JHRU RUSSIA: Western, Eastern & Kamchatka TOUR

SEARCH TOUR

With Jonathan Hodgson

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

The Hermitage, one of the world's leading museums; The sumptuous 18th C Catherine Palace; The water fountains at Peterhof; Moscow's famous Red Square & Kremlin Red Square, Kremlin & Armory tour; Travelling the famous Trans-Siberian Railway; Exotic Irkutsk, remote & beautiful Lake Baikal; Vladivostok: 'Lord of the East'; Remote & rugged Kamchatka Peninsula; Valley of the Geysers

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before any applicable taxes. The pricing reflects twin-sharing, per-person costs without airfare to/from the tour; however, we can book flights from your home airport for an added cost. Contact us for a no obligation quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Fri 16 Aug 2019Mon 30 Sep 2019 $15680 USD Limited availability, please contact us

$2000 per person deposit required; we will request an additional deposit payment of $3000 per person at time of 'guarantee.' Due to the high price of hotel and train accommodation in Russia, if you join our share program and we fail to pair you, a mandatory up-charge equivalent to the full supplement will apply.

Optional Single Supplement: $3900 USD (number of singles limited).
This tour may require a mandatory single supplement charge of $3900 if you join our share program and we are unable to pair you.


Tour Overview


This tour was designed, and will be led by, senior Tour Leader, Jonathan Hodgson, who invites you to join him on this epic journey:

"Russia. The country conjures up so many images and stereotypes. Iconic architecture, vast Siberian forests, Soviet-esque socialist realist art, autocratic leaders, the home to famous authors and composers, vodka and caviar, and more. A land mass that is almost double that of Canada (the second largest country in the world) leaves one overwhelmed by the prospect of visiting and doing justice to the whole Russian experience. This tour offering is designed to try and tackle just that.

When I first began to consider this tour I wished to offer more than the typical "core Russia" tour offered by a number of other companies. The project grew to a scope that we now offer to you in two different modules, featuring St. Petersburg, the Russian Arctic and Moscow and the Golden Ring, followed by a train-based journey from Moscow to Vladivostok with many stops along the way, followed by an optional add-on to the wild peninsula of Kamchatka at the end.

What will you experience? Think stately St. Petersburg, energetic Moscow, remote villages along the shores of the Barents Sea, classic onion-domed churches along the trail of the Golden Ring, and riding the Trans-Siberian route to the shores of Lake Baikal with stops in Kazan, Ekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk and more! For those with the inclination for true adventure, the week-long add-on to Kamchatka is not for the faint of heart, as it will feature hiking, wilderness adventures, and (weather-permitting) a helicopter ride over the Geyser Valley and Uzon Caldera.

I welcome you to come experience what Russia has to offer with me."

Jonathan

Regions visited: Central And Eastern Europe
Countries visited: Russia


Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrival in St Petersburg
Arrive in St. Petersburg, Russia.

St. Petersburg is a relatively new city, founded in 1703. When it was nine years old it became the capital of Russia and retained this status till 1918; even now it is referred to as the "Northern Capital" of Russia. Over almost 300 years of its history St. Petersburg accumulated all the grandeur of the Russian Imperial Court and became one of the largest centres of culture, science and industry. Created by Peter the Great as a sea port on the Baltic it was essentially "a window to the West" for Russia, combining the best of the West and the East.

Overnight in St Petersburg.

Included Meal(s): Dinner

Day 2 St Petersburg: Peter and Paul Fortress & Peterhof Palace
We kick off our sightseeing* this morning with a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress. We'll see how the fort played an important role in the development of St Petersburg, which makes it a good place to begin our visit. This was the first structure to be built in St. Petersburg, and thus the birthplace of the city, but it never served its intended defensive function. Instead it has had a rich, hugely varied, and sometimes sinister history as a military base, a home of government departments, the burial ground of the Russian Imperial family, the site of groundbreaking scientific experiments, and a forbidding jail that held some of Russia's most prominent political prisoners.

We then continue to Peterhof Palace (Petrodvorets), a remarkable example of an eighteenth and nineteenth century country estate. Built by Peter I in 1717, the palace was to be "better than the French king's at Versailles." An intricate system of water fountains surrounds the palace in the immaculate gardens. We will have a chance to walk through the palace and the gardens. We return to the city by hydrofoil (weather permitting).

* The order of our St Pete's (and Moscow) activities is partly dictated by the days on which all of the sites visited have their weekly closures. In order to ensure that we place each element accordingly may mean that logic, according to theme and as dictated by the map, may suffer as we hop about from place to place.

Overnight in St Petersburg.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 St Petersburg: Church on the Savior of Spilled Blood & The Hermitage
This morning we'll visit the Church on the Savior of Spilled Blood, a marvellous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. After assuming power in 1855 in the wake of Russia's disastrous defeat in the Crimean War, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms, freeing Russian serfs (peasants, who were almost enslaved to their owners) from their ties to their masters, and undertook a rigorous program of military, judicial and urban reforms, never before attempted in Russia. The decision was taken to build a church on the spot where the Emperor was mortally wounded.

Next we explore one of the world's leading museums, the Hermitage (main building). With over 400 exhibition halls, it is virtually impossible to list all of the treasures. While walking through the many galleries, look out for Madonna by Raphael, Judith by Giorgione, Titian's Saint-Sebastian, and many, many paintings by Rembrandt. Inside this beautiful Winter Palace are some of the finest collections of French impressionist works. In addition, there is a fine collection of ancient and classical works from ancient Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia.

One could easily spend several days wandering the halls inside the building; for the purposes of our formal guided tour today, we concentrate on the highlights and provide an orientation to those wishing to explore further on their own during some designated free time. You are welcome to remain in the museum and make your own way back to the hotel on your own.

The afternoon is yours for independent exploration (dinner on your own this evening).

Overnight in St Petersburg.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Day 4 St Petersburg: Catherine Palace, St Isaac's & Russian Museum - Overnight train
This morning we check out of our hotel and travel to Pushkin to see the sumptuous Catherine Palace, created in the eighteenth century by Catherine the Great, the second wife of Peter III. Designed by Rastrelli, this palace is a truly stunning example of classical baroque architecture and interior design. The true glory of the palace is the Amber Room, made of several tons of the golden tree resin -- the lightest gem in the world. The room was first installed in the Winter Palace, but in 1755 Empress Elizabeth ordered Francesco Rastrelli to move it to the Catherine Palace.

Returning to the city we'll stop at St Isaac's Cathedral, where we will notice the interior reliefs of exceptional beauty. We will also hear of the many legends that make this church famous throughout Russia.

Our last stop is the Russian Museum. The museum opened in 1898 by Alexander III in the beautiful Mikhailovsky Palace -- well worth inspecting before we take a look at the collection inside. Works of Russian art abound with over 370,000 pieces in the collection. There are prized paintings, sculptures, iconographic art and several masterpieces. It truly is an encyclopedia of Russian life, character, and soul, which sets us up well for things to come.

We then return to St Pete's with some time to prepare for our first overnight train to Petrozavodsk for the northern/Arctic section of our program.

ABOUT THE TRAINS (Western Russia segment): We will book 1st class cabins (DBL room) for the segments St Pete’s-Petrozavodsk and Kem-Murmansk. Limited single cabins available.

Russian classification of the wagons: 1st class wagon consists of 9 cabins with two beds in each. Beds are low (both) and there is a table between them. There is plenty of space to keep your luggage in the compartment (cabins are lockable), either in an overhead luggage storage area, or under the bed. There are two toilets in each wagon; there are no showers in any of the trains.

We will provide a more detailed info sheet on the trains upon reservation.

Overnight Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Arrive in Petrozavodsk: City Tour & Kizhi Island
Welcome to Petrozavodsk, located at 61.7782° N.

At around 7am we disembark our train and head to a restaurant for breakfast. Please be prepared with everything you will need for the day as we will not be arriving at our hotel until the end of the day's activities.

We first tour the city centre of Petrozavodsk where we will be acquainted with its more than 300 year history. Founded in 1703 on the bank of Lake Onego, Petrozavodsk played an important role in defending the borders of the Russian Empire. In 1777 Petrozavodsk was granted the status of a town and soon became the capital of the area.

