The word vast doesn’t even begin to describe Russia. This is the planet’s biggest nation, a muscular powerhouse of a country that stretches all the way from Scandinavia to Asia’s eastern frontier. Our map of Russia below just covers the west.
Within Europe but still tantalisingly different from neighbouring cities, St Petersburg is a place of broad avenues and opulent palaces, and the ideal entry point for first-time visitors. In the current capital, Moscow, the super-rich and super-poor live side by side among designer boutiques, gold-topped church domes and flashy modern skyscrapers.
More than 8000 kilometres to the east, Soviet-era housing blocks give Vladivostok a harder edge, but theatre, ballet and vodka-soaked nights on the town help to ease the transition. Rather than flying between the two cities, you take the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway, which passes vivid blue lakes, endless forests, bleak Siberian cities, and the snowy peaks of the jagged Ural Mountains.