Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to Ulan-Bator: Winter
26
July
2018

Seasonal Guide to Ulan-Bator: Winter

Want to visit Ulan-Bator but not sure when`s the best time to make the journey? Well it all depends what you want to do while you`re there! Real Russia is here to help with our seasonal guide to Ulan-Bator so you can make the most of your time whenever you go.

Mongolia is known as the ‘Land of Blue Sky’ and gets around 260 days of sunshine a year, however, it's also a very cold climate. Winter is the longest season and temperatures can drop as low as -26 degrees. The coldest month is January. Because of the dry air though, the weather is easier to deal with than in other places. The low temperature leads to some of the most exciting natural sights that can't be seen anywhere else, when the temperature drops low enough all of the rivers, lakes, streams and ponds freeze. Many rivers freeze almost to the bottom which is an ethereal sight, Lake Khovsgol is particularly beautiful.

While it does snow throughout winter, it is not heavy snow compared to Russian winters.

What should I do?

Mongolia offers two chances to celebrate New Year, once on January 1st on the Gregorian calendar, and the lunar new year called ‘Tsagaan Sar’ or ‘the White Moon Festival’. Typical celebrations involve burning candles on the altar to symbolise Buddhist enlightenment and there are holiday specific greetings such as ‘Amar Baina uu?’ meaning ‘Are you living peacefully?’ It's also common to visit friends and family, gathering at the home of the eldest family member to exchange gifts.

This is a great chance to learn about regional celebrations and find the similarities and differences in culture.

The winter conditions, with snow storms and cold winds, are called ‘zud’, however, winter actually has less wind and snowfall than during spring so as long as you pack appropriately you'll be able to do anything.

Best Winter Excursions:

City Day Tour by Car

It might be cold but that doesn't mean you can't see the sights of Ulan-Bator. This full day of sightseeing takes you to all the famous landmarks and historic cultural points of the city. You'll start by visiting Gandan Monastery, the biggest Buddhist Monastery in Ulan-Bator which is attended by hundreds for worship daily. You'll also go to see the National History Museum and the Fine Art Museum. There's also time to relax, shop for local goods and admire the beauty of Ulan-Bator. You can even climb Zaisan Hill to admire the panoramic views.

Day Trip to Aglag Buteel Monastery

The Aglag Buteel is a Buddhist Monastery situation in picturesque highland overlooking the valley, about 100km to the east of Ulan-Bator. The Aglag Buteel monastery is surrounded by mountains and pine forests and is decorated with many works of art.

There is a walking path at the top of the hill with many stone carvings along the way that provides spectacular views of the countryside. Granite rocks have been carved as Buddhist statues, each having a symbolic significance. If you walk around, you will see intricate mythical animal carvings made out of wooden roots and rocks surrounding the mountain.

If you want to find out more about Ulan-Bator, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to Beijing: Winter
5
July
2018

Seasonal Guide to Beijing: Winter

Just because it`s cold doesn`t mean Beijing isn`t as busy as ever with skiing, live performances and much more!

Winter lasts from December to February and is generally cold and dry with the ocassional snow. If you're travelling to China during this time, be aware temperatures are often well below zero. You'll need to pack thick jackets, a lot of layers, sweaters, hats, gloves and heavy boots.

Just because it's cold doesn't mean that Beijing isn't as busy as ever though!

What is there to do?

Eat steaming Mongolian hotpot to warm up!

You can also celebrate a traditional lunar new year in the Hutongs, traditional villages, attend one of the bustling temple fairs or learn how to make authentic dumplings to really get a taste of Beijing life.

If you want something more active there are plenty of places to ski during the Winter months, including Nanshan Ski resort which is only 30 minutes outside of Beijing as well as Huaibei Ski Resort and the Bird's Nest (The National Stadium and main venue for the 2008 Beijing Olympics).

Best Winter Excursions:

Nanshan Ski Tour

A must for any ski lover. Nanshan Ski Village is located near Miyun Country, just a 30 minute drive away. Enjoy the incredible landscapes and scenery as you glide down the slopes. As well as skiing, you can also snowboard. This tour will provide transport to and from the Ski Village as well as enterance fees but will give you complete freedom at the village.

Evening Acrobat Show

Take the opportunity to warm up and enjoy the amazing talents of Chinese acrobatics in this evening show. The performance features extraordinary feats of balance, agility and co-ordination with gymnastic skills, circus acts, martial arts, ballet and diving.

