Antarctica & Arctic
This trip is designed to be an introduction to Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also to experience Russia's Golden Ring.
a Destinations d > Russia > Russia's Golden Ring
8 nights hotel accommodation, 8 breakfasts, transportation by bus, boat and train, services of an Explore Worldwide tour leader, driver(s) and local guide(s)
15, 29 May; 19 Jun; 24 Jul; 4, 18 Sep '20
Away from the bustling cities, there is rolling countryside and examples of classic Russian architecture including some of its most beautiful churches and oldest towns.
Back to Russia Tours
Moscow - See the city's main sights including the Red Square, Kremlin and Saint Basil's Cathedral
Golden Ring - Explore the fascinating Trinity Monastery of Saint Sergius, Sergiev Posad, Vladimir, Suzdal and more
St. Petersburg - Discover the attractive architecture, peaceful canals and the world famous Hermitage Museum
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Arrive in Moscow and check in to hotel. Moscow is one of the largest cities in the world. It has grown rapidly in recent decades, and, as a result, comprises high-rise suburbs surrounding a relatively compact historic centre with plenty of fascinating ancient architecture.
Moscow is the pivotal centre of Russia and there is much to see and do here. We start our journey today with a metro orientation tour which ends at the Red Square, still paved in its original stones. The metro itself is an experience being elaborately decorated with chandeliers and mosaics and we'll get to see the most iconic stations during our metro tour. Here you will have an option to visit Lenin's Mausoleum and St Basils or visit one of the many fine art galleries before setting out on a bus to visit outlining areas of Moscow including Lenin Hills and get to see Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery from the outside, with red and white crenelated walls and golden dome, it is one of Moscow's most attractive monasteries. We end our day today at the city centre. (B)
On our second day we visit the famous Moscow Kremlin on Red Square - a city within a city. The triangular walls of this incredible complex of buildings enclose three fine palaces, cathedrals, belfries and towers, representing Russia throughout its glorious past. Later we recommend an optional visit to the Kremlin Armoury, which contains a stunning collection of imperial jewels and regalia, including the 16th century English silver sent to Ivan the Terrible by Queen Elizabeth I, with an eye to matrimony. (B)
Today we begin our visit by road to the famous cities known as the Zolotoye Koltso or the 'Golden Ring'. Each of these ancient towns in its own way represents the historic soul of the Russian people.
We make a slight detour en route to Vladimir to visit Sergiev Posad. Here we will marvel at the golden domes and great bell-tower of the Trinity Monastery of Saint Sergius, which is a main centre for the Russian Orthodox Church. Founded in the 1340's by the crusading monk, Sergei Radonezhsky, who lies buried here under the Trinity Cathedral, the church buildings copy the style of a Byzantine Cruciform. Peter the Great regularly used this monastery. Today, the town is famed for the craftsmanship of its wooden toys, particularly the Matrioshka; nests of wooden dolls which fit one inside the other.
This afternoon we continue to Vladimir, which is situated on a semi-circular hill on the Klyazma riverside. Founded in 1108 by Prince Vladimir Monomakh, the Grand Prince of Kiev, many of its striking 12th century monuments still remain intact. Among the splendid sights here are the Cathedrals of the Assumption and Saint Demetrius. The latter is a Medieval gem and one of the finest in the whole country. Its high reliefs, carved on the front of the cathedral, depict strangely mixed characters from classical history, such as King Solomon and Alexander the Great. Also of note are Vladimir's Golden Gates, which were ambitiously modelled on the gates of Kiev and acted as important fortifications to defend the city.
