The whole trip was a wonderful adventure, and we really appreciate the time and effort gone into the planning and execution of everything! It was the trip of a lifetime – thanks to everyone involved!
J & J Simon, The Silk Road by Private Train
We leave Australia today to take a journey through Russia’s history, told through the most enchanting of its towns.
Our flight arrives in Moscow, where the Four Seasons Hotel hosts us for the night. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure or venture out to explore the city.
The Sapsan bullet train, travelling at speeds of up to 250kph, whisks us across the countryside to the town of Vladimir, 179 kilometres away. We exchange the ultra-modern environment of the train for that of a medieval capital. Vladimir, founded in 1098, is regarded as the cradle of the Russian language. We marvel at the city’s architecture, then continue our discovery of the area at Bogolyubsky. This village was founded by Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky on the spot where he saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, who commanded that he build a church. The Church of the Intercession on the Nerl is now a World Heritage-listed building. Late in the afternoon, we travel to Suzdal where the traditional wood cabins of Pushkarskaya Sloboda welcome us for two nights.
Of all the towns on the Golden Ring, Suzdal is probably the most captivating. The Trans-Siberian Railway bypassed the town, which meant that hardly any modern development occurred, preserving the town’s wooden cottages, church cupolas, monasteries and sleepy way of life. There are over 200 historical buildings from the past millennium here, and the ancient drink of medovukha is available on every street corner. It is a honey-based beer like mead, and something we must sample while we are in town. Among the many must-see sites, we visit the old Kremlin, the Spass-Evfimievsky Monastery and the Church of the Transfiguration, built intricately and completely from wood.
Today, we are in Sergiev Posad, the spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church. Its iconic Trinity-Lavra of St Sergius Monastery, from the 15th century, is one of the largest and most resplendent in all of Russia. The white stone buildings and gold onion domes were the inspiration for multiple other Russian churches. We walk through its grand spaces, then sit down for lunch in the refectory, where we are joined by priests and have the privilege of watching the novice choir perform.
We return to Moscow in the afternoon, where champagne awaits us on the Bosco Café terrace overlooking the most Muscovian of places - the Red Square. The Four Seasons welcomes us again for a night.
This morning, we visit the major sights of Moscow, admiring the Bolshoi Theatre, Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral. At lunch, we sample classic Russian cuisine. After, we tour the subway. Of all the metro systems in the world, Moscow has built some of the most extravagant Baroque, Art Deco and Futurist stations. We then stroll down Arbat Street, once populated by the nobility, then intellectuals and dissidents, and now host to boutiques, restaurants and cafés. In the afternoon, we board the River Victoria ship, our home for twelve nights. As this is a Captain’s Choice journey, everyone enjoys a riverview stateroom with a full balcony.
Exclusive early entrance to the Kremlin and its Armoury this morning allows us to appreciate the magnificent buildings before the crush of crowds. The Moscow Kremlin is the most famous of all kremlins, and features five palaces and four cathedrals enclosed by fortified walls and towers. The vast, triangle-shaped complex is the oldest part of the city and is also a World Heritage-listed site. Since 1960, the Armoury has been the official museum of the Kremlin, containing an unrivalled collection of Russian, Western European and Eastern applied arts. The range of pieces is dizzying, but among them, see the Imperial Crown of Russia, the ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible and exquisite Imperial Fabergé eggs. Back on the ship, we celebrate with a welcome reception and gala dinner.
We have the chance to visit Moscow’s more eclectic offerings today. Choose from these Your World experiences or spend the day relaxing.
Today is set aside for leisure or discovery at your own pace. For the collectors amongst us, this is the perfect opportunity to search for unique art or Russian antiques. Those who love fashion can visit Moscow’s many independent designers to pick up that rare piece no one at home will have.
Our river ship departs this morning, embarking on a voyage down the Moscow Canal and the Volga, Svir and Neva rivers to St Petersburg. Our first port of call is the picturesque town of Uglich. Here, you may choose from two Your World experiences.