It promises to be a night you won't forget.

If you want to find out more about Beijing, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here.

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to Moscow: Winter
4
July
2018

Seasonal Guide to Moscow: Winter

Want to visit Moscow but not sure when`s the best time to make the journey? Well it all depends what you want to do while you`re there! Real Russia is here to help with our seasonal guide to Moscow so you can make the most of your time whenever you go.

Winter lasts mid-November until March with an average temperature of -8 degrees but there is still plenty of sun. After heavy winter snowfall Moscow is probably at its most iconic as the city looks llike its come straight from a fairy tale. As long as you pack appropriately, winter is a beautiful time to visit the city and there's a lot to do.

You'll find winter has a different feel to most of Western Europe as 25th December is a working day in Russia, with orthodox Christmas being celebrated in early January. The biggest winter celebration would be New Year which lasts from the end of December until Orthodox New Year on January 13th.

Russia is well prepared for its winters so while you'll need to keep layered up outside you'll find indoors is kept very warm so be prepared for a lot of removing and redressing layers.

What is there to do?

This is a great time to go sledding or skating in the midst of Moscow's iconic architecture. It's also nice to enjoy the magical winter atmosphere in the historic center.

A great chance to take in the winter beauty of the city is to visit Sparrow Hills which offers some of the best city views. The area is a beloved park and favourite hangout spot for the student population and during winter Sparrow Hills' ski-trails are open all day long.

You have to visit the iconic Red Square where a rink is put up every winter for ice-skating.

The winter is also a great chance to take part in one of Russia's most traditional activities, visit a Banya! Russian Banyas are like saunas, but kept much hotter than they are in the UK. The benfits of Banyas are believed to cover curing colds, strengthening the immune system and a good excuse to have a catch up with friends.

Many locals visit the 200 year old Sanduny which is the largest Banya in Moscow, it is is also visited by many Russian actors, singers and politicians.

Best Winter Excursions:

Russian Vodka Museum Tour and Izmaylovo Flee Market

Warm up from the Winter cold with what is probably Russia's most well-known spirit. The Vodka Museum tour offers you a chance to taste authentic Russian vodka, you'll find over 1700 exhibits with the history of vodka, detailed insights in the many ways vodka has been consumed and how it has been part of Russian civilisation throughout the years.

Your guide will transport you through time on a journey beginning in the 12th century with the first production of vodka, to the state of the Russian empire when vodka was sold in bucketful through to its modern-day cultural place.

Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts

The Pushkin museum is the second largest museum of foreign art in Russia, full of rich collections of culture from both the past and the present. It was established by Processor I. Tsvetaev, father to poet Marina Tsvetaev, and now holds amazing sculptures, manuscripts, coins and medals as well as traditional paintings and engravings.

If you want to find out more about Moscow, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here.

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to Ulan-Bator: Autumn
27
June
2018

Seasonal Guide to Ulan-Bator: Autumn

Want to visit Ulan-Bator but not sure when`s the best time to make the journey? Well it all depends what you want to do while you`re there! Real Russia is here to help with our seasonal guide to Ulan-Bator so you can make the most of your time whenever you go.

Autumn lasts from early September to early November, and the beginning of Autumn is an amazing time to travel. There's the beauty of summer with the transitional delights of autumn. August has heavy rainfall in the northern and central areas. The weather fills up the river and brings lush green grass creating a picturesque view but it can also swamp roads with mud.

Autumn does start to get colder again but October has the lowest amount of rain and snow, you can get a little snow around early September though. Autumn in Mongolia is the season of transition from the hot summer to the cold and dry winter. Autumn has less rain and gradually gets cooler as the harvest comes. Pastures and forests become yellow and the livestock will be eating as much as they can to prepare for winter hibernation.

What should I do?

Celebrate Nomad's Day Festival in September, one of the most exciting cultural festivals of Mongolia. On Nomad's day local nomadic groups will demonstrate the major customs of nomadic lifestyles to visitors as part of a competition. You'll see races to assemble gers in the shortest time, and then load up onto yak carts. Visitors always love to watch exciting events as nomadic men will grab lassos from the group while galloping on horseback. Traditional milky tea will be made and offered out to visitors and children will play nomadic games of wits.