The name of the city is derived from a factory of Peter the Great that was famous for its cannon and iron casting. The Petrozavodsk factory was well-known, not only for producing high quality weapons, but also for exquisite iron cast fences. Some works still decorate parks and bridges of St. Petersburg. During WWII Petrozavodsk was heavily damaged, hence the majority of today's city centre was erected soon after the war in a unified architectural style known as Socialist Classicism.

The city also boasts of many parks and green spaces. We'll stop at Onego Lake, which offers picturesque views an open-air museum of modern sculpture.

Late morning we'll board a hydrofoil for Kizhi Island (about 1h 20 min). On arrival we'll visit the Kizhi State Open-Air Museum of Wooden Architecture, one of the most popular attractions in Russia. The pearl of the museum is its world renowned wooden church ensemble (presently under restoration), a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. Kizhi Island is a place of rare beauty, where nature and wooden architecture coexist in full harmony and revive a unique atmosphere of the past.

Later this afternoon we hydrofoil back to Petrozavodsk arriving in time for hotel check-in and dinner.

Overnight in Petrozavodsk.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Petrozavodsk - Kivach Nature Reserve - Kem
Today we check out and travel by road to Kem (please pack your day bag with everything you will need for the day).

En route we stop at the Kivach Nature Reserve. We will see a waterfall and become acquainted with typical local flora and fauna at the site museum. We also see the Belomorsk Petroglyphs, an archaeological complex comprising over 2,000 images of wild animals, sea animals, and people, including the world's oldest images of a person skiing.Our visit will reveal much about the Karelian past and mysteries of the early Stone Age peoples.

Later we arrive at Kem and check in to our hotel.

Overnight in Kem.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Kem - Ferry to Bolshoy Solovetsky Island
This morning we travel by ferry to Solovki. On arrival we'll transfer to our hotel to drop our luggage (it will be too early to check-in, so please have everything with you for the day).

The Solovetsky Islands, or Solovki, comprise an archipelago of six islands located in Onega Bay of the White Sea. The only inhabited locality on the island is the settlement of Solovetsky (pop 1,000), which serves as the administrative centre of Solovetsky District.

Historically the islands have been the setting of the famous Russian Orthodox Solovetsky Monastery complex, which is the highlight of our day and the main attraction on the island. It was founded in the second quarter of the 15th century by two monks and, by the end of the 16th century, the abbey had emerged as one of the wealthiest landowners and most influential religious centres in Russia. This imposing, stone-walled monastery has played various roles throughout its existence: a hermit's retreat, a vibrant religious community, a rebel enclave that held out against the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, a fortress victorious against British warships, a gulag for the Soviet Union's damned and a museum. Revived post-perestroika, it flourishes once more as a spiritual institution.

After the October Revolution, the islands also attained notoriety as the site of the first Soviet prison camp (gulag).The camp was inaugurated in 1921 while Vladimir Lenin was still at the helm of Soviet Russia, and was closed in 1939 on the eve of World War II. By the beginning of the war, there was a naval cadet training camp for the Soviet Northern Fleet.

We'll visit the Gulag Museum before heading to Sekirnaya Hill and botanical garden,
the highest point of the island. Situated on the top of the hill is one of the strictest sketes (monastic community) of the island with a unique lighthouse church. During the gulag time the skete was one of the cruelest of all the detention places for the inmates of the camp. Today it is a living skete again; a very tranquil place that offers a fantastic panorama view over the island.

Overnight in Solovetsky.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Solovki - Ferry to Kem - Overnight Train to Murmansk
This morning we check out (please pack your day bags) and travel by boat to Bolshoi Zayatsky, a small rugged island covered with boulders, moss, and large bushes.

The island is best known for its 'labyrinths' as well as more than 850 heaps of boulders and numerous other stone settings. Labyrinths, for the most part, are formed by boulders set in a row. The boulders are not especially large (roughly 30-40 cm in diameter), and the rows are twisted in the form of a spiral; often there are two spirals set one into another. The purpose of these stone settings is unclear. It may be assumed that the labyrinth was used for specific rituals to help the souls of deceased travel to another world. Another hypothesis is that the stone settings served as a model for complex fishing equipment.

In the mid-afternoon we ferry back to Kem where we have dinner before catching our overnight train north to Murmansk.

Overnight Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Arrival in Murmansk: City Touring
This morning we arrive in Murmansk, meet our local guide, and enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant. Welcome to the world's largest city above the Arctic Circle! (68.9585° N).

Murmansk’s raison d’être is its port, kept ice-free by comparatively warm Gulf Stream waters. This bustling, rapidly modernising place gets much of its wealth from the cornucopia of minerals found beneath the ground of the Kola Peninsula, the controversial exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic and close ties with its Scandinavian neighbours. During World War II (known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War), Murmansk served as a port for the Arctic convoys, and after the war became the Soviet Union's most important submarine base. As a relatively new entity, Murmansk has few real sights apart from the giant statue Alyosha, a 30-meter-tall statue of a soldier built in 1974 to commemorate the Soviet defence of the Arctic during World War II. Architecture buffs will, however, be intrigued by the crumbling but Stalinist architecture downtown.

We'll have panoramic look around Murmansk and pay a visit to the nuclear icebreaker, Lenin. The ship was retired in 1989 having covered more than 500,000 nautical miles (about 925,000 km or 575,000 statute miles) in ice. In 2009, around the 50th anniversary of its entering service, it opened as a floating museum in Murmansk harbour.

Time at leisure.

Overnight in Murmansk.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Murmansk & Teriberka
Today we leave Murmansk for an excursion north to the Arctic Ocean and the village of Teriberka, the capital of Kola Peninsula and Murmansk region (69.1827° N). This wild place became famous after the release of Oscar-nominated movie, 'Leviathan' by Russian film director Andrey Zvyagintsev, which featured the dramatic scenery of the Arctic Ocean coast. The film also depicts troubling aspects of modern life in Russia: the arbitrariness of officials, wrongful courts, hypocritical bishops, greedy boss-managers, mindless drinking, and wandering.

Our route passes through Arctic tundra, a vast treeless area also typical of Canada and Greenland, with a severe climate throughout the year (dress accordingly!). Teriberka was once home to Pomor settlers and is proud of its maritime heritage, which peaked after the Second World War when big boats brought in catches of cod and haddock and the population reached 5,000. The village fell into slow decline as industry moved to bigger ports, and the economic collapse of the 1990s almost finished it off. Today the population hovers around 900 but remains one of the most picturesque spots in Arctic Russia, with its skeletons of old boats on the shore, wooden cabins, empty shells of Soviet-era housing and a colourful seafront graveyard.

Before returning to Murmansk, we'll include a spectacular heli-sightseeing flight along the rugged Arctic coast (+/- 25 min, weather-permitting).

Overnight in Murmansk.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Murmansk - Fly to Moscow - Vladimir: City Touring
Today we fly to Moscow and then transfer by road to Vladimir, our first stop along the famed 'Golden Ring.'

The Golden Ring is a ring of cities northeast of Moscow formerly comprising the region known as Zalesye. These ancient towns, which also played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church, preserve the memory of the most important and significant events in Russian history. The towns have been called "open-air museums" and feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th-18th centuries. These towns are among the most picturesque in Russia and prominently feature Russia's onion domes. Of course this means that the visitor must brace oneself for an itinerary heavy on monuments, churches, cathedrals etc, which, of course, are important definitive aspects of the place of which the Russians are rightfully proud. As we go, however, we'll also try to put this interesting region into a larger context and experience the not-so-distant past and the present, and discuss its prospects for the future. And of course such discussions, at least according to our hosts, always go better with plenty of medovukha, a local specialty wine made from honey.

Our destination is Vladimir, founded by Prince Vladimir Monomakh in 1108. In 1157 Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky moved the capital of Vladimir-Suzdal Principality to Vladimir because of the sacred icon of Our Lady from Constantinople having been moved there. In 1299 the town also became the residence of the Russian Metropolitan. By the middle of the 14th century Vladimir had lost its political importance and Moscow had become the main political centre of the Russian state. The ancient monuments dated by the 12th century remain in town and its suburbs.