Between the 9th and 11th centuries, the Vikings were present as traders, pirates and mercenaries. They controlled the Great Volga Way, a trade route that connected Northern Europe and Northwestern Russia with Persia on the Caspian Sea. Called Varangians by the local Slavs, it is said that they were the founders of Kievan Rus, the predecessor to the Russian Empire. They eventually assimilated with the Slavs, but not before leaving traces of their way of life. Learn about them in today’s Your World experiences.
Set in the middle of Lake Onega, Kizhi Island is a microcosm of 18th and 19th century Russia. The best examples of Karelian architecture were moved here from villages on the mainland during the Soviet era to create a truly spectacular open-air museum. Among its notable buildings are two churches set within the same pogost, or compound. The all-timber Church of Transfiguration, with 22 onion domes, was built without a single nail and served as a summer church as it was not heated. Its sister building, the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin, is a nine-domed design, and was used from 1 October until Easter. We also visit preserved peasants’ houses to learn about Karelian crafts. We end the day with a walking tour of the harbour.
Our ship continues on the Svir River to the town of Mandrogi. The original town burnt to the ground during World War Two, and has been rebuilt as a reproduction of a traditional Russian settlement. As we walk through the colourful village, our guide tells us about the architecture. We visit a local tavern where we have lunch. Then, spend your afternoon on one of these Your World experiences.
We arrive in St Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great, and the imperial capital of Russia until 1918. Criss crossed with canals and rivers, St Petersburg is a collection of Baroque and neoclassical buildings sitting prettily along planned streets. A visitor would not guess that the area was once a sodden marshland, nor that it took thousands of conscripts, convicts and prisoners ten years to make it habitable. We tour the city on foot and from a canal boat, then visit the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, gruesomely called such because it was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated by bomb. This evening, at Alexandrinsky Theatre, the oldest national theatre in Russia, we are dazzled both by the ballet dancers and the sumptuous hall.
The grand, sprawling Winter Palace in St Petersburg was the official residence of Russian emperors and empresses. As such, it was designed to reflect the strength and power of Imperial Russia. Catherine the Great was a great patron of art, and what began as her personal collection became the State Hermitage Museum, occupying the Winter Palace and other buildings nearby. In the evening, we tour the Yusupov Palace, watch a ballet in the Palace Theatre and dine in grand style.
30 kilometres south of St Petersburg is the Catherine Palace, a flamboyant blue and white Rococo building topped by statues gilded in gold. Marvel at the lavish decorations, walk through the perfectly manicured park and imagine the life of excess led by the Russian royals. Since this is our last evening on the River Victoria ship, we are treated to a farewell reception and gala dinner on board.
Today, we leave St Petersburg to board our flight home. The dramatic history of Russia replays in our minds as we relax on the plane. We arrive in Australia on the 28th of August, the following day.
Sometimes travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the fascinating places you are in. That’s why everything mundane has been moved behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map, luggage, small change for tips or bargain for a taxi fare.
There are no hidden costs. Everything is included – flights and other travel arrangements, luxurious accommodation, travel insurance, all dining and drinks, and even sightseeing trips - including those by helicopter or husky sled. Even the Your World experiences within your itinerary and internet access when available.
Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.
In 1936, the original Hotel Moskva was built on this spot. The plans were approved by Stalin himself. At the time, it was one of Moscow’s finest, containing art and mosaics by Russia’s finest artists. Age took its toll, and in 2004, the building was demolished and rebuilt in exactly the same design. Today, this is the Four Seasons Hotel, featuring the elegant interiors, attentive service and delectable dining we have come to expect from the Four Seasons group.
It is rare that we find a ship so well-appointed for its purpose. The River Victoria’s ample sundeck and variety of open air spaces allow us to immerse ourselves in the gorgeous scenery, while the restaurant and lounge are breezy spaces with large panoramic windows to bring the outside in. Every cabin is bright and modern with a full, sunlit balcony.
Fares are based on a Category 1 suite aboard the River Victoria. Per Person Twin Share
Fares include Emirates flights from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Prices from other cities available on request.
Land Only Guests join the tour in Moscow for dinner on Day 2 and depart St Petersburg after breakfast on Day 18.
Solo availability at the above price is limited.
Tour Notes: This journey is exclusively reserved for a group of just 22 travellers.