Sometimes a crazy idea becomes reality. Like ours. And it all started with one simple sentence: Let’s drive from Australia back to Europe.” We could not stop thinking about this crazy idea and started to make plans. After many hours of researching we knew: “Yes, let’s do an overland trip from Vladivostok to Moscow and St Petersburg with our camper.” We are glad we did this road trip through Russia because it was one of the best things we did so far.
Russia is the biggest country in the world. Huge distances, 11 time zones, taiga, tundra and incredibly interesting cities fit in this country. In this blog post we tell you about our experiences with the friendly and hospitable Russians, our favorite places to camp, impressive cities in Russia and much more. Follow us on our overland trip from Vladivostok to Moscow and St Petersburg.
Our road trip around the world continues
We will never forget this moment when we arrived in Vladivostok with the ferry from South Korea. We suddenly realize that our arrival in Russia is a milestone. A few months ago we left Australia, shipped our Toyota LandCruiser to South Korea and then took the ferry to Russia. From now on we no longer need to rely on others but can drive back to Switzerland. We do not need to ship our camper until we get back home.
After getting off the ferry we have to go to the immigration office. We have a visa and all goes smooth. Because of custom purpose we have to wait one day until we can pick up our LandCruiser. Luckily we have an agent in Vladivostok who is experienced and does all the paperwork for us. Yuri and Svetlana from Links Ltd. also help us to buy a Russian SIM card and they drive us to the Guesthouse. The next day they pick us up and a few hours later we get our beloved LandCruiser back.
The first few days in Russia we explore the city of Vladivostok and on one of these days we are very lucky with the weather. The sun is shining, 25°C and clear sky.
The main attractions are easy to get to by foot. If you have one day only in Vladivostok you should definitely not miss the great views over Vladivostok from the Eagles Nest, a lookout where you get great views overlooking the Golden Horn Bridge and the harbor. On the way back to the city center check out the Pl Borstov Revolutsii and the Submarine S-56 that is not too far from the harbor promenade Naberezhnaya. It’s the place to be on a warm summer night.
The main shopping streets with many cafes and restaurants are Svetlanskaya und Fokina Street. A great place to go for lunch or an appetitive is Sportivnaya Habour with its sandy beach, bars and take-away food stalls.
A must-see in Vladivostok is the train station which is starting or ending point of the legendary Trans Siberian Railway.
Looking for accommodation in Vladivostok?
Gallery and More – Address: Ulitsa Admirala Fokina 4B
We stayed in Gallery and More for one night. The guesthouse is centrally located, restaurants and bars in walking distance. Rooms are small but very clean and comfy. Shared bathrooms on each floor with cold and hot water. Kitchen in the basement and a comfortable common room. Fast and free Wifi. If you need to register your visa, just ask the reception.
Capsule Hotel Zodiac – Address: Tigrovaya ulitsa 30
Have you ever slept in a capsule? The Capsule Hotel Zodiac with its futuristic style is one very special experience. Centrally located, great setup, modern, clean, comfortable and good amenities.
Camping on Russky Island near Vladivostok
Are you travelling with your own vehicle? A great place to camp is on Russky Island. There are many spots right at the beach. You need to be self-contained as there are not facilities. There is a small kiosk close by. Otherwise pure nature and great sea view.
The size of Russia compared to Australia and Switzerland
Russia is huge. The distance from Vladivostok in the far east of Russia to Moscow in the western part of the country is 9‘145 km if driving directly. Russia has a size of 17‘000‘000 km2 which is 400 times the size of Switzerland or more than twice the size of Australia. Gigantic dimensions.
Driving from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk
Our fridge, fuel and water tanks are full. We are ready to start our big overland trip from Vladivostok to Moscow.
A lot of driving is ahead of us but also many interesting cities with lots of history. From Vladivostok we first have to drive up north along the Chinese border. We know that China is near because our radio is switching to the Chinese radio stations instead of the Russian ones.
It takes us two days to get to Khabarovsk with is about 800 km up north. Khabarovsk has approximately 600’000 inhabitants and it’s not too difficult to find our way to the center. We find a free parking right in the city center which is located around the Komsomolskaya Square.
