5 fabulous Russian destinations for Indian travellers in 2017

27 December 2016 Ajay Kamalakaran
2017 is a year to see more of Russia. Travel to the Far East, Siberia, southern or northwestern parts of the country and see a treasure trove of historic architecture, virgin nature and modern cities.
Kizhi in winter
The Kizhi Pogost in Karelia has two wooden churches and an 18th century octagonal bell tower. Source:Shutterstock/Legion Media

A record number of Indian tourists visited Russia in 2016, and India even featured in Russia’s top 10 sources of foreign tourists list. However most Indian visitors chose to visit just Moscow and St. Petersburg. Being the largest and one of the most diverse countries in the world, Russia offers a lot for Indian tourists. Here’s our top five destinations list.

Khabarovsk

Located 8,325 kilometers east of Moscow, Khabarovsk is popularly called the “most European city in Asia.”  Founded in 1858, the city on the Amur River has tastefully-restored 19th century architecture, fine museums, a beautiful riverside promenade and a growing nightlife scene. It also borders deep forests that are home to the Amur tiger and Amur snow leopards.

In the summer the city has a distinctly Mediterranean feel, but it is beautiful all year round.  You can walk on the Amur River in the winter or even try your hand at ice fishing.

A night view of Khabarovsk. Source: Lori/Legion-MediaA night view of Khabarovsk. Source: Lori/Legion-Media

Take a nine-hour flight to the city from Moscow, or see the length and breadth of Russia by travelling on the Trans Siberian Railway for seven days to get to the city.

Combine a trip to Khabarovsk with a few days in Vladivostok, the historic port city that is increasingly being seen as Russia’s gateway to East Asia. During the warm season, you can also cruise north on the Amur River to the cities of Komsomolsk-na-Amure and Nikolevsk-na-Amure. The countryside of the region is picturesque.

Yaroslavl

No visit to Russia is complete without seeing the Volga River and at least one of the ‘Golden Ring’ cities of Central Russia. Yaroslavl, which is called the capital of the Golden Ring, is a living museum with churches that show the changes in Russian architectural styles over the centuries.

Founded in 1006, Yaroslavl’s compact city center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument and is lined with fine architecture. In the warm season, you can take a cruise on the mighty Volga and see the Russian countryside.

The Church of Elijah the Prophet in Yaroslavl. Source: Ajay KamalakaranThe Church of Elijah the Prophet in Yaroslavl. Source: Ajay Kamalakaran

Yaroslavl is also famous for its inexpensive cafes serving delicious food made from locally sourced ingredients.

The city is just a three-hour train ride from Moscow, but is worthy of more than a daytrip. It is also close to other historic town such as Plyos and Rostov.

Karelia

If you truly want to escape the hustle and bustle of urban Indian life, visit this unique wilderness that is perched on Russia’s border with Finland.  With its deep forests, thousands of lakes, charming islands and sparsely inhabited wilderness, Karelia is a natural cure for the stress induced by modern city life.

The vast Russian internal republic of Karelia also has some stunning historic sites such as the Kizhi Pogost, a 17th century complex on Kizhi Island, which is located on Lake Onega.

Autumn in Karelia. Source: Ivan DementievskiyAutumn in Karelia. Source: Ivan Dementievskiy

The Kizhi Pogost has two wooden churches and an 18th century octagonal bell tower. The 22-domed Transfiguration Church, which was built in 1714, is one of Russia’s architectural marvels. It is 37-meters high and is one of the tallest wooden structures in the world. The church was built without nails.

Karelia is close to St. Petersburg and is an ideal destination for weekend camping trip or even a longer summer retreat.

Astrakhan

Narendra Modi visited the city when he was chief minister of Gujarat, and centuries before his visit Astrakhan hosted Russia’s first Indian community.  

Located at the crossroads of Russia, West Asia and Central Asia, Astrakhan has absorbed influences from various countries. It is one of the warmest places in Russia. Here, you can cruise on the Volga River or the Caspian Sea.

The city also has an interesting blend of architecture from an ancient Russian-style fortress built in the end of the 16th century to buildings with Central Asian design elements.

A pond in the center of Astrakhan. Source: Lori/Legion-MediaA pond in the center of Astrakhan. Source: Lori/Legion-Media

For nature lovers, the Astrakhan Nature Reserve, which is located on the Volga Delta, houses a bird sanctuary and is an important nesting area for waterfowl and wading birds. The Astrakhan region also has sand dunes and a large desert that borders Kazakhstan.

Astrakhan is a two and a half hour flight away from Moscow. You can also take an overnight train journey and see the changing landscapes of Russia in the morning as the train heads south to the Volga Delta.

Ulan-Ude

When it comes to sheer exoticism, few places in Russia can even compete with the capital of the Russian internal republic of Buryatia. The city, which is close to Mongolia, is famous for the Ivolginsky Datsan Buddhist monastery.

Built in 1945, Ivolginsky houses several temples, a library, a school and meditation halls. Its architecture is a rare blend of Russian, Mongolian, Tibetan and Chinese styles.  From the complex, one can get an idea of the vast open spaces of the Siberian wilderness.

Ivolginsky Datsan in the city of Ulan-Ude. Source: Lori/Legion-MediaIvolginsky Datsan in the city of Ulan-Ude. Source: Lori/Legion-Media

Ulan-Ude also has a well-preserved historic center with 19th century wood and stone merchant houses. The city celebrates the culture of the peoples of the Baikal region and has more than 10 museums dedicated to the various ethnic groups, including the Ethnographical Museum of Transbaikal, which is on a 37-hectare plot.

Try out Russian-Mongolian cuisine in a yurt before going up to Mount Lysaya (which has a large Buddha statue) and getting a panoramic view of the city.

Ulan-Ude is 5670 kilometers east of Moscow. Take the Trans Siberian Railway for a four-day long journey or a six and a half hour flight from the Russian capital. You can also combine a trip to Ulan Ude with a visit to nearby Lake Baikal.

Russia’s lesser known destinations await you in 2017!

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