To Vladivostok to the sea — tourists refocus on Primorye and Sakhalin

Not obvious summer holiday options in Russia

“A tough year”, this is how tour operators characterise this holiday season: many popular European resorts closed or became uncomfortable in terms of logistics and currency exchange because of the special operation in Ukraine. Those who are not strapped for cash can now fly to Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand. The middle class will habitually choose Turkey and the Arab Emirates, those who aren’t attracted by foreign countries will Sochi and Abkhazia. One will have to go by train or bus to other Russian resort cities because the closure of airports. As Realnoe Vremya was told by tour operators, this summer many Tatarstan residents choose not obvious summer holiday destinations, for instance, Primorye or Sakhalin.

Welcome to the Caspian

Our people associate their holiday with sea, especially those who travel with children, thinks Director General of Inteltour Kazan tour agency Liliya Savelyeva. She assumes that “a tough year” awaits the tourism sector because of the closure of most habitual destinations, both inside the country and abroad.

“Those who have money can fly to Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand. They all are open, but the flight is very pricey. For the middle class, there is Turkey and the Arab Emirates, Sochi and its neighbour Abkhazia in Russia, however, prices for everything have gone up there too. In general there aren’t really a lot of places to go, there isn’t much choice,” the director of Inteltour Kazan is pessimistic.

Director of Travel and Work Yulia Talanova, in contrast, supposes that Russia has a lot of interesting places for travel if we challenge the stereotype that only a trip to the sea can be considered a real holiday. Examining tour agencies’ offers, Realnoe Vremya and experts made a list of unpopular places tour operators offer and that Tatarstan tourists became interested in.

The Caspian Sea remains underestimated. Though there have recently appeared a lot of beach holiday options. Regular flights from Kazan to Baku resumed on 15 June. The capital of Azerbaijan has more than 800 hotels, so tourists will easily choose any suiting their taste and pocket. Bathing and sunbaths can be combined with excursions to historical sightseeing points of one of the ancient Eastern cities and shopping in huge malls comparable with the shopping centres of leading European cities. The price is from 105,000 rubles for two people for six nights.

One can swim in the Caspian Sea staying in Russia — welcome to Dagestan resorts. There is a direct flights from Kazan to Makhachkala, it is possible to get there by train too. Tour agencies also offer charter flights from Moscow. A beach holiday in Dagestan can be diversified with an excursion to Europe’s deepest canyon Sulak — a real gem of Dagestan. The average tour price for seven nights is 41-45,000 rubles.

Baltic Sea and Primorye

If Kaliningrad became quite a popular site for trips, a holiday in the Baltic Sea in the Curonian Spit or in Svetlogorsk is still exotica. Yes, the temperature for swimming becomes appropriate only by late June, but fresh water of the Curonian Bay gets warm by late May already. Curonian Spit beaches are considered the best in Russia due to its clean white fine sand along the peninsula, while Svetlogorsk became the first Russia city included to Cittaslow association, which means a high living standard thanks to a slow pace and an atmosphere of calmness and quietness. The locals start working at 10-11 in the morning and it get quiet in the city by 20.00.

A flight to Kaliningrad with accommodation in a three-star hotel starts from 23,500 rubles per person.

There is a sea in the other part of the country too. As Yulia Talanova told Realnoe Vremya, tours to Vladivostok, Sakhalin and Kamchatka are gaining “a very good speed.” “Here, there is everything for a bright and unforgettable holiday: great beaches and a warm sea, isolated islands, a picturesque landscape, different sea foods, rare animals and great infrastructure for impressions every day,” this is how Anex Tour company describes a trip to Vladivostok. A flight from Moscow takes a bit more than 8 hours. The price for a week-long excursion tour is from 43,500 rubles.

A trip to Kamchatka, to volcanoes, the Pacific, geysers and waterfalls with the minimum excursion programme will be 36,800, with the maximum — 54,900.

To shamans’ homeland

Buryatia is another region that hasn’t been discovered by tourists. One can get there by charter planes from Moscow to Ulan-Ude, which makes a stop in Kazan.

“This route is subsidised by the Federal Agency for Tourism. The advantage of Buryatia is that one can go on holiday to Baikal. It is the south bank of the lake, a natural landmark, Baikal is completely different there where unique seal lives. There are a lot of tourist camps there where one can stay. Buryatia has a lot of interesting places, it is an interesting culture and local cuisine. As people themselves say, they are Buddhists in the morning, Christians or Islamists in the afternoon and shamanists in the evening.

“Once I ended up in Mongolia without visa. It is an 8-hour trip,” Talanova said and added that tour agencies offer travellers ready tour packages.

Many compatriots have already managed to discover Altai for themselves. But as Talanova said, those who have been there and fell in love with the beauties of Siberian taiga in combination with mountainous rivers and famous Belukha go there again but on their own. In May, UVT Aero airline resumed direct flights from Kazan to Gorno-Altaysk in summer, which are operated twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays. Also, one can go by trail and bus. Tour operators’ package tours are various: it is different hiking and equine tours in Altay, the cheapest one is 34,500 rubles exclusive the road.

“Altay is very beautiful. But it is a very peculiar holiday, I think, it isn’t for everybody. Not every family with kids will dare to go there. If we take good accommodation, it is also expensive there. Of course, there are a lot of tourist camps, but not everyone will want to stay there, people anyway know what good service is,” thinks Liliya Savelyeva.

Many compatriots have already managed to discover Altai for themselves. Photo:

Sol-Iletsk instead of Israel

It is hard not to call Sol-Iletsk not a tourist site — hundreds of thousands of people go to a small city in Orenburg Oblast on the border with Kazakhstan annually on holiday or improve their health. However, we added it to our review because last year the resort was closed due to a risk of a karst landslide in the bath area. The 2022 tourist season was also under question, but it anyway opened on 1 June.

The resort is famous for its salty lakes, mud with healing properties and mineral waters. The salt concentration here is similar with the Dead Sea. Watermelons that become ripe by late July are another landmark of the city. A variety of this melon grows here, and thanks to a unique chemical composition of the soil it becomes very beneficial.

A trip to Sol-Iletsk turns out very cheap. There are regular buses from Kazan, a two-way ticket is from 3,500 rubles. The trip takes 12 hours, and one will have to book accommodation on one’s own. But this isn’t a problem — the city has enough accommodation, including rented flats. If people don’t want to care about booking, agencies offer 7-day tours with accommodation in hotels from 7,900 rubles per person. There is a separate entrance fee to the lakes. This year, the price is 300 rubles per person a day.

Eleonora Rylova

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