St Petersburg to Athens by Rail

Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Republic Of, Russian Federation, Serbia, Ukraine,

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16 people
23 days
Code: GCSAC
Activity and Adventure, Discovery, Getting Around, Rail Journeys, Tours
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Overview of St Petersburg to Athens by Rail

Europe and trains? sounds familiar? St Petersburg to Athens by rail? sounds like a great idea! Jump on board with us for a ride through North Europe all the way to the Mediterranean through eastern Europe and the Balkans. Discover the key to make a Russian face smile when mingling with the locals in the loft in St Petersburg or the lively Gorky Park in Moscow, through the young and free spirited Kiev and Lviv, the romance of Tunnel of Love and the city by the Danube, Budapest, keep journeying south to Belgrade’s (in)famous nightlife and Skopje’s quirky streets, indulge in the fusion flavors in Thessaloniki, and put your legs up at the beach in Nei Pori till you find yourself immersed in the great cradle of the western civilization in Athens!

Trip Summary for St Petersburg to Athens by Rail

Start Location: St Petersburg,   End Location: Athens

Countries Visited: Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Republic Of, Russian Federation, Serbia, Ukraine, 
Meals Included: Breakfast: 9   Lunches: 0   Dinners: 0
Highlights:

    • Encounter the legacy of Russian tsar Peter the Great while exploring the enigmatic streets that showcase the many palaces and museums of St Petersburg
    • Live it local in the lively Gorky park in Moscow, check out the awesome architecture in Moscow metro stations, or get up close with the Russian power center Red square and Kremlin
    • Enjoy a city escape and chase the romance at the uniquely landscaped tunnel of love – iconic for its awning trees made by nature and passing trains. It’s believed that if a couple who are truly in love make a wish here then it will come true
    • Wander through Belgrade’s Bohemian quarter and grand 19th-century boulevards, before launching yourself into its animated nightlife.
    • Sitting alongside its Ottoman past, the Macedonian capital of Skopje has reinvented its centre with gleaming neo-classical monuments and buildings, adding a new layer to this fascinating city.
    • Uncover thousands of years of civilisation in Athens with a visit to the world-famous Acropolis and the ancient Agora.
    • There’s nothing quite like dining on rich and hearty moussaka or grilled lamb and tzatziki in a traditional Greek tavern. Just wash it all down with a shot (or two) of ouzo.

 

Day 1 - St Petersburg
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at around 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned until this important meeting. Check the hotel reception for the exact time and place of the meeting. There’s so much to see and do in St Petersburg, you should probably stop in early just so you don’t miss out on anything.

Once you’ve had your welcome meeting, you might want to jump on board with an optional dinner with your new friends. Into your art? There’s plenty of chances to check out some of the cool factories and plants that have been converted into art spaces. Into your drinks? There’s some pretty neat bars along the way. Your leader can take you to these places if you want – just ask!

Day 2 - St. Petersburg
If you could say one thing about the St Petersburg – it’s big. Real big. Big buildings, big parks, big squares and you’ve got two big days to explore the whole thing, so get running! If you’re into checking out some of the cool old buildings and developed sites, you can’t go past the Palace Square, Kazan Cathedral Peter and Paul Fortress or Saint Isaac’s Square – try to spot the European influence in these buildings while you’re here. Another thing you might want to check out is the Hermitage Museum – there’s so much art in here that it could literally take you 15 years to see everything.

If you’re still stumped for ideas or are looking for a few ideas for places to eat, drink or chill, just ask your leader. They’ll be happy to help. You might want to do an Urban Adventures tour as well if you want to make the most of your time here.

Day 3 - St Petersburg - Overnight train
With another free day in St Petersburg, consider checking out anywhere you missed yesterday, or maybe spend some more time at the Hermitage.

In the evening, you'll board a train to your next destination – Moscow. The train ride takes a long 9 hours, and you'll be sleeping on the overnight ride.

Day 4 - Moscow
After a big night on the rails, wake up in Moscow in the morning and head to the hostel. You might not be able to check in immediately as the usual check in time is 2 pm, but if that’s the case then there’s still the chance to drop off your luggage before heading on to explore this awesome city.

You’ll get to see a side of Moscow often missed as you quite literally head under the city to learn about one of the coolest metro stations in the world. The architecture here is top-notch – one look at the hanging chandeliers and you’ll be wondering if you’re waiting for a train or standing in a ballroom. Get a bit of inside knowledge to learn how to ride the rails after getting the scoop on its Soviet past, then start exploring the city!

