Indulge in adventures of a lifetime in the lap of Russia’s best destinations
A prestigious travel company quenching the thirst of wanderers and adventure-seekers from different parts of the world, Discovery Russia combines adventure and cultural tours to Russia (with themed tours covering several different categories) with the Baltics, Scandinavia, and Central Asia to create comprehensive tailored travel packages.
With an eye for detail when it comes to selecting locations and a zest for providing only the best of experiences—even in tough locations, Discovery Russia provides its travelers experienced guides, local help, safety measures and intelligently birthed packages for experiences that will never be forgotten!
What would you consider the top attraction driving tourists to Russia? We realize this might be a very tough question when talking about the largest country in the world.
The thing is, Russia has it all — from the oldest Ural mountains and the world’s deepest Lake Baikal in Siberia to UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Golden Ring, the indigenous cultures of Russian North, Yakutia & Altai; and from the world’s top bear viewing at Kamchatka Peninsula to the treasures of ancient Moscow — the Soviet empire’s capital and, of course, St. Petersburg, which is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Russia blends an amazing number of European and Asian, large and small nations into the one-of-a-kind mix the world knows as “Russians”.
Where would you personally recommend tourists to visit?
Personally, my first pick would be the Altai mountains. I was there for the first time nearly 20 years ago and was completely blown away by its amazing natural beauty. There is something very special in the atmosphere and ambiance these mountains behold. I’m an experienced skier and love mountains, having also lived in Switzerland for a few years. I’ve been to many famous mountains across the globe, but I must admit that nothing beats Altai’s fragile-yet-surreal and pristine beauty which instills in you a sense of omnipresence. I’m not religious, but in Altai, I feel the power of forces beyond human understanding. So I travel there every 2-3 years as for me it is a place of power and tranquility. Also, it is always very close — by Russian standards — to the largest in the world Lake Baikal. So my personal choice would be our great package “The Best of Siberia: Altai & Baikal”.
What is your favorite location to spend your weekends?
It would be Plyos. This neat little town belongs to a famous “Golden Ring” collection of ancient towns around Moscow. It was a place that inspired many famous Russian painters, a lot of precious and equally famous Russian masterpieces were created here. It’s been a pleasure to watch this fabulous location to grow as a tourist destination in recent years. Cozy hotels have appeared, and we now have good places to accommodate our travelers for a night or two. 10 years ago, it was a problem, we literally had nowhere to stay!
Which adventures will you call the most popular among your tourists — hiking, kayaking, camping, or something else?
The Trans-Siberian or Trans Mongolian hop-on/hop-off tour is the ultimate adventure. It has so much more excitement than anything else and still, it has the unbeatable spirit of adventure. When you spend a night in a ger camp in Mongolia and in 2 days, you find yourself at the observation point of Lake Baikal — or viewing the world’s largest Lenin’s head in Ulan Ude — or watching brown bears in Siberian taiga; or ascending the Great Wall in Beijing, you know it’s as fun as it can get. I recommend traveling by train, reaching from Helsinki, Paris or St Petersburg to Vladivostok, or Hong Kong by land, not by plane so you can explore the local cultures, see how it is all interconnected, how one land, nation and country change another one. It is an amazing experience. Besides, it is very safe and secure.
Which type of sports activities are the most popular? Are there any extreme sports worth noting?
As I said, Russia has it all and you can do literally anything. Above all, we love heli-ski in Kamchatka. Here you can ski on a real, active volcano with guaranteed snow coverage! With an off-piste skiing area the size of Switzerland, over 15,000 sq. kilometers, picturesque fjords of the ocean coastline, glaciers at volcano tops and energizing hot springs, Kamchatka is a destination unlike any other. The Kamchatka experience is always incomparable. You will discover pristine slopes covered with fresh snow as you ski down the valley from a volcano top. And there are no lines or waiting time when we use a famous MI-8 helicopter! The unique scenery of active volcanoes, endless white Russian winter, and the Pacific Ocean await you on the Kamchatka Peninsula heli-skiing adventure. Ski on a real, active volcano with guaranteed snow coverage, thanks to the huge water masses of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk, both of which bring constant storms — and snow. However, take note that this adventure is not one for beginners. We only accept serious riders. Safety over everything!
What are the specialties of the local cuisines there? Which dishes would you recommend as worth traveling for? Are there any restaurants you consider worth a recommendation?
With over 200 local cultures, Russia is yet not uncovered as a foody destination. It will take too long to name all the great local spots here, so I’ll just say we provide our travelers with a “to-eat” list for any destination they are visiting.
When would you recommend travelers to embark on their adventure here? What are the seasonal activities of the region?
