There are no words to describe how vast Siberia is. It is the largest state in the world and is 53 times bigger than the UK, but it has 22 million less inhabitants. It is impressively sized and stretches from Northern Asia to the Ural Mountains, with the Bering Strait to the east, and from the Arctic Ocean to the steppes of Kazakhstan. It is fair to say that the Russian regions leave a deep feeling of isolation. As well as being a great place for comtemplation and outdoor activities, the area also allows you to explore a mosaic of cultures. Although it can take a long time to travel from one end of the region to the other (more than a week by train), it is the perfect opportunity to mix with many ethnic groups and experience the customs that define them. You will be able to haggle with Asian street traders, before having a cup of tea with the Russians on the Trans-Siberian Railway and daydreaming while watching a Mongolian shepherd herd his flock. It is so diverse that you will often feel as if you have been on several trips in one, at the crossroads of continents.
Surface area : 1.28E7 km2
Population : 32000000 inhabitants
Time difference : Travelling through Russia is a bit like travelling through time, as there are 9 different time zones. The Omsk region in Western Siberia is 7 hours ahead in winter (6 in summer), while the east, around Magadan, is 12 hours ahead in winter (11 in summer).
How can you talk about Russia without mentioning the endless number of "matryoshkas", the famous Russian dolls? You can buy them in small villages, where they are hand painted and made of dozens of pieces, or from the markets in major cities, where they bear the images of Putin and other leading national figures. Likewise, amber is an essential element of the country's handicrafts. It is used to make jewellery and furniture, but beware of getting scammed. The smell of pine resin will tell you if its genuine or fake. The large natural reserves in Siberia also enable the mass production of objects made from birch wood, and at the border with Asia, you can buy plates and small varnished boxes covered with historical scenes representing divinities.
It has to be said that there is nothing like a good hearty dish to fight against the cold! The Russians understand this and fill their tables with many winter dishes. In particular, you will find many soups, to which chefs add their own unique ingredients to make them more delicious. They are never blended, however, which makes them more filling. Here you can also try pelmeni, a kind of ravioli filled with a mix of meats. Don't hesitate to also indulge in piroshki, which are small dough buns stuffed with a variety of fillings, from vegetables to meat and caviar. As for drinks, the national beverages are Russian tea and vodka. You can drink the second in one go, while the first will warm you up during the long winter afternoons. It is a real institution throughout the whole of Russia!
Siberia is so vast that you will likely stick to just one part of the region during your stay. To discover Siberia more in depth you'll need several visits.
It is recommended you bring warm clothes with you on a trip to Siberia, as even in summer the nights can be cold. Likewise, make sure to bring several spare batteries for your camera, as they run out fairly quickly at sub-zero temperatures.
Some places are must-sees on a trip to Siberia, such as Irkutsk and Vladivostok. Keep in mind that credit cards are often not accepted on public transport and in shops. It is strongly recommended you always carry cash with you. The currency is the Russian rouble.
Lastly, the language barrier may pose a problem when you come into contact with the locals, who are nevertheless very welcoming of tourists. Take a small pocket dictionary with you and some photos of your town and family to help start a friendly conversation.