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As we say in England, I consider this to be a “tight run ship”. Probably the biggest complement that can be given.
GRAND TOUR OF RUSSIA26 days / 25 nights from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok
Commencing in St Petersburg, the MS Volga Dream takes in some truly incredible scenery as it ventures towards Moscow; from the remarkable wooden architecture of Kizhi Island that has endured centuries of challenge and revolution, to the inspiring tranquillity of the Svir River, this tour combines the serene with the pristine. From Moscow, board the Golden Eagle as it embarks upon the incomparable Trans-Siberian railway. Enjoy the unique culture and magnificent landscapes of Mongolia, the grandeur of Lake Baikal and the historical significance of military port Vladivostok.
Upon arrival in St. Petersburg, which Peter the Great transformed from marshland into a vibrant city of islands, canals, bridges and pastel-coloured palaces, transfer to the deluxe Grand Hotel Europe for a three night stay. In the evening gather for the welcome meeting with your guide or spend the rest of the day exploring central St. Petersburg on your own.
Enjoy a city tour of St. Petersburg and after lunch visit Faberge museum which contains world's largest collection of works by Carl Faberge, including 9 Easter eggs commissioned by the Russian royal family.
In the evening, board a small river boat for a sail around the numerous rivers and canals of St. Petersburg.
City tour includes: Split of Basil Island (walking tour), Spilled Blood Church (photo stop), Peter and Paul Fortress (entrance), St. Isaac Cathedral (photo stop), Nevskiy Prospekt drive
This morning enter the famed Hermitage Museum before hours to avoid the main crowds. After lunch travel to the meticulously restored Peterhof, St. Petersburg’s most famous and spectacular Imperial estate, often cited as the Versailles of Russia. Visit the authentic Bath Cottage and stroll in the vast Lower Park with 176 fountains of various forms and styles and four cascades, majestic palaces and numerous gilded statues of ancient gods and heroes.
This morning travel to Catherine the Great’s Palace, which houses the extraordinary Amber Room, its six tons of solid amber deftly carved and framed in gold leaf. Once deemed the “eighth wonder of the world,” the room was stripped by the Nazis in 1941, but majestically reconstructed in honour of St. Petersburg’s 300th birthday.
After lunch in Podvorie, a restaurant in a traditional Russian log house, on the way back to St. Petersburg visit a ‘Russia in Miniature’ Interactive Museum. Done with a great care and attention to detail, this very realistic model of Russia will give you a great picture of this vast country full of stereotypes, generalizations and main attractions of every region.
Then transfer to the awaiting luxurious MS Volga Dream and begin sailing along the Russian waterways. Gather for the Captain's welcome reception and dinner as we begin our cruise.
While cruising along the 139-mile-long Svir River, appreciate the quiet understated beauty of a region that has long inspired artists and poets. The ship passes quaint riverside hamlets before reaching Lake Ladoga. Step ashore for a brief visit to the vacation village of Mandrogi to experience daily life in a quaint wooden village on your own.
Volga Dream Experience: Barbeque on the Open Deck
In the tiny settlement of Goritsy, visit the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, founded in 1397, and now home to one of the best collections of Russian icons in the world. After a guided tour, continue cruising toward majestic Lake Onega.
The Kareliya region, which spans the area from St. Petersburg to the Arctic Circle, is a vast wilderness of forest and water. Discover Lake Onega, fed by 58 rivers and home to 1,369 islands, including Kizhi. See a collection of ancient Russian wooden houses and windmills, and the famous Transfiguration church, built in 1714 without a single nail.
Volga Dream Experience: Piano Concert – pieces by Tchaikovsky and Rakhmaninov
Founded in 1010, Yaroslavl is one of the oldest cities in central Russia and the Volga’s first port. In the Spassky Monastery see the Transfiguration of the Savior and admire the mosaics at the Church of Elijah the Prophet. Take part in a costumed reception at the governor’s house, and then re-board the MS Volga Dream in time for lunch.
Volga Dream Experience: Costumed Russian Tea Ceremony & Russian Cooking Class
After a full day of cruising through forested countryside, dock in the ancient trading town of
Uglich, one of the spokes of Russia’s renowned Golden Ring. Explore the impressive Church of St. Dmitri-on-the-Blood, erected on the site where Dmitri, son of Ivan the Terrible, was murdered in 1591, and attend an enchanting concert of choral music at St. John’s Church.
Volga Dream Experience: Documentary Film “Construction of the Moscow Canal”
In the afternoon disembark from the MS Volga Dream and transfer to the deluxe St. Regis Moscow Hotel Nikolskaya or Ararat Park Hyatt Hotel.