We visit the main shrine of Vladimir, the majestic and beautiful Assumption Cathedral. Once it was the main church of Vladimir principality. Its construction was initiated by the glorious Prince Andrei Bogolyubskii in 1158. We also include the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius , considered as a premier monument of ancient Russian architecture. History has not preserved the names of the builders of this wonderful church, but we know the approximate date of its laying, c. 1194-1197. We finish with a look at the Golden Gate arch, a unique example of Russian military architecture of the 12th century. It was erected in 1164 as a part of the defensive wall encircling the ancient Vladimir.

Overnight in Vladimir.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Vladimir - Bogolyubovo - Suzdal
Today our adventure continues to Bogolyubovo, located on the high bank of river Nerl. The legend says that Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky saw a vision of the Virgin Mary who ordered him to found a temple at the mouth of the rivers Nerl and Klyazma. We stop in at the St. Bogolyubskiy Monastery and Church of the Intercession on the Nerl before continuing to Suzdal where we embark on a panoramic tour.

In full, "Suzdal Principality," in Russian "Suzdalskoye Knyazhestvo," this medieval principality occupied the area between the Oka River and the Upper Volga in northeastern Russia. During the 12th to 14th centuries, Suzdal was under the rule of a branch of the Rurik dynasty. As one of the successor regions to Kiev, the principality achieved great political and economic importance, first becoming prominent during the reign of Andrey Bogolyubsky, who conquered Kiev (1169) and transferred the title of "grand prince" from that ancient capital first to Suzdal, then to Vladimir, his new capital on the Klyazma River.

We make an excursion to the Kremlin, where we find, among other things, the remnants of Suzdal's first stone church, built in the 12th century. Also located in the Kremlin are the main belfry and the snow-white Archiepiscopal Palace. In its day, Suzdal was the spiritual center of Old Russia, and this is evident even now. Over an area of 3.5 square miles there are five monasteries, some 30 churches and chapels, and 14 bell towers: More cultural artifacts per square foot than anywhere else in the world, with the possible exception of Old Jerusalem.

Given the seasonality of our visit, you no doubt will have noticed that gardening has long been one of the main occupations of the local dwellers (true throughout Russia). The main crops in Suzdal are horseradish and cucumber, and today the cucumber has become one of the city’s brands. In addition to traditional cucumber pickles, in Suzdal you will be treated to the most unexpected cucumber dishes.

Overnight in Suzdal.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 13 Suzdal - Sumarokovo Moose Farm - Kostroma
Today we continue to Kostroma, established in the 12th century. During the time of Polish-Lithuanian intervention in the beginning of the 18th century, Kostroma played a prominent role in the formation of people's volunteer corps led by Minin and Pozharsky. Another representative of Kostroma, peasant Ivan Susanin took enemies to thick woods and deadly swamps where they all met their deaths.

On arrival we have a break for lunch -- note: Kostroma is famous for mushrooms and mushroom dishes, often featuring a cream sauce, sprinkled with grated cheese and baked until golden brown.

This afternon we take a (short) break from cathedrals and monasteries with a visit to Sumarokovo Moose Farm, an experimental facility where a herd of moose is kept for agricultural purposes.

As early as 1869, the Russian zoologist and explorer Alexander von Middendorff wrote to the Tsar's Government: "Even the civilized Europe these days has failed to domesticate the moose, the animal that doubtlessly can be of great utility. Our government ought to apply all possible efforts toward the domestication of this animal. This is doable. The reward would be great, and so would be the glory. ”

The idea of the moose domestication did not get much traction in Czarist Russia. However, it reappeared in the 1930s Soviet Union; it was suggested at the time that moose cavalry could be efficiently used even in the deep snow. In 1934, the Soviet Government's Nature Reserve Committee ordered creation of moose reserves and moose breeding centers. However, the work was not finished in time for World War II, and when the war came, the entire idea of cavalry as a combat force was swept away.

Today the moose are kept primarily for milk production; the farm supplies moose milk to a nearby sanatorium. Moose antler velvet can also be harvested and used for several pharmaceutical products. Farming moose for meat has been tried but almost immediately abandoned, as the moose, who are allowed to range freely, are not stupid and would never return willingly to a place where it's kin are being killed and slaughtered!

Overnight in Kostroma.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 14 Kostroma Touring - Yaroslavl
This morning we have a panoramic tour of Kostroma, whose centre comprises buildings and structures built in a classic architectural style during the period between 1770-1830. It's a fine example of unique, monolithic urban architectural complex. We include the exteriors of the Church of the Resurrection on Debre and the Epiphany Monastery before heading off to Yaroslavl.

After a break for lunch we'll continue to Yarolslav and check-in to our hotel. During free time in this region, keep an eye out for "black salt" in local shops, or ask your guide. This is a unique product from Kostroma region, which has dark grey crystals and a charming bread-like smell achieved by roasting in special ovens with flour and wild herbs. Compared to regular table salt, black salt has an increased content of minerals (iodine, calcium, potassium, magnesium and others), and less sodium, and is believed to have medicinal qualities.

Overnight in Yaroslavl.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 15 Yaroslovl Touring
Yaroslavl is older than Moscow, established about 1010 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise at the bank of Volga River. In the 17th century, Yaroslavl was the biggest trade and industrial town of Russia. During this time many new buildings were built, such that the town now has its own school of architectural styles and construction. Indeed the successful merchants in the town tried to out-do each other in their contributions to the city's architecture, encouraged by the city's architectural school.

This morning we'll have a tour about Yaroslavl seeing the principle monuments before a break for lunch in town. Keep an eye out for "fish pies," a typical dish of Yaroslavl.

This afternoon we'll enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Volga River (dinner on your own this evening).

Overnight in Yaroslavl.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Day 16 Yaroslovl - Rostov - Sergiyev Posad - Moscow
On our last day on the Golden Ring we stop in at Rostov-the-Great and Sergiyev Posad before finally arriving in Moscow.

Rostov is one of the oldest cities on our route, situated by the beautiful Lake Nero. The history of this place begins four thousand years BC when the first tribes stayed next to the lake. Until the 11th century the territory of Rostov was inhabited by the Finn-Ugors, or 'Meryans' people. Slowly they assimilated with the Slavs, who came from the south. On arrival we will have a tour of the town, including the Rostov Kremlin and Museum of Enamel.

After lunch and some free time in Rostov we transfer to Sergiyev Posad ("Zagorsk" in Soviet times), which developed from a settlement around the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra, one of Russia's most famous monasteries (founded 1340). In 1774, the monastery was given the title Lavra, the monastery of the highest rank, and played an important role in the history of the formation of the centralized Russian state and in the development of the Russian culture.

We will visit the monastery, which has currently become a place of pilgrimage of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After our visit we'll continue to Moscow.

Overnight in Moscow.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 17 Moscow: Red Square & Tretiakov Gallery
Moscow is the 872 year-old capital of Russia. An iconic, global city, Moscow has played a central role in the development of Russia and the world. For many, the sight of the Kremlin complex in the centre of the city is still loaded with symbolism and history. Moscow was the capital of the former Soviet Union and signs of its previous life are still very visible. Yet, there is more to Russia and its capital than just memories of the USSR. Architectural gems from the time of the Russian Empire are still dotted throughout Moscow, while signs of modern Tsars (or at least people with similar levels of wealth) abound.

Today we will tour famous Red Square, once the centre of Soviet life. Around the square is the History Museum, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Lenin Mausoleum, which was built in 1929. In the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction of one of Moscow's most famous landmarks -- Saint Basil's Cathedral. Originally called Pokrovsky Sobor (the Cathedral of the Veil), each of the nine cupolas cover a chapel named after the saint on whose feast-day the Russian armies won their battles.

This afternoon we visit a unique treasure house of Russian painting, graphs and sculptures --the Tretiakov Gallery. It has 62 exhibition halls representing the works of the XII century artists, sculptors, and icon painters. Here you'll see works of Brulov, Savrasov, Vasiliev, Kuindgi, Nesterov, Rublyov, and Ushakov.

This evening you can choose to attend a Bolshoi performance (optional - details TBA). To facilitate this, we do not include dinner this evening.