Between autumn and winter is Mongolia's Independence day on 26th November which celebrates Mongolia's independence from the Russian Soviet Union and China in 1921.

Best Autumn Excursions:

City Walking Tour

The walking tour takes you around all the cultural, spiritual and historical sights. Start with a visit to Choijin Lama Buddhist Monastery to experience the amazing Buddhist morning chanting. You'll then visit two of the best museums in the national history museum and fine art museum to admire the many displays of authentic Mongolian artefacts and wonderful artistry.

Visit the local shops and buy art, antiques and cashmere; the day is completed with an incredible traditional Mongolian folk dance with vibrant costumes and music to finish a day immersed in Mongolian culture.

Trip to Terelj National Park: One night in a ger

See the beautiful changing nature of Terelj National Park, Mongolia's most famous national park. This exciting two-day tour gives you the ultimate experience of Mongolian life, nature and culture. You'll head off to Terelj National park to the ger camp where you can settle in to the incredible surroundings and relax with lunch. You'll have a chance to explore the park and wander in the hills of wild flowers, see incredible rock formations and the local meditation center. You'll get to enjoy dinner in the ger camp before settling in for the night.

If you want to find out more about Ulan-Bator, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to St Petersburg: Autumn
19
June
2018

Seasonal Guide to St Petersburg: Autumn

Want to visit St Petersburg but not sure when`s the best time to make the journey? Well it all depends what you want to do while you`re there! Real Russia is here to help with our seasonal guide to St Petersburg so you can make the most of your time whenever you go.

Autumn is a short season in St Petersburg and is definitely time to start wrapping up. After the festivals and celebrations of summer, autumn becomes slightly more focused as everyone prepares for the long winter.

If you're lucky you'll experience ‘babe leto’ or grandmothers summer which brings an unseasonable week of warm to the city.

You'll need to make sure you pack a little warmer, and if you plan on exploring the city by foot, which we would recommend because of the gorgeous changing colours, make sure your shoes are waterproof!

What should I do?

Autumn is an extremely beautiful season to visit with the parks in striking autumnal colours and the last flowers before winter highlighting the beauty of the city. This is when the imperial palaces and parks are considered at their best, with their extensive landscape gardens a sea of vibrant reds and rich brows. It's also a quieter time to visit after summer.

Autumn is also the start of the city's cultural season after the August hiatus, and there are always a number of exciting premiers and openings.

Best Autumn Excursions:

The Pavlovsk Palace

The Pavlovsk Palace is a stunning palace and park, a summer residence to Russian Emperor Paul I, but visiting in autumn gives visitors the chance to see the landscaped gardens as they change colour. The landscape park is one of the largest in Europe, covering in 600 hectares with beautiful greenery which is glorious in the sunshine. Inside the palace itself, the collections were inspired by the journey of its owners through Europe in 1781 and the ravishingly beautiful private rooms of Empress Maria Federovna, which were decorated by Quarenghi and Voronikhin, are again open to the public.

City Tour at Night

Bundle up warm and take in the autumnal beauty of St Petersburg glimmering in the moonlight. The Nevsky Prospekt is busy at all times and comes to life especially at night with spirit and colour. The Prospekt takes you past some of the most historic sights as it runs from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railways station up to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery.

If you want to find out more about St Petersburg, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here.

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to Beijing: Autumn
5
June
2018

Seasonal Guide to Beijing: Autumn

Autumn is a short season, lasting only September to November. For many people, it is the most beautiful and pleasant time to visit Beijing.

Autumn is a short season lasting only from September to November, though there are some weather changes it tends to stay very comfortable. For a lot of people, this is the msot beautiful and pleasant time to visit Beijing.

What is there to do?

This is the season where leaves will change colour making for a vibrant landscape of rich reds and oranges. It's recommended seeing the red leaves at Fragrant Hall or taking a picnic lunch in one of Beijing's lovely city parks and gardens.

It's also a great season to cycle as the weather will be less opressive than it is during the summer months, and in Beijing you'll never struggle to find somewhere to rent a bike!

As the temperatures become cooler and tourist season has ended it's a great chance to climb the Great Wall, where it will be less busy than in summer. Be aware though, the Great Wall is known as one of the ‘new Seven Wonders of he World’ so it is never that quiet. We recommend going as early in the morning as possible to try and beat the rush or visiting a section of the wall slightly further outside Beijing.