After lunch, we join an orientation tour of Moscow and visit famous Novodevichy Cemetery which holds the tombs of Russian authors, musicians, playwrights, and poets, as well as famous actors, political leaders, and scientists.
Late afternoon we visit the excellent Museum of Cosmonautics to learn about Yury Gagarin’s first flight in the space and proceed to an outdoor Exhibition of Achievements of the People's Economy – a truly remarkable footprint of Soviet architecture and design.
This morning enter the Kremlin for a visit to the Armoury Museum to view its collection of opulent coronation finery, hand-forged armour and weapons, royal carriages and sleighs, and dazzling Faberge eggs.
View the ornate gems of the Diamond Fund, including Catherine the Great’s diamond-encrusted coronation crown and the 190-carat Orlov Diamond, and continue to the Square of Four Cathedrals.
After lunch walk around the famous Red Square and visit GUM - Moscow’s largest department store. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore Moscow on your own or seek out a cultural performance at one of the city’s renowned venues.
This morning we continue our city tour of Moscow and after lunch, proceed to the famous State Tretyakov Gallery, the first museum dedicated exclusively to Russian fine art.
We end the day with an enlightening 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.
This morning check-out from your hotel and transfer to the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express at Moscow’s Kazansky Station.
Upon arrival at Moscow Kazansky Station, you will be greeted in the magnificent Imperial Waiting Room with a cold glass of Russian Champagne and canapes as you mix with the other guests and 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 and the Golden Eagle awaits.
Situated on the River Volga, the picturesque and historic city of Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan. Here we have the opportunity to see for ourselves its rich tapestry of history and culture. One of the highlights of this city tour is our exploration of the Kremlin Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the walls of this ancient citadel we will explore its stunning mosque and picture-perfect onion-domed cathedral.
Founded in 1723 by Peter the Great, Yekaterinburg, is the capital of the Urals. Known as the Great Divide, the Ural Mountains create the natural border between Europe and Asia so that the cultural and architectural influences of European and Asian civilisations come together in this fascinating and cosmopolitan landscape. Our city tour takes us to the poignant site where the Romanov, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, was executed with his family by the Bolsheviks in 1918 following 78 days of imprisonment. Now a church dedicated to their memory, this site provides us with a powerful insight into the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. We will also drive to the obelisk marking the geographical border and we can drink a glass of champagne with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia.
Our Freedom of Choice programme features a visit to the recently opened Museum of Military Machinery. The museum houses an amazing collection of different types of military hardware including tanks, aircraft, boats and even armoured trains. You will also see a wide range of civilian vehicles (particularly Russian models). The museum is a real treat for anyone with an interest in the Soviet past, unparalleled by anything else along the route.
A modern ‘Soviet’ city, we experience the life and character of Novosibirsk’s rich culture where the arts and science predominate. The city is located in the heart of Russia and is situated on both banks of the River Ob. Our city tour takes us to Lenin Square where the imposing Opera House is located. An architectural marvel, it houses two permanent ballet and opera companies and is one of the largest opera houses in the world. In front of the Opera House, we visit an impressive statue of Lenin – a marvellous opportunity to have your photograph taken with this iconic political leader.
Alternatively, south of the city you could visit Novosibirsk’s excellent Railway Museum on our Freedom of Choice tour. The museum displays locomotives and rolling stock from the late 1800s, including carriages of the Tsars, through to the Soviet era. Or choose to go to the Mineralogical Centre with its fine display of Siberian minerals.
A day to unwind and reflect on the many sights and sounds we have experienced on our journey so far. Chat to your fellow passengers, perhaps learn a few words of Russian or simply enjoy the ever changing landscape outside your window as it unfolds.
Our visit to Irkutsk, the ‘Paris of Siberia’, takes in the most significant sites and museums in this fascinating city, including an exploration of the classic wooden architecture with its intricately carved lace- like decorations that has given many of this region’s buildings such a distinctive and unique appearance. We also visit the Volkonsky House Museum, which is dedicated to the memory of the aristocrats who were exiled to this remote outpost after the failed Decembrists uprising of 1825, and we recreate the atmosphere of that time with a champagne reception and private concert.
You could learn to cook some traditional Russian dishes with a local chef and prepare your own lunch with our Freedom of Choice option. Or you might also wish to visit a traditional Russian Dacha (summer house) or an urban apartment to get an insight into the everyday life of an average Russian family.
Few natural sights can surpass the beauty and grandeur of Lake Baikal and is a major highlight on our Trans-Siberian journey. Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world and holds 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater.
