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- 22 Jan 2020, 3 nights
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The Russian city of Samara sits between the mighty Volga and Samara rivers and has been an important place of transition for centuries. Come here to relax among locals whether you're topping up your tan by the river or taking in the mountain views from the helipad-turned-viewing platform. There's plenty of culture to soak up in the city's museums and just across the water is wilderness waiting to be explored.
Most hostels in Samara have private rooms and dorms, including the option of female-only dorms, as well as free Wi-Fi. You can stay in the bright and airy rooms of a modern hostel with air con and free breakfast, and share meals with your dorm mates in the communal kitchens. If you'd like to taste some Russian specialities, look for a Samara hostel that provides cooked meals too.
Samara's old town sits around the enormous Kuibyshev Square (claimed to be the biggest square in Europe). Stroll through to surrounding streets to see historic wooden houses and unusually decorated courtyards proudly maintained by the locals. To the south is the newer part of the city, full of restaurants and shops and at the tip the Samara River Port. The crowning glory of the city is the 5km-long embankment that runs along the river. In the summer, you can rollerblade between street performers and ice-cream stalls or simply park up on a bench and watch the world go by.
One of Samara's more unusual attractions is Stalin's Bunker, only discovered in 1991 and the equivalent to a 12-story building under the city. Samara Art Museum, housed in an ancient mansion, is ideal for exploring centuries of Russian art from around the region and Zhiguli Brewery is the place to taste the beer that quenched those artists. Stock up on volba (salted fish local to the Volga region) at Troitsky Market to snack on between swims at Samara Beach or head to the Zhiguli Hills on the other side of the river for hiking among untamed woodlands.
Kurumoch International Airport is the main arrival point and a dedicated shuttle connects it to the city centre every 20 minutes. If you're travelling by bus, the terminal is outside the city, so you'll need to take a taxi or marshrutky (a shared minibus) which can take up to an hour. Buses run from Samara to Kazan (9 hours), Syzran (3 hours) and Tolyatti (2 hours). To get around town, use buses or marshrutkys which run straight down the main streets.