Flight arrivals into Moscow and transfer to the luxurious Four Seasons Moscow (or similar) situated on Red Square for two nights. 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 Moscow with pre-tour nights to explore more of the city at your leisure and enjoy the lively atmosphere of the Christmas markets or go ice skating on one of the outdoor rinks in the central squares?
Today we visit 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.
We’ll also take a tour of the opulent and unique stations of the Moscow metro - showpieces of Socialist art furnished with statues, frescoes and mosaics, unsurpassed anywhere in the world.
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. What better place to spend Rozhdestvo (Russian Christmas), celebrated today? 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 without the horse-drawn sleigh ride through this stunning location.
Today we have the opportunity to have a relaxed start to the day with a sumptuous breakfast on board. We can look forward to 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 as we cross into the Arctic Circle on our quest to see the Northern Lights.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today we cross the border back into Russia and re-join our train which is waiting for us in Nikel Murmansk.
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.
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.
Scheduled for a morning arrival, our final stop is St Petersburg which 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.
Included in our time spent in St Petersburg is two nights in the luxurious Grand Hotel Europe (or similar).
Make one of your evenings 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).
During our time spent in St Petersburg we have a guided tour of Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin and the world-famous 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.
There is also a city tour of St Petersburg featuring the key sights including St Isaac's Cathedral and Nevsky Prospect.
Tonight we enjoy a New Year's Eve Gala Farewell Dinner as we reflect on the experiences we have enjoyed over the last 11 days.
After breakfast in the hotel our tour to Arctic Circle finally comes to a close. Lunch, if required, would be by your own arrangement.
Flights should be booked to depart after 3pm or why not extend your stay in St Petersburg to explore more of the city at your leisure, go ice skating on the open air ice rink or enjoy the continuing holiday celebrations