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A photographer’s delight, the Arctic Explorer tour at New Year remains a firm favourite amongst Golden Eagle passengers. What better way to see Russia’s greatest cities than when they are decorated in all their festive splendour? Ice skate in the main square and explore the delightful Christmas Markets St Petersburg has to offer, before venturing into the Russian and Norwegian Arctic Circle in search of the magnificent Northern Lights, and returning to Russia’s fascinating capital city, Moscow. We’ve taken a look behind the scenes to bring you magnificent photographs taken on our most recent departures and give a real insight into what you can expect from this journey of a lifetime.

Bask in architectural bliss in St Petersburg

The Arctic Explorer is currently our only tour offering a glimpse of stunning St Petersburg, however next year this will be extended to our brand new Land of the Midnight Sun tour. Filled with splendid Palaces, imposing historical monuments and beautiful bridges, it is also the renowned ballet capital of the world. Passengers have a guided tour of Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, where they can admire the stunning décor. There is also a tour of the Hermitage Museum, the former Winter Palace of the Tsars and home to an extensive royal art collection and a city tour of Nevsky Prospect, just a short distance from the Church of the Saviour on spilled blood.

Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg Church of the saviour on the spilled blood 0148 _AEX4969-lr10x15

Partake in New Year’s Eve and Russian Christmas celebrations

The emphasis on the Arctic Explorer is to provide memorable experiences both on and off the train. Following two nights in St Petersburg, guests will board the Golden Eagle on New Year’s Eve in anticipation of the famed Golden Eagle Gala Caviar Dinner and champagne celebrations, as the train heads north towards the Arctic Circle. As depicted in the pictures below, on last year’s trip we hosted a masquerade party with evening entertainment in the form of an illusionist, who wowed guests with his visual trickery, plus a sing-a-long accompanied by our wonderful on board pianist. Celebrations continue later in the tour, on January 6 and 7, as we enjoy traditional Russian Christmas festivities in Petrozavodsk, Vladimir and Suzdal.

New Year's Eve Party Sing-a-long on the Arctic Explorer Arctic celebrations

Enjoy the icy interior of the Snow Hotel

As the train arrives in Nikel at the Norwegian border, we transfer to Kirkenes for two nights, where we begin our quest for the Northern Lights. Kirkenes is home to the sublime Snow Hotel, where everything from the bar to the beds are carved from ice and the temperature is maintained at a cool minus 5 degrees Celsius. Passengers are welcomed to upgrade one of their night’s stay in Kirkenes to this unique and memorable hotel. There is also an opportunity for King Crab fishing, where guests participate in catching their own dinner; one of our most popular experiences!

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Go on a quest for the Northern Lights in Kirkenes

After an enchanting visit to the Snow Hotel, catch an evening bus tour in search of the Northern Lights. Kirkenes is widely regarded as one of the great vantage points for seeing this incredible natural phenomenon and we have been lucky enough to witness the incredible Aurora Borealis on each of our last few tours. Our guest astronomer will also be on hand to share his extensive knowledge and offer expert advice. In February this year, our passengers were treated to an incredible 90-minute display, and in December of last year, stunning shots like the one pictured below were captured. To have witnessed the Northern Lights is to know you have truly been in the presence of something spectacular.

Gwen Norton - Northern Lights Northern Lights by Gwen Norton
The amazing photographs above were taken by passenger, Gwen Norton, on the Arctic Explorer in December 2015.

Admire UNESCO World Heritage sites of Vladimir and Suzdal

Founded in 990, Vladimir is one of Russia’s oldest communities and its architectural wealth means it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here, we visit the Uspensky Cathedral, considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country, where many prominent Tsars were crowned. Onwards to Suzdal, a perfectly preserved walled city, which dates back to 1024. We visit St Euthymius Monastery for an enchanting choral performance and enjoy an idyllic horse-drawn sleigh ride through the city. Guests who join us on our December departure will be lucky enough to experience Russian Christmas Day in Vladimir and Suzdal and will really get a sense of how the locals celebrate this holiday.

Wooden houses Vladimir Enjoying the snow in Suzdal Sleigh Rides In Suzdal

Be bowled over by Moscow’s Historical and Political heart

Our enchanting tour concludes in Moscow, Russia’s iconic capital city. Guests will visit the renowned Red Square, a symbol of Russia’s former military and political power. Home to the instantly recognisable GUM department store and the sombre site of Lenin’s tomb, there is no shortage of fascinating monuments to visit. Guests will also be given an exclusive private tour of the Kremlin, regarded as the historical and political heart of Moscow, before it is opened to the public.

Christmas in Moscow Moscow Kremlin

Our Arctic Explorer journeys depart December 29th 2016 and February 11th 2017. Prices start from $11,995 per person. View the full itinerary here.