Looking for stuff to do? Gorky Park is where it’s at. They’ve converted this place into an ‘eco-friendly recreational zone’ (as the officials put it) to encourage sports and a bit more colour in the area – maybe you can put your skills to the test and challenge the locals to a bit of soccer? Otherwise, check out some of the local cafes or kick back on a hammock. Spend the day like a true local!

Day 5 - Moscow - Overnight train
You’ve got a bit more time to explore Moscow today as the entire day is free until the afternoon. The city is totally jam packed with Soviet history, so if that’s something you’ve always been a bit curious about, there’s plenty to check out. A good option would be to run over to Red Square, a place where beautiful Christmas trees stand tall next to the coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral – it’s definitely one of the prettier sites that Moscow has to offer and also houses the body of Lenin in a mausoleum which you might get to explore. The Kremlin also sits nearby if you want to cop a glimpse of the centre of Russian politics – the Russians, the Kremlin is effectively what the White House is to Americans.

If you’re looking to get under the skin of the city, ask your leader about some of the Urban Adventures on offer in Moscow.

Once the evening kicks in, jump on board an overnight train to your next stop – Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.

Day 6 - Kyiv
Jump off the train in the morning and stretch those legs before dropping your luggage off at the hotel. You’ll then get the chance to explore the city on a unique walking trip past some of the killer street art that’s slowly becoming more and more known across the world. Keep your phone on charge and your cameras handy, these beauties are definitely worthy of chucking on the ‘gram. A cool little fact you might want to keep in mind while you’re checking out all these neat murals is that over 100 city walls have been decorated here over time, and it’s not just by the locals – international artists drop in to leave their mark here too as the scene is just that attractive.

Day 7 - Kyiv
You might want to start today by checking out some of the free tour offers in town – Free Tours Kyiv is a good place to start as it’s run by a bunch of young guides and volunteers who totally love the city. This’ll give you a rough lay of the land and let you come up with a view ideas for what to do during your stay.

Alright, so lets say you’re hunting for night clubs, swimming beaches, amusement parks and boat rentals – Venetsianskyi (or Hydropark) has got you covered. That said, the centre of town (mainly around Independence Square and Khreschatyk Street) turns into planet party in the summer months as there’s so many good restaurants, bars and clubs in the area. In the summer months, you can easily catch thousands of people having a good time in this region you might want to check out what all the hype is about.

That should have you covered in the evening, but what about during the day? Honestly, the parks here are stunning – especially the M. M. Hryshko National Botanical Gardens which offer a view over the entire city (not to mention all the flowers, so pretty!). There’s a café about a block away, so you could grab a snack or some coffee and relax in the park if you want.

Day 8 - Rivne
Later Kyiv! Today you’ll head on a train towards the provincial city of Rivne. This ancient and pretty city might have once been one of the country’s finest, but World War II had other plans and ended up ruining a lot of the town’s cultural buildings. Bit mean, really. That said, it’s still great to look at and the views you can get over the flat landscape are gorgeous – Rivne actually has bragging rights as one of the greenest cities in Ukraine. Want proof? Check out Shevchenko Park – 30 lush hectares of babin’ parkland.

Day 9 - Rivne - Lviv
Take the scenic route towards Lviv today before stopping off at the Tunnel of Love near Klevan. There’s a reason it’s got a rep as one of the most romantic spots in the country – this archway of vines and trees growing over industrial rail-lines is so green and perfectly formed, it’s almost like it’s from another world. Romantics and honeymooners come from far and wide to experience the unique landscaping, created by trains and nature. It’s believed couples who are in love can make a wish here and if the love is real, then the wish will come true.

Afterwards, go castle hunting near Rivne with stop-offs at the Pidhirtsi and Olesko Castles. The rustic scenery of Pidhirtsi next to the green and grassy surrounds looks like it belongs in a fairytale (albeit a creepy one), and Olseko’s hilltop location definitely belongs on a postcard.

Day 10 - Lviv
After waking up in Lviv, get ready to explore the day at your own pace. It’s a good looking city to be sure, there’s a bit of charm in the old houses and the bigger buildings in the city have got a real Central-Euro vibe to them, but you’ll get to figure that out in your own time. Maybe take a walk to the Rynok Square, the Pharmacy Museum, the Italian Courtyard or any number of different local churches, each with their own unique quirks.

One of the best things you’re going to find out about this city are the multicultural influences that lie in the food and culture. You might have to search a little bit, but there’s plenty of menu items with traces of Jewish, Hungarian, Austrian and Polish influence behind them. Maybe later in the day try to find a restaurant and dig in to some goulash or herring pate to see for yourself!

