8 Surprising Destinations for Your Summer/Fall Travel Wishlist

8 Surprising Destinations for Your Summer/Fall Travel Wishlist

How will you spend your time this travel season? If you’re ready to step up to something a little different in a place you’ve never been before, have we got some ideas for you!

Beat the crowds and gain outstanding bragging rights in these unusual destinations:

  1. Western Russia: Capitals, Countryside & Culture
  2. Summer Surprises in the North Caucasus
  3. Kickin’ Back in Kaliningrad and the Baltics
  4. Don’t Miss These Under-Explored European Neighbors
  5. Siberian Summertime
  6. Midsummer Mongolia
  7. Silk Road Trippin’
  8. Summer in the South Caucasus

Gravity-fed fountains of Peterhof

Gravity-fed fountains of Peterhof, a staple on most tours to St. Petersburg, Russia
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

1. Western Russia: Capitals, Countryside & Culture

Western Russia is a distinctive realm — a “strange, alluring, enthralling, wonderful world,” to quote author Nikolai Gogol. From its czarist past to its present-day intrigue, Western Russia offers an incomparable range of unique experiences and opportunities to connect with its dynamic people.

Onion-domed Orthodox churches, lavish palaces, kremlin fortresses, world-renowned museums, high culture, and down-to-earth street life make up a whole that is at once well-bred and wild, huge and intimate, formal and free-wheeling.

Fall in love with gorgeous, expansive, soulful Russia.

Summer Travel Suggestions: 

  • Russia’s Imperial Capitals & Ancient Villages
    Discover where Russian art, architecture and culture began. In between the urban centers of Moscow and St. Petersburg, experience the Russian countryside. The oldest and loveliest churches in Russia, Sergiev Posad’s wooden crafts and Fedoskino’s glowing lacquer boxes all put a shine on Russia’s Golden Ring.
  • Insider’s Russia: Moscow & St. Petersburg Rediscovered
    Get to know Western Russia from the inside out on this comprehensive tour to medieval Moscow and imperial St. Petersburg. Enjoy intimate conversations with local people, insider perks like a ballet master class and dinner at a private dacha, and soak up the absolute best of Russian culture at superb museums and theaters.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace, and dates.

 

Ingushetia, North Caucasus. Photo: Michel Behar

Medieval watchtowers of Ingushetia, North Caucasus
Photo: Michel Behar

2. Summer Surprises in the North Caucasus

Russia’s stunning North Caucasus is a surprisingly welcoming region, boasting unbelievable beauty and majesty, incredible diversity, overwhelming hospitalitysophisticated cities, and secluded little mountain villages where the old customs persist.

In spite of its history of instability, the North Caucasus is a region that holds great promise. It’s one of the world’s most gorgeous, mysterious, and rewarding “undiscovered” places. You may surprise your family and friends by traveling to this rarely visited place, but just imagine their faces when you return with fabulous photos, unparalleled stories, and new-found understanding of this little-traveled area.

Summer and Fall Travel Suggestions: 

  • Return to the North Caucasus NEW for 2018!  
    Discover the ravishing mountain landscapes, medley of cultures, and overflowing hospitality of North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan in the North Caucasus region, where ancient mountain tribes have guarded their way of life for thousands of years.
  • North Caucasus & South Russia by Steam Train NEW for 2018!  
    Roll from Moscow through Southern Russia and into the splendid North Caucasus region on a private train hauled by Soviet-era steam locomotives. Board a boat to explore the Volga River Delta, and a narrow-gauge railway to admire dramatic Gaumsky Canyon.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace, and dates. 

 

Trakai Castle in Lithuania

Summer fun with sailboats and Trakai Castle in Lithuania
Photo credit: Lithuanian State Department of Tourism

3. Kickin’ Back in Kaliningrad and the Baltics

Another cool spot, where the Baltic Sea breezes brush away excess heat.

Since regaining their independence from the then-Soviet Union, the beautiful pastoral countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have 
become thriving members of the European Union. The Old Towns of each of their capitals – Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius – are UNESCO
 World Heritage Sites, with cobbled streets, handsome medieval churches
, and a wealth of fascinating and variegated cultural heritage.

Kaliningrad is an exclave of Russia, separated from the mainland by Lithuania and Poland. Kaliningraders are a diverse group who often consider themselves as possessing a unique cultural heritage, not quite European and not quite Russian.