Also known as the ‘Pearl of Siberia’ it is home to a unique breed of freshwater seal and over 50 species of fish including omul. For five hours we wind our way through tunnels along cliff hugging tracks above the lake with a vista of snow-capped peaks along the far shore forming a picture-perfect backdrop.
To add to the grandeur of the day our Golden Eagle train will be hauled by a Soviet era steam locomotive on this beautiful section of the line. There will be plenty of opportunities for photographs as the train winds its way along the lake. This will be an unforgettable part of our journey.
Weather permitting, we stop in an extremely picturesque location by the lake for photographic opportunities and for the brave hearted there is time for a refreshing swim in the crystal clear and ice-cold waters of Baikal. Travelling onwards to the end of the Baikal branch line, we leave the train and travel by boat on the lake to Listvyanka, a small Baikal settlement nestling at the base of the surrounding hills and visit the Lake Baikal Museum and Aquarium where you can learn about the flora and fauna of the lake.
We will enjoy a delicious barbecue, including freshly smoked omul fish, prepared by our own chefs on the shore of Lake Baikal to complete a memorable day.
As part of our Freedom of Choice excursion programme you can choose a hiking opportunity that offers some spectacular and panoramic hillside views of the lake below.
The ethnic and cultural diversity of Ulan Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic, offers a unique insight into its heritage. As we tour the area you will notice the different faces of these welcoming Buryat people. During our exploration of the Old Believers’ Village we have the opportunity to learn about the culture and history of these religious people as we are treated to a concert featuring local traditions and folk singing.
Our Trans-Siberian adventure takes us into Mongolia and a visit to its capital, Ulaan Baatar. Mongolia, once the very centre of an enormous empire led by Genghis Khan, is a country of beautiful landscapes, nomadic people and rich in culture and history. Mongolia is famous for its endless green Steppes, grazing livestock and white, nomadic Gers (Yurts) dotted all across the countryside.
We start the tour at Gandan Monastery, one of Mongolia’s most important Buddhist Monasteries housing a community of over 500 monks. The full name, Gandantegchinlen, translates as ‘the great place of complete joy’. At Chinggis Square (formerly Sukhbaatar Square) we can see the central monument to Genghis Khan, undoubtedly the most feared and revered Mongol. We then drive out of the city to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and enjoy the beautiful scenery of wild Mongolia, having the opportunity to visit a traditional Ger and meet a nomadic family or try our hand at horse-riding, an intrinsic part of Mongolian life.
Alternatively, there is an option to stay in the city as part of our Freedom of Choice touring. After Gandan Monastery and Chinggis Square we visit the National Museum where we learn about the country’s intriguing history. We will also see Bogd Khan Winter Palace Museum, the winter residences of Bogd Khan, the last Mongolian emperor, built between 1893 and 1903.
We can also explore the city and have some free time for shopping for Mongolian souvenirs, and their speciality cashmere. We will also enjoy a performance of traditional Mongolian throat singing and contortionists.
Enjoy a more leisurely pace today as we travel through the beautiful landscape of the Russian Far East. You may wish to attend one of the interesting lectures or Russian language lessons
It's the perfect opportunity to practice your Russian or simply relax as our journey today follows the Shilka and Amur rivers, close to the Chinese border. Enjoy Russia at its most dramatic and remote, as the Golden Eagle eats up the miles on our way to Vladivostok.
Passing directly north of Seoul, Darwin and Osaka, we spend our last full day onboard the Golden Eagle today as the most easterly point of this mammoth journey is reached passing through Khabarovsk, where we cross the River Amur. Tonight we enjoy our final dinner onboard our private train that has been our home for the last twelve days as we approach our final destination on this unforgettable journey.
After travelling through 8 time zones and covering a staggering 6,600 miles (10,600kms) along this iconic railway, the Golden Eagle pulls into its final destination, Vladivostok.
Vladivostok is a military port, located on the western shores of the Sea of Japan and is home to the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet. Due to its military importance, the city was closed to foreigners between 1930 and 1992. Vladivostok (literally translated as ‘Ruler of the East’) offers visitors an interesting opportunity to explore its principal military attractions including a visit to a preserved World War Two submarine. Our city tour will also take us to the iconic suspension bridge over Golden Horn Bay, one of the largest of its kind worldwide, which opened in 2012 for the APEC conference.
Our hotel in Vladivostok, where we stay for one night, is the four-star Hotel Hyundai.
Following breakfast, you will be transferred to Vladivostok Airport to begin your journey home.
All arrangements are subject to availability and modification if necessary. Weather, heavy traffic and heavy crowds may affect the order of your sightseeing program.