Overnight in Moscow.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Day 18 Moscow: The Kremlin
Today we have a walking tour of the Kremlin, the famous triangular-walled citadel of the Soviet Government dating from the end of the 15th century, with its many cathedrals and iconostases, the bell tower of Ivan the Great; and the Czar Bell, which weighing 200 tons is the largest in the world. Upon leaving the Kremlin, be sure to touch the Kremlin Wall -- an omen foretelling your return to this hospitable city. We also include a visit to the Kremlin Armory.

While in Moscow we'll also visit the GUM Department Store, once filled with Soviet-era goods of mediocre quality, now a mall with international labels and hyper-expensive boutiques. Even if you don't buy anything, it's highly recommended to go inside and admire the architecture.

This evening we'll have a farewell dinner for those travellers ending their journey in Moscow. We may also be meeting new travellers joining us for the Eastern section of our journey.

Overnight in Moscow.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 19 Moscow: At Leisure
Today is a well-deserved day at leisure to enjoy this fascinating city. Your Tour Leader can help you plan your day (dinner on your own this evening).

Overnight in Moscow.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Day 20 Moscow Touring - Overnight Train to Kazan
Today we visit the Kremlin in Izmailovo, situated in a historical place on the bank of Serebryano-Vinogradny pond. Visiting the Kremlin gives us a rare opportunity to experience an atmosphere of the past and see masters of handicraft at work — blacksmiths, potters, wood carvers etc. This is a "museum of museums", which includes exhibits of national dress and life, a Museum of Bells, Museum of Russian Fairytales, Museum of History, of Vodka, and a Museum of Russian Toys, all in one place. For lunch you can taste traditional dishes of different nationalities of Russia.

While in Moscow, we'll also be able to experience the Moscow Metro system, in which each station is designed and decorated in a different style, with chandeliers, mosaics, and paintings. Amazingly the underground trains are nearly silent. Some of these stations are so deep that they were used as air raid shelters during WWII.

This evening we board our overnight train to Kazan (we'll likely have dinner before boarding).

Welcome aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR)! This is a network of railways connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East; with a length of 9289 kilometres (5,772 miles), this is the longest railway line in the world. There are connecting branch lines into Mongolia, China, and North Korea. It has connected Moscow with Vladivostok since 1916, and is still being expanded. It was built between 1891 and 1916 under the supervision of Russian government ministers personally appointed by Tsar Alexander III and his son, the Tsarevich Nicholas (later Tsar Nicholas II). Even before it had been completed, it attracted travellers who wrote of their adventures. Flat-out, tt takes more than six days to travel along the whole Trans-Siberian, so we chose to make stops along the way, making this trip more comforable and even more interesting.

ABOUT THE TRAINS (Eastern Russia segment): We will book 1st class cabins (DBL room) for all segments, except for Tyumen-Novosbirsk, which is 2nd class (1st class not available; DBL room). Limited single cabins available.

Russian classification of the wagons: 1st class wagon consists of 9 cabins with two beds in each. Beds are low (both) and there is a table between them. There is plenty of space to keep your luggage in the compartment (cabins are lockable), either in an overhead luggage storage area, or under the bed. There are two toilets in each wagon; there are no showers in any of the trains.

IMPORTANT NOTE ON SUITABILITY: YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MANAGE YOUR OWN BAGS ONTO/OFF TRAINS AND IN TRAIN STATIONS. We regret that porters are generally not available and your Tour Leader has very limited ability to assist with baggage. Packing lightly is essential.

We will provide a more detailed info sheet on the trains upon reservation.

Overnight Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 21 Arrive in Kazan: City Touring
This morning we arrive in Kazan and move to a restaurant for breakfast.

Kazan (meaning 'cooking pot' in Tatar) is the 'Istanbul of the Volga,' a place where Europe and Asia curiously inspect each other from the tops of church belfries and minarets. It is about 150 years older than Moscow and the capital of the Tatarstan Republic – the land of the Volga Tatars, a Turkic people commonly associated with Chinggis (Genghis) Khaan’s hordes.

Modern Kazan, as before, is one of the Russia’s centres of multinational cultures. The interpenetration of the Western and Eastern mentality in Kazan creates an original independent culture. A prevailing feature of life in the city is peaceful, creative coexistence of different religions and nationalities.

Our city tour includes views of City Hall, Freedom Square, Tatar State Opera & Ballet Theatre, Pushkin Statue, and Kazan State University. We also visit the Old Tatar Quarter (Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda), the soul of the historical part of Kazan. With its streets preserved from the medieval period, this is considered to be the main area of the Tatar city culture. We will see old merchant houses, the old mosque of XVIII century, and hear legends and stories of Tatar people.

After a break for lunch, we have a walking visit to Kazan Kremlin and Kazan Arbat (Bauman Street), where we find souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. Our walk continues down Prolomnaya Street, visiting the Museum of Soviet Union Lifestyle.

Overnight in Kazan.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 22 Kazan - Day Train to Yekaterinburg
Early this morning we transfer to the rail station for our full-day train to Yekaterinburg (Ekaterinburg). This is the perfect day for journaling, reading, napping, chatting. Chess is also a very Russian way to pass the time on a train across the steppe!

Upon arrival we'll have a late dinner in Yekaterinburg prior to checking-in to our hotel.

Known as Sverdlovsk during the Soviet era, Yekaterinburg is located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Russia’s third city might be a little more subdued than Moscow but is has plenty of culture and urban romanticism to offer. According to the Institute of Clod Nicole Ledu, Yekaterinburg’s planning and architectural development puts it among the world’s "12 ideal cities". The unofficial capital of the Urals seems to have it all: over 600 historical and cultural monuments, 18th- and 19th century stone and wooden buildings, iconic pieces of constructivist architecture, and the world’s most northerly skyscrapers.

Overnight in Yekaterinburg (dinner in Yekaterinburg; lunch can be purchased on board for reasonable prices).

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 23 Yekaterinburg Touring - Overnight Train to Tobolsk
This morning we travel a short distance out of town to the monument mrking the "Border of Two Continents". The border mark is on the highway that used to be Great Siberian Road. Russian Tsars had a habit of exiling their political foes and other convicts as far away from the capital as possible -- Siberia. Hundreds would pass Yekaterinburg in shackles every day down the same road that we will travel. The monument itself was erected in 2004 and represents two interwined letters A and E. Here you can put one foot in Europe and the other in Asia!

Given that today is Saturday, we may also witness a tradition among Russian newlyweds to cruise about in a limo having photos taken in auspicious locales whilst consuming vast amounts of champagne. You may wonder what it is that guests chant that causes a newly married couple to kiss in public -- "Gor'ko!" -- referring to the bitterness of life -- as in "show us something sweet!"

Returning to town, we visit the Ural Geological Museum. Once rich in gemstones and minerals, the Ural Mountains, and Yekaterinburg as the region’s main city, have become a centre for jewelry trade, known for brilliant craftsmen, carving masterpieces out of gemstones. You can still hear some beautiful legends, the "Mistress of Copper Mountain" being the most popular, and visit many very real shops, selling locally made jewellery.

This evening, after dinner, we board our next overnight train.

Overnight train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 24 Arrive in Tobolsk - Pokrovskoye - Tyumen
This morning we arrive in Tobolsk and have breakfast at a local restaurant.

Tobolsk is a real Siberian city that was founded by Cossacks in 1585 as they advanced east across Russia. It was the seat of the Viceroy of Siberia and prospered on trade with China and Central Asia. Tobolsk’s relative decline came about from being by passed by the Trans-Siberian but in many respects this gives the city much of its old world charm today. For the traveller the city has some stunning churches and interesting stories to tell and, of course, the satisfaction of getting well off the beaten track.

In Tobolsk we'll have a walking excursion around the territory of the Kremlin and it the city centre. We'll also visit the workshop of Minsalim, a master bone-carver who turns mammoth tusks and antler fragments into detailed figurines related to myths and legends of the local brand of shamanism. After a visit to the Museum of Nicholas II -- Russia's first devoted to 'royal martyrs' -- we'll have some free time on Red Square before we continue to Tyumen.

