Take in the highlights of St Petersburg and Moscow before getting off the beaten track and exploring Russia's historic Golden Ring towns of Suzdal, Kostroma and Yaroslavl. Loaded to the hilt with beautiful architecture, golden spires and onion-domed monasteries, with picturesque countryside to boot, the Golden Ring is one of Russia's most enchanting destinations.
Tuesday. Welcome to Russia. Arrival transfer from St Petersburg Pulkovo Airport to your hotel and check in. At 7pm this evening meet your guide and the rest of the group for an informative welcome meeting and dinner at the hotel. Remainder of the evening at leisure - your tour guide can recommend some local bars for you to try out.
Overnight: St Petersburg | Dinner
We explore the beautiful city of St Petersburg today. Travelling by bus we make our way along the famed Nevsky Prospekt, past the museum and university districts and a few photo stops will be made along the way to see the magnificent St Isaac's Cathedral and The Bronze Horseman. Then we visit the Peter and Paul Fortress and the ornate Peter and Paul Cathedral which houses the tombs of the Romanov monarchs. After a tasty lunch of traditional Russian cuisine we enjoy a guided tour of the incredible Hermitage Museum in the beautiful Winter Palace - which houses one of the biggest and best art collections on earth.
Spend the rest of the day at leisure and this evening consider an optional excursion to the ballet or perhaps a Cossack show. All optional excursions are subject to availability and minimum numbers - book and pay locally.
Overnight: St Petersburg | Breakfast, Lunch
St Petersburg – Moscow. We head out of the city to explore one of the lavish palaces of the tsars today. In the summer (May to mid October) we visit Peterhof Palace and its beautiful gardens on the Gulf of Finland and in the winter we visit Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe Selo (or Pavlosk Palace if Catherine Palace is closed). Often referred to as the 'Russian Versailles’, Peterhof is famous for its beautiful gardens which are a wonderland of greenery and flowers, sweeping vistas and ornate architectural decorations, with spectacular gold fountains. At Catherine's Palace it's the exterior and lavishly decorated interior that is the highlight and the famous Amber room is simply spectacular, bedecked in gold and amber.
Returning to the city centre we take a guided tour of the beautiful Church On Spilled Blood and then there's free time to explore or shop for souvenirs before we board the 5pm high speed train to Moscow. Reaching the capital in just 4 hours, we transfer to our hotel for the night.
Overnight: Moscow | Breakfast
This morning we take the metro to legendary Red Square for the start of our walking tour. Here we will take in sights such as the epitome of Russian power – the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the ritzy GUM department store. At the south end of the square, feast your eyes on the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral. We also tour the mighty Kremlin, with a guided walk through the grounds to see numerous government buildings, gold-domed cathedrals and the Tsar Bell - which is the largest bell that never rang! If open, you can pay your respects to the grandfather of Communism at Lenin’s mausoleum. Remainder of the day is at leisure.
During our stay in Moscow there will be the chance to join optional evening excursions, such as a traditional Cossack Show or a Moscow by Night coach tour and river cruise. Optional excursions are subject to availability and can be booked and paid for locally.
Overnight: Moscow | Breakfast, Lunch
Those who have booked our optional Inside a Soviet Bunker Tour Add-on will head 65 metres underground this morning and explore the fascinating Underground Cold War Museum - a Stalinist-era Soviet Bunker that up until recently was a top secret symbol of Soviet Power. The rest of the day is free to explore amazing galleries, museums, plenty of cafes, shops (including the GUM department store for high rollers) and bars all within walking distance.
Overnight: Moscow | Breakfast
Moscow - Suzdal. This morning we bid farewell to the capital and travel by train to Vladimir. Here we'll meet our new guide and transfer to Suzdal, a picturesque Golden Ring town loaded to the hilt with ancient buildings, stunning medieval architecture and an astounding number of churches and monasteries. With pretty meadows and livestock grazing freely along country lanes, Suzdal has the relaxed feel of a small pastoral village.
On a walking tour of Suzdal we see the Suzdal Kremlin, Market square, Alexander monastery, Pokrovsky Monastery and Rizopolozhensky monastery. The highlight of the day is the remarkable Museum of Wooden Architecture which has a reconstruction of an ancient Russian village from Ivan The Terrible’s time. This afternoon you can enjoy a traditional Russia banya (sauna) and if you get too hot you can always jump in the river to cool off!