Best Autumn Excursions:

Mutianyu Great Wall Tour

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall which is further from Beijing and its most popular section at Badaling. This means you'll get to experience the sights and features in a much quieter, less crowded section of the wall giving you more time to take in the views and admire the wall and its breathtaking views.

Hangzhou Classic Day Tour

This tour will take you to the amazing town of Hangzhou as you visit Lingyin temple, Dragon Wall Green Tea plantation and enjoy a scenic West Lake Cruise. The West Lake is thought to be one of the most beautiful sights in Hangzhou, sheltered on three sides by hills that create serene and impressive views. It's a perfect chance to take in nature as the season's change.

If you want to find out more about Beijing, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide hereor view our excursions page here.

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to Moscow: Autumn
21
May
2018

Seasonal Guide to Moscow: Autumn

Want to visit Moscow but not sure when`s the best time to make the journey? Well it all depends what you want to do while you`re there! Real Russia is here to help with our seasonal guide to Moscow so you can make the most of your time whenever you go.

Autumn beings around mid-September and while temperatures do start to drop, it's also the start of Moscow's cultural season with a rush of theatre premiers and openings after the summer hiatus.

Late eptember may bring a week or so of ‘babe leto’ which means ‘grandmother's summer’, when Moscow's parks are particularly beautiful. By October though, the temperature starts to drop dramatically and the first snows will be on their way. The autumn snows rarely settle so it's advised to bring a good pair of boots to combat the slush.

What should I do?

Join the celebrations on September 7th as Moscow celebrates the founding of the city, Moscow turns into one big part with free concerts and fireworks across the city.

The changing of the season is always a chance to see the changing landscape of a city with the park's in a blaze of colour. It's a great chance to visit the botanical gardens and perhaps some of the national parks like Losinv Ostrov.

Autumn is a great chance to enjoy the harvest and the seasonal bounty they offer. You'll find the markets filled with berries, mushrooms, and a cornucopia of fragrant fruits and vegetables. The variety of produce on offer is a gourmet dream and the vibrancy and range of the markets will appeal to those who love photography.

Best Autumn Excursions:

Traditional meal with a Russian family

Take advantage of the Autumn harvest and enjoy a traditional meal with a Russian family, it's a great chance to learn about authentic cooking dishes and methods whilst learning about Russian life from locals. It's a great chance to find out more about the city from the people who live there daily.

Kolomenskoe Park

Kolomenskoe Park is surrounded by beautiful nature and the vibrancy of the changing autumnal leaves make for a striking sight. The park introduces the unique wooden architecture of Moscow and is steeped in ancient history with archaeological traces dating back over 2,500 years. The park is right on the banks of the river making it a peaceful spot to enjoy the sights.

If you want to find out more about Moscow, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here.

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to St Petersburg: Summer
19
May
2018

Seasonal Guide to St Petersburg: Summer

Want to visit St Petersburg but not sure when`s the best time to make the journey? Well it all depends what you want to do while you`re there! Real Russia is here to help with our seasonal guide to St Petersburg so you can make the most of your time whenever you go.

St Petersburg's famous White Nights, which lasts from the end of May until Mid-July, are a truly legendary experience. Because of St Petersburg's northern location, the sun does not fully set and the city never truly reaches night. This constant brightness creates a vibrant feeling in St Petersburg and the streets are alive with people constantly. This is when the city nightlife is at its most active and there are also a number of festivals and events.

Summer is definitely tourist season so popular sights and attractions will be extremely crowded, make sure to book as much in advance as possible. Towards the end of June many sights and experiences will be taking their annual break until September so be prepared to factor this in.

What should I do?

You can't visit at this time of year without making the most of the White Nights festival, a particular high point is the Stars of the White Night festival which is a fantastic classical music festival. It's attended by a host of international stars and local talent from the opera and ballet companies of the Mariinsky Theatre. There is also the international musical olympus festival, a unique event which gathers together young up and coming musicians with well-known performers.

Summer is the perfect time to visit the Tsarist palaces, the famous fountains at Peterhof, which are officially turned on in June, and admire the glorious parks in Pushkin and Pavlovsk.

Be aware though, these are very popular attractions so if you don't like crowds you may want to try and visit very early in the morning.

