Venture towards the summit of the northern hemisphere with a visit to the Arctic Circle this winter. Golden Eagle’s Arctic Explorer tour allows you to choose between two wonderful departures; you can celebrate the festive period and welcome in the New Year in a stylish and unique way, or find the romance in blanketed snow-covered towns and cities, enjoying a dreamy Valentine’s dinner on board our luxury train.
Winter is a unique and fascinating season to explore Russia and the surrounding Arctic Circle. We bring you a selection of exciting and exclusive activities to partake in during this winter adventure of a lifetime.
Purchase Ballet or Opera tickets in St Petersburg
The world famous Mariinsky Theatre has been entertaining crowds for more than 150 years, with St Petersburg affectionately known as the Ballet capital of the world. With three days in St Petersburg scheduled into our itinerary, there is plenty of time to immerse yourself in culture. A ticket to the Ballet or Opera (dependent on the theatre’s schedule) is a must-have at the famous theatre where the likes of Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky premiered their masterpieces.
Visit the Christmas Markets and Ice Skate in central square, St Petersburg
Decorated with lots of lights and attention-grabbing decorations, the Christmas Markets are difficult to miss. Like their European neighbours, the Russian Christmas Markets sell delicious fare, such as sausages, pastries and Glühwein, along with traditional wooden crafts, clothes, decorations and much more. Traditional folk music can also be enjoyed whilst wandering around the stalls.
The temperature in St Petersburg around New Year’s is approximately minus 5 degrees Celsius, making ice prevalent. Therefore, there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the sub-zero temperatures and pull on a pair of ice skates. Glide around the outdoor rink in the central square and truly absorb the festivities.
Celebrate New Year’s on board the Golden Eagle
After the initial Champagne reception and welcome dinner to introduce you to fellow passengers on board the Golden Eagle, we take it one step further to facilitate the celebrations of New Year’s or Valentine’s Day, depending on which departure you join.
A unique experience to treasure, you can bring in the New Year on board our luxury train as it ventures into the Arctic Circle towards Kirkenes. On board celebrations begin with a delicious dinner, before festive celebrations ensue. Not to give too much away, as we like to keep it a suspenseful surprise, there will be plenty to keep all guests entertained.
Experience Russian Christmas
Russia celebrates its Christmas Day (Rozhdestvo) on the 7th January. The date is different to many other countries because the Russian Orthodox Church uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar for religious days of celebration. Celebrations usually involve a big family meal on the Eve, known as the ‘Holy Supper’ which features 12 courses to represent the 12 apostles. On Christmas Day, most families visit Church before settling down to dinner, in a very similar style to that in the West.
Our Arctic Explorer journey sees us arrive into Moscow the day after Christmas, where festivities will remain very much evident. ‘Journey into Christmas’ is one of the biggest New Year’s festivals in the world and takes place in Moscow annually between mid-December and Mid-January. The festival begins in Manezh Square, where you can enjoy an eye-catchingly decorated Christmas Bauble (the biggest in Russia), a 17-metre-high Christmas tree decorated in sparkling LED lights and a 100-metre-high giant Ice Slide. Walking through Moscow at this time of year is to experience the epitome of Christmas magic.
Spend a night in the Snow Hotel, Kirkenes
Once the New Year’s celebrations have subsided, our train crosses into the Arctic Circle towards Kirkenes. Here you can upgrade your Hotel stay with a night in the phenomenal Snow Hotel. Regardless of the freezing temperatures outside, the Snow Hotel can remain at a stable minus four degrees Celsius.
Each of the 20 rooms has a unique theme, accompanied by decorations and sculptures made from ice and snow. The beds are framed with ice blocks and have comfortable mattresses with thermal insulation on top. Specialist sleeping bags are provided, which are more than suitable for keeping warm in temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius.
The Hotel also contains an Ice Bar and lots of intricate sculptures, created using more than 15 tonnes of ice. Chinese ice artists produce these incredible architectural masterpieces year in, year out. All the ice comes from the nearby frozen lake and is cut up with chainsaws and transported back to the hotel by snowmobiles. The design of the Hotel is changed every year, ensuring a truly unique and fascinating stay.
Go on a Snowmobile Safari or Husky Dog Sledging
There are plenty of fantastic activities to get involved in when visiting Kirkenes. Opt to take a snowmobile drawn sleigh across frozen fjords in addition to activities that are included in our itinerary, such as King Crab fishing through a hole in the seemingly endless ice. Your catch is then prepared and cooked for you at the nearby Fisherman’s Lodge, where you can enjoy deliciously fresh food by a roaring and cosy log fire.
Alternatively, you can take a 2-hour Snowmobile Safari or go on an excursion by husky dog sledge. The Snow Hotel is home to reindeer and 110 Husky dogs, the biggest farm in eastern Finnmark. There is no danger of getting too cold in the harsh winter climate either; Golden Eagle will provide each passenger with complimentary Siberian felt boots, hat and scarf, which are yours to keep.
Enjoy fascinating on board lectures from our Guest Astronomer
A true highlight of the tour, we invite a guest lecturer to share his or her expert opinion on the Northern Lights. In 2014 & 2015, we hosted the esteemed astronomer and researcher Dr. Robin Catchpole, who talked in detail about the cause of the Aurora Borealis, as well as the best time and place to witness it for yourself.
This year, we have invited David W Hughes to join us on board. David is the Emeritus Professor of Astronomy at the University of Sheffield with more than forty years’ experience teaching astronomy and physics.
Join our quest to find the Northern Lights
Norway is renowned as one of the best locations in the world to view the Aurora Borealis from. We choose to go in search of the phenomenon in the Norwegian territory of Kirkenes, which lies 15km from the Russian border, on the far north-eastern side of Norway.
Guests can take a bus tour, accompanied by our highly knowledgeable guest astronomer, to go in search of the Northern Lights. If the sky is clear, the astronomer will be on and to advise us during star gazing and will bring the night sky to life with his extensive knowledge. Alternatively, you can choose to take a husky dog sledge as your chosen mode of transport when in search of the fascinating Northern Lights. We have been incredibly lucky over the past few years to witness the Northern Lights and capture some incredible images and hope to continue this great fortune with our upcoming trips.
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Vladimir & Suzdal
The historic city of Vladimir is one of Russia’s oldest communities, founded in 990. Home to a wealth of architecture, including some of the world’s oldest and most beautiful churches and cathedrals. The Uspensky Cathedral, built between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries is considered one of the most important.
Suzdal is one of Russia’s most perfectly preserved ‘walled cities’. Dating back to 1024, Suzdal is home to the atmospheric St Euthymius Monastery, which often holds enchanting choral performances. It is here where guests can experience a truly magical horse-drawn sleigh ride in a truly stunning location.
The White Monuments of Vladimir & Suzdal have been collectively designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. They consist of eight medieval monuments, including The Golden Gate in Vladimir and the previously mentioned St Euthymius Monastery in Suzdal.
Now that you have all the ingredients to create a truly magical winter adventure, find out more about our exhilarating and unique Arctic Explorer tour, please follow this link to our website. Tours depart 29th December 2016 & 2017 and 11th February 2017.