Day 11 - Train - Budapest
You’re gonna have to get up nice and early for this next one. Wake up at 6.45 am and travel to Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. It’s going to be a big ride – you’ll get there nearly 12 hours later at around 6.30 pm. Once you arrive, take an orientation walk near the hotel and then the evening’s all yours for exploration No doubt you’ll be a little bit hungry after all the travelling you’ve been doing, so perhaps duck out to one of the bars next to the Danube and go for an evening stroll afterwards.

Day 12 - Budapest
Today you’ll get a guided walk through the city to check out some of the jaw-dropping buildings and street art lying around (P.s there’s heaps!). Once you’ve got the low-down from your leader about where to go in the city, spend the rest of the day exploring by yourself. A good place to start might be to hunt down some cafes and bars with the group.

Café culture in Budapest is all about traditional vibes and super strong coffee – lots of it. You’d be surprised about how long some of the cafes have been standing – Gerbeaud Café, for example, has been around since 1858 and serves up a famous ‘konyakos meggy’ (sour cherry, matured in cognac and covered in dark chocolate), so try that if you find it. Central Kavehaz, New York Kavehaz and Hadik Kavehaz have all got a larger-than-life old school feel that’s closer to dining in a mansion rather than a coffee shop.

Bar culture, on the other hand, can get real messy. Hedonism is one word that’s usually thrown around with it, but if that’s not your vibe then there’s plenty of places to kick back and relax. Ruin bars are something that keep popping up around the city – dilapidated buildings redecorated with old furniture, modern art and a bar for drinks (of course) are pretty popular with the locals.

It’s your last night on the trip, so definitely think about making it count. Share a last drink or dinner with the group if you want.

Day 13 - Budapest
Today you'll have another free day to explore the great Budapest until 6pm for the briefing for the 2nd part of your trip. Please note that since this is a combination trip, your tour leader and group composition may change today.

Day 14 - Budapest / Overnight Train
This morning you have the option to join your leader on a short orientation walk of the city. Afterwards you have a free day to spend in Budapest. Exploring the historical Buda castle is definitely one way to do it. Forget about the bustling city and lose yourself in the history of Buda castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings. The winding streets of the Castle District date back to the 13th century. Plus there’s an old, mid-19th century local pastry shop there! In the evening, board an overnight train to Belgrade.

Day 15 - Belgrade
Wake up in Serbia in time to see the train pull into station. Also known as the ‘White City’, Serbia’s capital takes pride of place straddling the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. Settle in at the hostel and then get to know the surrounding area with an optional orientation walk with your leader. After that it’s open slather. The bohemian quarter of Skadarlija is the perfect place to let your hair down and try some local food, or you can walk the ramparts of the imposing Kalemagdan Fortress. At night there’s no shortage of trendy clubs and smoky bars to visit where you can shout a hearty ‘zivjeli’ while drinking rakija with the locals.

Day 16 - Belgrade
Enjoy a sleep in (you deserve it) and then tackle a second big day in Belgrade. The day is all yours to explore, so ask your leader for some insider tips on how to spend your time. Perhaps sign up for a cruise along the Danube River, passing Kalemagdan Fortress, Pancevo Bridge and the artist village of Zemun. Maybe check out the Nikola Tesla Museum and learn about the life and work of Serbia's greatest inventor. Travelling in summer? Pack a towel and join the locals at Ada Ciganlija beach, where you can swim, take part in water-sports or simply soak up the sun with a cocktail. For dinner pick up a plate of cevap (little meat sausages) and prebranac, a Serbian take on baked beans. Continue exploring Belgrade’s nightlife by visiting one of the floating bars on the river.

Day 17 - Skopje
This morning hop onto another train to Skopje, Macedonia's capital city (approximately 3 hours). Devouring gozleme and baklava is probably at the top of your list but take the time to check out one of the city’s 30 mosques, innumerable caravanserais and hamams. Failing that, eat your gozleme while simply walking through the narrow lanes of Carsija, Skopje's most atmospheric neighbourhood. The Museum of the City of Skopje, which is housed inside an old railway station, is also worth seeing for its unusual, partially ruined facade (the result of an earthquake in 1963). The clock on the outside is stuck at 5:17, the exact moment the earthquake struck.

