absolutely worth the effort.

Kronotsky Nature Reserve

 Kronotsky Nature ReservePetropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, RussiaKronotsky Nature Reserve boasts over 800 bears – best place to meet this symbol of Russia
#nationalpark #bears

The Kamchatka brown bear, also known as the Far Eastern brown bear, is native to the Anadyrsky District, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Karaginskiy Island, the Kuril Islands. One of the safest times to view bears in the wild is Kamchatka during salmon spawning season.

Mount Elbrus

 Mount ElbrusMineralnye Vody, RussiaDaily transfers from Mineralnye Vody through picturesque valleys to the highest peak of Europe (5642 m)
#extreme #mountains

Mount Elbrus is the highest peak in Europe, and one of the Seven Summits. It’s located just in Russia, though it is only a few miles/kilometers from the border of Georgia. Though Elbrus is the highest summit in Europe, it is one of the technically easiest of the higher peaks on the continent.

Moscow Metro

 Moscow MetroMoskva, RussiaCheck out some metro stations of 1930s – 1950s for the bronze statues, mosaics and marble colonnades.

Muscovites take their metro for granted, but they really shouldn’t as it is not only super efficient and fast it is also stunning. The 44 stations are part of the cultural heritage of the city.

Oymyakon Town

 Oymyakon TownOymyakonskiy ulus, RussiaOymyakon is for the bravest and the most cold-resistant.  
#extreme #winter

Visit the coldest inhabited locality on the planet, Oymyakon village, where the average temperature in winter is -50F and lower.

Winter Palace

 Winter PalaceSankt-Peterburg, RussiaNow Winter Palace hosts one of the largest and most astonishing museums of the world, It just has everything and even more
#gallery #history #palace

Now the main residence of Romanov dynasty, Winter Palace, is one of the largest museums in the world. While walking through Winter Palace it is easy to imagine yourself in belle epoch, dancing minuet or waltz.

Trinity Bridge

 Trinity bridgeSankt-Peterburg, RussiaTrinity bridge across the Neva River became a symbol of Saint Petersburg. It is opened every night to provide clearence for boat traffic.

Your experience of St.Petersburg won’t be complete without viewing the drawbridges. During June-July 22 bridges in St.Petersburg are drawn, cutting the connection between two parts of the city.

Cosmonaut Training Center

 Cosmonaut Training CenterKorolev, RussiaFind out if you can be an astronaut! (The tour has to be booked in advance).

Once communist space program was top secret. Now it is possible not only to learn all the details about space exploration, but you can visit the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

Sanduny

 SandunyMoskva, RussiaRussian banya is an important part of the culture and the social life. One of the oldest public banyas in Moscow is Sanduny in the historical building of the 19th century.

Banya (Russian sauna) is one of the oldest traditions of the country, dating back to the 10th century. There are public banyas in large cities, but locals prefer to have their own private banyas. An important part of the experience is socializing, after banya it is common to have take tea.

The Ural Mountains

 The Ural MountainsPerm, RussiaThe Urals are the world’s oldest mountain range on our planet. They separate Russia into the European and the Asian part.

The Ural Mountains are probably the richest mountain range of their size in the world. Trekking in The Urals requires a guide as the terrain is varied and the weather can change quickly without warning.

The Iset River

 The Iset RiverYekaterinburg, RussiaYekaterinburg’s best: embankments of the Iset river, museums, high rises, avant-garde architecture.

Visit Yekaterinburg, the hometown of Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin. Yekaterinburg is not only Russia’s forth-largest city, it is like a piece of conceptual art with a fascinating historical sub-text.