En route we'll stop at stopping at the village of Pokrovskoye to visit the house-museum of Grigori Rasputin, the "most famous Russian," who, among other things, gave his name to thousands of restaurants and some bad German vodka. This is not his former home, but rather stands opposite the place where it stood; since the 1970s, Vladimir and Marina Smirnov have been collecting Rasputin’s documents, letters, photographs, and belongings. In 1991, they created Russia’s first private museum and dedicated it to Rasputin. To this end, they bought the old two-story house in Pokrovskoe where Rasputin’s parents had once lived. The museum contains a number of belongings from Rasputin’s house: unique photographs and documents found in archives, bought at auction (Sotheby’s), and obtained from people whose ancestors had known the "great Russian mystic."

Our destination is Tyumen, founded in 1586 and the first Russian settlement in Siberia. These days the city is the youthful, business-oriented capital of a vast, oil-rich region.

Overnight in Tyumen.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 25 Tyumen Touring - Overnight Train to Novosibirsk
This morning we check out of our hotel and embark on a walking excursion in the city centre.
By bus we'll visit Trinity Monastery, undoubtedly Tyumen’s most appealing architectural complex. Its kremlin-style crenellated outer wall is pierced by a single gate tower. In summer the flower beds of the complex burst with colour.

Next is the Imperial Wharf Museum -- remember the Museum of Nicholas II from yesterday? This is the start of the route in the Urals and Siberia that follows the last path of the Romanovs to the place of their death.

After some leisure time, we'll board our late afternoon train to Novosibirsk (Only 2nd class available - we book berths for 4 in which we place only 2 passengers; dinner on board).

Overnight Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 26 Arrive in Novosibirsk: City Touring - Overnight Train to Krasnoyarsk
Late morning arrival in Novosibirsk (breakfast on board).

After a break for lunch, our visit to Novosibirsk will include two museums, likely the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography and Local History Museum (finalized closer to departure).

The city was founded in 1893 as a transport hub. The city was originally called Novonikolayevsk in honour of both Saint Nicholas and of the reigning Tsar Nicholas II. It became a large industrial centre during the Stalin period. In 1962, it became the first city in the world to reach a population of 1 million people within 70 years of being founded. The majority of the population lives in apartment buildings and private houses are rare.

Novosibirsk grew into a beautiful place with booming cultural life (after the fall of Soviet Union). Russia's third largest city has embraced its status as capital of Siberia and opened its doors to the world. Indeed most of the people under 40 speak English.

After some leisure time and dinner in town, we'll board our overnight train to Krasnoyarsk.

Overnight Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 27 Arrive in Krasnoyarsk & Stolby Nature Sanctuary
Morning arrival in Krasnoyarsk (breakfast on board).

We'll transfer to our hotel in order to drop our luggage (please have a bag prepared with what you need for the day). We'll then board minibuses for our excursion to Stolby Nature Reserve (picnic lunch included in the park).

The main attraction of the park is its towering stone pillars that have strange curved forms and reach up to 100 meters in height. These rocks are mostly of sedimentary and volcanic origin, formed when molten magma penetrated the surface. Selective weathering along cracks led to the formation of mattress-like prismatic detachments, which caused unique shapes on the rock outcrops. The place was discovered in 1624 by Russian kozaks -- the explorers of Siberia, who built a small fortress at the influx of the Kacha River into the Yenisei. They wondered at the huge intricately shaped stony blocks rising amid a thick forest and gave them the biblical name "Stolpy," reduced later to the popular "Stolby" which means "pillar" in Russian.

We return to the city and check-in to our hotel.

Overnight in Krasnoyarsk.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 28 Krasnoyarsk Touring - Overnight Train to Irkutsk
This morning we have a panoramic tour of Krasnoyarsk.

Orderly and affluent, Krasnoyarsk reflects in the blueish-grey surface of the very wide Yenisey River, which marks the border between the swampy west and the mountainous east of Siberia. We will enjoy a visit to Prospekt Mira Street, the main street of the city and a pleasant place for a stroll, where one will find many restaurants, cafes and shops. Very famous here are the ornate old one- and two-storied wooden houses, some of which date back to the late 18th century.

There are not a lot of souvenirs worth mentioning, but the one unique thing locals will advise to buy is 'cedar nuts' (Pinus sibirica; also called pine nuts). Because the Siberian region is the only place where the authentic variety of this delicacy can be purchased, throughout the rest of the world cedar nuts are extremely expensive.

Around noon we'll board our overnight train to Irkutsk (lunch and dinner on board).

Overnight Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 29 Arrive in Irkutsk: City Touring
This morning we arrive in Irkutsk and have breakfast at a local restaurant.

The de facto capital of Eastern Siberia, pleasantly historic Irkutsk is by far the most popular stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Moscow and all points east. With Lake Baikal a mere 70km away, the city is our base from which to strike out for the western shoreline.

Irkutsk was founded in 1661. That time, it was a small settlement playing the role of a gold and fur trade center. After the Decemberist Revolt of 1825, many Russian artists, officers, and nobles were sent into exile to Siberia for their part in the revolt against Tsar Nicholas I and in the late 1800s, 30% of the population of the city were exiles. Irkutsk became the major centre of intellectual and social life for these exiles, and much of the city's cultural heritage is a result. Many of their wooden houses, adorned with ornate, hand-carved decorations, survive today in stark contrast with the surrounding Soviet apartment blocks. Around 1900, the city was nicknamed the "Paris of Siberia" due to its wide streets and ornate, continental architecture, but travellers today will find little resemblance with Paris.

While in Irkutsk we'll visit the Irkutsk Museum of the Decembrists. The expositions are devoted to Decembrists’ life in East Siberia, in convict prisons, in deportations. The family life of Decembrists, their household articles, furniture, musical instruments are presented in the as well.

Overnight in Irkutsk.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 30 Irkutsk - Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal
Today we travel via multiple Russian 'jeeps' to Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal. Our journey will take 6-7 hours, of which one hour is on gravel road. Lunch will be provided en route.

Olkhon is the fourth-largest lake-bound island in the world. It is by far the largest island in Lake Baikal halfway up its western shore and reached by a short ferry journey. Olkhon Island is a wonderful place from which to view the lake and relax during our tour of Siberia. After our hotel check-in, we'll enjoy an excursion to to take in the island's spectacular landscapes and the majestic and unforgettable panoramic views of the endless waters below.

For the Russian people Lake Baikal is a natural treasure. Today, as in the past, this area remains a crossroads of cultures where native Sayats still herd reindeer and Buryat people maintain many of their old traditions. Located in Siberia near the Mongolian border and surrounded by mountains, forests and wild rivers, Baikal is an immense and
breathtaking area of physical beauty. Baikal, the deepest lake in the world, holds twenty percent of the earth's fresh water and harbours more endemic species of plants and animals than any other lake in the world. Over three hundred rivers and streams flow into Lake Baikal, of which the six main ones are: Selenga, Chikoy, Khiloh, Uda, Barguzin, and the Upper Angara. Only the Angara River flows out of the lake. The deepest point in Lake Baikal is 1637 m (5371 ft) and the average depth is 630 m (2067 ft).

Our afternoon excursion takes us to Shamanka Rock, or Shaman's Rock, where natives believe that Burkhan, a modern religious cult figure of the Altai peoples, lives in the cave in this rock. The rock is one of nine Asian Most Sacred Places.

Overnight on Olkhon Island.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 31 Olkhon Island Touring
Today's full-day excursion takes us to Khoboy Cape, the northern cape of Olkhon Island.

In Buryat language Khoboy means 'fang' or 'grinder'. A huge fang-shaped stone dominates over the cape. Approaching it from the sea, you will see a big piece of rock that looks like a figure of a woman. The legend has it that a woman that asked for the same wealthy house as one of her husband was turned by Tengries to a stone. The spirits declared she would be a stone till evil and envy occurs between people.

We'll have multiple chances to walk and finally stretch our legs a bit after so many days or train travel and city tours! Our stops will be at scenic points and various spots of interest. Our day is somewhat free-form, with a picnic/camp lunch provided.

Overnight on Olkhon Island.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 32 Olkhon Island - Irkutsk
Today we retrace our route back to Irkutsk with lunch provided en route. On arrival in Irkutsk we check-in to our hotel. For a bit of a break, and owing to our day's journey and early start tomorrow, dinner on your own this evening.