West of Kosomolskaya Square we get to the City Park which is right at the Amur River. We’re here on a Sunday and many people are strolling along the river and enjoy the warm summer temperatures. After a short photo stop at the Assumption Cathedral, which is right at the Kosomolskaya Square, we are heading to Muravyova-Amurskogo Street. Along the wide street are many restaurants and cafés but also street vendors selling ice cream. We can’t resist and try some of the homemade ice creams.
A must-see in Khabarovsk is the War Memorial and the beautiful Spaso Transfiguration Cathedral (see above). We want to see the inside of the church and are amazed to see how the walls are covered with religious paintings. The Spaso Transfiguration Cathedral is totally different from the churches we know from Switzerland and other churches we have seen so far.
It’s Sunday and many people come here to pray. We quietly go in. An orthodox priest is praying and so do the believers. The prayers are followed by a choir that sounds like if angels are singing. The atmosphere is breathtaking and heavenly. I’m wearing a scarf to hide my hair but then I realize that I’m the only women wearing trousers. I feel a bit out of place and quietly leave the church.
Wow, the Spaso Transfiguration Cathedral in Khabarovsk is a very special place.
Khabarovsk is the most easterly city we are visiting on our overland trip from Vladivostok to Moscow. From Khabarovsk we drive west towards Lake Baikal, just about 3’000 km to go.
It’s late and we find a great place to set up camp not too far from the main road.
Accommodation in Khabarovsk
You are travelling with the Transsiberian Railway and stay in Khabarovsk for a day or two?
Click here to find your place to stay in Khabarovsk
Birobidzhan in the Jewish Autonomous Region
After a quiet night we are ready to do more driving. In our Russia Travel Guide from Lonely Planet we read about the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan. We are curious and therefore we do a little detour.
Birobidzhan is about 170 km west of Khabarovsk. It is the main town of the Jewish Autonomous Region which was established in 1934. Jewish people from the Ukraine and Belarus but also from the US, Argentina and even Palestine came here to settle. In the early days up to 30’000 Jews were living here. Today there are just about 3’000 to 4’000 Jews living in Birobidzhan.
The drive there is amazing as we drive through lush green landscape. The recent heavy rain has done a great job.
There are no real attractions in Birobidzhan that’s why we continue our trip and head further to Chita. In-between we only stop for lunch or camp for the night. We are in Siberia now and we pass many small villages. We are still in the far east of Russia which belongs to Asia. People here on the country side live very basic and it’s very hard to imagine how life must be in winter when temperatures drop below minus 30 degrees or even lower.
We pass towns called Amurskoye, Skovorodino and Tschernyschewski. The small wooden houses in the villages are fascinating. Most of the people have a big garden and sell their vegetables, fruits or berries along the road.
The main road from Khabarovsk to Chita is the Amur Road R-297. It was back in 1978 when they started with the construction work and they officially opened the road in 2004. It is the main road connecting East and West. It took that long because this part of Russia is very inaccessible and all but easy terrain to build roads.
Pizza and Cappuccino in the Siberian city of Chita
Chita is the first bigger city after we left Khabarovsk. 300‘000 people live in Chita but there are not too many things to see in Chita. They are not prepared for tourists as it is way too far from Moscow and St Petersburg. Winters in Chita are long and hard where temperatures can drop to 30 degrees below zero. The Transsiberian Railway stops in Chita but not many tourists get out. And the ones who do don’t stay for too long.
For us Chita is a welcome change after the long hours of driving. We are already 3’000 km from Vladivostok and we are happy to be in a city with some shops to stock up on food and water. We also find a great coffee, the Café Shokoladnitsa. We order a Cappuccino and some cake.
It rains the whole day, therefore we stay in the café the whole afternoon and enjoy the luxury of fast internet. Well, we do not fancy cooking in our camper in pouring rain. That’s a good excuse to go out. We google and find the address of Pizzeria Mama Roma that is not too far from the café. That’s the perfect treat to finish another day in Russia.
We do not like to drive at night. That’s why we decide to stay in Chita overnight on the parking lot in front of a park. Luckily the rain stops and we can visit Chita the next morning.
We first visit the Buddhist Temple which is near and then head into the city center. A huge monument of Lenin is located in the center of Chita and about two blocks further we get to the beautiful blue cathedral of Chita.
