TheVibe’s Guide to Backpacking in Russia
Watch, as the sun sets over the Siberian plains, disappearing over a horizon of vast nothingness, reflecting in vibrant fractals off of crystalline snowflakes and frozen lakes. You sip your tea from a cup poured fresh out of the curved spout of an intricately detailed samovar, as distant mountains stand like sentinels heralding the arrival of the evening cool. Snow falls upon the ground, and the world stretches out endlessly in every direction, imposing and humbling all at once. This is the splendour of Russia, a mecca for backpackers and travellers alike.
Stretching from Mainland Europe to the farthest regions of Asia, Russia covers over 6 million square miles and is the largest country in the world. Bordering 14 countries and crossing 9 time zones, Russia has a population 146.3 million people and is not the sort of place one can pop into for a quick visit. The sheer vastness of the country is reflected in the splendour of its many attractions. Any first-time visitor in Russia will tell you this: size matters.
Whether it is a visit to the mountains and valleys or to the towering Kremlin, Russia takes on a gargantuan form that is both daunting and oddly liberating. Once described by Churchill as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, it is no surprise that backpacking enthusiasts all seem to have the country on their list of must-see visits. An epic adventure that promises challenges and excitement in equal measure, the massive country is a baffling, awe-inspiring mass of forests, snow-capped peaks, desert plains and Soviet-built structures and cities, where the lines between the past and the future bend and blur, offering even a casual onlooker an in-depth account of the region’s history and culture.
So, strap on your travel gear and join us, as we deconstruct this extraordinary country, which seems almost larger than life, to a select few of the best, hand-picked experiences it has to offer. Here’s TheVibe’s guide to Backpacking in Russia!
Once the imperial capital of Russia, St. Petersburg is known today as the cultural hub of the nation, home to such pillars of the arts as historical Russian art museums and theatres showcasing operas and ballets. Packed with all the ingredients for an unforgettable travel experience, one may lose themselves in the local cultural and historical traditions that have inspired modern literature, music and art.
Moscow: Red Square
The title of this World Heritage Site may bring to mind connotations of the communist regime, but in reality, the hammer and sickle have little to nothing to do with it. Derived from the world “Krasnyi” meaning beautiful, this location is littered with history and art and is an ideal backpacker’s spot for any season, and at any hour of the day.
1,642m deep, Lake Baikal stores within its depth over 20% of the world’s freshwater supply, and is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in the world, with a lifespan that extends some 20-25 million years into the past. Bordered by a range of towering mountains, the region surrounding the lake enjoys a much milder climate than that of the surrounding region, and is teeming with a rich collection of both flora and fauna, endemic to the region.
The unofficial summer capital of Russia, the sub-tropical climate of Sochi attracts over 4 million tourists annually, making it the county’s largest and busiest summer sea resort. Known for its coastline bordered by seemingly endless shingle beaches, littered with mountains and valleys ripe for exploration, Sochi is among Russia’s warmest destinations in the wintertime. Warm, sunny, summer days spent by the coastline end in festive fervour, with a nightlife culture that borders on perpetual celebration.
The Trans-Siberian Railway
Connecting Moscow with Russia’s far east, and spanning over 9,558 km, the Trans-Siberian is the longest train ride one can do in a single journey- with a total of 7 days required to travel from one end to the other. Whether mountains or sea, desert or city, the Kremlin or the Great Wall, the Trans-Siberian Railway line offers an all-round, comprehensive experience of the immense nation of Russia.
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