Upon arrival at Moscow Airport you will be met and transferred to the five-star Leningradskaya Hilton for our Welcome Dinner and a two-night stay. The hotel is conveniently located in Moscow city centre, and within walking distance of Komsomolskaya Square with its three ornate mainline railway stations.
Our touring programme of Moscow principally 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. We will enjoy an exclusive private viewing before it opens to the public before, visiting Red Square. This 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 which was constructed in Tsarist times, is also the sombre and evocative site of Lenin’s tomb.
We will have lunch in Café Pushkin, a legendary Moscow restaurant with a décor that revives the atmosphere of an early 19th century mansion and serves traditional Russian cuisine and end the day with 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.
If you have been to Moscow before we offer included Freedom of Choice touring where we show you other sights of Moscow such as the famous State Tretyakov Gallery (National Museum of Fine Art) or the Space Museum.
Today we will head to Moscow Kazanskiy Station where you will be greeted in the magnificent Imperial Waiting Room with a cold glass of Russian Champagne as you are welcomed by the train staff. The excitement in the waiting room audibly mounts and, 30 minutes before departure, your car attendants will escort you to Platform 1 where our train awaits, a magnificent blue P36 steam locomotive at its head.
Soon a loud whistle indicates our imminent departure and our journey begins, the train snaking out of the station as we start as we gain speed and head south, away from Moscow.
Today we will arrive on the banks of the Volga river at Saratov. The town has a unique resort atmosphere with a distinctly Central European ambience. A former closed city during Soviet times, the city is home to Russia's first major public art museum situated outside Moscow or St. Petersburg. The Radishchev Museum is named after the "first Russian revolutionary", Alexander Radishchev.
This afternoon we will enjoy lunch on board as we travel along the Volga River towards the Caspian Sea.
We spend the morning in the culturally diverse town of Astrakhan, Russia’s Caviar capital. Its two impressive cathedrals are accompanied by equally interesting mosques, synagogues and temples.
We will have a boat trip on the Volga Delta where the intricate wetlands are home to hundreds of bird and fish species and then have lunch travelling by train across the Delta, perhaps including some of Astrakhan’s most famous export!
Today we arrive at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains as we visit the towns of Grozny, Chechnya and Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia. Despite the region's recent turbulent history after the fall of the Soviet Union, both cities feature many interesting features including Grozny's Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque. Completed in 2008 and locally known as the Heart of Chechnya, this is by far the largest mosque in Russia and was part of the huge regeneration programme that has completely transformed Grozny.
Vladikavkaz, situated in a stunning location in the Caucasus mountain foothills, was established as a Russian fortress in 1784 and is at the northern end of the Georgian Military Highway, a huge undertaking at the end of the 18th century to link the South and North Caucasus.
Our train will continue west this morning pausing at the impressive station of Mineralnye-Vodi (Mineral Water) before taking the steep branch line up to Kislovodsk. Here we have the opportunity for a walking tour of the city’s well-manicured gardens and cobbled streets. You should notice the air, at nearly 1km above sea level, feels crisp and fresh.
In Soviet times Kislovodsk was a closed area and required special permission to visit as it was a favourite haunt of the Soviet leadership. Here we will have lunch at the restaurant Zamok (Castle) before continuing by train to Pyatigorsk, another Spa town, on our way back down to Mineralnye-Vodi.
After travelling overnight, we arrive in the small town of Apsheronsk which is in the most densely forested area of our tour. Here we transfer to the tiny village of Guamka where we will join a restored 1930s narrow gauge railroad for a journey through Guamsky Canyon, pausing midway for a very scenic lunch.
This evening, dinner will be served on board as we head south to the Black Sea coast.
This morning we will arrive in the colourful coastal town of Tuapse, one of the Black Sea’s biggest oil terminals. Here we will join the scenic coastal ‘Russian Riviera’ line all the way to Sochi.
After lunch on board we will disembark for a tour of the Winter Olympic city (actually held at Krasnya Polyana, about 40 kms from Sochi in the Caucasus Mountains).
We are hoping to continue south down the coast today into Abkhazia, however negotiations on this sector are still going on at the time of writing.
Our train will, hopefully, stop in the town of Gagra, which was Lenin’s coastal summer destination of choice and during the Soviet era a playground for Russian elites. The town has been substantially re-built following the war with Georgia which resulted in Abkhazia declaring independence.
We run back up the coast to Tuapse before taking a relatively new and very steep line up to Goryachy Kluch, before arriving at Krasnodar late morning. Nicknamed ‘Little Paris’ because of its European style, we visit Krasnodar for a brief tour of the charming city centre.
We will return to the train for lunch before arriving in Tikhoretsk where there will also be the opportunity to visit the locomotive repair depot here to see more historic locos.
After an early morning stop in Azov, we arrive into Rostov-on-Don this morning where we will transfer to the famous Gagarin Children’s Railway, a miniature narrow gauge railroad for a tour around Nikolai Ostrovsky Park.
After a lunch in Rostov we will continue our exploration of southern Russia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city including a boat ride on the Don River to the Cossack capital of Starocherkassk.
This morning we will arrive in Volgograd. Standing on the banks of the Volga, Stalingrad, as the city was known in Soviet times, was the dramatic scene of one of the most important Second World War battles. The Russians heroically turned back the Nazi advance here to alter the course of the war.
We will visit the poignantly sobering Mamayev Kurgan war memorial, followed by an informative museum visit.
Today we enjoy our final lunch and a Gala Dinner on board the Golden Eagle as we travel on the final leg of this journey north towards Moscow.
Our 3,500 mile (5,700km) journey ends as we arrive back into Moscow’s Paveletski station shortly after breakfast. After farewells, you will be transported to the airport or other train stations for your onward journey.
Alternatively, why not extend your stay in Moscow or travel onto St Petersburg with additional nights to explore more of these stunning cities at your leisure, or have time to take in a performance at the world-renowned Bolshoi or Mariinsky theatres?