Road trip from Chita to Ulan Ude
Ulan-Ude is the next city we are heading to. We are driving about 700 km through amazing landscape. We did not expect Siberia so diverse. Totally surprised we drive through lush green fields, along rivers, lakes and small rolling hills. Also the villages with the small wooden houses are very nice to look at.
We are lucky with finding great spots to camp, very often near a river or a lake. That’s how we love camping.
The following days more rain is falling and because some parts of the road is in very bad condition, the surface transforms into slippery mud. After we pass long stretches of dirt road where construction works is going on, our LandCruiser looks like we were driving some serious Offroad tracks.
Because it’s still raining at lunch time, we stop in one of the cantinas along the way. Even if we do not speak Russian, we manage to communicate. Russians are very helpful and friendly. The canteen style restaurant serves different meals. Luckily there are pictures of the menus and that makes it easy to choose a meal.
Lookout at the Selenga River
We are getting closer to Ulan-Ude. After we pass the small town Tarbagatai we see the Selenga River for the first time. Wow! We park our LandCruiser and walk up to the Spyashchiy Lev Lookout. We love this place so much that we set up camp near the river. It’s a perfect place to have a rest after the long driving days.
Ulan-Ude is the gateway to travel to Mongolia
From Spyashchiy Lev Lookout it’s only 50 km to Ulan-Ude. We drive to the city center and park near the huge Lenin head monument. Lenin is present all around Russia but the huge Lenin head in Ulan-Ude is one very special sight.
When going back to our camper we see a note under our windscreen vipers. It’s from a Swiss couple who is doing an overland trip as well. We meet them later in Ulan-Ude and chat for a while. We decide to visit the Buddhist Iwolginski Monastery outside of town. Together we stroll around the Monastery and talk about travelling. Time flies and Christina and Martin invite us for a cheese fondue in their camper.
After a quiet night on the parking lot in front of the monastery we enjoy our breakfast in the sun. The clouds are gone. What a perfect start into a new day.
It is Sunday and people flock in to visit the monastery. We go to the Monastery as well and many of the temples are open to the public now.
Around lunch time we have to say goodbye to Christina and Martin. They are heading to the Mongolian border. We are planning to visit Lake Baikal first which is in the opposite direction. We may see each other again in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) in a few weeks.
Accommodation in Ulan-Ude
Click here to find a place to stay in Ulan-Ude
From Ulan-Ude to Lake Baikal
We are driving back to Ulan-Ude and continue our trip towards Lake Baikal. While driving, we suddenly see some shiny golden towers. We get off the main road, drive through a village and stop in front of the Troitskoye Monastery. The church that belongs to the Monestary has been nicely renovated and there is a beautiful garden. Marcel talks to a woman from Moscow who is visiting this place as a daytrip from Lake Baikal. We learn that the Troitskoye is an important Monastery and renovations have started to keep the history alive.
In the evening we finally arrive at Lake Baikal. It is the beginning of the summer holidays and lots of people spend their vacation at Lake Baikal. Therefore it is not too easy to find a camp spot. All spots in the bush are taken but we finally find a great spot to set up camp on the beach.
It is quiet at 7pm but after dinner we hear loud music. Not too far from us is a disco and the music gets louder and louder. After midnight we decide to drive a bit away from the beach and find a quiet spot to spend the night.
Irkutsk, a beauty of a city in Siberia
We get up early and drive to Irkutsk. Before we explore the city we are heading to the Mongolian Consulate. We apply for a visa to visit Mongolia. We fill out all necessary papers, hand over our passport, pay and wait. About 10 minutes later we already get our visa for a 30-day visit. If we want to extend the visa we can do so within the first five days after entering Mongolia.
The weather is fantastic, it’s sunny and warm. This is Siberia? Oh yes, it is not always freezing cold here. We park our camper and walk to the city center. Irkutsk is not too big and most of the attractions are easy to reach on foot.
