Welcome to Russia!

Russia with her ancient cultures, dazzling imperial grandeur of St. Petersburg, the simple unchanging rural life of Irkutsk and Siberia and much more welcomes the independent traveller! Shrugging off the shroud of Communist uniformity, Russia seems to be celebrating its rich heritage, vast diversity and future potential with a new vigour.

Russia has the world's largest freshwater lake, towering mountains, awesome volcanoes, rivers with a variety of fish and forests replete with rare and rich flora and fauna all just waiting to be explored!

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Russia, to most Westerners means St.Petersburg, Moscow and Murmansk, and most tourists flock to these three destinations. Though the three ancient and great cities embody the essence of Imperial Russia, there is a lot more to see and experience in Russia. This country spans two continents and eleven time zones and stops just 50 miles short of North America. It has the world's largest freshwater lake, towering mountains, awesome volcanoes, rivers with a variety of fish and forests replete with rare and rich flora and fauna. And it is only now that this great big nation has been thrown open to the world, welcoming travellers to see the beautiful landscape, stay in one of the fabulous hotels in Russia, and learn more about the fabulous people and culture of Russia.

Russia has a colourful and rich culture. Russian art is unique and interesting. The cuisine in Russia is varied and rich. Russian literature has greatly influenced writers around the world. The world of classical music has seen some great Russian composers. And last but not least, Russians are known to have a great sense of humour.

Russian architecture has always attracted the attention of the world. It was largely Byzantine till the fall of Constantinople. Renaissance trends were then introduced by Aristotle Fioravanti and other architects from Italy. During the reigns of Boris Godunov and Ivan the Terrible, churches were designed like tents as is evident from Saint Basil's Cathedral. The 'fiery style' of embellishment that flourished in Yaroslavi and Moscow served as a forerunner to the Naryshkin baroque of the sixteen nineties. In the 1700s the focus shifted to the rococo style of architecture with masters like Bartolomeo Rastrelli and his faction coming on the scene.

Under Catherine the Great and her grandson Alexander I, St. Petersburg changed so as to seem like an outdoor neoclassical museum. The nineteenth century saw the Russian and Byzantine revival. In the twentieth century, architects like Fyodor Shekhtel (Art Nouveau), Constantin Melnikov and Aleksey Shchusev (Constructivism), and Boris Iofan (Stalinist Empire style) dominated the scene in Russian architecture. Some of these buildings have been transformed into fabulous Russia hotels providing breathtaking accommodation to complement your stay. Check out our Russia Map for the location of our Russia hotel partners and some of the many Russia tourist attractions that can be enjoyed during your tour in Russia.

Russia has many ethnic groups each with their own form of folk music. But during the Soviet era, Russian music was minutely scrutinized and subject to many restrictions. When the USSR broke up in the early nineties, Western pop and rock music became very popular in Russia and many Russian rock artists came up. The complexion of Russian music is expected to witness a sea change in the years to come. Dance is not very popular but dance forms depict religion, which is something that appeals to people these days. Enjoy some authentic Russian music as your traverse the shopping in Russia streets and restaurants.

The Matryoshka doll is symbolic of Russia. This is basically a nesting doll made of wood. It holds within it identical dolls of smaller sizes so that each doll fits snugly into a larger one. Six or more dolls make up a set. Matryoshka dolls are oval or cylindrical in shape with a rounded head. The figure tapers down to the bottom to a firm base. Each doll has the eyes, nose, mouth and hands painted on it. Normally it is a traditionally dressed peasant girl's costume that adorns these dolls, but the dolls can carry any image from those of Russian leaders to fairy tale characters. The distinctiveness of the Matryoshka doll lies in the skill with which it is painted. Matryoshka dolls make a great souvenir or gift to remember your holiday in Russia.

The Commonwealth of Independent States is made up of 21 Republics. Russia is the largest among these by virtue of occupying most of northern Asia and east Europe. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean on the east to the Baltic Sea on the west and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Caucasus and the Black Sea in the south. It has Finland and Norway as its neighbours in the northwest and Azerbaijan and Georgia in the southwest. Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia and Estonia lie to the west of Russia while North Korea, China, Mongolia and Kazhakstan lie to its south.