The Russian holiday season reaches its peak during the first two weeks of January, when many people have off work for the New Year and Orthodox Christmas. Naturally, this makes it a very popular time for Russian holiday travel. Research collected by experts at Yandex shows a clear surge in travel interest from December to January, with searches for hotels, tours, and air tickets all showing marked increases, followed by a small decline in March. The winter also marks the beginning of increased interest in travel to many destinations that continues through to the summer. This includes many popular warmer weather locations that have esteemed beachfront resorts, such as Spain and Croatia.

In years past, Russians typically lose interest in domestic travel during the winter as a whole, which is not terribly surprising since only a small part of Russia is both warm and easily accessible for tourists during the winter months. By contrast, Bulgaria and Montenegro both see dramatic surges in air ticket interest, drawing Russians who are familiar with the two countries and their popular coastal resorts.

However, domestic travel has become more attractive in the past year due to accessibility, pricing, and easier planning.  As Russians plan trips to both international and domestic locations this holiday season, here are some insights into the season to help prepare for the holiday travelers.

Russian Holiday Travel Time Table

Since January 1 through January 9 are public holidays in Russia, many Russians do not work during this period, which makes it a popular time for taking a vacation.  The first two weeks of January are marked by the two biggest holidays in Russia, the New Year and Orthodox Christmas, which adds a further incentive for planning a long vacation.

There are nearly 127,000 searches every month for “vacations during the New Year,” and about 90,000 for the different variations of “New Year in Sochi.”  Searches for “vacation in January” record over 50,000 impressions per month.

Of course many people plan to spend time at home with their family on the actual holidays so its quite common for people to take additional vacation time at the end of December or mid-January for their trips. Business tends to slow down so it’s a convenient time for many people to take a holiday.

Russian Holiday Travel Trips

There are three main types of trips for Russian holiday travel; beach/warm weather trips, vacations revolving around winter sports, and visits to specific cities.  As most Russians live in areas that become quite cold during the winter, visits to coastal resorts are popular winter destinations.  The holiday trip to a warmer locale is representative of a long running trend in Russia; many of the current popular seaside resorts were built during the imperial era.  There are nearly 38,000 searches for “beach vacation,” and over 119,000 for “vacation at the sea.”

Russians are also fond of participating in winter sports like skiing, and popular ski resorts can be found in mountain ranges across Russia.  There are popular ski resorts in the Caucasus Mountains, near the same Black Sea resorts mentioned above, including those used for the 2014 Winter Olympics.  There are also resorts in northwestern Russia, near the Arctic Circle, as well as Siberia and the Far East.  There are almost 20,000 searches a month for “Russian ski resorts.”

Vacations that are planned primarily to take in the various sights and attractions of cities are also popular among Russians.  These might be trips to large, sprawling cities with dozens of cultural attractions like Saint Petersburg and Moscow, or they might be vacations that visit a number of cities, such as a tour of the Golden Ring towns outside Moscow.

Russian Holiday Travel Accommodations

Following recent trends for increased Russian interest in affordable accommodations, the holiday travel season shouldn’t be any different. Searches for hostels increased 22% over the last year and searches for affordable hotels also rose 15%.  Similarly, home sharing accommodations has seen a significant growth in popularity over the past year as more Russians are using sites like Airbandb to book places to stay for their holidays. Russians will continue to be conscious of their wallets when making reservations compared to previous years when more luxurious accommodations were the norm.

Russian Holiday Travel Locations

According to Promokoda research, approximately 29% of Russians will take vacations for the holidays in lieu of spending money on gifts.  Half of the vacationers will stay in Russia and the other half will travel abroad.

Russia’s most popular tourist destinations are relatively easy to travel to by air, train, or road from Russia’s major cities, and it is significantly cheaper and less complex for Russians to visit domestic destinations. Below, this post delves into Russia’s most popular tourist locales, using data collected by the Russian organization Rating and the Russian magazine “Vacations in Russia.” They use a number of different variables to create their list, including the infrastructure supporting tourism, the popularity of the destinations among Russians and foreigners, the number of attractions, and more.  The subheading for each location is linked to the post from the geo-targeting series that includes information on that location.

Krasnodar Krai

It should come as little surprise that Krasnodar is the considered the best tourist destination in Russia. Krasnodar is home to Sochi, Russia’s popular Black Sea resort town that received an enormous amount of investment in its tourist infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Every month, there are over 151,000 searches for “Sochi resorts.” Even before the Olympics, though, the city was a popular tourist destination for Russians and travelers from nearby countries, who are drawn to the city and Krasnodar in general by the mild climate and the well-developed beach resorts.  Krasnodar is one of the few examples of subtropical climate in Russia, and there are other popular coastal destinations besides Sochi, such as Anapa. Despite the mild climate, Krasnodar is also a popular winter destination due to the large ski resort at Rosa Khutor, located in mountains not far from Sochi.

Saint Petersburg

Russia’s imperial capital has long been a popular tourist destination for Russians and foreigners alike, with its colorful mix of Baroque and Russian architecture and its meticulously planned center. The city itself is hardly lacking in tourist destinations, and there is something for everyone.  For those interested in art, there’s the Hermitage, a large palace that was the former seat of the government and now stands as one of the largest art museums of the world.  Not far from the Hermitage is the State Russian Museum, host to a large collection of Russian art.  Religious Russians and those who simply enjoy grand traditional architecture enjoy visiting the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, a large Orthodox cathedral built on the site of Alexander II’s assassination. Outside the city, there are a number of sprawling imperial palaces and estates to visit, most of which have been meticulously restored since World War II. Like Krasnodar, the city is well served by Russia’s transportation network, and this is a large hospitality industry to support tourism.

Moscow/Moscow Oblast

It is a given that Russia’s largest city and capital is one of its best tourist destinations. Practically all roads, railroads, and air routes in Russia lead back to Moscow, making the city relatively easy to visit even for those coming from Siberia and the Far East. When people do arrive in Moscow, they are greeted by a massive public transportation system that makes getting around the city easy, while a large hotel and hostel industry supports tourists from ranging from thrifty students to executives and CEOs. The city’s site as the center of Slavic Russian culture and history draws in many visitors, while Moscow is a popular holiday destination due to it being the center of the Russian Orthodox Church. Many people enjoy visiting the villages outside Moscow as well, as these cities are host to a number of churches that are centuries old.

Crimea

As with Krasnodar, Crimea has long drawn in tourists due to its warm weather and pristine beaches. Western readers will likely be familiar with Yalta, the scenic coastal city that hosted the Yalta Conference in 1945 and remains a popular tourist destination today. A number of other resort cities support a thriving tourist industry, particularly among Russian citizens. Interest in trips to Crimea from Russia has grown exponentially in recent years, with flights from Moscow to Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, seeing a 547% increase in searches between December 2013 and November 2014.