In the information center we pick up a brochure with the Top Things to do in Irkutsk. Don’t miss the following attractions during your visit in Irkutsk:
- Traditional Wooden Houses – the nicest are located on following streets: Ulitsa Dekabrskikh Sobyty, Ulitsa Babushkina, Ulitsa Karla-Libknekhta, Ulitsa Volodarskogo, Ulitsa Khalturina, Ulitsa Bogdana, Khmelritskogo, Ulitsa Gryaznova, Ulitsa Lapina, Ulitsa Timityazeva, Ulitsa Marata and the Lacy House (House of Europe) on Fridrikh Engels Street
- Ulitsa Karla Marxa – the Main road with shops, cafés and restaurants
- Ulitsa Uritskogo – the main Shopping Street
- Babr – the iconic monument of Irkutsk and the 130 kvartal with restaurants and bars
- Holy Cross Church – 130 kvartal, 1 ulitsa Sedova
- Lenin Monument
- Nizhnaya Nabereshnaya – Promenade on the river
- Bogoyavlensky Epiphany Cathedral, 1A, ulitsa Sukhe-Batora
- Moscow Gate
- Kazanskaya Church at 34/1, ulitsa Barrikad – Breathtaking church, a must-see
We found a great spot to stay for the night near the Kazanskaya Church, that’s why we went for a look in the morning. To take great photos it’s best to visit the Kazanskaya Church in the afternoon.
Irkutsk is a great city to spend a couple of days. If you are looking for accommodation check these out:
Rolling Stones Hostel – Address: 17 Ulitsa Sukhe-Batora
Central location, many restaurants nearby, stylish interiour, comfy beds, clean kitchen and bathroom. Comfortable common room and free Wifi.
Montana Hostel – Adresse: ul Karla Libknekhta 6
Modern hostel with comfortable common room, great location. Most attractions are easy to reach on foot. Free Wifi, washing machine (fees apply).
Relaxing days at Lake Baikal
After two days in Irkutsk we are ready to move on. We want to spend a few more days at Lake Baikal. It does not take long and we find a great place to camp at the Delta of the Selenga River.
After two days at the beach we’re totally relaxed and ready for our Mongolia adventure.
Driving back to Ulan-Ude
It’s our second time in Ulan-Ude and again we meet other travelers here. This time we catch up with Anna and Sven, a German couple who is on a very special world trip. They are doing the same route but travelling with the Transsiberian Railway. They tell us about their trip on the Transsiberian from Moscow to Vladivostok. It sounds like a great adventure and it’s so cool to hear, what highlights await us the next few months towards the west.
They have explored Ulan-Ude already and tell us about the Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan on a hill. We are driving to the Datsan from where we get a great view over Ulan-Ude. From above the city looks a lot bigger than we thought. There are no skyscrapers but thousands of small wooden houses with a little garden.
In Ulan-Ude we stock up on food, water and diesel. Our next destination is Mongolia. Here you can read more about our great Offroad Adventure in Mongolia
After five unforgettable weeks in Mongolia we cross the border in the Altai Region back to Russia. The temperatures in the Altai dropped dramatically and we even had the first snow storm the night before we got to the border. We cross the border at Tsagaanuur (Mongolia) and Tashanta (Russia). After many hours of waiting, getting the right stamps, immigration and having our vehicle checked we can re-enter Russia.
Ahead of us lies another 5‘142 km of unknown territory. First of all we drive through the Altai mountain region and we are mesmerized by the beauty of this region. Snowcapped mountains, rivers, forests and Mars-like landscape. Due to the cold climate and our limited visa we are rushing through the Altai region. But we may come back one day to explore more.
Along the Chuysky Trakt through the amazing landscape of the Altai
The Chuysky Trakt, Chuya Highway or P256 is probably one of the most spectacular roads in Russia.
We follow the Chuysky Trakt from the Mongolian Border to Novosibirsk. We spend the first night on the steppe on about 2’000 meters above sea level. All around us is nothing. There is no tree or bush, not even grass. Nothing. Dark clouds are rolling in and we wonder what kind of weather awaits us in the morning. The next day we know. It’s snowing. It looks like winter is arriving. Definitely time to move on.
During the night the wind has picked up and we feel like we are getting blown away. Luckily our LandCruiser is heavy and we don’t need to worry. The temperatures drop to zero and it’s freezing cold in the morning. That’s a good reason to sleep in.
