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 Post subject: Exploring Russia’s Wilderness
Post Number:#1  PostPosted: 01 Jun 2011 05:46 
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Exploring Russia’s Wilderness

Few places offer such immense diversity when it comes to traveling as Russia, the world’s biggest country with wild forests, magnificent mountain ranges, grass steppes and deep blue seas stretching for thousands of miles in every direction.

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The Russian wilderness - full of potential. Courtesy of Ted Wood

The Russian interior is a wilderness just waiting for the world to discover it. The only problem is, with its limited infrastructure, much of it remains out of reach.

According to the travel portal Travel.ru., just 2.1 million tourists visited Russia last year. To put that into perspective, Belgium, one of Europe’s smallest nations, received substantially more visitors. Also, that figure is six times less than the number of Russian tourists jetting off to foreign shores.

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Russia's infrastructure is severely lacking to say the least. Courtesy of onesecbeforethedub

“Russia has so much potential, with its wildlife and its diversity, but sadly investors and travelers are put off by the lack of infrastructure and transport,” explains tour operator Neil McGowan, who runs companies that organize travel to Russia.

But that doesn’t mean that travel to Russia’s interior is impossible. Far from it. Where there is a will to explore, there is always a way, but be warned, for things might get a little rough from time to time.

One of the wilder destinations deep in Russian territory is the little-known republic of Tuva, located past the Urals in Asian Russia, where the country borders with Mongolia.

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A boy in Tuva national dress. Courtesy of randomix

Tuva, with its distinct national identity, its culture, dress, language and its quite unique ‘throat singing’ spectacle, is destination that attracts a surprising number of curious western visitors.

As well as the cultural aspect, Tuva offers breathtaking scenery, sites with the hidden remains of wooly mammoths, camel rides and communities of Russian Orthodox Old Believers and Buddhist Monks. Tuva is truly a unique, unspoilt destination.

Another great place for adventurous travelers is the Altai Republic, which borders China and Kazakhstan in Central Asia, a place that is about as close to the center of the Earth as it’s possible to be.

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Horse riding in Altai is a mesmorizing experience. Courtesy of onesecbeforethedub

However, both destinations still have their infrastructure problems. As Elena Bitochkina of the Altaiteam travel operator explains, “It varies a lot. In some places you may come across super-expensive, all inclusive hotels, while in other spots all there is are small houses or home stays, and maybe not even that.”

Still, the republic of Altai does at least have an air link, with regular flights between Moscow and Barnaul, one of its biggest cities, and so as we say, it’s not out of reach.

Altai offers some memorable moments, such as the most incredible horse rides you will ever experience, as well as other excursions that are simply mind blowing – rafting, kayaking, cycling and hiking – experiences that provide travelers with the chance to truly get out and explore one of the most remote lands in the world.

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Traditional homes in Altai. Courtesy of Ted Wood

Russia’s leaders keep promising to improve the country’s infrastructure and make tourism more accessible, but then in the same breath they make life incredibly difficult for developers, with some of the strictest rules and regulations in the world. We are left to wonder if the Russian government truly cares about developing its tourist industry or not.

We can safely say that the opening up of Russia to mass tourism is a long way off. But at the same time, maybe that’s not such a bad thing for those seeking a real adventure.

Published on Jun 01, 2011 by Mike Wheatley


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