Flight arrivals into St Petersburg and transfer to the luxurious Four Seasons Lion Palace (or similar). 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 and enjoy the lively atmosphere of the Christmas markets or go ice skating on one of the outdoor rinks in the central squares?
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.
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.
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).
We have a unique opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve on board at our signature Gala Caviar Dinner on board the Golden Eagle in the beautifully designed restaurant car, specially decorated tonight for our New Year’s Eve Party. Enjoy complimentary champagne, international wines and live musical entertainment for a New Year’s Eve you won’t forget as we begin our rail journey northwards to the Arctic Circle.
Today we have the opportunity to have a relaxed start to New Year's Day with a sumptuous breakfast 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 as we cross into the Arctic Circle on our quest to see the Northern Lights.
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 in the snow hotel’s Hoyloftet 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 their extensive knowledge.
Optional Activities in Kirkenes: You may like to book some additional optional activities such as an evening snowmobile tour (3 hours) or husky dog sledge tour (2 hours) in search of the Northern Lights. 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 should be requested at the time of booking the tour - please 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.
Today a unique winter experience awaits on our King Crab Fishing adventure. 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 you will be shown by your guide a catch of the magnificent Arctic King Crab (which can span two metres and weigh up to 15kgs). We then continue by sleigh to the nearby Fisherman’s Lodge, where it is here by a roaring log fire that your fresh King Crab meal awaits.
Also included during your stay in Kirkenes is a one-hour husky dog sledge ride and a visit to the resident reindeers.
Today we cross the border back into Russia and re-join our train which is waiting for us in Nikel Murmansk.
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.
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.
We take a city tour and then celebrate Sochelnik (Russian Christmas Eve) with a Karelian Folk Performance and continue our festivities with a traditional Russian Christmas Eve meal, known as the Holy Supper. As always a generous allowance of international wine and drinks are included with our dinner as we celebrate together.
Today will see Russians celebrate their Christmas Day and the city will be beautifully decorated for Rozhdestvo (Russian Christmas).
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 without the horse-drawn sleigh ride through this stunning location.
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.
Tonight we enjoy a 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 Moscow to explore more of the city at your leisure, go ice skating on the open air ice rink or enjoy the continuing Russian Christmas celebrations?