It takes a while but when the sun is coming out it’s getting slightly warmer. We get up, have a cup of coffee and head on.
We pass the small town Kosh-Agach where we turn left. We follow a small dirt track, cross a small river and arrive at Mars in the Altai. We have no idea how it looks on the planet mars but the landscape reminds us of a faraway place. The real name of this area and valley is Kyzyl-Chin which means red gorge.
We park our LandCruiser and follow the other people. We climb the mars-like hill and get great views of the area and the white, yellow, orange and red layers in the sandstone and rocks.
After another 100 km along the spectacular Chuysky Trakts we arrive in Aktash. Aktash is a small village where another highlights awaits us. We got a tip from a Dutch family that we met recently in Mongolia. They told us about this natural wonders and we should visit mars and the blue lake. Both attractions were not mentioned in our guide book and we are thankful that we got this tip.
We arrive in Aktash and park our LandCruiser. We pay a few rubles for the parking and a friendly Russian woman explains the way to the Geyser Lake. We don’t understand Russian but with hands and feet we get an idea where to go. We follow the small boardwalk over the wetlands, walk through a small forest and suddenly stand in front of the Geyser Lake or also Blue Lake.
The spring is pumping crystal clear water from the ground and created an amazing lake. The lake is just about 2 meters deep and about 30 meters wide.
We’re still driving on the Chuysky Trakt and follow the Tschuja River. The Altai region is stunning and we can’t stop but say ooohhhh, aaahhhh and wow all the time. The snow capped mountains are more than 4’000 m and such a special sight.
Unfortunately our time in Russia is running too fast. We need to head on. The last few days we also had some problems with our batteries. It seems that our older batteries do not like the cold temperatures. Some mornings we can hardly start our LandCruiser. Therefore we are heading up north and rush a bit. We are a bit sad that we need to hurry as this part of Russia is simply amazing. We hope to return to the Altai one day to explore more.
Small detour to the Siberian town Gorno Altaisk
Gorno Altaisk is about 10 km away from the main road. We do this little detour because we want to visit the beautiful wooden Orthodox church St Macarius.
There are not too many other tourist attractions in Gorno Altaisk therefore we just stroll along the main street. We arrive in Gorno Altaisk around lunch time and enjoy a borsch (traditional soup with beetroot) in one of the cafés in town. There is also free Wifi and we can upload a new blog post.
Oil change, welding, laundry and shopping in Barnaul
Before we get to Barnaul, we catch up with the Swiss overlanding couple Noemi und Cyrill. We drove through the Gobi Desert in Mongolia together. We have so much to talk about and we also think back to our adventure in the Gobi Desert, where we got stuck in the mud. You can read about our mishap here.
Barnaul is the first bigger city after more than a month of traveling. We have a few administrative things to do, we need to stock up on food and do our laundry. Also our LandCruiser needs some maintenance. We go to a mechanic who is doing the oil change. Marcel usually changes the oils himself but here in Russia repairs and oil change is so cheap. Therefore we are more than happy that someone else is taking care of that. The guy in the garage also helps us to find somebody who can weld a crack in our aluminum box.
After we’ve done the chores we go to the city center. At the Krem Coffee Hall we treat ourselves with a great cappuccino and some cake. Before we leave Barnaul we check out the Znamensky Cathedral and the Pokrovsky church. Next stop is Novosibirsk.
Accommodation in Barnaul
Click here to find a place to stay in Barnaul
Novosibirsk is the third largest city in Russia
Novosibirsk is with 1.5 million people the third largest city in Russia and the capital city of Siberia. During the time when they built the railway bridge for the Transsiberian Railway the city has been founded. The bridge is huge because of the dimensions of the Ob River. The Ob is up to one kilometer wide on some places and the Transsiberian Railway has to cross the River.
We arrive in Novosibirsk in the evening that’s why we look for a place to stay overnight outside of the city. We find a great spot to set up camp at the Reka Inya River. Many people come here to catch some fish or enjoy a picnic near the water. So do we.
Even if Novosibirsk is the third largest city of Russia, there are not too many attractions compared to Moscow and St Petersburg.
