Winter Activities in Russia
When we think of winter activities, we usually picture winter sports, famous ski slopes, and such. However, there’s one country that can offer the curious traveler all of those sports and much more.
Naturally, we have the world’s largest country in mind – namely, Russia! One simply cannot say that they’ve experienced true winter until they’ve spent one December night in the dazzling jewel that is Moscow, another- in fascinating St Petersburg (check what the city offers) until they’ve had a taste of the local pierozhki, and until they’ve added at least one ushanka to their fashion collection.
Let’s see what Russia has in store for us!
The Northern Lights
We can’t make a list of Russian winter activities without mentioning the Aurora Borealis, obviously. After all, this country is home to a few of the places that let its residents and visitors gaze upon the glowing skies of winter.
Depending on the weather, solar activity, geographic location, even on the type of air and sky, the Northern Lights in Russia can be seen from the end of September up until the end of March, usually appearing from 9 o’clock in the evening and on through the night.
Keep in mind that, for the best view of the Aurora Borealis, the sky should be clear and the air frosty. Moreover, even though the phenomenon can be seen from Karelia to Chukotka, we think that Murmansk is the best viewing spot, so to say.
The above-mentioned region is located on the Kola Peninsula and comes with much more than just the sight of the Aurora Borealis – it is a great place to practice your skiing or snowboarding skills or visit the traditional Saami villages.
Another great place from where the Northern Lights can be seen is the village of Teriberka, which was featured in the movie Leviathan. Also, remember to dress properly. Even if the winter is mild in Murmansk, temperatures can go as low as -30 degrees Celsius.
Now that you know exactly what you should be doing in Russia once you get there, it’s time to plan your trip. Book your train/plane tickets to Russia on time, prepare your warmest clothes, and get ready for a bunch of snowy winter days!
Red Square on Ice-Skates
How do you get the best of both worlds while in Moscow’s top attraction? Well, that’s quite easy to achieve – just gear yourself up with a pair of ice-skates, hop on the ice-rink and take in more than just a glimpse of the surroundings.
The Red Square is clearly one of the most famous attractions in the world – mainly because the view seems to be brought straight out of a fantasy book.
Moreover, if you thought that you are going to have a hard-time skating and exploring the surrounding areas, you don’t have to worry, as the Red Square is home to the annual open-air ice-rink. You can go ice skating from 10 in the morning up until 11:30 in the evening. Keep in mind that this opportunity usually lasts from the end of November until the end of February.
Naturally, winter Moscow comes with much more for you to see – the traditional Winter Market, the mesmerizing Christmas Tree, holiday tunes that surround all of Red Square, as well as the fancy retro-Soviet beats.
The Traditional Troika Ride
Most northern countries have their own type of traditional ride. For example, some of them make use of husky dogs, while others employ reindeer to carry people away into the snowy realms.
However, Russia’s traditional ride is… well, more traditional – the so-called Troika ride is basically a Russian sleigh that’s pulled by three beautifully adorned horses. All you have to do is lay back and enjoy the countryside.
Keep in mind that such a delightful activity is not limited to the countryside or remote areas – you can dash through the snow even if you are in Moscow, namely in the Central Moscow Hippodrome, or if you are in St Petersburg, in the Pavlovsk Park.
Still, if you want to feel closer to nature itself, then you can easily find a traditional Troika ride in the outskirts of Ekaterinburg. You can usually enjoy such a ride for up to one hour.
Fishing on the Frozen Lake Baikal
The world’s deepest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal, is definitely a sight to gaze upon – obviously, we are specifically referring to its condition during winter. Under the influence of the Russian temperatures, the lake freezes completely during winter, revealing a dream-like view.
The ice is usually around one meter thick, but what makes it special is the fact that it remains crystal clear throughout the winter – hence the amazing view. You can clearly see all the tiny cracks and the traces left by air bubbles and such.
Baikal Lake comes with a lot of activities for the curious tourist. If you enjoy driving, all you have to do is rent a 4×4 jeep, a car, or a snowmobile and ride on the frozen freeway.
However, if you want less thrill and more relaxation, then you can go sledding or even ice-fishing. Make sure that you equip yourself properly before spending a couple of hours trying to hook in a big catch.
Russian Banya – The Peak of Relaxation
Most think of the Russian Banya as just another bathhouse to relax in. However, there’s more than just relaxation behind the tradition that is the Banyas.
First of all, you will sit back, unwind, and relax – every traditional Russian bathhouse starts off with a hot dry-steam room with wooden benches. However, there’s one extra thing you have to do – namely, make use of the besom made out of natural birch tree branches and leaves and massage yourself, as in softly hitting yourself with it.
We’re not done yet – even though you can reach the peak of relaxation only by enjoying the hot dry-steam and the besoms, you can take all of it one step further and do it just like the Russians.
In short, after they’re done bathing, people will usually topple a bucket of cold water over themselves, dive into a pile of snow, or even go for a swim in a pool of ice-cold water. Obviously, you don’t have to do any of these things – but it really does test your limits!
Of course, as Russian Banyas are traditional, you won’t have a hard time finding one during your trip.
The Spirit of Russia – Vodka
As we all know, the weather can get a little bit more than chilly in Russia. Obviously, here you can’t rely on your good old cup of tea – instead, you’ll just have to go with Russian Vodka.
It really doesn’t matter if you usually enjoy drinking or not – you are in Russia and, therefore, you must drink!
Almost everywhere you go, you will be greeted with more than just a few types of vodka – in this case, you might as well just go on a Vodka tasting trip. For example, if you are in St. Petersburg, you should try the quite popular Russian Vodka Room No. 1. Still, drink softly so that you save yourself for a visit inside the Vodka Museum.
Worry not, as you will also have the chance to try some Russian cuisine and snacks while you discover what Russia has in store in terms of drinks and spirits.
Russian Tea Parties
While some of you may not know this, Russia comes with a lot of tea-drinking traditions that have even become a somewhat popular image of the country – naturally, the samovar kettle is the centerpiece of every tea party, surrounded by ring-shaped cracknels and sweets.
If you want to enjoy a party of this sort in Moscow, then you can head on to Café Pushkin or the Lucien Restaurant. If you happen to be in Kazan, visit the Museum of Chak-Chak. Here, besides drinking tea from a samovar kettle, you can also delight your taste buds with the traditional Tatar sweets.