Summer Travel Suggestions: 

  • Kaliningrad & The Baltics
    This overland small group journey roves the countryside and urban centers of four distinct nations: the three independent Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – and Kaliningrad, an exclave of Russia. 
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace, and dates. 

 

Moldovan quartet

Moldovan singers
Photo credit: Joanna Millick

4. Don’t Miss These Under-Explored European Neighbors

Ukraine, the cradle of Slavic civilization, has glittering churches, fertile farmland, and the creative Hutsul people of the Carpathian Mountains. Belarus is a country of factories, wooden houses, forests, and farmland where time slowed drastically after the devastation of WWII. And Moldova, part Romanian and part Russian, its green hills and plains stitched together with grape vines, is
 jostling for position in the European winemaking hierarchy.

Nearby Bulgaria and Romania are two of the oldest countries in Europe, blessed with Roman ruins, sections of sunny Black Sea coast, 
fantastic folk art, and fine frescoes.
 Among Europe’s least visited, most diverse, and most affordable destinations, Bulgaria and Romania are on the frontier of modern travel.

Changing with every moment that goes 
by, these countries should be visited now before the rest of the world discovers them.

Summer Travel Suggestions: 

  • Belarus, Ukraine & Moldova
    On this small group tour, traverse a little-known region that has changed hands from its earliest history. Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova, along with the breakaway region of Transdniester, are some of the least frequented and least familiar countries in Europe.
  • Bulgaria & Romania: Frescoes & Fortresses
    On this small group tour, explore the complex history and fascinating cultures of Bulgaria and Romania. Discover the luminous frescoes of the painted monasteries, breathe in the fragrance of the Valley of the Roses, and spend an afternoon visiting with villagers in a tiny Transylvanian town.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace, and dates. 

 

Celebration on the shores of Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Celebration on the shores of Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

5. Siberian Summertime

Summer in Siberia is sunny and delightful, especially if you include some Lake Baikal time in the itinerary. UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal is the deepest and most ancient lake in the world. Formed in a rift in the earth’s surface nearly 25 million years ago, the lake basin today holds about twenty percent of the world’s fresh water.

Board a boat and enjoy a cruise on the lake. The visibility can be up to 80 feet, due to the unique species of plankton that filters the clear water.

Step ashore on Olkhon Island, in the middle of the lake. The island has been a sacred place for millennia, the place where the indigenous Buryats believed the gods of Baikal once lived. Shaman Cape — just off the sandy west coast near the island’s largest town, Khuzhir — has traditionally been used for many years by shamans, and later Buddhists, for ceremonies.

Summer Travel Suggestions: 

  • Siberian Odyssey: Legends of Lake Baikal & Tuva
    Meet the Buryats of UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal and the Tuvan and Khakass people, whose Mongolian neighbors imbued them with Buddhism, shamanism, and khoomei, or throat-singing. 
  • Siberia & Mongolia: Spirits & Nomads
    Beautiful and exotic, Siberia and Mongolia are worlds away from the traditional beaten path. In Siberia, take to the waters of great Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on earth, and ride a section of the fabled Trans-Siberian Railway.
  • Remote Russia: Yakutia & Kamchatka — NEW for 2018!
    Explore the remote corners of Russia, including the wild Kamchatka Peninsula, uneasily perched on the Pacific Ring of Fire, and Yakutia, a challenging northern frontier known for mammoths and diamonds. Visit the steaming Valley of the Geysers in Kamchatka, as well as the Kingdom of Permafrost in Yakutsk.
  • Ride the rails and travel the Trans-Siberian Railway.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace, and dates. 

 

Camel riding in Mongolian desert

Camel riding in the Mongolian desert
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

6. Midsummer Mongolia

Mongolia is about open spaces — the endless undulating grasslands and the scrubby vegetation of the Gobi Desert are dramatic backdrops for the tiny round gers of the lone nomadic families who make this environment their home.

Visit in early July and you can attend the annual Naadam Festival, showcasing the best in wrestling, horse racing, and archery, as well as uniquely Mongolian sports such as “ankle-bone shooting.”

The biggest and most elaborate Naadam Festival is in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, but all over the country there are smaller regional and local festivals, like small county fairs.

