Sunday, March 27, 2016

RUSSIA: 10 Best Kept Secret Destinations Revealed

Murmansk, Russia Aurora, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee
Teriberka, Russia. IG: @littlemisshappyfeet
Spanning 9 time zone and 2 continents, the overwhelming uncertainties imposed by this oversized unknown land may intimidate you, not to mention the complexity of visa applications and the seemingly impossible language barrier!
However, judging from the travel trend today, Russia travel is catching up, but it is not quite there yet. People generally need to know more about Russia as it is way too underrated.
If Russia is not on your wanderlust radar, read on and you might find yourself doubting your every decisions.  

Murmansk, Russia Aurora, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee
Murmansk. IG: @littlemisshappyfeet

1. Murmansk

This is my favorite find early this year. Everyone dreams about catching the Northern Lights and will not think twice to book an expensive Aurora hunting tour in Norway, Finland, Iceland and Alaska. People seems to forget something: Russia is also within the Arctic circle! You might be surprised to hear that a Aurora Hunting tour can be as low as $25 in Murmansk! And if you thought Murmansk is just all about Aurora, you thought wrong. I’ve only been back for a week now and I am already planning my trip back!
Top things to do: Swimming with Beluga Whales, watching Salmons sprawl, get surrounded by Siberian Huskies, Getting on a Reindeer Sleigh, visiting Saami settlement, Aurora Hunting. 

Dombay. Photo credits: Dr. Golden Molling

2. Dombay

When I was typing this article, Apple kept changing “Dombay ” into “Bombay”, it really gives us an insight on how unknown this beautiful place is! Russia is blessed with dramatic mountain range, snowcapped peaks and pristine nature. It is a shame that these destinations are only made known to those who speak the language!
Top things to do: Horse-riding, Trout fishing, Hiking, winter sports.

3. Elbrus and it’s neighboring regions 

While many are busy planning their ski-trips to Switzerland, little did we all know Mount Elbrus holds the title of the highest peak in Europe, making it an even more challenging slope to ski down! It is a dormant volcano with 2 summits, located in the northern Caucasus mountains. Optimally, a visit to Elbrus should be combined with a day trip to Kislovodsk, where awe-inspiring frozen waterfalls and some of the greatest hiking trails in Russia are found.   
Top things to do: Winter sports, hiking. 

Volgograd. photo credits: Dr. Jonah Seeni

4. Volgograd

Volgograd holds a special place in my heart, not only due to the fact that it is my home for 6 years, but also owing to the rich history of this city. This is a city with an incredible story to tell. I am sure, if you’ve watch the movie “Enemy at the Gate”, the gruesome battle of Stalingrad will never ever escape your mind, and Stalingrad itself is Volgograd. The name transition goes like this: Tsaritsyn > Stalingrad > Volgograd.
Top things to do: learning about the “Great Patriotic War”, witnessing real-life tanks and the tallest statue in Europe— “ The Motherland Calls”.

5. Sergiev Posad

For Catholics, there is Vatican City; while as for Orthodox Christians, there is Trinity Lavra of St. Sergiev. It was the centre of the Russian Orthodox Church until 1988, when the honour was bestowed on Danilov Monastery. In 1993, Sergiev Posad was recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is also the town where the first Matryoshka was created. 
Top things to do: Sightseeing. 

Kamchatka. Photo by Dennis Budkov. www.dailymail.co.uk

6. Kamchatka

When the world thought it is impossible to find any place on earth equivalent to Iceland, here comes another mysterious  “Land of Fire and Ice”— Kamchatka. Located at the far east, the Kamchatka peninsula is probably the most remote area in Russia, and undoubtedly the most enchanting.   
Top things to do: Exploring volcanoes, geysers, ice caves, waterfalls and the open ocean.


Lake Baikal. www.lifefoc.com
Lake Baikal. www.lifefoc.com
Lake Baikal. Photograph: Olivier Renck/Getty

7. Lake Baikal

This deepest freshwater lake on earth is the most popular stop on Trans-Siberian train trips. While it is stupendous enough during summer time, step your game up by visiting the Olkhon Island in March, where the magical, picturesque winter landscape is simply out of this world. Looking at all these photos, I am bewitched. 
Top things to do: Hiking, ice-sliding, learning about Shamanism. 

Sochi. IG: @littlemisshappyfeet

8. Sochi

You might already know about this city due to all those 2014 Winter Olympics horror stories made viral online. But if that’s the reason stopping you from experiencing Sochi, you simply must reevaluate your decision. There is a solid reason why Stalin and Putin both choose to build their summer residences here! Located along the shore of the Black Sea, Sochi is dubbed the “Russian Riviera”. It is home to splendid beaches, wonderful nature, vineyards and winter sports facilities, making it a year-round destination.  
Top things to do: Hitting the beach, hiking, winter sports. 

9. St. Petersburg

It is not called the “Venice of the North” for nothing! A trip to Russia will not be complete without visiting this beautiful city of channels. If time is on your side, visit In the end of June, when the city experiences the "White Nights" (24 hours of sunlight). Besides, do you know that St. Petersburg is the birth place of LOMO cameras? If you are a fan, come here to grab one with the lowest price you could ever imagine. 
Top things to do: Sightseeing  

Moscow. IG: @littlemisshappyfeet 

10. Moscow

How can i conclude this list without mentioning the most vibrant scene in Russia? I am sure you already know about the candy-structured St Basil Cathedral on the ever-so-crowded Red Square, but do you know that Moscow is a big treasure island with hidden gems dotted all around the city? Let me give you a clue: Daily Transportation. Moscow Metro is an extensive network of art museums that one could easily spend all day exploring. With only 50 Ruble, you can check out all incredible metro stations, from the most traditional, to the most alienated, to the most sophisticated! 
Top things to do: Sightseeing, people-watching on Arbat Street, Watching world-class Ballet in Bolshoi Theater.     


Thank You for Reading! 
Have you been to Russia and have something to share? Join in the discussion!

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