Best Summer Excursions:

White Night Bike Tour

Ride through the moonlit skies of Belye Nochi and see St Petersburg in all its majesty. During the white nights, the palace parks, rivers and elegant canals glisten as the bright lights of Belye Nochi shroud the magnificent city. Cycle through the never ending sunset, passing iconic sights your guide will tell you about.

Palace and Gardens of Pavlovsk and Pushkin

Travel to both Pushkin and Pavlovsk and see the sights of the quaint suburbs of St Petersburg. You'll get to admire the sights on the way to Pushkin as you learn about the history of Tsarskoselskiy ensemble and the tragic destiny of Ekaterininskiy Palace under fascist occupation. When you reach Pushkin, you'll visit one of the most magnificent monuments of Baroque architecture, Ekaterininskiy Palace.

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to Beijing: Summer
5
May
2018

Seasonal Guide to Beijing: Summer

Summer months in Beijing are long and hot, with the exception of the hilly areas, which get more shade, the average temperature is above 24 degrees celsius. The hottest it has ever been is 34 degrees celsius.

We'd recommend bringing sun hats, a fan and a water bottle anywhere you go as if you're not used to these temperatures they can be hard to deal with.

Summer is peak tourist season so hotels will typically raise rates and tourist attractions like the Great Wall will be especially busy.

What is there to do?

The mountainous areas, like Jingdong Grand Canyon and Chuandixia village near Beijing's suburbs offer scenic views and interesting culture as well as some coolness to help escape the Summer heat. Another way to keep cool and take in the Beijing sights is a leisurely boat ride on Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace, or riding rickshaws to visit Hutons (traditional neighbourhoods).

Best Summer Excursions:

Chuandixia Ancient Village Day Trip

The trip to Chuandixia is a chance to see the incredible history of a village dating back to the Ming Dynasty. It is decorated with over 500 unique courtyard homes owned by 70 families.

You can visit temples left as historic relics between the houses. Many of the homes, which feature intricate wood, stone and tile craving, have been converted into inns offering food and places to sleep to travellers. You'll be immersed in the beauty within the paved paths and winding staircases surrounded by awe inspiring mountains and gorgeous scenery.

HuTong tour with Rickshaw

Beijing is famous for its rickshaws so why not take one to old Beijing on a local tour, which includes visits to the local areas to meet locals, visit Prince Gong's Palace and the Drum Tower.

It offers an incredible chance to see Chinese architecture, history and culture.

If you want to find out more about Beijing, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here.

Real Russia Blog

Seasonal Guide to Moscow: Summer
4
May
2018

Seasonal Guide to Moscow: Summer

Want to visit Moscow but not sure when`s the best time to make the journey? Well it all depends what you want to do while you`re there! Real Russia is here to help with our seasonal guide to Moscowso you can make the most of your time whenever you go.

Moscow is a whole new city in the summer, from the beginning of June onwards the temperatures rise into the low thirties. Many locals will tend to take this chance to get out of the city either vacationing or spending weekends at their dacha, which is a second or seasonal home.

A lot of theatres tend to close for the season or will go on tour although there are shows prepared for the tourist season.

The summer months are a great chance to visit the Golden Ring and other attractions surrounding Moscow. If you do go exploring in the countryside, make sure to bring insect repellent!

What should I do?

As Summer tends to be a little more tourist focused in the city it's a great chance to see the arena surrounding Moscow, such as the Golden Ring which is one of Russia's most beautiful interesting areas.

With the flowers in full bloom, it's a great time to visit Moscow's many beautiful parks and gardens such as the Hermitage Garden and Sokolniki Park.

Best Summer Excursions:

3 day Golden Ring Tour

The Golden Ring tour will show you round the historical Golden Ring, Vladimir, Suzdal, Yaroslavl, Orstov, Veliky and Sergiev Posad. It is a chance to visit and explore a variety of UNESCO heritage sights, learn about many historical Russian towns, and you can visit the largest Orthodox monastery in Russia.

You'll feel like you're in a fairy tale with its intricate stately architecture, beautiful coloured onion domes and breath-taking natural scenery.

Relaxing River Cruise on Radisson Boat

Take the chance to cool down and relax taking a beautiful sightseeing tour along the serene Moskva river aboard the luxurious double decker Radisson river boat. From the view of the floating bridge of the park Zaryadie to the scenic landscape of the Sparrow Hills, you'll miss nothing on this spectacular cruise.

If you want to find out more about Moscow, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here.