Best time to visit Russia

This giant country boasts a whole heap of weather, but in general, winters are cold and long and summers brief and mild.
Early autumn (Sep-Oct) is the best time to visit to avoid crowds, heat and showers, and to see the wildlife of Kamchatka, but it’s hard to generalise! A country as vast as Russia experiences a huge range of weather. Siberia has very cold, long winters and short, warm summers, while west central Russia, home to Moscow and St Petersburg, has a continental climate, with four seasons and less extremes. St Petersburg on the Baltic coast is the mildest, with July peaking at 23°C and Feb dropping to -7°C. Moscow falls to -10°C in Feb and can reach a toasty 25°C in July.

Russia, month by month

From January to March, see the vast winter landscape roll by on a Trans Siberian Railway adventure. Trains run reliably despite temperatures dropping to -40°C and will take you to Lake Baikal where you can skate and walk on ice up to a metre thick. February is excellent for Siberian tiger tracking, although any time in late winter is good. Tracks are easily visible in the snow and tigers tend to wander further out of their usual terrain in search of food. Winter in western Russia hangs on until March, so if you’re visiting Moscow and St Petersburg now, expect temperatures hovering around freezing and even the odd snow day. On the plus side, you’ll have the big attractions to yourself and could get reduced rates on accommodation, too. Plus, in Moscow between the beginning and end of March, the days get longer by more than two hours! April marks the start of the main tourist season in European Russia, with temperatures in Moscow pulling out of negative figures to a comparatively balmy 6°C, and St Petersburg seeing 8°C and pleasantly dry days. By May in St Petersburg, the Baltic winter is long gone and spring is in full flow, although expect showers and nippy days. By the end of the month, the famous White Nights begin. It may be harder to spot Siberian tigers in summer, but June, July and August are a wonderful time to visit southeast Russia, near the border with China, for general wildlife watching in Durminoskoye National Park, Sikhote Alyn and Tiger’s Call National Park. The landscape is at its most vibrant and most animals are visible in Wrangel Island and Chukotka during July and August, which is when most small ship wildlife cruises run. Come in July and you can catch the Annual Beringia Arctic Games, a highlight of the Chukotka calendar. This regatta and festival features games, races in traditional walrus skin boats and cultural performances, with lots of great food to eat, too. It attracts people from all around the region. July is when St Petersburg is hottest, at around 23°C, but as the city’s warm, wet summers are also notoriously changeable, pack for sweltering 30°C and chilly drizzle, too. You might brave a dip in the Baltic now, too – it should be at about 19°C. August is when the Lake Baikal region is at its warmest, but don’t expect a heat wave. Averages for this month are around 14°C. Kamchatka is at its most stunning in September. Brown bears are fat and happy after a summer feasting on berries and salmon, and can be seen snoozing in the autumn sun before hibernation. Mountain sheep and reindeer continue to graze, feeding up before the land is locked under ice and snow again, and thousands of migratory birds are preparing to leave. Temperatures in European Russia can drop off steeply once September is over, so expect just 6°C in Moscow, St Petersburg and Novgorod in October, while over in Yekaterinburg it’s 2°C. St Petersburg is spectacular in the snow, but do wrap up from November until March. Temperatures drop below freezing in December and don’t climb above 0°C until March. Neva Bay freezes in late November or early December and the ice doesn’t break up until the beginning of spring.

Kamchatka Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)
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Olga Sitnik, from our local supplier ExploRussia, discusses the best time to visit Russia:
“For nature lovers, for sure, it’s summer from May to September. Then you can easily explore cities on foot, go trekking and stay outdoors with pleasure. For winter lovers it is quite a thing to go in winter. For sure, one has to be ready for this kind of experience, with winter gear and boots, but you’ll enjoy unbelievable winter landscapes, skating, skiing. And for example, try walking on Lake Baikal, because the ice is really thick and transparent.”

Festivals & events in Russia


Celebrated in the week before Lent, this Eastern Slavic folk festival bids farewell to winter and welcomes in spring. People fill up on traditional pancakes – blini – that are said to resemble the sun, because they’re round, golden and warm! Feasting on them is central to the week-long celebration, as is group fist fighting (yes really), troika rides, fireworks, singing and burning a Maslenitsa scarecrow that symbolises winter.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Harald Deischinger] [Intro: 12019] [Olga Sitnik quote: Irina Shishkina] [Maslenitsa: Vladimir Lobachev]