Overnight in Irkutsk.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Lunch

Day 33 Irkutsk - Day Train to Ulan-Ude
After breakfast at the hotel we transfer to the station for our day train to Ulan-Ude, arriving at 14:28. On arrival we'll transfer to our hotel.

Ulan-Ude was the capital of the Buryat Republic. From the 13th to the 17th century, the
area now known as the Buryat Autonomous Republic was part of the Mongolian empire. The Buryats were originally nomadic herders with cultural and language similarities to the Mongolians and religious similarities to Tibetan Buddhists. In the 18th century, Tsarina Elizabeth officially recognized Buddhism as a religion in Russia. Unfortunately for the Buryats, future generations of Russian/Soviet leaders were not so tolerant. In the 1930's, Buryat culture and religion were practically stamped out by Stalin during the years of repression. Mongolian script was replaced by Latin, and then Cyrillic, and Buddhist temples were razed or put to other uses. In the past several years there has been a resurgence in Buryat culture. Despite the repression of the Soviet years, by most accounts Buryats and Russians live peacefully with little of the ethnic conflict that plagues other regions in Russia.

Overnight in Ulan-Ude.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 34 Ulan-Ude & Ivolginsky Datsan
Today we make an excursion to the Ivolginsky Datsan (Buddhist Monastery) located in the hills a few kilometers from Ulan Ude.

This is a major centre of Buddhist culture, housing temples, a library, a school for monks, and accommodation for visitors. Here we find a richly decorated temple with large Buddha sculptures, colourful mandalas and a special seat for the Dalai Lama when he visits. Young monk students, dressed with long dark red robes study Philosophy, or Tantrism, Buddhist art and the Tibetan language. In the library there are scripts with the words of Buddha and comments on his words. Prayer drums circle the territory of the Datsan, and it is situated in a vast green area at the foot of the hills surrounding Baikal Lake.

We return to Ulan-Ude with the balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Ulan-Ude.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 35 Ulan-Ude - Begin Train Journey to Vladivostok
During our time in Ulan-Ude we will include a visit to the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum just a short drive from Ulan- Ude. Here we will find a large settlement of local architecture from Prehistoric times to the present. Our walking tour will introduce us to the different types of architecture through the centuries. The houses are furnished like the time period they represent and in the rooms are all the objects that show how people lived, including pieces of embroidery and wooden objects.

Mid-afternoon we begin our last big push to Vladivostok as we board our overnight train. You will have some free time in Ulan-Ude to stock up on snacks and anything else you may need for our three-night journey (we include all meals, exclusive of incidental snacks and/or alcoholic beverages).

The Trans-Siberian Railway is a regular railway, a means of transport vital to the people living along it. It's not run for tourists, so you won't find bar cars with pianos or deluxe suites with en suite showers. However, all passengers get a proper flat berth to sleep in, provided with all necessary bedding, convertible to a seat for day use. There are washrooms and toilets along the corridor, and a restaurant car for meals. The train stops several times a day, usually only for 10-20 minutes, but you can stretch your legs and take photographs.

Few people go to Russia for the cuisine, but contrary to what you might have heard, Russian restaurant car food is quite edible. Don't expect an extensive menu or everything shown on the menu to be available! Typical meals include ham and fried eggs for breakfast, schnitzel and potatoes for lunch or dinner, with soups and salads for starters. The restaurant car also sells beer, Russian champagne and (of course) vodka, chocolate and snacks.

Overnight Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 36 Trans-Siberian to Vladivostok
The train follows the Shilka and Amur rivers close to the Chinese border. This is Siberia at its most remote and the train enters an area of permafrost where vast distances and forbidding geographic conditions make this a region difficult for human existence.

What do you do on the train for so many days? This is the question most people ask. Well, you put your feet up and relax. You watch the scenery, look out for the sights listed on your Trans-Siberian Handbook, go to meals in the restaurant car, sleep in your own comfortable bed at night, meet people, talk, play chess, drink tea, drink vodka. Take plenty of reading -- Tolstoy's War and Peace is the most predictable title, but it's a great read. The funny thing is, you probably won't finish it -- there's so much else to do!

Overnight on Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 37 Tran-Siberian to Vladivostok
During our last full day on the train we reach the most easterly point of our journey, where we cross the River Amur. As the train heads towards the Pacific and we approach the end of our journey, we enjoy our final night on board.

Overnight on Train.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 38 Arrive in Vladivostok: Leisure Time & Harbour Cruise
Morning arrival in Vladivostok, "Lord of the East," in Russian. We'll likely have breakfast at a local restaurant upon arrival. Because of our early arrival, and because you will definitely want to find your feet and relax after our long journey, we have included immediate check-in to our hotel upon arrival.

Vladivostok is located less than 100 km east the Chinese border just across the Sea of Japan from the main Japanese island of Honshu. Home base of the Russian Pacific Fleet, the city was closed to all non-Soviets from 1958 until 1991. Between its founding in 1860 and closing to foreigners in 1958, Vladivostok was a fairly international city. In the early part of the 20th century, Russians were actually outnumbered by Chinese in Vladivostok and during the years following the Revolution, there were large Japanese and US populations. The US maintained a consulate in Vladivostok until 1948. Vladivostok became Russia's main naval base in the East after Port Arthur (located in Chinese territory and ceded to Russia in 1898) fell in January 1905 during the Russo-Japanese war.

Modern Vladivostok has been compared to the American West during the Gold Rush years. Businesses from all over the world have flooded in to take advantage of the city's position as a crossroads of Northeast Asia.

Later today we have an excursion to Russky Island by bus. We’ll cross the two enormous bridges across the Golden Horn Bay. The island offers viewpoints from where we can see Primorye shores with fantastic hills, beaches, picturesque coastal landscapes, and azure bays. Following this we'll have a relaxing 2-hour harbour cruise.

Overnight in Vladivostok.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 39 Vladivostok Touring
Today we tour Vladivostok, a thoroughly charming city, with a gorgeous, hilly setting, striking architecture, and numerous verdant islands and sandy bays along its Pacific coastline.

Our sightseeing will include many historic, cultural, and architectural landmarks that make up the flavour of Vladivostok. We will start with some great views of the city, Golden Horn Harbour (named for its likeness to Istanbul’s), and Amursky Bay. We will visit the central square of the city. This is the site of all major public holiday celebrations with its main landmark -- the memorial complex dedicated to "Fighters for the Soviet Power in the Russian Far East in 1917-1922."

Svetlanskaya Street is one of Vladivostok's oldest and main streets, and along Pushkinskaya Street one finds many impressive pre- revolutionary buildings (many of them being restored) that serve as foreign consulates commercial offices, scientific centres, and academic institutions. We will also see the St. Nikole Russian Orthodox Church, the city's symbol and memorial built to honour seamen and ships lost during the 1905 Russo-Japanese war.

Like most maritime cities, Vladivostok erects monuments dedicated not only to people, but also to ships. We'll visit the C-56 Submarine Museum, located inside a World War II C-56 submarine. Together with patrol ship 'Krasny Vympel' it constitutes the memorial complex Military Glory of the Pacific Fleet.

This evening we'll have a farewell dinner for those travellers ending their journey in Vladivostok. Because the flight for those continuing to Kamchatka could be inconveniently early tomorrow, we may choose to include a farewell lunch or an extra early dinner today.

Overnight in Vladivostok.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 40 Vladivostok - Fly to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky - Paratunka
Today we fly to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (PKC), the main city and the administrative, industrial, scientific, and cultural centre of Kamchatka Krai, easily Russia's most scenically dramatic region. A vast volcanic peninsula that is almost entirely wilderness, Kamchatka is a place of extraordinary primal beauty, rushing rivers, hot springs and snow-capped peaks.

This is the easternmost city in Eurasia; no roads connect the Kamchatka Peninsula to the rest of the world. Indeed, PKC is the second largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road, after Iquitos, Peru. The city is situated on high hills and surrounded by volcanoes; in fact, the horizon cannot be seen clearly from any point of town as volcanoes and mountains are everywhere. Across Avacha Bay from the city is Russia's largest submarine base, the Rybachiy Nuclear Submarine Base.