We make a quick stop at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral before we’re heading further west. If we would have more time, we would drive to the northeast to visit Tomsk with its nice wooden houses. We have seen some pictures of the city of Tomsk but we do not have time to drive there. Well, we can’t do it all in this trip. That’s a reason to come back.
Accommodation in Novosibirsk
Click here to find a place to stay in Novosibirsk
In Omsk we drink the best Cappuccino in Siberia
We arrive in Omsk on a Sunday. In our guide book we read about Skuratov Coffee Roasters. That’s where we go.
On the way to Skuratov Coffee Roasters we pass the Assumption Cathedral and walk along streets with old historical buildings. We finally find Skuratov and we agree with our guide book. It’s a great coffee and for us the best in whole Siberia.
Tyumen, the oldest city in Siberia
Tyumen has been founded in 1586 and was the first city in Siberia. Approximately 500’000 people are living in Tyumen and oil is the main business in this region. We park near the Trinity Monastery and check out the impressive buildings with shiny golden domes. One of the buildings in the complex is the Holy Trinity Cathedral, another one the Snamenski Cathedral.
Stopping in Yekaterinburg on our overland trip from Vladivostok to Moscow
We are getting closer to Europe but we still have more than 2‘600 km ahead of us until we reach the Estonian border. Yekaterinburg is with almost 1.4 million people the fifth largest city in Russia. The city has some great places of interest.
First of all we go to the Church of all Saints (Church on Blood), an impressive and beautiful building with a very sad and tragic story.
We walk around the city and follow the red line. For tourists there is a red line on the pathways and that makes it very easy to get to the attractions and places of interest. We love rooftops and decide to go up Vysotsky Tower. The platform is on the 52nd floor and it’s possible to walk all around the tower.
Our timing is perfect and we enjoy the amazing view with the sun shining. Later on clouds are rolling in and for us it’s time to head further west to Perm and Kazan.
Kazan is a beauty of a city
Arriving in Kazan we are surprised how modern and clean the city is. It definitely feels like we are getting closer to the western world. During the Fifa World Cup 2018 Kazan was one of the host cities. We knew nothing about Kazan before we came to Russia and we are so glad that we spend two days in this beautiful city.
We find a great free parking near the center where we can stay for a couple of days. We pack our backpacks and walk to the city center.
Kazan is the capital city of the autonomous republic Tatarstan. On the way to the center we walk along Ulitsa Kayuma Nasyri, a typical Tatar quarter. We see colorful wooden houses, mosques and several restaurants with Tatar specialties.
If you visit Kazan do not miss to walk along Bauman Street and you should definitely visit the Kazan Kremlin. Entry to the Kremlin is free, you only need to pay for guided tours. Right at the entrance you see the Musa Dzhalil Monument.
We walk through the huge gate and explore the Kremlin clockwise. The Kazan Kremlin is UNESCO World Heritage since 2000 and totally worth a visit. The most impressive buildings inside the Kemlin are the Kul-Scharif Mosque, the Annunciation Cathedral and the Syuyumbike Tower.
Accommodation in Kazan
Ibis Kazan Hotel – Address: Pravo-Bulachnaya Str. 43/1
Central location, just a short walk to Bauman Street, the Kazan Kremlin, restaurants and shopping centers are nearby. Great value for money, modern rooms and free Wifi.
Amsterdam Mini-Hotel – Address: Ulitsa Tazi Gizzata 6
Great value for money, central location, short walk to Bauman Street and Kremlin. Nearby restaurants and cafes. Comfortable rooms and free Wifi.
Hostel Enot – Address: Ulitsa Said-Galeyeva 25
Central location near main station. Good location to get to Kazan attractions by foot. Clean rooms, comfortable beds and free Wifi.
Kremlin in Nizhniy Novgorod with amazing view over the Volga
From Kazan it’s less than 1‘000 km to Moscow. We are getting closer. Our next stop is in Nizhniy Novgorod where we visit another impressive Kremlin. The city is located at the confluence of the Oka and Volga rivers. We park along the river from where we can walk along the nice promenade. A huge stair is going up to the Kremlin of Nizhniy Novgorod. From up the hill we get an amazing view over the river.
In 1501 the building of the Kremlin in has started. The walls of the Kremlin are up to 5 meters thick and the wall contains 13 towers. The nicest one is the Demetrius tower which is also the main entrance.
