Russia travel blog | All about Russia in English

Jul/18

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How to Do Your Post-World Cup Russia Road Trip

With the World Cup finals on the way, few fans are looking past those fateful final matches in the great Russian capitals, and for many, their travel plans past that point may not go beyond catching that flight back home on the 15th of July.

However, if you’re a true globetrotter who wants to make the most of their Russia trip by experiencing all of what this vast and beautiful country has to offer, then now’s the best time ever to do some exploring and set out on a true Russian odyssey. Whether a road trip or by train, once the final match in Moscow wraps up and all the dust has settled and vodka drank, make sure to continue the celebration (or flee your sorrows) by packing your bags and embarking on the trip of a lifetime.

Few people beyond the most seasoned travellers tend to see much of the country beyond the big cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, so if you want to enter the ranks of the most niche and experienced nomads, then now is the time to do it.

To experience the full spectrum of this diverse, wild and at times bewildering country, which spans nine time zones and contains at least as many languages and dialects, you need to go west to east, starting in the more European areas near Moscow and ending in the more Asian locales in the far east of the country. Here’s your guide to doing the ultimate Russian road trip.

Say Goodbye to Moscow

Post World Cup Road Trip in Russia, photo 1

Source: Pixabay

While many people from all corners of the globe will have spent some time in Moscow this summer, you should make the most of the mass exodus of tourists to say goodbye to this amazing city in proper fashion, surrounded by Muscovites.

Before checking out, make the most of some of that rare peace and quiet that can be found in this at times manic metropolis by heading to the serene Gorky Park just outside the centre of the city. This park, opened in 1928 and named after the famous writer Maxim Gorky, is the Central Park of Moscow, a lush and sprawling oasis in the middle of Europe’s biggest city.

As well as having hundreds of acres of green space and a surprisingly good theme park on-site, the park has also been given a major hipster upgrade in the past couple of years, now containing WiFi, table tennis, free outdoor gyms and an incredibly run high-speed cycle lane which runs the perimeter of the park. There are few better ways to enjoy the post-exodus peace that is bound to descend upon the city once the World Cup mania dies down.

Afterwards, it’s important that you give Moscow an appropriately local send-off, by partying the Russian way. Steel yourself for some serious vodka consumption and head to a couple of the insanely over-the-top and Babylon-esque nightclubs which have given the city a well-deserved reputation as one of the true party capitals of the world.

Your best bets are Icon and the open-all-weekend mega-club GIPSY, which is big on popping bottles, pyrotechnics and of course, incredibly gorgeous Russian women dancing the night away. Just make sure your credit card is ready to cope, as just like everything else in this surreal and decadent space, the prices are stratospheric.

Russian Beach-hopping

Post World Cup Road Trip in Russia, photo 2

Source: Pixabay

Few people think of Russia as a place to hit up white sandy beaches, basking in the sun with a fruity cocktail and a balmy ocean breeze, but don’t let that fool you. To sun it up in true Russian fashion, head down to Sochi, a buzzing beach city on the sparkling Black Sea, where prices are a fraction of what you’d pay for a similar experience somewhere like St Tropez and Cannes.

You may have already been to Sochi, given that the city has hosted several of the major World Cup fixtures, including Portugal vs Spain and the nail-biting Germany vs Sweden game recently. The gleaming Fisht stadium hosts matches all year round, so is a great option if you’re wanting to re-live some of that footballing glory.

Whenever you’re in town, you might be feeling a little cash-strapped after your big Moscow blow-out, so make sure to take advantage of festive footballing offers while you can, like the smorgasbord of free bets and sign-up deals at Oddschecker from companies like Paddy Power and Bet365, so that you can make the most of the action.

You should also make sure you get some serious sunning done on the vast stretches of coastline that surround the city, with crystal clear blue waters which offer a seriously refreshing alternative to that famously brutal Sochi summer heat.

Soviet City Exploring

Post World Cup Road Trip in Russia, photo 3

Source: Pixabay

This is your real chance to soak up the highlights of Russian culture, and there are few things more exciting than diving into the country’s recent history as a Soviet superpower, before the collapse of communism back in 1990. The legacy lives on today, and people have been quick to capitalise on this fascinating period of history by offering a huge range of Soviet city tours throughout Russia, allowing travellers to explore the monumental architecture and meticulously-planned citadels which sprung up almost overnight during the Stalinist heydays of the 1920s.

One highlight that should be at the top of your list is the surreal city of Magnitogorsk, a completely planned Soviet industrial city which sits atop a mountain that at one point was made up entirely of iron ore. While not the most conventionally beautiful holiday hotspot, the unique Stalinist architecture and Valhalla-style, monumental ironworks which stretch out as far as the eye can see, are the kind of sights you can’t really see anywhere else.

You should also head to the formerly “closed” city of Nizhny Novgorod, originally founded back in the 13th century but closed to all outsiders from the end of the Second World War right up until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. While there’s plenty of classic Tsarist architecture to gawk at, the roots of the place in Soviet culture run deep, and it should be high up on the bucket list for anyone wishing to get to grips with this period of time.

The Villages of Deep Russia

Post World Cup Road Trip in Russia, photo 4

Source: Pixabay

The thousands of isolated villages which house millions of Russians across the country are unique snapshots of another era. Many of them feel virtually untouched by the seismic changes in Russia over the past century, and their peaceful and traditional ways of life are a serene antidote to the overwhelming industrial megacities.

If you can only visit one traditional village, then make sure it’s Vyatskoe in the Yaroslavl region, a tiny hamlet of 500 people which has previously been voted as the most beautiful village on Earth. Although it draws over 100,000 tourists a year who come to sample delicious black tea and take in the colourful row of houses that are decorated like Faberge eggs, the feeling on the street is just as quiet and calm as it must’ve been 500 years ago.

For a different tone, you should consider taking the long drive to the “art village” of Nikola-Lenivets in the Kaluga region, which was almost desolate in the 1990s, but is now host to famous works of art by some of Russia’s biggest names, as well as pristine countryside surroundings, including some top-notch swimming spots.

On the Edge of Asia

Post World Cup Road Trip in Russia, photo 5

Source: Pixabay

Asian Russia has no discernible, easily identifiable culture, given that the lesser-visited region is a detailed mosaic of hundreds of different cultures, some of which have had a presence in the region for thousands of years.

You should definitely take the iconic Trans-Siberian Express to get there, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with travellers, workers and families from across this sprawling nation. Whether you’re exploring the untamed wilds of Siberia, the unreal Valley of the Geysers in Kamchatka, or of course the city of Vladivostok, all of it is reachable via this historical and adventurous train route.

If you have any insider tips on how to explore the world’s biggest country, let us know in the comments!

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