Day 1 - Moscow
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and tumult, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Beneath its modern veneer – a sign of Russia's recent embrace of capitalism – Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see. There’s so much to see and do in Moscow that it’s worth arriving a few extra days before the start of the trip. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm at the hotel today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. Please also have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. Your leader will collect one; the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on the trip. After the meeting, your leader will organise an optional meal so you can enjoy your first taste of delicious Russian cuisine with new friends.
Day 2 - Suzdal
Travel by private bus to Suzdal (approximately 4 hours). The town is a main stop on Russia’s legendary Golden Ring, the circle of ancient and former capitals that played an important part in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church and that hold the memories of significant events in Russian history. The fairytale-feel historic small town of Suzdal is filled with contrasting examples of early Russian architecture, where onion-domed monasteries stand next to lovingly decorated wooden cottages. Here there are opportunities to drink mead by the riverside with a symphony of cathedral bells in the air, and peek inside the crumbling churches that line the narrow streets and alleys. You’ll stay in a guesthouse in one of Suzdal's quiet streets. Some rooms are twin share, while others are triple or quad share or interconnecting rooms. There’s a shared toilet and bathroom on each floor, and you have access to a spacious kitchen and group dining area. On occasion, the group may stay in different guesthouses that will be located nearby. Tonight you’ll have a chance to try heart home cooking at the home at one of our local friends.
Day 3 - Suzdal/Moscow
Get to know the Suzdal a little better today with a walking tour of this ‘open-air museum’. Take in the sights – the grandeur of the Kremlin, the carved stonework of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monasteries (approximately 3 hours total). If there’s time, walk along the banks of the river, spanned by wooden footbridges and then pop in to a local cafe for tea, bliny (pancakes) with caviar or the Suzdal specialty of medovukha, a honey-based spiced mead. Transfer to Vladimir by private van (approximately 30 minutes) and then take the super modern high speed Sapsan train to Moscow (less than 2 hours). Return to the hotel by metro. Spend the evening back in Moscow – maybe wander around the famous Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral by night if you haven't already.
Day 4 - Moscow/Overnight Train
Visit the mausoleum of Russia’s most famous revolutionary – Lenin. He was the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution that ushered in the era of communism, and you will join the sometimes long queue lining up to visit his austere eternal resting place on Red Square. Then enter the Kremlin grounds with a local guide, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. Walk through the soaring towers and cathedrals of the political and spiritual heart of Russia before entering the Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging former royal collection of ambassadorial gifts, Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels. This evening board an overnight train to Novgorod (approximately 8 hours) from Moscow's Leningradskiy railway station.
Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. You’ll travel 2nd class on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your comfort and safety (although service standards can vary greatly). Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although with a limited menu. Please note that in many cases, due to high demand for tickets on this route, the group is not always together. It's likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four. A brief word about drinking on the train: Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Intrepid travellers (in moderation). While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it's important that you show due respect for your fellow group members, and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work.
Day 5 - Novgorod
Arrive early in the morning in the oldest city in Russia, and see how well-preserved architectural treasures linger as echoes of medieval times and glories of the past. As the former capital of ancient Russia, Novgorod is often seen as the cradle of modern Russian civilisation. Explore the city's sights on foot with your local guide. The city's foremost attraction is the graceful Kremlin on the banks of the Volkhov River. Inside there are museums and the Cathedral of St Sophia, as well as the amazing Millennium Monument, which tells the story of 1,000 years of Russian history. On the opposite bank of the river are quiet shady streets, the graceful ruins of Yaroslav's Court, and other echoes times gone by. In your free time here you might like to check out the Yurev Monastery on the shores of Lake Ilmen, visit the Wooden Architecture Museum just outside of town, or catch a performance at the Philharmonic Hall. In the summer you can also relax on the little riverside beach, or take a boat trip on the Volkhov River for glimpses of the quiet countryside surrounding Novgorod. Tonight, maybe join your leader and plenty of friendly locals for a refreshing steam and wash at the public banya (bath house) – no trip to Russia would be complete without experiencing this custom.
Day 6 - St Petersburg
Travel by private bus from Novgorod to St Petersburg, one of Russia’s most celebrated cities (approximately 4 hours). Truly one of Europe's finest cities, the living museum of St Petersburg is a blend of baroque European architecture and Russian royal history, built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great, whose legacy can be felt in its enigmatic streets and showcase cathedrals and museums. After arriving and checking in, visit the home of our local friends and have a tea party Russian-style. Not all family members speak English, but with your leader on hand to interpret and their warm hospitality, you'll be feeling like one of the family in no time. These families live in St Petersburg's communal apartments, which date from Soviet times. Such apartments and their way of living have ceased to exist in other Russian cities, but they are still common in St Petersburg. This is a truly unique local experience that you won't find anywhere else.
Day 7 - St Petersburg
Built on 42 islands, St Petersburg is also known as the ‘Venice of the North’. Spend the day exploring the city, crossing its many rivers and canals at your own pace. Perhaps enjoy incredible views across the city from the colonnade at St Isaac’s Cathedral, or walk along Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg’s main street. Maybe pop into one of the many bakeries or coffee shops along the way, or head down to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra where Russia's great musicians and writers like Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky are laid to rest in the cemetery. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, and houses one of the world's premier art collections. A whole day could easily be spent wandering its halls. Feeling artistic? Give life to a family of matryoshka dolls in a painting workshop. Whatever you choose, the city is easy to get around and your leader can also help you make the most of your free day. On your final evening, perhaps gather together your fellow travellers and seek out a cosy restaurant for a farewell meal.
Day 8 - St Petersburg
Your Russian adventure will come to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. St Petersburg has much to offer, so we recommend that those that wish to see more extend their stay a day or two.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money