Accommodation in Nizhniy Novgorod
Click here to find a place to stay in Nizhniy Novgorod
Suzdal and Vladimir in the Golden Ring near Moscow
Have you ever heard of the Golden Ring near Moscow? It is a travel route through old and traditional Russian towns and villages where you get a great idea of the history of Russia. Nowhere else in Russia you can see so many historical buildings in one spot.
We could spend a few weeks in the area but unfortunately we don’t have time. Therefore we just visit Vladimir and Suzdal which are easy to reach on our way to Moscow.
In Vladimir we visit the Assumption Cathedral with its golden domes. We also walk along the streets and see many wooden houses. We are totally fascinated by these houses and can’t imagine how it must be to live here in winter when temperatures drop far below zero.
From Vladimir we are heading north to Suzdal. It’s just a short drive (36 km) where we go back in time. Suzdal is one of the oldest cities in Russia. The Kremlin of Suzdal and other historical buildings are UNESCO World Heritage. We visit the Kremlin from the early 12th century which is very impressive and totally different to the ones we have seen already. We learn that the Suzdal Kremlin is also called the grandfather of the Kremlin in Moscow.
On Sundays there is a market on the Torgovaya Ploshchad Square. You can buy local products on the stalls and there are also some restaurants with traditional meals.
In the afternoon we visit the Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life. The museum is on the other side of the small river Reka Kamenka. The old wooden houses are an example of how building in this region looked like and they also give us an insight in the history and way of life in earlier days.
Accommodation in Suzdal and Vladimir
Click here to find a place to stay in Suzdal
We arrive in the Russian Metropolis Moscow – A dream comes true
On our epic overland trip from Vladivostok to Moscow and St Petersburg adventure, two highlights are still ahead of us.
Highlights number 1: Moscow. When getting closer to the capital city of Russia we start to realize where we are. We are in a mega city with 12.2 people. During our road trip we have heard many stories about the crazy traffic and monstrous traffic jams in Moscow. Therefore we are a bit nervous to drive into this mega city.
Luckily our campground is about 10 km outside of Moscow. Thanks to our navigation system we easily find Sokolniki Camping which is northeast of Moscow. We are glad that we do not need to drive into the center.
Sokolniki Camping is an oasis in the middle of the metropolis. We learn that the whole Sokolniki Park is about five square kilometers and it feels like being in a national park. We camp under a huge shady tree and there are clean toilets, hot showers and a common room. The camp host is super friendly and he even speaks German.
From Sokolniki Camping we walk to the bus station and from there we get to the next Metro station. It takes us about 40 minutes to get to the city center.
To be honest, Moscow has blown us away. We fell in love with the city. There are so many things to do and see.
Here is our Top 10 list for Moscow
- The Red Square
- The St Basil Cathedral
- The Moscow Kremlin
- The Shopping Mall GUM at the Red Square
- The Bolschoi Theater and its cool light show (we were right on time for the Light Fest)
- Nikolskaya Ulitsa – Street with a wide range of restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs
- Kitay Gorod – Chinatown in Russia
- Space Museum
- Sokolniki Park – A huge park in the middle of Moscow
- Metro Moskau – Amazing Metro Stations
Our fave Metro stations in Mowsow
The Metro stations in Moscow are world famous. We checked out a few and our favorite is definitely Komsomolskaya.
If you are short on time or you do not want to spend too much time underground, these five stations are easy to get to and very well worth a stop:
- Okhotny Ryad
How to get there
Start on the Red Square. Hop on at Okhotny Ryad, change to the Green Line direction Khovrin. Get off at Mayakovskaya. Take photos and hop on the next train. Get off at Belourusskaya, have a look, take photos and change to the Circle Line (Brown Line). Next on the list is Novoslobodskaya, get out, take photos and hop in the next train. Get off at the station Prospekt Mira and hop in again. Last on the list is Komsomolskaya and now you are at the one we liked the most.
Accommodation in Moskau
Netizen Moscow Rimskaya – Address: Bulvar Entuziastov 2, Taganski, 109544 Moscow
Good value for money, modern rooms, free Wifi. Great location, to Metro Rimskaya and Ploshchad Ilyicha about 100 m, 10 minutes to the Red Square and the Kremlin with the Metro.
