The northern region of Russia has lots to offer. Composed of six autonomous regions (the Republic of Karelia, the Komi Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Murmansk Oblast, Vologda Oblast and Nenets Autonomous Okrug), it covers a large area with diverse landscapes that include lakes, mountains, forests and plains.
It is a very pleasant region in the summer with lots of activities to try, such as fishing, hiking and canoeing. In the winter, temperatures are cold but the area is great for tourists who enjoy winter sports.
The big cities, like Petrozavodsk (in the Republic of Karelia), have a rich culture waiting to be discovered. The Russians who live here are very attached to their land and their traditions. It is the perfect destination for those looking for a complete change of scenery and a trip full of adventure.
Surface area : 1466300.0 km2
Population : 5861000 inhabitants
Time difference : The UK is 3 hours behind in summer and 4 hours behind in winter.
The essential items to bring back from Russia are 'matryoshkas', the little Russian dolls that are placed one inside the other. You can find them in all the shops in the region. In Vologda Oblast you can also find lace, a speciality of the region. The handmade clothing and tablecloths produced here are stunning.
In the North, as in the other regions of Russia, people eat well and a lot. There are both hot dishes, like borsch (a soup made with meat and beetroot), and cold dishes, like pirojki (small traditional sandwiches). There are many restaurants in the region's cities, usually with reasonable prices.
You need a visa to enter Russia, with a maximum stay of 30 days on a tourist visa.
You can rent a 4x4 on arrival to get around and to organise your own excursions and hiking trips, but it is nevertheless recommended to employ the services of a guide in the vast region of Northern Russia. Enquire about native English-speaking guides to make your trip easier.
Remember to pack mosquito repellent, as there are many mosquitoes in the region, particularly in spring.
Feel free to take a dip in the lakes and rivers, where the water temperature is generally pleasant, especially in summer. What's more, the water is clean and unpolluted.
Lastly, plan to visit the main cities in the region during your visit, such as Petrozavodsk, Murmansk and Vologda.