After our guided tour of Vladimir we'll drive to the nearby village of Dvoriki and to our unique woodland hotel. Our accommodation for tonight is in splendid isolation within a picturesque forest and the buildings are log built. The hotel has its own restaurant, bar, indoor pool, spa and horses on site. It a great spot to relax in for the evening and enjoy the Russian wilderness. (B)
This morning our first stop is in Suzdal, which is perhaps the most beautiful of all the old cities in the Golden Ring. It was already a settlement in the 10th century, but began to flower architecturally in the 12th century under Yury Dolgoruky. We will be able to see the exterior of the Kremlin, which was rebuilt after being pillaged and burnt by the Mongols in 1238. We'll also visit to the north of the town, the great Spaso-Evfimiyevsky Monastery, which was founded 14th century and was once one of the five largest monasteries in all of Russia. However, from 1767 to 1907 the monastery took on a darker purpose as a prison, for those classed as being lunatics, which includes disgraced nobles, free-thinkers and opposition politicians. The most outstanding building within its walls is the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, with five domes and several superb murals. On the far side of the river we see the Convent of the Intercession, which was also long used as a prison for the unwanted wives of nobles (Ivan the Terrible, his father, and Peter the Great, all exiled their wives here for various reasons). Further down the river we visit the remarkable Field Museum of Wooden Architecture, which has a distinctive collection of ancient wooden churches, manor houses and windmills that were all dismantled and re-erected here from across northern Russia.
Continuing our journey we head to Rostov Veliky. Located on the shores of Lake Nero, Rostov Veliky (Rostov the Great), is one of Russia's oldest cities. We visit the Kremlin, considered by many locals to be the finest outside Moscow. Its strategic position on top of a hill and the impressive kilometre long white walls, make the Kremlin the main landmark in this picturesque town in the Golden Ring. Also included in our sightseeing is the Enamel Museum inside the Kremlin. The art of enamel work was developed in this town at the end of the 18th century. We'll get to appreciate both ancient and modern examples of this beautiful technique. (B)
This morning we drive to Yaroslavl which stands proudly at the meeting point of the two rivers, Volga and Kotorsl, and is rich in ancient monuments. It takes its name from Prince Yaroslavl of Rostov who captured the settlement here. The town can also claim to have founded Russian dramas: Fyodor Volkov established the first professional theatre company here in 1748. On arrival we'll have an orientation tour of the main attractions, visit one of Yaroslavl's famed churches and the Transfiguration Monastery. We'll then enjoy a short boat trip on the River Volga followed by free time to relax and have dinner before we take the overnight train to St. Petersburg. Our accommodation is in four-berth compartments with bedding provided. The overnight train we plan to use for this holiday departs at 22.25 and arrives to St Petersburg at 11.22 the following day. (B)
St. Petersburg is famous for its romantic 'White Nights', the period from May until July when the sun practically never sets. The city (formerly known as Leningrad) was founded by Peter the Great as his 'Window on the West', and built on the hundred islets that form the delta of the Neva river. It must surely be acclaimed as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe - some would say the most beautiful. Peter's original idea for its location as a naval base on the Baltic Coast was certainly a huge mistake as the port is ice-bound for one third of the year. Nevertheless, it became the city of great writers like Pushkin and Dostoyevski and it still retains much of the romantic spirit of those bygone days. On arrival this morning we will conduct a sightseeing tour of the city by bus, before going to our hotel to check in. Please note breakfast is not included on the train.
This morning we visit the magnificent Hermitage Museum, which was augmented by Catherine the Great. The Hermitage is unquestionably one of the finest art galleries in the world, containing the works of masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Velazquez, Rubens and Rembrandt, as well as contemporary pieces by Matisse and Picasso. This afternoon you have the option to visit St. Peter and Paul's fortress, the final resting place of many of Russia's tsars and their families. (B)
This morning we travel by bus to the Peterhof Palace and Gardens, which is often referred to as the Russian Versailles. The opulent palace is set within gardens filled with golden statues and elaborate fountains including the centre-piece of the Grande Cascade. The palace was originally built by Peter the Great, as his Grand Palace, and it was also much loved by his daughter Empress Elizabeth who expanded it and added the famed fountains. The Palace like most in Russia was unfortunately badly damaged by the invading Nazi soldiers during World War II, but it was one of the first to be restored and was reopened to the public fully by 1952. This afternoon is free for you to further explore St. Petersburg or you have the option to visit the Yusupov Palace where the 'mad monk' Rasputin was famously murdered. (B)
Tour ends in St Petersburg after breakfast. (B)
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