Russia, a country of enormous social, political and geographic proportions, remains one of the great undiscovered destinations for travel in the 21st century. An incredible diversity of customs, culture and wildlife lies between the Gulf of Finland and the Pacific Coast’s Kamchatka peninsula.
Russia remains the biggest country in the world, covering an eighth of the Earth’s land area. Travelling 9,200 kilometres overland from west to east takes six days on the Moscow – Vladivostok train, a route that crosses a fascinating landscape across eight time zones. Due to its geographical position, Russian culture is a melting pot of Oriental, European and Asian traditions. This diversity is evident not only in its architecture and art, but in the character and lifestyle of its people. Even the two main cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, are completely different in character. Moscow is an ancient capital of churches and monasteries.
Its heart, the Kremlin, brings you immediately to the 15th century, the time of grand princes and tsars, yet it is one of the most rapidly developing cities in the world, increasingly influenced by the West. St. Petersburg is an elegant city of palaces and grand estates that was founded by Peter the Great to become Russia’s 'Window to Europe'. Between these two remarkable cities lies vast countryside dotted with villages of small wooden dachas and, occasionally, country estates and historic monasteries.
The Golden Ring towns of Vladimir, Suzdal, Yaroslavl, Kostroma and Rostov were founded during the 12th and 13th centuries following invasion from the south and flourished as trade towns, though they were overtaken by Moscow in importance by the 16th century. Russia is a country of great composers, musicians, ballet dancers and artistic traditions. Concert halls such as the Tchaikovsky Conservatory are ever popular and the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres are among the most important ballet and opera stages in the world.