Russia has been a mystery to most of the rest of the world for hundreds of years because it seems to offer so many contradictions. While it is home to some of the world's more prosperous entrepreneurs who command great riches, it is also the scene of tremendous areas of poverty.
While many of the leading achievers in medicine, science and the arts have come from Russia, the country has also produced a number of delicious despots responsible for the country's darkest days. The people of Russia are known as good-willed, resourceful people, while Russian leaders have long been associated with corruption and over-regulating every aspect of citizens' lives.
One could easily discuss some of Russia's great contributions to culture and beauty, yet you could just as easily find examples of the country's polluting industries and substandard housing. Its climate and topography ranges from frozen tundra and snow-capped mountains to warm, sunny beaches along a scenic coastline and dense, lush forests.
It's there that you'll encounter fortresses that have stood for ages, the swirling spires of Russia's famous churches and tiny villas that have remained unchanged for centuries. You may be ready to take a plane tomorrow, but bear in mind that all citizens of the 50 states must have valid US passports if they aim to make it to Russia.
You'll also have to do the paperwork to obtain Russian visas before you make your journey to this country that is full of history, beauty and bountiful natural habitats. It's crucial to get all of your permissions and documents in order as early as possible, but once that's all taken care of, start making an itinerary of the places you want to visit.
You'll probably want to start by seeing the most popular, often photographed sites that most visitors to the country flock to in droves each year. Moscow is usually the first stop for tourists because it is the most well-known place in all of Russia, and offers views of the country's great art and architecture.
Many tourists come to Vladivostok and to Kaliningrad as part of their tour itinerary. Traveling to Russia does not have to be limited to city life, as you'll find if you take a journey to the country roads of Russia and explore some of its natural resources.
If you're in the mood to spend time by the sea, try Zelenogradsk, formerly the old Prussian resort of Kranz, positioned in the far western Kaliningrad Region.
A beacon to many, the Black Sea town of Ochakiv is a prime spot for history buffs, with its ancient settlements and fortresses, and history of Russo-Turkish Wars battles. Perhaps you're a veteran of many a foreign tour, but with its intense expanse of land, Russia is a large-scale undertaking even for the seasoned tourist.
In its strength, it's a good idea to experience Russia as a series of countries that require time, patience and sometimes return trips to fully take in.