Flight arrivals into St Petersburg and transfer to the luxurious Grand Hotel Europe (or similar) for a two-night stay. This evening you are invited to a champagne drinks reception with the opportunity to meet your fellow travellers before our exclusive welcome dinner. Specially selected international wines are included with dinner, as with all meals during the tour. At the start of your adventure why not extend your stay in St Petersburg with pre-tour nights to explore more of the city at your leisure?
St Petersburg is a stunning city, crowded with splendid palaces, impressive historical monuments, wide boulevards, beautiful bridges and is renowned as the Ballet Capital of the World. Today we have a guided tour of Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin and the Hermitage Museum, the former Winter Palace of the Tsars which houses the royal art collection of over three million works. It is one of the world’s largest and most impressive art museums. Make your evening in St Petersburg extra special by purchasing a ticket for a ballet or opera performance at one of the world-renowned St Petersburg theatres (subject to schedule and availability and pre-booked at least six weeks prior to departure).
Today there is a tour of St Petersburg featuring the key sights including St Isaac’s Cathedral and Nevsky Prospect. This afternoon we transfer to the station to board Russia’s premier train, the Golden Eagle and settle into our modern, stylish cabins to embark upon our rail adventure to the Arctic Circle. We have a unique opportunity to celebrate our arrival on board at our signature Gala Caviar Dinner in the beautifully designed Restaurant Car. Enjoy complimentary champagne and international wines with dinner and live musical entertainment.
We have the opportunity to have a relaxed start to the day and to unwind after our evening of celebration. We can reflect on the many sights we are about to experience on our rail journey, maybe listen to a talk or simply relax and enjoy the ever-changing winter landscape outside our window. Our guest Astronomer will host an afternoon tea with freshly baked Russian cakes and talk about the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in our stylish Bar Car. Today, we also celebrate Valentine's Day with a special on board dinner.
This morning we leave our train with an overnight bag at the Russian border station of Nikel and we transfer by bus (90 minutes drive) across the Russian/Norwegian border to Kirkenes for a two night stay at the Thon Hotel (or similar). We will visit the magical Snow Hotel just 15 km outside Kirkenes. We’ll have a welcome drink in the snow bar and a tour of the Snow Hotel with its ice sculptures and snow paintings by local and international artists. After a traditional meal including a reindeer hot dog in the snow hotel’s warm lodge restaurant we’ll take an evening bus tour in search of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). If the sky is clear our guest astronomer will be on hand to advise us during star-gazing and will bring the night sky to life with his extensive knowledge.
Optional Activities in Kirkenes: You may like to book some additional optional activities such as a Snowmobile Safari, Snow Shoe Walking Tour, take a magical excursion by husky dog sledge or go in search of the Northern Lights by husky dog sledge. Each sledge is pulled by a team of eight dogs, and can seat two people and a driver called a dog musher. These activities have limited places and are weather permitting - please request at the time of booking the tour. Contact us for prices.
This morning a unique winter experience awaits on our King Crab Safari. The excursion begins with a snowmobile-drawn sleigh across the frozen fjords. Warm clothing and a helmet is provided. Through a hole in the ice your master guide will demonstrate how to catch the magnificent Arctic King Crab (which can span two metres and weigh upto 15kgs) and prepare it for cooking. We then continue by sleigh to the nearby Fisherman's Lodge, where the crabs you catch will be prepared and cooked for you. It is here you can enjoy your delicious King Crab meal by the cosy log fire.
This afternoon we return to the Snow Hotel to see the resident reindeers and visit the biggest husky dog farm in eastern Finnmark or return to Kirkenes Village for a walking tour.
For a really memorable experience why not choose the ‘coolest’ hotel check-in around and stay overnight at the Snow Hotel? Upgrades to the snow hotel are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. The snow hotel stays at a constant minus five degrees centigrade and thermal sleeping bags are provided. Showers, toilets and a Scandinavian sauna are provided in a building next to the snow hotel.
We cross the border back into Russia and re-join our train which is waiting for us in Nikel. We’ll spend the afternoon on board travelling through arctic Russia. Relax and enjoy the ever-changing winter landscape outside your window, or chat to fellow passengers. Afternoon tea with freshly baked Russian cookies will be served in our stylish Bar Lounge Car.
We will continue to Murmansk, a city halfway between Moscow and the North Pole, and 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. As the main city of the Kola Peninsula, it started as a tiny settlement and Arctic trading post. In 1916, under pressure from the British to establish a support port, Murmansk was founded. Thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream, the port is ice-free year-round. Homeport of Russia’s nuclear-powered icebreakers we’ll visit the Nuclear Icebreaker Museum Ship.
Petrozavodsk stretches along the western shore of Lake Onega - the second largest lake in Europe. It is one of the major cultural and industrial centres of the North-West of Russia and is the capital of the Republic of Karelia.
We take a city tour and a hovercraft transfer (weather permitting) to visit Kizhi Island on Lake Onega to explore its open-air museum of wooden architecture. Marvel at wooden churches built without the use of a single nail which have survived the challenges of Russian winters and revolution.
The historic city of Vladimir was founded in 990 and is one of Russia’s oldest communities. With an architectural wealth, it has been decreed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our tour takes in Uspensky Cathedral, built between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. It is considered one of the most important and beautiful of Russian cathedrals, where many of the prominent Russian Tsars were crowned. From Vladimir we travel to Suzdal, one of Russia’s most perfectly preserved walled cities dating back to 1024, located 35 kilometres from Vladimir. Here we visit the atmospheric St Euthymius Monastery to witness an enchanting choral performance by the resident monks. No Russian winter experience would be complete either without the horse-drawn sleigh ride through this stunning location.
This morning we arrive at Moscow station.
Included in our time spent in Moscow is one night at the five-star Ritz-Carlton. Superbly located in Moscow city centre, and within easy walking distance of Red Square, the Kremlin and the Bolshoi Theatre, this historic hotel offers spacious and luxurious accommodation. The O2 Lounge, a stylish rooftop terrace, features panoramic views over the Red Square and the Kremlin.
The spacious ESPA spa centre includes a hot tub, indoor pool, and 14 treatment rooms. Crystal lighting, candles and beautiful facilities create the perfect atmosphere, and a wide variety of spa treatments, as well as the sauna, are available. There is also a fitness centre, and a beauty salon.
We visit the Red Square, an iconic symbol of Russia’s former military and political might with its eclectic mix of fascinating architecture, such as the ornate St Basil’s Cathedral’s magnificent onion-domed spires, the beautiful façade of the world famous GUM Department store, constructed in Tsarist times, and the sombre and evocative site of Lenin’s tomb. Our touring programme also takes us to the grandeur of the Kremlin - the spiritual, historical and political heart of Moscow and to see the treasures of the Tsars in the Armoury Chamber.
Breakfast in the hotel brings the tour to a close and airport transfers are provided for your departure flights. Why not extend your stay in Moscow to explore more of the city at your leisure?