The erstwhile Soviet Union broke up into 15 different republics in the 1990s. Yet Russia had so much area of its own that it is still the largest country in the world. More area means more temperature zones, more diverse environments and lifestyles, diverse cities. It’s just a shame that a large chunk of travellers just head to Moscow and St. Petersburg and leave their Russian experience at that point.
Truth be told, Russia is more than a snowy barren winter wonderland. There are immense sites with historicstructures and natural wonders to keep you exploring. And the best part is that these weekend getaways are hardly crowded, so no city rushes and urban jungle noises to be found here, calm,blissful vibes only. As most of the foreign tourists flying high would need to land at St. Petersburg or Moscow, here we have fixed a few getaways that can be reached easily from St. Petersburg.
Top 5 Most Popular Weekend Getaways from Saint Petersburg, Russia
A major plan for tourists heading to Russian sites is to have a taste of the rich nature that is present in the temperatures of these cold zones. And Ruskeala is all about that nature. It is such a popular location for visitors that not only Russia but the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Finland and Sweden through a tourist route called Blue Highway. There’s an open, widespread park called the Ruskeala Park which is actually a quarry site turned park. Nearby are small streams and cascades carrying water downwards,and they make for brilliant photographs.
Distance from St. Petersburg: 185 miles (4 hours 30 minutes)
Best time to visit: May to July
Places to stay: Gostevoi Complex Fortuna, Soul Camp, Hotel Ruskeala.
A town of a meager twenty thousand inhabitants, Sortavala would be a source of historical interest as it houses a number of museums and historical monuments. To have a magnificent view of the natural beauty of the place, head to the Vakkosalmi Park and climb a hill. The northern lights (Aurora borealis) play an orchestrated show of harmony in the night skies,and it will just leave you hypnotized.
Another interesting climb is at the Paaso Mountain at Sortavala. It would take an hour or so for the tiresome ascent,but the view makes every minute worth. The buildings that can give you a glimpse from the past include the Museum of Northern Ladoga and a memorial with a statue honoring Russia’s beloved son and the epitome of Socialism, Vladimir Ulyanov better knows to us as Lenin.
Distance from St. Petersburg: 167 miles (4 hours)
Best time to visit: November-December
Places to stay: Holiday Home Tihotut, Hotel Sortavala and Guest House Rantatalo.
Novgorod has been called the “Birthplace of Russia” by historians and travellers. This city is so important that it is also referred to as Novgorod, the great. It is of strategic importance too as it lies on a highway connecting the other main cities in Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg. A symbol of the city is the Kremlin fortress back from the 11th century which has now turned into a popular attraction along with churches like St. Nicholas Cathedral (the Kremlin itself has three churches in its vicinity).
It is one of the few World Heritage Sites to be recognized by the UNESCO in Russia. From colossal cathedrals to lavish palaces, the city got a unique aura and transported you back in the time when the Tsars ruled Russia. Another different sight to see is the Wooden Architecture museum at Vitoslavlitsi which was established in the 1960s. Not only artefacts, but it has also displayed whole structures made out of wood like workplaces and churches. History had taken an ugly turn when Hitler’s Nazi forces blew up some buildings in districts in Novgorod. Nevertheless, they had been and are still being restored by the government.
Distance from St. Petersburg: 120 miles (3 hours)
Best time to visit: May to September
Places to stay:Apartment Moskvichka, Park Inn Velikiy Novgorod, Hotel Hanza and Alyans Guest House.
Vyborg has a magical feel to it for it appears as the stage where a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale can be set up. The centre of attraction is the Vyborg Castle built in the 13th century. The castle along with the tall Olaf tower wasbuilt by the Swedish and then later reconstructed by the Tsarists in the 19th century. Once thesnow falls and sets on the fortifications and castles, white seems to be every traveller’sfavourite hue.
This settlement has had an interesting story of foreign rule. Once in the control of Finland, Vyborg lies at a small distance from St. Petersburg and one can have a full visit in a day or two. The town has a very archaic ambience,and if the skies are slightly grey and dark, it adds to a splendid Gothic vibe.
There are also some spots which have been turned into memorials or pubs, places where Vladimir Lenin had resided during the two significant events that shaped Russia: the February Revolution and October Revolution. Vyborg might be one of the finest remnants that connect Russia to its tumultuous past.
Distance from St. Petersburg: 85 miles (2 hours)
Best time to visit: May to August
Places to stay: Victoria Hotel, Viking Hotel, Letuchaya Mysh and Hotel Druhzba.
So there were a few significant places near St. Petersburg where you can pay a visit for slowing down time and relaxing and finding adventure at the same time. Most of the regions mentioned above also reflect a simple, carefree lifestyle which adds to the ambience.
Next time when in Russia, do not be satisfied with a Kremlin snow globe and some vodka shots, explore the landscape and create new memories that can be cherished later whenever you hear the word “Russia” or “St. Petersburg”. Here’s to new travels and new cultures! Cheers! Or as the Russians say NASDAROVJE!!