Day 18 - Skopje
Today is another free day in Skopje, so why not venture out of town and check out Matka Canyon – a deep ravine cut into the Suva mountains by the Treska River, 15 kilometres southwest of the city. Here you’ll find caves, 70 different species of butterflies (count ‘em, we’ll wait) and several medieval monasteries. There is also Vrelo cavern nearby, a water-filled cave with incredible stalagmites and as-yet unchartered depths. Some experts believe it might even be the deepest underwater cave in the world. If caves and stalactites aren’t your thing, you can also tackle one of the many nature walks in the canyon. In the evening, grab your crew for dinner in the Old Bazaar or at the restaurants in the Debar Maalo area.

Day 19 - Thessaloniki
Catch a bus ride this morning and arrive in cosmopolitan Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece! Thessaloniki is largely considered the cultural capital of Greece, with plenty of shopping, nightlife and entertainment. After settling in, head out to the waterfront and visit the White Tower or check out some of the city’s many Ottoman and Roman ruins. Thessaloniki’s food scene combines 2,000 years of history to create an intriguing mix of French, Balkan and Mediterranean flavours (plus a dash of Eastern spices too). There are plenty of eateries to try around the Roman Agora, so why not try an authentic souvlaki for dinner and wash it down with a Mythos beer. Thessaloniki has a large student population, which means there are plenty of thumping bars and nightclubs to explore come nightfall.

Day 20 - Nei Pori Beach
After a short train ride (approximately 1 hour), arrive in the laid back beach village of Nei Pori. Check into the hotel before taking a short orientation walk, including a visit to Nei Pori’s Old Town. After that, the rest of the day is free to do as you please. Get into a swimsuit and perhaps while away the day on Nei Pori’s white sand beaches.

Day 21 - Nei Pori Beach
Make the most of a second day in relaxing Nei Pori. Perhaps head out to Mount Olympus, Greece's first national park. It is the highest mountain in Greece and the second highest in the Balkans, with a height of 2918m. The mountain is famous in Greek mythology as it is the dwelling of the twelve Olympian gods, headed by Zeus. Mytikas peak was the gods' meeting place, and Stefani peak was the Throne of Zeus from where he was said to have displayed his mighty power by throwing thunderbolts. Head out for a hike along the lush forested ravines and ridges of the mountain - there are several options from 3 to 6 hours. Your leader will be able to help you arrange transport. Back in Nei Pori you’ll find a range of differently flavoured ouzo and tispouro in the many shops, so pick up a bottle to share this afternoon or take back home. After more lazing on the beach, get ready for a night out at Nei Pori’s beach bars or head to the nightclubs in nearby Platamon.

Day 22 - Athens
This morning catch yet another train to arrive in Athens, the heart of Greece and centre of the ancient world. This incredible city was given a face lift in the lead up to the 2004 Olympics, which means it has updated streets and architecture plus all the Old World charm of the Acropolis, Pantheon and more. All of the highlights can be easily seen on a walk of the city, so don’t forget to check out the original Olympic Stadium and swing by Syntagma Square to see the changing of the guards (featuring a very dramatic and pom-pom filled walk). Another highlight is the Acropolis Museum, where you can walk over ancient ruins encased in glass. Later tonight, why not enjoy a farewell meze dinner with your crew. Toast the end of this railway adventure with a shot (or two) of ouzo.

Day 23 - Athens
This adventure comes to an end today and there are no activities planned. You are able to depart at any time. There’s so much to see and do in Athens so we don’t blame you if you’re planning on sticking around a little longer. We can arrange additional accommodation for you on request (subject to availability) and also set you up on one of our Urban Adventure day trips, such as ‘Taste of Athens’ or ‘Markets, Ruins and Ancient Athens’. Please enquire at the time of booking.

Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 9 Lunches: 0 Dinners: 0
Highlights:

Encounter the legacy of Russian tsar Peter the Great while exploring the enigmatic streets that showcase the many palaces and museums of St Petersburg
Live it local in the lively Gorky park in Moscow, check out the awesome architecture in Moscow metro stations, or get up close with the Russian power center Red square and Kremlin
Enjoy a city escape and chase the romance at the uniquely landscaped tunnel of love – iconic for its awning trees made by nature and passing trains. It's believed that if a couple who are truly in love make a wish here then it will come true
Wander through Belgrade’s Bohemian quarter and grand 19th-century boulevards, before launching yourself into its animated nightlife.
Sitting alongside its Ottoman past, the Macedonian capital of Skopje has reinvented its centre with gleaming neo-classical monuments and buildings, adding a new layer to this fascinating city.
Uncover thousands of years of civilisation in Athens with a visit to the world-famous Acropolis and the ancient Agora.
There's nothing quite like dining on rich and hearty moussaka or grilled lamb and tzatziki in a traditional Greek tavern. Just wash it all down with a shot (or two) of ouzo.

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