Hotel Maroseyka 2/15 – Address: Ulitsa Maroseyka 2/15, Basmanny, 101000 Moscow
Top location, very central but quiet. Spacious rooms with comfy beds. Good variety of cafes closeby. Approx. 700 m from the St Basil Cathedral and only 15 minutes on foot to the Red Square.
Are you visiting Moscow with your camper?
Our camping tip for Moscow
Camping Sokolniki – 5th Luchevoy Prosek 16A, Moscow
Great camp sites with power in a huge park. Amenities blocks with showers (cold and hot water) and toilets. Common room with fire pit. Very friendly and helpful host who explained us how we get to the city center by public transport. Details about Sokolniki Camping here: park.sokolniki.com/activities/64
Location: Approx. 10 km outside the city center. 40 minutes to the center by public transport.
Veliki Novgorod is known as the birth place of Russia
Byebye Moscow. We will be back one day. We are heading to St Petersburg now.
Between Moscow and St Petersburg we stop in Veliki Novgorod. We read that Veliki Novgorod is one of the oldest cities and a very important historic site in Russia. The Kremlin of Veliki Novgorod is UNESCO World Heritage and located at the Volkhov River.
Inside the Kremlin we find the St. Sophia Cathedral and other buildings. We walk around the buildings with many other Russians but there are no other western tourists in sight.
St Petersburg is our final stop on our trip overland trip from Vladivostok to Moscow and St Petersburg
St Petersburg is huge compared to any city in Switzerland (around 8 million people are living in whole Switzerland). With 5.28 million people living in St Petersburg the traffic does not seem to be too bad. At least not at the time we drive through the city. We did not plan to drive through the middle of St Petersburg but our navigation system is leading us right through the center to get to our camp ground on the Vyborg Side.
It is all but easy to find the camp ground but at the end we manage. We park our LandCruiser and we were happy with the camp spot so close to the city center.
The tram station is just around the corner and to get to the Metro we have to walk 10 minutes. From there it’s just another 10 minute ride by Metro to central St Petersburg.
Well, we could spend a week in St Petersburg. There are so many attractions and things do see. But we only have another 5 days until our visa runs out. Anyway, we still have enough time to check out some great things and we absolutely love St Petersburg. It is such a wonderful city with amazing buildings, lots of history, interesting museums, castles, parks but also trendy cafes and traditional restaurants.
We could write a whole blog post about St Petersburg.
Here our Top 12 Things to do in St Petersburg
- Walk along Newski Prospekt
- Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
- The palace square with the Alexander Column
- The Hermitage
- The Shopping Mall Gostiny Dwor
- Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
- Kazan Cathedral
- Peter and Paul Fortress
- Alexander Newski Monastery
- Peterhof Palace
- Stroganov Palace
- Check out the amazing metro stations on Line 1
Our time in Russia comes to an end. From St Petersburg it‘s just another 163 km to Estonia. We can’t believe that we drove all the way from Vladivostok to St Petersburg. That’s more than 10’000 km through a country that was completely new to us. We learned a lot about Russia and we want to come back one day.
We are so glad that we had the opportunity to explore this fascinating country with is friendly and hospitable people. Thank you, Russia. You are awesome!
Accommodation in St Petersburg
Friends Loft – Address: Ulitsa Lomonosova 3 , Tsentralny, St Petersburg
Excellent location, great price for value, modern rooms and interior, comfortable beds and free Wifi. Metro Station Gostiny Dwor is nearby.
The Library – Address: Voznesenskiy prospekt 4, Admiralteyskiy, St Petersburg
Central location but quiet, in the middle of the historical center, approx. 100 m from Isaak Place. Free Wifi.
Camping in St Petersburg
Fitness club Fenergy (Formula Energy) – Address: Lesnoy Prospekt 16
If you travelling with your own vehicle we can recommend a safe place to camp in St Petersburg. We stayed at Fenergy Fitness for a few nights. People are friendly, helpful and it’s safe. 24h Security.
Location: On the Vyborg Side. Camping is available near the football field.
Toilets and showers available. Price per night: EUR 20
Power is also available for a few Euros.
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