Northern Russia Tour: Kremlins, Cupolas and Countryside
St Petersburg, Schlisselburg Fortress, Staraya Ladoga, Tikhvin, Vologda, Moscow (7 days, 6 nights)
This remarkable tour enables you to explore areas north and east of St Petersburg, ending in Moscow. This is the opportunity to visit remote monasteries set within their fortified ‘kremlins’, churches with wonderful frescoed interiors, small towns and villages where the benefits of post-perestroika Russia seem not to have arrived, and see rural Russia at its best, the fields and woods awash in flowers. This is the Russia that few travellers from outside ever see.
DAY 1, Sat
Arrive St Petersburg, meet your guide and driver at the airport and transfer to hotel
Orientation walk to the River Neva and Peter the Great’s statue, the Bronze Horseman
DAY 2, Sun
AM Meet your guide. Drive to Peterhof (Peter the Great’s summer residence on the Gulf of Finland, built to rival Versailles, with fountains and cascades) and visit the Monplaisir Palace and the Catherine Block.
Lunch in a restaurant on the grounds, followed by a walk to the hydrofoil pier
Take Hydrofoil to St Petersburg (30 min), arrive the Hermitage pier
Tour of the Hermitage main complex, walk to hotel
Optional: Ballet performance
DAY 3, Mon
AM Drive to Schlisselburg Fortress (1 hour)
Visit Fortress and town
The historic fortress of Shlisselburg is one of the most important medieval fortresses (1323) in the northwest Russia. It is located on an island in Lake Ladoga at the head of the River Neva. In the 18th–19th centuries the fortress also served as a prison for those who threatened Tsarist rule. During World War II the fortress heroically held out against continual Nazi artillery shelling for nearly 500 days and played an important role in protecting Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and reopening access to the besieged city. Today the fortress and the city center are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Drive to Staraya Ladoga (1 hour drive in coach)
Picnic lunch on the banks of the Volkhov River
The history of Staraya Ladoga Fortress and settlement goes back to ancient times. The legendary Varangian leader Rurik, founder of the first Russian royal dynasty, arrived Ladoga in 862 and made it his capital. Archeological sites, pre-Christian burial mounds can be still seen along the Volkhov River. The northernmost churches of pre-mongolian Rus – the Assumption Cathedral and the Church of St. George with the 12th century frescoes still stand in all their original glory.
PM Fortress and village of Staraya Ladoga, Archeological Museum and St. Nicholas Cathedral
Drive to Tikhvin (1 hour)
Check into hotel in Tikhvin. Dinner at hotel
DAY 4, Tue
AM Tour of Tikhvin and the Assumption Monastery. Monks singing (10 mins)
The highlight of this small, quiet town on the banks of the Tikhvinka River is a beautiful Assumption Monastery established in 1560 by decree of Ivan the Terrible. The Assumption Cathedral is home to Russia’s most venerated icon – the Tikhvin Mother of God.
Visit Rimsky-Korsakov House Museum
Tikhvin is the birthplace of the great composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, whose music was inspired by the local nature, folk tunes and religious ringing of bells.
Optional: private music concert in the Chapel close by, overlooking the river
Lunch in a local restaurant in Tikhvin
PM Drive to Vologda: 437 km (5.5 hours) drive through a lovely stretch of Russian countryside, with stops
20:00 Arrive Vologda and check in hotel.
Dinner at hotel
DAY 5, Wed
AM Walk from hotel to the city centre. Tour of the Kremlin and Kremlin territory, followed by a visit to the St. Sophia Cathedral.
Founded in 1147, Vologda remains one of the best preserved Russian northern cities. During the reign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible much attention was paid to the embellishment of the city as Tsar Ivan planned to move the capital from Moscow to Vologda. In 1580 he ordered to build a new Kremlin and a magnificent Saint Sophia Cathedral.
Lunch in a local restaurant
PM Icon Museum and Lacework Museum
The Kremlin premises house many notable museums, Lacework and Icon museums are included into the tour.
Dinner in a local restaurant
Optional Choral evensong at a close-by Russian Orthodox Church
Return to hotel and stay overnight in Vologda
DAY 6, Thu
All Day excursion (2 hour drive approx) to the Ferapontov and the Kirillovo-Belozersky Monasteries, UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES.
AM Drive through countryside to the Ferapontov Monastery. The drive is narrated by your local guide
Tour of the Ferapontov Monastery and the Church of Nativity of the Virgin (1490)
All the interior walls of the church are covered with invaluable frescoes by the great medieval painter Dionysius. This is the only complete medieval fresco cycle to survive in any Russian church
We continue to the village of Kurakino to visit a traditional sheep farm where the owners will offer us local hospitality. The wife is a famous potter and we will visit her workshop.
Then on to Kirillovo for lunch after which we visit the enormous Kirillovo-Belozersky Monastery, at one time the largest and most powerful in northern Russia: its three-storey fortress walls contain twelve churches and the glorious Cathedral of the Assumption, truly breath-taking.
Return to Vologda. Dinner in a local restaurant near the hotel
DAY 7, Fri
AM Visit to the practicing Spasso-Prilutsky Monastery dating from the 14th century and picturesquely reflected in the nearby river. The tour is conducted by a local monk.
Back in town there is a tiny House of Peter the Great in which he lodged when visiting.
In late 17th – early 18th centuries Peter the Great visited the city many times as military and technical equipment for fortresses and military ships under construction was stored there. He always stayed in a small house of the Dutch merchant Goutman, which became museum in 1885.
Lunch in town
PM ‘Wooden architecture of Vologda’ Tour
Vologda still boasts 224 wooden buildings that have been officially recognized as cultural heritage monuments. The city tour familiarizes with most of these incredible buildings.
There will be free time for visiting some of the local markets and shopping
After dinner, transfer to first class sleeper to Moscow departing 21:53.
DAY 8, Sat
06:30Arrive Moscow, transfer to hotel to freshen up and have breakfast.
Drive, or walk to the Kremlin
Visit the Kremlin territory and Cathedrals
Optional: tour of the Armoury
Lunch in a local restaurant near Red Square
Guided walk on the Red Square and transfer to the airport for your return flight