Just about every country falls into the trap of being defined by only one or two cities. And while these might be truly spectacular cities, ignorance about other jewels results in a loss for the traveller as well as for the country in question.
On 29 February 29, the Russian Information Centre in India hosted its first ever conference in Mumbai devoted to mutual tourist exchange between Russia and India. Here, the head of the Russian Centre of Culture and Science, V Demetiev, along with Katerina Belyakova and Vasiliy Popov, enlightened the audience on the several regions in Russia begging for exploration. Check them out:
Courtesy: Fr Maxim Massalitin
Its turbulent history notwithstanding, the Crimean Peninsula has a stunning coastline and Mediterranean feel, according to Paresh Navani from the Russian Information Centre. The architectural and historical marvels in Crimea include the ruins of the ancient Greek colony of Chersonesos and the Armenian monastery of the Holy Cross, established in 1358.
Kamchatka is a peninsula in the Russian far east that offers stunning natural panoramas, including snowy vistas of the Arctic tundra. The region contains 160 volcanoes, of which 29 are still active. Kamchatka deserves a visit for its numerous nature parks, notable among which is the remote Koryaksky Zapovednik where you can go bear-spotting.
Courtesy: Kirsten Buerger
Baikal is in a mountainous Russian region in Siberia, north of the Mongolian border. The eponymous lake here is ancient and the deepest in the world. To get here, you have to pass through a network of hiking paths known as the Great Baikal Trail. On a tour here, you can also visit Listvyanka village for its wealth of wildlife and opportunities to go ice-skating and dog sledding in the winter.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
Okay, these are not in Russia but being neighbouring countries, you can easily combine them with a trip to Russia. The Russian tourist office organises trips to these countries as well. Both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are a tourist's delight with their wealth of beautiful mosques, austere mountains and green valleys. They offer a spellbinding combination of ancient history and untouched nature.
Moscow and St Petersburg
I couldn't really leave them out! As it happens Russia does see plenty of Indian visitors (as the figures below show), with most heading to Moscow and St Petersburg.
What's really responsible for the steady stream of Indians to St Petersburg and Moscow is the fact that "every street is a museum," in Belyakova's words.
St Petersburg is Russia's cultural capital and welcomes 3 million visitors every year. The city has a sizeable Indian community and several Indian restaurants as a result.
Though Moscow is well-known and well-explored as Russia's stately capital city, Popov cited four new reasons to make a trip there--the beautiful architecture, both ancient and modern; the rich history and tradition, the most beautiful metro station and plenty of entertainment options. The icing on the cake is Russia's currency rate which is at its most favourable today.
Presenting the Indian side of things was Satish Soni, Joint MD at MTDC, who suggested combining Maharashtra and Kerala in tourist packages for Russians. According to Belyakova, India is much better known in Russia than Russia is in India (there are 7 million outbound tourists from Russia to India every year). However, most Russians flock to the beaches of Goa and Kerala, giving other states a miss. So while we're realizing that there's more to Russia than Moscow and St Petersburg, we hope that they'll do the same and venture into the other states of India.