BaikalNature trip adviser on regions, weather and ice camping in Russian hidden spots
What would you consider the top attraction driving tourists to Russia?
It’s difficult to single out the most attractive region when it comes to traveling across one of the largest country in the world. It gives adventurers the opportunity to mix and match rich cultural backgrounds, untouched nature and world-famous UNESCO World Heritage landmarks. For me, each region of Russia supplies you with its own unforgettable experiences.
Where would you personally recommend getting to?
Climb the Kamchatka volcanoes, visit the “Grand Crossing” of the frozen Baikal lake and install a camp on the 1.5 metres thick ice. Get a taste of going on a cruise along the Russian Far East, visit the coldest inhabited place on Earth in Yakutia, try the culture and architecture of Karelia, have a look on the life of the indigenous peoples of the Russian North, spend the night in tents under the starry sky of Altai, go visit uninhabited Shantar Islands or Putorana Plateau - this list is endless.
What is your favorite area to spend weekends at?
Over the 10 years, BaikalNature company selected 13 main russian destinations worth visiting in Russia: Altai, the Arctic, the Caucasus, Kamchatka, Karelia, the Kola Peninsula, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Lake Baikal, Putorana Plateau, Sakhalin, Chukotka, Shantar Islands and Yakutia. If time allows, I always try tasting every new destination by myself - at least, for the weekend.
Which adventures will you call the most popular —is it hiking, kayaking, camping?
Each region offers its own adventures depending on the climate and landscape. Traveling to Altai and the Caucasus is a hike journey, while Lake Baikal and Kamchatka travellers will not avoid trekking. If you are up to the water travel, your primary choice will be Russian Far East.
Which type of sports activities are the most popular? Any extreme sports worth noting?
There is no such sport that you can’t do in Russia. Some of our tour activities imply extreme conditions: like a dip in the Arctic Ocean, “extreme point” of the Russian East or spending the night on the ice of the deepest lake in the world.
What are the specialties of local cuisines? Which dishes would you recommend travelling for? Any restaurants you consider worth a recommendation?
There are more than 160 nationalities living in Russia, so it would be more correct to speak about each local cuisine in particular than trying to find those specialities for the whole country. When visiting any city or region in Russia, make sure not to skip the homemade dishes served by the locals - that will give you a true taste of Russia.
When would you recommend to go travel? What are the seasonal activities of the region?
While planning a trip to Russia, get prepared for the climate specifics of each region. Usually tourists prefer travelling in summer, but we also feel that it’s worth seeing the beauty of the waking nature in spring and all the riot of colors in autumn. Those ready for real adventure may opt for the winter season to discover the harsh frost of the Russian North or consider the central Russia with its comfortable temperatures and fairy tale winter scenery.
Could you tell us more about your favorite adventure?
As I am constantly developing and updating travel programs for our tourists, me myself am personally ready to go on any tour. This is mostly because the itineraries are often inaccessible to the individuals travelling on their own. Sometimes getting to a particular place means overcoming hundreds of miles of difficult or impassable roads. Some areas have no transport connection at all. Every itinerary is a result of 10 years worth of hard work and enthusiasm.
What is your the most notable experience that you’ve ever planned?
There are some projects worth calling the “projects of a lifetime”: like visiting the North Pole, staying in a yurt of nomadic reindeer herders, seeing northern lights, conquering Everest. The main takeaway here is nothing is impossible or inaccessible enough for you to miss it.
How long have you been a travel agent for? Why are you different from other travel agency out there?
BaikalNature company is market-present for 10 years now. We aim to show people the true Russia – the one beyond the beaten tourist clichés, to meet the nature that has been waiting for them for millions of years.
What areas of travel does your agency specialize in? Why?
Our profile is natural and adventure tours, each time dealing with unique routes. We attempt to demonstrate that at the end of the day tourism is not only about hotels, restaurants and bus city-tours. For us traveling is about unique experiences, unforgettable places and moments, proving yourself with the extreme conditions, or just a memorable experience to share.
What areas of the business are performing well at the moment and why?
If taking tourism as a business, then it turns into a routine. Currently, the “performing area” resides in the willingness to be flexible, in understanding wants and needs of your customer to direct it into your product. We try sharing the desires of our clients.
What do you think is that aspect of your business that contributed to your success?
The idea of showing people the real Russia is what makes us going for 10 years already. It gets transformed, modernized, but is still more than a regular business plan.
What travel trends did you notice recently?
Tourism is now divided into two visions: traveling on their own and trying everything by themselves, and having a big dream waiting for us to bring it into life.
What are the biggest challenges of working in an adventure travel field?
Given that we organize travels throughout the whole country, the main importance is awareness of what’s going on literally everywhere. Secondly, any adventure is a great responsibility for us, needing to check every small detail for a thousand times to ensure the safety of our tourists before sending them on a trip. We check it simply by asking ourselves if we could have sent our kids on the tour.
What future do you think Russia travel agents will have, bearing in mind the growing popularity of online travel?
For us, online travel is an opportunity to show people all the options of their travel, posting the information that is unlikely to be read anywhere else. But behind any online project there must always be real knowledgeable and experienced professionals. If tourist is looking for an adventure, that means that he needs an experienced guide in the first place - a real person capable to lead him through his journey. A brochure from the Internet will not take you to Mount Everest or save from a bear in the taiga :)
How are you going to keep growing business?
There are so many places in Russia that we would like to show the world, so at the moment it is difficult for us to estimate how far our catalog can extend.
Which popular blogs on adventure travel do you follow?
In fact, in Russia we have to work majorly with the locals – the drivers and guides who know their region through experience. If any popular blog gave us a detailed overview on adventure tourism - we would be happily following it, and support if needed.
Do you have any favorite quote on adventures we could share with our readers?
Absolutely the same problem as with blogs. It is difficult to find an interesting blog in Russia that will tell you where to see a polar bear or how to camp on the ice of Lake Baikal. It would have been nice if behind those Internet blog pages there stood more real people with real experience. Meanwhile, we try to make people dream, and those who already have their dream – help them bring it into life.