A visit to Russia today is an encounter with an undiscovered land.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union visitors have a fresh opportunity to explore a vast array of exciting and ancient cultures, from the glittering imperial Russia of St. Petersburg to the timeless village life of Siberia and Irkutsk. One of the most notable features of present day Russia is a renewed celebration of the wealth of its past and its potential for the future. Throwing off the blanket of communist uniformity, Russia today is a nation of enormous diversity and tremendous vitality. It is as if the cultural traditions of a century ago have re-awakened with a newfound strength - ancient cathedrals are being rebuilt and restored, colorful markets hum with activity once again and literature and the arts are quickly regaining the creative renown they enjoyed decades ago. A new Russia is now in full bloom.
For most westerners, Russia is associated with its European cities--Moscow, St. Petersburg and Murmansk. This is the heartland of Imperial Russia, and these great and ancient cities often become the focus for most tourists. However there is much more to Russia, a country that spans eleven time zones and two continents, ending less than 50 miles from North America. Within this vast expanse lie the largest freshwater lake in the world, rivers and forests teeming with fish and wildlife, awe inspiring volcanos, and towering mountains. Russia is the largest country on earth, with enormous tracts of land that have been opened to travellers only in the last few years.
Just as Russia's rich cultural heritage has once more come to life, its natural heritage too is a new country waiting to be discovered.