Summer Travel Suggestions: 

  • Mongolian Explorer: The Gobi & Beyond
    Mongolia: The name conjures up images of vast grasslands, wind-swept steppe, and endless sky. Here an empire built on horseback galloped across two continents, leaving behind the names Genghis and Kublai Khan.
  • Siberia & Mongolia: Spirits & Nomads
    Beautiful and exotic, Siberia and Mongolia are worlds away from the traditional beaten path. Explore the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, then fly to the red sands of the Gobi Desert. Celebrate a country Naadam Festival, far from the glitz and ruckus of the capital.
  • Mongolia to Moscow: A Trans-Siberian Railway Adventure
    Travel on regularly scheduled Trans-Siberian trains over a dramatic and variegated route that offers limitless opportunities to meet the diverse local people — Mongol, Buryat, and Russian. The July departure features Mongolia’s Naadam Festival.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace, and dates. 

 

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Bukhara is Uzbekistan’s best-preserved oasis city
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

7. Silk Road Trippin’

For something really different, take a road trip through Central Asia, an adventurous destination laced with traces of the old Silk Road that linked the Eastern and Western worlds. These great trade routes formed the conduit not only for the silks and spices that gave the world some of its brilliance and flavor, but also for ideas, languages, art, architecture and religions.

Discover unfamiliar cultures, abundant bazaars, fabulous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, up-to-the-minute politics, and down-to-earth, welcoming people as you follow the path of early merchants, traders, and conquerors.

Summer and Fall Travel Suggestions: 

  • Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia
    Follow in the footsteps of early explorers who plied the old Silk Road trade routes connecting East with West. Visit exotic Kashgar; skirt the infamous Taklamakan Desert on camelback; traverse the 12,000-foot Torugart Pass; and explore each of the five ‘stans.
  • In Search of Nomads & Mountains: Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan — NEW for 2018!
    Range from alpine Lake Issyk-kul in the Kyrgyz outback, where the exciting World Nomad Games presents contests in eagle hunting, stick wrestling, and intense Central Asian horse games, to the high, jagged mountains of the remote Pamir Highway in Tajikistan.
  • The Pamir Highway & Across Fabled Frontiers
    Climb into the mountains of Tajikistan along the dramatic Pamir Highway and trace the old Silk Route through Murghab, Ishkashim, and Dushanbe, following the path of nomads, merchants, and Great Game players.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace, and dates. 

 

Toasting to a great Georgian mealPhoto: Mariana Noble

Toasting to a great Georgian meal
Photo credit: Mariana Noble

8. Summer in the South Caucasus

Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, the three countries of the South Caucasus, interlock like puzzle pieces on a strip of mountainous land wedged between the Black and Caspian seas. Each shares a border with the other two, three unrelated languages are spoken, and two different religions hold sway. The Muslim people of Azerbaijan and the Christians of Armenia and Georgia all have robust pagan roots, a love of life and a strong culture of hospitality, home, and hearth.

One of the best parts of travel in the South Caucasus is undoubtedly the rich array of incredible food and wine. Cuisine in this region is abundant, savory, and complex, and both Armenia and Georgia boast some of the oldest wine-making traditions known to man.

Summer and Fall Travel Suggestions: 

  • Treasures of the South Caucasus
    Georgia’s renowned winemaking traditions, Azerbaijan’s Zoroastrian and Islamic background, and Armenia’s multitude of ancient churches combine to make this distinctive journey more than the sum of its parts.
  • Village Traditions of the South Caucasus — NEW for 2018!
    Step deep into the cultures of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, experiencing local life in one of the most hospitable regions of the world. Meet the highland people of Georgia’s stunning Svaneti and Tusheti mountain regions, an Azeri craftsman in his village home, and a carpet master in small-town Armenia.
  • A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture
    Explore gorgeous Georgia on a culinary and cultural caravan that traverses a country entwined with grapevines, overflowing with wine, and abounding in hospitality. Discover the history and living traditions of this ancient country through its chefs, winemakers, artisans, and musicians.
  • hand-crafted private tour, customized to your interests, pace, and dates. 

 

Make the Most of  Your Summer with MIR

MIR is celebrating more than 30 years of travel expertise. You can travel to any of our destinations with MIR — on a small group tour, a rail journey by private train, or an independent journey.

With affiliate offices in RussiaUkraine, and Uzbekistan offering on-the-ground support and tour managers that clients rave about, MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Contact MIR today at [email protected] or 1-111-111-1111.

Top photo: Travelers at a dacha outside of St. Petersburg. Photo credit: Bruce Jones.

PUBLISHED: March 3, 2017

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