I would say come here in winter. Winter is a nice time to go to Russia and see it as described in Leo Tolstoy’s famous novels. Take a deep breath and just do it. Don’t be afraid of the coldness. Once, our travelers reached the Pole of Cole (-67 Celsius) in January and survived. And they were traveling with kids! The Pole of Cold is in Yakutia, by the way. For Winter Trans-Siberian, just take usual ski gear, that is enough and recommended by our travelers. The experience you’ll get will be unique. Summer is short and lasts for the three months — from June to August. You should be aware of the important national holidays: New Year 1-10 January, the pretty weird Old New Year on 13 January, May 1-9 (Victory Day), 12 June (Russia Day), and 4-8 November (National Union Day). It can be crowded sometimes, but you will have a chance to participate in some great events with the locals around the holidays.
Could you tell us about your favorite adventure?
It was a Snowmobile tour to Manpupuner — the Seventh Wonder of Russia. I came across legendary stone idols, which are a hundred times older than Stonehenge. In early times, only the local shamans could visit this sacred mountain plateau where these 40-meters stone columns have been standing for 200 million years. The Snowmobile safari journey across the Russian Arctic was as thrilling as it could get for me. Just google the images and you will understand what I am talking about.
What would you say is the most notable experience you’ve ever planned?
It would be our most loved and popular Le Grand Trans Mongolian 27 days adventure, which was from Beijing to St Petersburg. We travel a bit around China, explore Mongolia, have so many great activities planned in Siberia, Ural mountains, in Central Russia before we reach Moscow, discover the famous Golden Ring of Russia and finish our epic journey in St Petersburg. Those who survive (LOL) continue to the Baltic States of Scandinavia. Discovery Russia can manage it all.
For how long have you been a travel agent? Why are your services different from other travel agencies out there?
I’m in the travel business for nearly 15 years now. We specialize in tours to Russia and neighboring countries. We operate in Mongolia and China as parts of our great Trans Mongolian train journeys; we arrange tours in the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Ukraine, Caucasus, and Middle Asia. Our experience-based tours are constantly developed by the leading destination experts to provide more value to our travelers. Yet, we are Australian-owned and based business so your journey with us is safe and sound. We operate in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong at local times, this is very convenient for our travelers. We have 24/7 online chat and phone pre-tour support; destination expert is always available to address your questions or provide professional expert advice. While traveling with Discovery Russia, you have a 24/7 English-speaking personal tour manager during the trip. I think it’s the comprehensive nature of our services that makes us more detail and quality oriented.
What areas of your business are performing well at the moment and why?
The Trans-Siberian and Trans Mongolian train tours are doing fantastic, and we’re getting more and more reservations for the White Xmas in Russia as a part of our “The Snow Empire” concept. We do believe that international travelers underestimate the glory of the Russian winter and how many amazing travel options it brings. So, we’re actively promoting winter tours.
What do you think is the one aspect of your business that contributed to your success the most?
Our tours have more inclusions than many lookalikes, there are no hidden costs, we provide bilingual escort & professional tour directors on group tours, we can tailor your trip even if you join one of our set group departures and you can combine as many countries as you wish into one hassle-free journey. Does it sound like I totally love Discovery Russia? It is so!
What travel trends did you notice recently?
People like to combine Russia with other Post-Soviet or Eastern European countries. Russia and Scandinavia, Russia and Ukraine and Poland, Russia and Caucasus and so on and so on. We see inquiries for 2022 and it is truly inspiring. People are confident about going to Russia in 3 years. This is what comes to mind.
What are the biggest challenges of working in an adventure travel field?
We are fully responsible for the trip’s outcome. In Russia and post-Soviet countries, you must choose your local vendors very carefully so you do not find yourself in a position when you have a group ready to depart from one point in the middle of nowhere to another point not closer to civilization, and you do not have a van and a driver. Because there is no fuel in the village. Or the last van is broken. And so on and so on. If the only boat available to travel from Khatanga to Tsvetkov Cape gets broken, it does not matter how much you can pay for this trip. There is no other boat. And a broken engine can be sourced 2000 km to the south in Krasnoyarsk. And there are no flights for the next few days due to bad weather. These are the daily routine challenges when it comes to Russian adventure travels, this is what we must think about before we accept reservations on this trip.
What future do you think travel agents in Russia will have, bearing in mind the growing popularity of online travel?
Russia will never be the “let’s go there tomorrow” destination. I would love to see things changing, but there are visa restrictions, language barriers, humans’ prejudice that make people think Russia is a tough place to be. Well, in many ways, it actually is. But this is what we at Discovery Russia do every day. We make Russia makeable for everyone. Expertise and local knowledge are the things you cannot source online. It is like sewing shoes or baking bread. You definitely can study online and do it yourself. But it is such a waste of the most precious asset, the time! If you want to get most of your 2-3-week holidays, if you want it to be a holiday and not a fight with windmills, we are 24/7 available for you.