Depending on our time of arrival, we break for coffee/snacks in the city before transferring to our guesthouse/lodge style accommodation in nearby Paratunka, located outside the city across the bay. This will be our comfortable and quiet base for our Kamchatka explorations; we choose this quiet, homey spot over the typical Soviet-era hotels in the city, which can be noisy, run-down and lacking in charm and services. This (and every) evening you may choose to relax in the lodge's thermal waters pool.

Overnight in Paratunka.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 41 Avachinskaya Bay Cruise & PKC Tour
After breakfast we transfer to the sea port of Petropavlovsk (PKC) and embark on a boat trip along Avachinskaya Bay to the Pacific Ocean and Starichkov Island.* Lunch on board the vessel.

Avachinskaya Bay is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Its twisting coastline is cut by numerous small bays. Two salmon spawning rivers flow into the bay and 32 species of fish inhabit its waters. Sea birds are also numerous in the area, and one can see seals in the bays situated at the entrance to Avachinskaya Bay, which attract Orcas.

Starichkov Island is situated about 10km (5.5 miles) from the entrance to the Avachinskaya Bay. It got its name from the Murrelets that nest there -- it's Russian name sounds like “Starik”. The entire island is a nature reserve which abounds in puffins, loons, cormorants and other waterfowl. Several nests of Steller’s Sea Eagle and a seal harem are situated on the island.

We return to the city for a tour, including a visit to the Kamchatka Museum of Local Lore, take in a viewpoint of PKC; the city centre, and a market. Your Tour Leader may choose to have dinner in town this evening, so please pack your day packs with everything you may need for the day.

* It is worth noting that, due to the region's notoriously changeable weather, the final order of our sightseeing of our activities over the next couple of days may be shuffled in order to maximize our chances of accomplishing our full program.

Overnight in Paratunka.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 42 Avachinskiy Volcano Hiking
This morning we transfer 50km to the foothill of the Avachinskiy Volcano by all-terrain vehicle (about 2 hours). Arrival at the base camp (890m/2,900 ft), rest and safety instructions before trekking to Camel Mountain. Avachinskiy Volcano (2751m/9,025 ft) is one of the most active volcanoes in Kamchatka and is often called "home volcano" among Kamchatka’s people due to its close proximity. Its crater is filled with hardened lava above which you can see rising clouds of fumaroles.

Camel Mountain is situated between two volcanoes, Koryakskiy and Avachinskiy. The height is about 1200m/3,937 ft, meaning our vertical rise/drop is around 300m/984 ft. Our walk is 7km/4.3 mi round trip and will take about 3 hours. While it is not "difficult" per se, the route is rocky/sandy and undulating. From the top of the mountain we'll have (weather-permitting) beautiful views of Avachinskaya Bay and the surroundings of Petropavlovsk and Elizovo, the Avacha River, and Nalychevo Valley.

After the trekking we'll have lunch back at base camp and transfer to the hotel for some free time.

PLEASE NOTE: This sightseeing may be adjusted depending on weather conditions expected. This is the most physically demanding activity in our program and may be curtailed/modified by your Tour Leader depending on weather and/or group interest and ability. Though its inclusion may end up being exclusive to some, your leader chose this excursion as it is an excellent opportunity to experience Kamchatka's dramatic volcanic landscape close-up. We hope you find it enjoyable!

Overnight in Paratunka.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 43 Vulkanarium Museum
Today we visit Russia's first museum dedicated to volcanology. The choice of location is obvious, as Kamchatka is home not only to the Unesco-listed Kamchatka Volcano Reserve with its high density of active volcanoes, but also to the tempestuous Mount Klyuchevskaya (4688m), the tallest active volcano in the northern hemisphere.

The museum, called Vulkanarium, is located in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, itself overlooked by two giant volcanoes. It has 15 sections, each of which is dedicated to a specific aspect of volcanology and seismology. There are models of various physical phenomena that accompany volcanic activity: geysers, earthquakes and tsunamis.

After a break for lunch we'll drive out to the Pacific Coast, where we can walk on the black volcanic sand beach. Khalaktyrskiy beach is a popular place among the citizens of Petropavlovsk; the long coastline is covered with volcanic sand and in summer is full of blossoming flowers and bushes.

Overnight in Paratunka.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 44 Ethnic Village Complex
Today we visit a village built in an ethnic style, which will reveal the culture of the native Kamchatka peoples (Koryaks, Itelmens and others). Here we will learn the history of dog sledding in Kamchatka, listen to the stories about Kamchatka natives, watch traditional dances and learn some of the dance moves. We will also see traditional costumes, learn about the Kamchatka natives’ lifestyle, and taste some traditional foods in the open air.

There is a museum shop with Kamchatka souvenirs where you can view/buy traditional articles.

Overnight in Paratunka.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 45 Valley of Geysers & Uzon Caldera Helicopter Excursion
Today we have a spectacular helicopter tour of Valley of Geysers.* The tour duration is about 5- 6 hours; helicopter time is 1.5 hours each way with about 3 hours in the valley itself. The helicopter seats +/- 20 people.

The Valley of Geysers is the only geyser field in Eurasia and the second largest concentration of geysers in the world. This is a 6 km long basin with approximately ninety geysers and many hot springs. It is part of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, which, in turn, is incorporated into the World Heritage Site "Volcanoes of Kamchatka".

The valley was first discovered in 1941 by a female Russian scientist travelling in the area by dogsled. She led an expedition back to the valley for further exploration. It has been compared to Yellowstone or Iceland's geysers, and is very restricted to visitors. The valley sits between two volcanic peaks, and scientists believe a pool of magma sits underneath heating the rocks. As snow melts, the water runs deep down onto the hot rocks and boils back up to the surface. It has unusual vegetation growth due to the warmth generated by hot springs, mud pots and geysers everywhere.

* Due to the highly changeable nature of area weather conditions, the placement of this activity on our itinerary may shift depending on weather forecasts covering our stay.

This evening we'll have our final farewell dinner!

Overnight in Paratunka.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 46 Departure
Departure from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (airport code PKC).

If you're booking your air though us, we will likely route you through Vladivostok and Seoul, and then across the Pacific. Booking your own air may prove challenging given the lack of options/traffic out of PKC; we may be able to book/sell you the ticket to Vladivostok for an onward connection, if needed.

SCASTLIVOGO PUTI!

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Hotel Aquamarine

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Moscow
Country: Russia

Set in a 7-story riverfront building, this upscale hotel is 1.5 km from Novokuznetskaya Metro station, 3.3 km from St.
... Cathedral in Red Square and 7.9 km from Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure. Sleek, contemporary rooms have free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars and tea and coffee making facilities
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Hotel Helvetia

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Saint Petersburg
Country: Russia

In an elegant, 19th-century mansion, this upscale hotel is a 3-minute walk from a metro station and 3.1 km from
... Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. The warm rooms and suites have Wi-Fi, TVs, minibars, and tea and coffee making equipment.
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Solovki Hotel


Location: Solovetsky
Country: Russia

Solovki Hotel is just 7 minutes away from the Solovetsky Monastery and 3 minutes away from the coast of the
... Sea, where the eminent Solovetsky labyrinths are located. The territory of the hotel is a beautiful park complex, where the combination of branchy spruces, a small pond and cobblestone paved roads, and wooden buildings constructed in the traditions of Russian architecture.
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Azimut Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Murmansk
Country: Russia

Set in an imposing building with views over Ploshchad Pyat Uglov Square, this trendy hotel is a 4-minute walk from
... train station and a 6-minute walk from Murmansk Regional Art Museum.
Featuring mood-lit headboards and geometric prints, the contemporary rooms provide free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs.

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Voznesenskaya Sloboda

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Vladimir
Country: Russia

Overlooking the Klyazma River, this upscale hotel is a 11-minute walk from the Zolotye Vorota monument, 1.5 km from the
... Kafedralnyy Sobor cathedral and 2.4 km from the train station.
Ranging from woodsy-chic to refined, the warm rooms feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and minibars.

