Russia has been a source of curiosity to the world for centuries. This vast and storied country has gone through periods of vast wealth (for some) and wretched poverty (for many), periods of tyranny and great thinkers, generosity, beautiful arts and industrial hideousness. These eternal Russian symbols exist in all landscapes, from dense forests to icy tundra to golden beaches to snowy mountains and to the famous grassland steppes. Also consider the ancient fortresses, palaces, spiral-towered cathedrals and wooden villages and you'll understand Russia's iconic power.
The best way to see the country is to go well off the tourist track. This doesn't mean you should skip seeing famous Moscow or ancient St Petersburg or even the lovely Lake Baikal. These are all well worth visiting. But you must also go further south and deeper in the country to the ancient Prussian resort of Kranz, now called Zelenogradsk, located in the far western Kalingrad. Also interesting is Gorodets on the Volga River, an old artist town full of artists and bakers. Elista is Europe's only Buddhist region and also home of the highly unusual Chess City. Also worth visiting is the hot springs of Kamchatka in the Far East. The huge geographical and cultural distances are staggering. The Russian Far East alone is the size of all of Europe. It's best to view Russia as a group of small countries, every one worthy of exploring. Eastern Siberia a little visited region but truly fascinating, as are the Ural Mountains.
West of the Urals you'll find European Russia where the country's cultural heart is located. If you're more interested in the vast unknown of the East, and don't mind roughing it a little, go to Siberia and the relatively unknown Far East.
The best times to visit Russia are early summer and the fall. The snow has usually all melted by May and the autumn colors in September and October are splendid. Although July and August are the warmest months they are also the main holiday season for Russians so make sure to secure your train tickets ahead of time if you go during this busy time. July and August are also damp so be prepared.
Many people don't recommend driving in Russia, especially since public transport is so good. Drivers in Russia can be aggressive and the rules of the road are complicated. Trains are excellent in Russia and connect regularly from Moscow to Helsinki, Warsaw, Berlin, and several other European cities. The overnight trains between Moscow and St Petersburg run every day.