Siberia – cold frozen tundra with prisons or outstanding travel destination? The most common misconceptions and myths

Jan 21, 2018

Most Europeans have heard about Siberia. But the imagination depicts in the mind images of a very remote land with constant winter, thick forests and labor camps. Has it anything in common with reality? Let’s find out!

First of all, Siberia is a very big area, it covers almost 10% of the Earth’s land surface and stretches in Russia from Arctic ocean in the north to Mongolia in the south. It is equal to ½ size of whole Europe. So, everything, including weather, development and landscapes, varies very widely. The most interesting travel attractions like the Baikal lake and the Altai mountains are situated in the south of Siberia and we will look mostly at these territories.

1. Siberia is cold

It is the most common idea about Siberia. Yes. It is cold, but in winter. Winter starts in November and lasts till April. Summers are short, and further to the north they are shorter but these short summers are warm, even hot! For example, the average day temperature in Gorno-Altaysk (Altai mountains) in June is 25.5 °C, and in July it is 27.5 °C. Days hotter than 30 °C are very common .

Moreover, Siberia is a very sunny place. The number of sunny days per year varies from 200 to 260, which is almost the same as in Marseille (France) or Adelaide (Australia).

If you are going to travel to Siberia in the summer months, don’t forget to take a swimming suite and sunblock.

2. Siberia is far

Most people don’t know for sure where Siberia is, but they are convinced it is far.

Everything is relative! Siberia doesn’t border Western Europe but in comparison with other popular nature and adventure destinations it is closer!

Let’s travel from Amsterdam – the distance to the Altai mountains is about 5.000 km, to Baikal lake – 6.000 km. But if you wish to look at Machu Picchu, then you have to overcome 10.000 km, to observe birds in Costa-Rica – 9.000 km, to experience an African safari in Botswana – 8.500 km and if you want to watch bears in Alaska 7.000 km.

All big Siberian cities have airports with regular flights. It will take you about 3 hours to get to Moscow, then 4 more hours of flight, and you are in Siberia!

3. Siberia is unsafe and full of prisons

Times when people were sent to Siberia are deep in history. It is almost the same as if you wouldn’t go to Australia for that reason. Stalin’s labor camps, where many people suffered, existed only in 1930-1940’s. In 1950’s they were disbanded, ruined and forgotten. In Siberia there are no and have never been any ethnic conflicts like those which took place in the Southern regions of Russia (Chechnya, Caucuses).

Siberia is no more dangerous than any other region in the world. Moreover, Siberians are famous in Russia for their open-heartedness and hospitality. Of course, it is possible that you meet gloomy or drunk people as can happen to you anywhere in the world. Foreigners are not very often visiting here and usually they are treated with respect and great interest to another culture. Locals will be very interested in your home-country.

4. Siberia is not developed

As I already told, Siberia is very big and it easily holds both huge uninhabited areas with pristine nature and modern million-strong cities like Krasnoyarsk, Omsk and Novosibirsk. Other big cities have a population between 600 to 700 thousand people. By the way, bigger than many European famous cities and even capitals like Oslo, Lisbon or Helsinki.
So in Siberian cities there are up-to-date shopping malls, theatres, museums, night clubs, modern enterprises and much more. Cities, towns and villages are connected with railways and regular public buses.

The travel industry is developing very fast. In the popular tourist destinations you can find accommodations of any level from luxury hotels to modest guesthouses and campsites.

5. Siberia is boring

Some people suppose that there is nothing to see or to do in Siberia. This is completely not true.

Siberia is a wonderful land with diverse landscape – – arctic ice shores and semi-deserts, high snowy mountains and tundra lowlands, thousands of rivers and lakes, glaciers and caves. You can read about the most fascinating Siberian points of interest in our previous post.

If you are a nature lover, it is a paradise for you – enjoy stunning sceneries, observe wildlife and birdwatching.
You are interested in history? – people lived in Siberia for many centuries, numerous archeologic monuments of different epochs are found all across Siberia.

You prefer to study local culture? – many different peoples and nations live in Siberia, and in the remote areas many of them keep their traditions, or even live in the same way as their ancestors did.

For those who are looking for adventures there are endless possibilities: mountain climbing or rafting, horse or camel riding , dog/reindeer sledding, fishing, backpacking and off-road driving.

So, open up and clear your mind of stereotypes, prepare yourself for great adventures and lifetime experiences and start your personal journey to beautiful Siberia!

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