Spanning both Europe and Asia and by far the largest country on earth, Russia defies soundbites and neat descriptions. Instead it offers a bewildering range of diversity that makes it difficult to know where to start.

With a population of over 144 million, the diversity in culture, environment, terrain and religion is rich and expansive. In Russia’s deep south, away from the popular tourist destinations of Moscow and St. Petersburg lie the Caucasus Mountains, home to Europe’s highest peak, and an extraordinary array of ethnic groups. Much troubled in recent years, this region has now stabilised and provides opportunities for some of the best adventures Europe can offer.

Stretching between the Black and Caspian Seas, the land rises into a series of almost impenetrable peaks, and was Russia’s ‘last frontier’ – long after Siberia had been conquered, the peoples of the Caucasus held out against the armies of Moscow and retained their rich traditions. These lands inspired the poetry of Pushkin and are the subject of much great Russian literature, such is their magic.

Our Russia holidays take you to isolated valleys, where stone watchtowers dot the landscape, looking like something from the writing of Tolkien. In the mountains of North Ossetia lie ‘cities of the dead’, and ancient shrines to pagan religions. Old customs die hard here and this is perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of the continent.

Top highlights on Russia holidays and tours – Europe

  • Explore the old stone watchtowers of Ingushetia
  • Visit the city of the dead at Dargavs
  • The historic city of Vladikavkaz, with its beautiful pre-revolutionary architecture
  • Wander through the historic quarter of Derbent
  • Stay in the charming traditional village of Mezmai
  • Drive through some of Europe’s most impressive scenery

With people ranging from Circassians to Chechens to Ingush, from Laks to Dargins, the Russian Caucasus is a treasure trove of traditions and cultures – all the while with a backdrop of snowcapped peaks and ancient ruins.

Discover a very different side to Russia with us.

Culture

The Russian Caucasus is home to a bewildering variety of different ethnic groups. In the west are the Circassians – they were among the first in the region to be subdued by the Russians, but have a rich military tradition. Moving further east one encounters the Karachai and the Balkars – often known as the ‘mountain Turks’ due to their Turkic origins.

The Ossetians are descended from the ancient Alan people, and have a complex pagan religion, with shrines dotted around, often adorned with animal skulls. They are unique in this region in being neither Muslim nor Christian, and their belief system is centred around the worship of gods and spirits connected with the natural world.

Eastwards from here and it’s solidly Muslim. The Ingush and Chechens particularly are devout, and mosques are packed each Friday. Islam here is infused with traditions of sufism, and a particularly fascinating customs is the zikr, a combination of prayer, song and dance that can last for hours.

There are strong codes of honour here, which in the past have led to extensive blood feuds between different clans. But the region is also renowned for its generous hospitality, and undoubtedly as a visitor here you will be invited into local homes to share enormous feasts – a rather humbling experience.

When to go on holiday to Russia

It is hard to generalize the weather for such a giant country, however, in summer its warm and humid, reaching around 25 degrees (Celsius) from June to September. North of the Caucasus there’s a continental climate – three or four freezing, long winter months but temperatures up to about 30 degrees C from June to August. The higher you go, the cooler it gets.

Start planning your Russia tour

Check out our small group tours to Russia: The Caucasus – From the Black Sea to the Caspian and Altai Explorer. While many of our trips are small group adventures with set departures, as a bespoke operator, we can design and create trips to suit any traveller, from solos to larger groups. If you would like to find out more about tailor-made Russia holidays or our group tours, call us on 01473 328546 or email us via our contact page. We’d love to hear from you.

Russia

Good for:Local Culture, Stunning Landscapes and Historic Sites