Overnight: Suzdal | Breakfast, Dinner
Suzdal - Kostroma - Yaroslavl. The next stop on our tour of the Golden Ring is the historic city of Kostroma which sits on the banks of the Volga River. We have a guided tour the city and visit the fairytale land of the Snow Maiden's museum. Here we explore the mansion, learn all about Russian fairy tales and visit the chilly ice-room where you can enjoy ice cocktails at the ice bar. From Kostroma we travel on to Yaroslavl for the night.
Overnight: Yaroslavl | Breakfast, Lunch
Yaroslavl - Moscow. After breakfast today we get to test our artistic skills at a wood painting class in the grounds of one of city's oldest monasteries and you can take your artwork home as a souvenir! Then we explore Yaroslavl, a historic UNESCO-listed city which sits on the confluence of two rivers and has a skyline crowded with onion-shaped domes and imposing spires. Yaroslavl is the biggest and most modern Golden Ring town that we visit. A tour of the city takes in the Assumption cathedral, the remarkable 16th Century Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, Theatre square and more. We also visit The Residence of Her Majesty the Queen of Maslenitsa, which is an interactive museum with colourful wooden buildings. Maslenitsa (Butter Week) is a Russian folk festival where people eat traditional pancakes called blinis and you'll have the opportunity to sample a tasty blini at the museum.
This afternoon we travel by train back to Moscow, where we spend our final night in the Big Smoke.
Overnight: Moscow | Breakfast
Wednesday. Our tour comes to an end after breakfast today. Hotel check out and make your own way to the airport.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates noted with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of 4 persons. Prices shown are per person when there are 2 persons sharing a room. The 'Single supplement' is compulsory for solo travellers or if your booking party cannot reach the minimum of 2 persons in a room and the amount needs to be added to the per person price. The single supplement offers the comfort of your own room and is also available to any other person wanting their own room.
The hotels listed below are ones which we frequently use on this tour. We reserve the right to substitute these hotels to ones of a similar standard.
Harbor Club Hotel, St Petersburg
Well-located in St Petersburg, the Harbor Club Hotel can be found on a quiet street, yet only a short walk from the bustling city centre. Its guestrooms feature modern décor, with spacious ensuite bathrooms and modern amenities including air conditioning. You’ll also find a shared lounge and bar, as well as an on-site restaurant serving tasty European cuisine. Here, guests can enjoy a continental or buffet breakfast or, if you’d prefer, there is also the option of dining in the comfort of your hotel room.
Izmailovo Delta Hotel, Moscow
The 4 star Izmailovo Delta Hotel forms part of the huge Izmailovo Gamma Delta complex, which was built to accommodate guests and participants of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Offering comfortable guest rooms with modern amenities, the complex also boasts 16 restaurants and bars serving Russian and international cuisine, a SPA, gym and swimming pool, in addition to shops, a bank and post office. Conveniently located with the Partizanskaya Metro Station just 350 yards away, it's a quick 10 minute metro ride to Red Square where you can take in the highlights of the capital. The hotel is also ideally located for souvenir shopping, with the famous Izmailovo Market just a short stroll away.
Stromynka Hotel, Suzdal
The Stromynka Hotel is an ideal base for exploring the picturesque town of Suzdal. This charming, centrally located hotel is just a short stroll away from the historic Suzdal Kremlin and the Pokrovsky and Alexandrovsky Convents. The cosy guest rooms are typical of rural Russia, made of wood and simply furnished. Modern comforts include free WiFi, air conditioning, flat screen TV and a minibar. After a day of sightseeing guests can relax in the lounge or those feeling a little livelier can demonstrate their singing ability at the hotel's karaoke bar.
Alyosha Popovich Dvor Hotel, Yaroslavl
The Alyosha Popovich Dvor Hotel is a colourful property whose design was inspired by traditional Russian folk tales. The guest rooms are spacious and equipped with plush furniture and gorgeous fabrics. In the restaurant, guests can feast upon authentic Russian cuisine, which can then be washed down by a pint of fresh beer. When it comes to relaxing, visitors can while away the hours in the onsite sauna or take a dip in the Finnish baths. The hotel is conveniently located in the historical centre of Yaroslavl, just steps from the nearest bus stop.
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Enjoyed the tour, gave a general view of west Russia. The guide was excellent, the local guides were also very good. The accommodation was good, the overnight train journey was a nice experience as was using the metro. Overall an excellent holiday and I would recommend it.”