“Winter has come” is a famous line that has been associated in recent years with Game Of Thrones. But the phrase has deep roots in Russia, where temperatures plummet to -15 degrees Celsius (5° Fahrenheit) these days.
Russia is synonymous with cold weather and snow for some; while this may turn some travelers off, visiting what is the world’s largest country in the winter month can be a magical experience, with its remarkable views of nature, delicious foods, and displays of decorations especially during the New Year holidays.
From treks up the slopes of glacier-capped mountains to strolls along the shoreline of Earth’s oldest lake, a trip to Russia in the winter can be an adventure-seekers paradise. The temperature in the European (western) part of Russia reaches -10° C (14° F), however, in other parts of the country, such as in Siberia, the temperatures can hit -50°C (-58° F). The coldest inhabited place on Earth is Oymyakon, a small village Russia’s Far East, which hit a record −71.2 °C (−96.2° F) in 1924!
Caspian News put together a list of “must see” destinations in Russia during the cold but rewarding winter months.
5. St. Petersburg
The famed capital city of imperial Russia is considered the modern country’s cultural center. Its snow-covered landscape offers activities like sledding and ice skating at the Kirov Central Culture and Leisure Park, as well as cross-country skiing in Sosnovka Park and along the beaches of the Gulf of Finland. Be sure to visit a banya (bathhouse), such as the old-school Yamskiye (“coachmen”), whose regulars once include Dostoyevsky and Lenin. The Degtyarnye bani is tourist-friendly and will allow you to get warm after a day of sight-seeing at the Hermitage Museum, Church of the Savior on Blood, and the Winter and Peterhof Palaces. In a city that is magical, mystical and romantic, Russians have a joke that relationships that bud in the winter are the strongest, because if two people fall in love despite three layers of sweaters and two coats, then the feeling must be true and will last a long time.
4. Mount Elbrus
Experienced and novice mountain climbers will love what is the tallest mountain in Europe, reaching a height of 5,642 meters (18,510 feet). Formed from an inactive volcano, this hot-spot is located just a few kilometers from Russia’s southern border with Georgia. The facilities here include camping grounds and fully-equipped huts that give visitors a fabulous view of the mountain over breakfast.
Also located in Russia’s border regions with Georgia, Dombai Resort is located in a region that is surrounded by the North Caucasus mountain chain. Reaching a height of almost 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) above sea level, this is another ski-lovers paradise, with its helicopter landings for skiers who can fly up to the mountaintop and slide their way back down. For the past 10 years, Dombai has been holding large snowboard festivals. And for those who like hiking there are pedestrian and horse routes along the beauty of local landscapes.
2. Veliky Ustyug
Ever wonder where Russia’s Santa Claus lives? Come to Veliky Ustyug in Russia’s northwest to find out, and see Father Frost’s magnificent carved chamber where you plunge into a fairytale world filled with attractions and hills, horseback riding and walks through a magical winter forest.
1. Baikal Lake
Located in southern Siberia, this elongated lake is considered the world’s deepest and purest, and is a great place during both winter and summer months. The lake is so large that its waters could flood a territory the size of Belgium. A great way to enjoy a stay at the lake in the winter is to cross it when frozen, either on foot, on skates or by hovercraft, as the thickness of the absolutely see-through ice reaches between 1.5 and two meters during the -20°C (-4°F) winter temperatures. Activities include riding a dog sled, adventuring via snowmobiles, skiing, ice skating, horseback riding and ice fishing, as well as taking in the views of Baikal’s flora and fauna. Trains running from Irkuts, one of the largest cities in Siberia, offer vacationers to Baikal a chance to explore the surrounding areas of Russia’s vast interior.