Russia tours for seniors
As the world’s largest country, Russia has everything you might want in a travel destination, from historic cities of glittering castles and ornate churches to active volcanoes and the rich mystery of the under-explored Siberia. As a transcontinental country, straddling Europe and North Asia, the variance in culture and landscape across Russia is vast and you can feel as if you’re visiting multiple smaller countries rather than one large one. However, this is part of Russia’s allure and the reason Winston Churchill once described it as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’.
The west of Russia offers two amazing cities to explore: St Petersburg and Moscow. These should be on the bucket list of every keen traveller, bursting at the seams with history, culture and energy with a treasure trove of monumental sights to visit. In Moscow, discover the beating heart of the city at the Kremlin and Red Square and admire the majesty of St Basil’s Cathedral. Take in the reminders of the Soviet Union scattered across the city and discover more about Soviet-era Russia at one of the many fascinating museums. St Petersburg offers grandeur and grace with its imperial palaces and striking plazas. Visit Peterhof, the Winter Palace and the extraordinary Church on Spilled Blood and be transported back to the time of the Romanovs. Cruise down Nevsky Prospekt, Russia’s most famous street, and admire Kazan Cathedral and Stroganov Palace.
Outside of these dazzling Russia cities, you will find pristine beaches hugging the Gulf of Finland, quaint rural villages of gingerbread houses and tiny churches and sublime natural beauty. You can take the world-renowned Trans-Siberian Rail or cruise between cities. From the River Volga and Lake Baikal to the Caucasus Mountains and the Altai Republic, there is plenty in the way of great outdoors. For adventurers, there is skiing, hiking, white-water rafting and more on offer. One thing is for sure: if you’re interested in discovering more about Russia’s history, culture, architecture, food or landscape, the best way is to see it all for yourself. You’re in for a memorable travel experience, we guarantee that.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Because of the (at times) poor road system and the vast distances between cities, rail is often the best way to travel in Russia. Public transport in cities is comprehensive and cheap, and some of the more palatial stations in Moscow and St Petersburg are tourist attractions in their own right!
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Environment, & Weather
Russia has a total area of 17, 098, 242 sq km, spanning spans almost half the globe (and two continents) from east to west and about 4,000 kms from north to south. As a result, Russia’s terrain and climate is diverse and varied. You will find stretches of tundra, dessert, dense forests, mountain ranges, lakes and rivers throughout the country.
Generally, the summers are warm to hot and the winters are cold, sometimes freezing depending where you are. You will find the mildest climate along the Baltic coast but Siberia is known for its extreme climate with very cold winters and short but hot summers. The northeastern areas around the Black Sea have much milder winters but experience heavy rainfall all year round. The most important point about Russia’s climate is that it depends where you are and when you are there.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
There are 29 World Heritage Sites in Russia. 20 of these are in Europe and 9 are in Asia. 18 of the 29 are cultural sites and 11 are natural. You can find the full list here
Some of the sites include:
Lake Baikal – the oldest and deepest lake in the world being 25 million years old and 1700m deep. It is home to some of world’s most unusual freshwater faunas and has been invaluable to the development of evolutionary science.
Ferapontov Monastery – an incredibly well-preserved monastery in northern Russia that acts as an example of a Russian Orthodox monastic complex from the 15th-17th centuries.
Festivals & Events
Russian festivals are mostly based around religion, music, dance, food and drink or a mixture of all of these elements. To kick off the year, Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 7 January and the evening of the 6th. Many people attend mass and come together to share a ‘holy supper’. On the 25 January, the country celebrates Tatyana’s Day or Russian Students’ Day to commemorate the establishment of Moscow State University. Seven weeks before Easter, the week-long Maslenitsa festivities take place. This is known as Russia’s pancake week and combines the Pagan tradition of marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring with the Christian tradition of merrymaking before Lent. Victory Day, celebrated 9 May, marks the end of World War II and impressive celebrations take place in Red Square with military marching and fireworks. In early November, Russians celebrate the communist revolution of 1917/1918, known as the Day of Accord and Reconciliation, with a big parade in Moscow.
People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution by Orlando Figes
Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum
The Last of the Tsars by Robert Service
Russian Stories edited by Christopher Keller
Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait by Bathsheba Demuth
Eating & Drinking
Russia’s size and diversity means that the country’s cuisine is full of variety and very much region-dependent. However, the country is known for its hearty and festive cooking and love of vodka.
The cold weather can last up to nine months in certain areas of the country which means that people will prepare some of their winter food in advance. This means preserved foods like pickled vegetables, jams and chutneys and salted, smoked or dried fish and meat feature prominently.
Soups and stews are also popular. Borchst is a purple soup made of meat and vegetables that usually include potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, garlic, and beetroot. It is served hot or cold with a dollop of sour cream.
Breads and pastries are also well-loved. There are blinis, Russian pancakes, dumplings such as pelmeni and varenniki and little pies known as pirozhki to try.
Popular desserts include medovik, a cake made up of 15 layers of ginger and cinnamon spiced honeyed pastry, with sweetened sour cream and condensed milk sandwiched in between each layer, and praniki, a type of Russian gingerbread.
If you’re not keen on straight vodka, try a Moscow Mule, which is ginger beer, vodka and lime.
Health & Safety
While much of Russia is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Also, you will often see signs warning of pickpockets in areas popular with tourists, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Russia uses 220 volt with two round pins, commonly used in Europe.
Russia has 11 time zones, the most for a single country. Moscow is on Moscow Standard Time (+3). The nation does not observe daylight saving time.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. It’s customary to tip 10-15% of the bill at restaurants. It’s polite to round a bill up to the nearest whole figure or leave the change when buying drinks.
Internet access is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Russia. Many providers will offer a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Articles about Russia published by Odyssey Traveller
- Trans-Siberian Railway History
- Trans-Siberian Railway travel advice
- Eight Amazing Rail Journeys
- Trans-Siberian Landscapes and Wildlife
- Early Russian History and its Key Figures
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Russia
Responsible travel tips for Russia
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of Russian ruble in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.