Arrive at Moscow Airport, where you are met and transferred to the five-star Hotel Baltschug Kempinski Moscow (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.
Our touring programme today takes us to the grandeur of the Kremlin - the spiritual, historical and political heart of Moscow. We’ll also see the treasures of the Tsars in the Armoury Chamber where we will enjoy an exclusive private viewing before it opens to the public. We also 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.
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.
From Moscow we travel by rail for the day to the historic Golden Ring city of Vladimir, which 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 onto 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 of traditional church music.
Returning to Moscow early evening, we board the Golden Eagle and settle into our modern, stylish cabins to embark upon our rail adventure deep into the Arctic Circle.
Petrozavodsk stretched along the western shore of Lake Onega – the second largest lake in Europe. It is one the major cultural and industrial centres of North-West Russia and is the capital of the Republic of Karelia.
This afternoon, we enjoy a private folk performance before we visit by hydrofoil the tiny island of Kizhi on Lake Onega to explore its open-air Museum of Wooden Architecture. Marvel at the wooden Church of the Transfiguration (the church of twenty-two wooden domes) built in 1714 without the use of a single nail which has survived the challenges of Russian winters and revolution.
Today we have the opportunity to have a relaxed start to the day and look forward to the many sights we are about to experience on our rail journey, maybe listen to a talk or simply relax in the Bar Lounge Car and enjoy the ever-changing summer landscape outside our window. Our train crosses the Arctic Circle on our quest to see the Midnight Sun and we will have a special ceremony on board to mark this occasion.
Late afternoon we arrive into Murmansk and get the chance to explore this city located 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 and it is here we learn about the perilous missions of the many Arctic convoys, hunted continually by the German Navy, which sailed from the United Kingdom, Iceland and North America to Murmansk in World War Two to deliver essential supplies to the Soviet Union. Now homeport to 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).
Instead of staying at the Thon Hotel you may also wish to stay for one or two nights in the atmospheric wooden log cabins of the Kirkenes Snow Hotel (additional charges apply).
After a traditional meal this evening, we will take a boat cruise to view the midnight sun (weather permitting). As part of the boat journey we will make a stop to sample the local delicacy, cloudberries and cream and learn about the cultural history of the Laplanders and the Russian Orthodox Church, followed by tea or coffee. We'll be as close to the Russian border that you can almost touch it, but trespassing across the boundary line here would be illegal!
Today another unique experience awaits you on the water with a King Crab Safari adventure. You will get the opportunity to catch, prepare and sample these giants of the fjords! An experienced fisherman will you take out on a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) boat where we will cruise along the Bugøyfjord and the Barents Sea to find the right place to anchor. You will be hands on to help pull up the King Crab cages from the depths. Once the catch is safely on board we will return to the shoreline and sample the freshest and most delicious King Crab in a traditional renovated boat house located by the fjord. An amazing and unforgettable day in the Norwegian Arctic Circle.
This evening we will celebrate the longest day of the Northern Hemisphere year with a Summer Solstice Cocktail Party and Gala Dinner.
This morning we say farewell to Kirkenes as we cross the border back into Russia, where we spend the morning in Nikel Murmansk before re-joining the train for lunch.
We'll spend the day on board travelling south through Arctic Russia. Relax and enjoy the ever-changing landscape outside your window as we head to our final destination, St Petersburg.
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. The few brief weeks of the White Nights (Beliye Nochi) – those remarkable, luminous northern mid-summer evenings when the high latitudes are drenched all night in a pearlescent glow and warm summer days are an enchanting time. By day, locals revel in the heat and the outdoors; by night, there are the Stars of the White Nights festivals and concerts to indulge in.
Upon arrival into the city we orientate ourselves with a short touring programme of central St Petersburg featuring the key sights including St Isaac’s Cathedral and Nevsky Prospect.
We stay for two nights in St Petersburg at the Renaissance St Petersburg Baltic hotel, just moments away from historic St Petersburg's major sites, including the Hermitage Museum, Mariinsky Theatre, and Nevsky Prospekt.
Today we have a guided tour of Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin and the spectacular 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.
After dinner, why not make your final White Nights evening in St Petersburg extra special by purchasing a ticket for a ballet or opera performance at the world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre or take in one of the many outdoor concerts (subject to schedule and availability; must be pre-booked at least six weeks prior to departure).
After breakfast in the hotel our tour to the Land of the Midnight Sun finally comes to a close. Lunch, if required, would be by your own arrangement.
At the end of your adventure why not extend your stay in St Petersburg with post-tour nights to explore more of the city at your leisure. No other major European city can compete with this experience, nor the atmosphere on the streets of St. Petersburg during these summer months - lively, friendly, romantic and bustling with people throughout the night as well as the day!