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Nikolaevsky Posad

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Suzdal
Country: Russia

In several villa-style buildings, this polished antiques-filled hotel is 1.9 km from the Suzdal Kremlin citadel and 2.3 km from
... of the Nativity. Individually styled rooms, which range from traditional to opulent, have free WiFi, flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, minibars and coffeemakers
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Hotel Park Inn Kazan

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Kazan
Country: Russia

Set along a tree-lined street, this upscale hotel, with a stately, modern exterior and stone details, is 3.2 km from
... medieval palaces of the Kazan Kremlin, and 5 km from the Kazanskiy Ippodrom sports arena. The informal rooms and suites, with vibrant accents and light wood furnishings, feature free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs.
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Novotel Yekaterinburg

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Yekaterinburg
Country: Russia

Set 2 blocks from the Iset river, this contemporary hotel in the city center is within a 13-minute walk of
... Zoo and the Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. Sleek rooms with colorful accents provide Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, in addition to minibars, and tea and coffeemaking facilities.
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Hotel Neftyanik

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Tyumen
Country: Russia

Neftyanik-hotel is located on the riverbank of Tura which is in the center of Tyumen city.


Hilton Garden Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Krasnoyarsk
Country: Russia

This upscale hotel in a modern glass-fronted building is 1.9 km from Victory Memorial, 3 km from Paraskeva Pyatnitsa Chapel
... 5 km from Gorky Park. Contemporary rooms feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minifridges and desks with ergonomic chairs, as well as tea and coffeemaking equipment
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Courtyard Itkutsk Centre Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Irkutsk
Country: Russia

A minute’s walk from Chkalov Street bus and tram station, this high-end, glass-fronted hotel is also an 11-minute walk from
... Cathedral of the Epiphany, and 3.5 km from Irkutsk Regional Art Museum of VP Sukachev. The contemporary rooms and suites offer flat-screens, high-speed Internet (fee), desks and armchairs, as well as tea and coffeemaking equipment, and minifridges
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Baikal View Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Olkhon Island
Country: Russia

This relaxed, country-style hotel on a lake island is less than 1 km from the beach and 2.7 km from
... Museum of Local History. The rustic-chic rooms have unfinished pine walls and ceilings, plus parquet floors. All have free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and infrared heaters
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Baikal Plaza Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Ulan-ude
Country: Russia

Set along a busy street in a Soviet-era building, this upscale hotel is a 4-minute walk from the exhibits at
... Geologicheskiy Muzey and 2 km from the Ulan-Ude Pass train station. The straightforward rooms and suites feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars, and tea and coffeemakers.
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Hotel Astoria

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Vladivostok
Country: Russia

Featuring views of Amur Bay, this laid-back hotel off Route A-370 is 3 km from both Vladivostok Fortress and 3
... from Vladivostok Oceanarium. The relaxed rooms and suites, some with bay views, offer flat-screen TVs, minibars and safes, as well as tea and coffee making facilities, and free Wi-Fi
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Antarius Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Paratunka
Country: Russia

The hotel is situated in Paratunka resort area - pure fresh air, mountainous landscape & healing waters of hot springs.



Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast daily (hotel & local restaurants). Many lunches (ie on trains and remote day trips) are included, as are most dinners. Due to logistics, timing, and the need to have a break now and then, we leave some dinners up to your own account (as per tour itinerary). All transport (including internal flight/s), accommodation, guiding, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, train attendants, porters (when available). We include costs associated with acquiring your ‘visa support’ document from our partners in Russia (actual visa fees not included). Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving/late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

International airfare to/from the tour. Tour Leader gratuities, some lunches/dinners (as per itinerary), alcoholic drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international air taxes (if applicable), and any activities referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Visa fees. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping. Please note that the cost of our helicopter excursion in Kamchatka is based on 14 participants; smaller numbers may attract a surcharge.

Seasonality and Weather

It’s difficult to generalize in this small space as we are dealing with the largest land mass on Earth, but going from the general to the specific we an advise that our late summer/early fall timing coincides with the most advantageous time-frame throughout. That said, the diversity of the conditions we can expect from start to finish is immense and can vary greatly depending on latitude, elevation, proximity to water, and prevailing weather conditions at each location. Broken down:

Western Russia and the Arctic:
This marks the start of our series, when we can expect summery temperatures in St Petersburg and along the Golden Ring to Moscow. At this time of year, daylight hours are long and one can expect t-shirt weather during the day and cool evenings/mornings. Summer can also feature humidity; it can also be a rainy time of year, though such rain usually falls in the form of short-lived showers. Up in Murmansk temperatures will reflect the northerly latitude, and our foray to the Arctic will be downright cold, especially in exposed locations and near the Arctic Ocean.

The East & Siberia:
As we move into September, the more extreme, continental climate regime will be reflected in the broader temperature range from day to night. Fine warm days are not uncommon, however, but we must be prepared for rain showers at any time. Things become more typically Siberian when we reach Lake Baikal and Irkutsk and, though unusual this early, snow is not unheard of in September! Wind, harsh sun, rainy afternoons and frosty mornings are typical features.

Kamchatka:
Though well past mid-summer, September is one of the more stable months on the peninsula weather-wise. July/August can experience frequent fog, low cloud and drizzle, but this tends to clear considerably once things cool down in the fall and the region transitions to a drier pattern. This will hopefully be the case for our visit, as our sightseeing is dependent on landscape views and a weather-dependent helicopter excursion to the Valley of the Geysers.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport (not rail) modes will vary from large touring coaches in major towns/cities, to smaller buses, multiple 4x4 vehicles, and possibly taxis here and there, ie to/from dinner.

The trains:
We will book 1st class cabins (DBL room) for all segments, except for Tyumen-Novosbirsk, which is 2nd class (1st class not available; cabins are for 4 persons but we assign only 1 or 2). Limited single cabins available.

First class wagons consists of 9 scrupulously clean cabins with two beds in each. Beds are low (both) and there is a table between them. There is plenty of space to keep your luggage in the compartment (cabins are lockable), either in an overhead luggage storage area, or under the bed. There are two frequently cleaned toilets in each wagon (not in your cabin); there are NO showers on any of the trains. We will provide a more detailed info sheet on the trains upon reservation.

Our "level 3" difficulty rating (though usually reserved for our active hiking trips) reflects the scope and length of our tour, the tremendous amount of moving around we do, and the number of stops en route, such that this can be considered a moderate-strenuous tour that should not be undertaken lightly. Though we do not have any actual active activities/hikes built into our program (with the exception of one day in Kamchatka), this is a demanding tour from the standpoint of the fullness of our days, the number of overnight trains on which sleep may suffer, lack of creature comforts (trains), one-night stays, long road journeys, and the remoteness of several locations. You will also note from the tour itinerary, that many days have us arriving at destination in the morning and embarking immediately upon our sightseeing program, not checking-in to our hotel until later in the day. Though every effort has been made to make this trip as comfortable and well-paced as possible, if you have any physical impairments, rely on a cane or any other mobility aid, or have any medical conditions that require that you have easy access to specialized medical care, we regret that this tour will not be suitable for you.

Likewise if you have strict dietary restrictions/preferences, you will likely be frustrated on this tour. Russian cuisine is very well-prepared and served, fresh, and plentiful, but it tends to be very ‘meat and potatoes’-based and rather repetitive. Vegetarians should be okay with limited options, but things like ‘gluten free’ or vegan, for example, will likely be significantly challenged.

Of utmost importance is the need to be FULLY independent with one’s luggage. Most of our chosen hotels will provide baggage handling service (included in your tour, if available), but you must be able to FULLY manage your things in airports, rail stations (which can be large and feature stairs), and in getting on/off trains, which feature very narrow aisles and limited space for storage. There is no one to help in these situations and your Tour Leader and other travellers cannot be relied upon to help.

In your travels you'll meet two kinds of tourists — those who pack light and those who wish they had!

Accommodation

Our hotel choices will range from modern 3-4 star international class hotels in most towns and cities, to simpler mid-range properties in smaller centres, and unrated inns/lodges in the Arctic, Baikal, and Kamchatka.

If you click on the “Map & Hotels” tab above, you will see that Russia has come a long way since Soviet times, and our hotel stays promise to be comfortable, well-located, modern properties with international-class amenities.

Staff and Support

This tour was designed by, and will be led by, Senior Tour Leader Jonathan Hodgson. We will also have multiple local drivers and step-on Russian guides at each location along the way.

Group Size

Maximum 18 plus Tour Leader