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Encounter a snow-filled wonderland as you discover Moscow, St. Petersburg and Siberia in winter

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Itinerary Highlights

  • Taking a snowy dog sled ride in the wilds of Siberia
  • Exploring the icy landscapes of Lake Baikal
  • Absorbing the grandeur of Moscow's Red Square
  • Heading into Cold War Russia with a visit to Bunker 42
  • Discover incredible works of art at The Hermitage in St.Petersburg
  • Enjoy a traditional troika ride in Pavlovsk Park

What's Included

  • Luxury accommodation throughout
  • Private transfers
  • Private tours and experiences focused around Russia's history, culture and natural beauty
  • Full support from your travel designer and concierge before, during and after your trip
  • Our help with restaurant recommendations and reservations
  • Expert guides in each destination
Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

At a glance

The extreme but beautiful Russian winter is a unique season to experience, blanketing much of the country’s natural landscapes in snow and ice, while presenting a fairy tale atmosphere across its most beautiful cities. This ten-day trip allows you to encounter the best of both sides of Russia’s winter, from the dramatic and wild surrounds of Siberia to the charming and romantic character of its two most splendid cities.

Your journey will start in historic Irkutsk which sits on the banks of the Angara, a scenic Siberian river which flows into the mesmerising Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake in the world. During your three-night stay here, you will discover plenty of history about this lake, as well as numerous impressive landmarks, such as the Church of our Savior, while adventure will be had in the shape of snow mobile and dog sled experiences.

Your next stop will see you fly into Russia’s enigmatic capital, Moscow. Introducing you to the city’s cultural, historical and political identity, your time in Moscow will see you soaking up iconic sights such as Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the GUM department store. You’ll also learn about iconic Russians such as Tolstoy, the great Russian author, as well as having the rare opportunity to delve into the likes of Cold War Russia and the country’s famed space programme.

Your final stop, St. Petersburg, will be reached via high-speed train, where you will be transported into a remarkable scene of snaking frozen canals, grand landmarks and immense cultural moments. This is truly one of the world’s most stunning cities, and here you will tick off everything from the diverse art collection housed at The Hermitage to a master class in Russian opera.

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-4

Siberia

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Siberia

Accommodation in Siberia

lake-baikal-russia
Three nights in Siberia Three nights in Siberia

A wild and vast region of Russia, home to spectacular natural landscapes, diverse wildlife and plenty of unique cultural and historical attractions, your time in Siberia will be filled with variety, adventure and discovery. Spend your time here absorbing your beautiful surroundings and embracing adventure, perhaps through a rewarding hike or even a dog sled ride? Much can be found around the world's oldest and deepest lake, Lake Baikal, particularly in the city of Irkutsk where you'll discover a range of intriguing museums and monuments which help to balance your time in Siberia perfectly.

Angara River Embankment and visit to the Icebreaker Museum Angara River Embankment and visit to the Icebreaker Museum

With its cool breezes and ice-filled water views, the river embankment is a popular place to stroll or meet friends during winter. Ubiquitous padlocks of love fill the railings along the river, placed by romantic couples symbolically locking their hearts together and tossing the key into the river. Nearby, a statue of Czar Alexander III — the catalyst for building the Trans-Siberian Railway — looks out decisively towards the future. From 1900 to 1905 during the completion of the Circumbaikal Railway, the ice-breaker Angara was used to ferry passengers and cargo across Lake Baikal. The Angara was built in England, disassembled and shipped to Listvyanka, where a shipyard was built especially to put it back together. In 1918 it was refitted for passengers, and continued in use until 1962 when it was retired. It is anchored in Irkutsk and today is a museum.

Church of Our Savior Church of Our Savior

Work on Irkutsk's Church of Our Savior began in 1706, making it the oldest stone structure in the city. This fact saved it from demolition during the Soviet era when many of Irkutsk's other churches were razed. In the early 19th century the walls inside and out were covered with frescoes, many of which survive. Since the church was a beloved feature of the town, the citizens of Irkutsk filled the cracks caused by the earthquake of 1861, and poured water on the structure for two days during the terrible fire of 1879, when most of Irkutsk burned down. Today the church is a historical museum.

Bogoyavlensky (Epiphany) Cathedral Bogoyavlensky (Epiphany) Cathedral

Bogoyavlensky, or Epiphany, Cathedral was originally built in 1693 shortly after Irkutsk was founded. Destroyed by fire in 1716 and rebuilt two years later on the same spot, this cathedral stands out from nearby churches for its brilliant pink, green, and white colors and its beautiful baroque architecture, a style sometimes called “Siberian baroque.” Bogoyavlensky was shut down during Soviet times and turned into a bread factory, but after the fall of the Soviet Union was restored as a place of worship.

Church bell tower and bell chime experience Church bell tower and bell chime experience

Climb to the bell tower of the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and enjoy a concert of chimes by a master bell ringer. The master personally collected all the bells and reconstructed the tower. During communist times, worship was discouraged and bells were collected, many of them being melted down for their metal.

Bell ringing came to Russia in the 10th century when the Kievan Rus converted to Christianity. Although the Orthodox Christians of Byzantium hammered on narrow wooden boards called semantrons during certain points in the liturgy, the Orthodox Rus joyfully took up bell ringing like the European Latinate Christians. Russian bell makers were quick to give the bells a distinctive Russian character, however. The Russian Orthodox hierarchy developed sets of special instructions, called zvon, which were rung for different occasions. Unlike British “change-ringing,” in which intricate patterns are rung by ringers who each have control of one bell, the peals, or zvon of Russian Orthodox bells send messages, and can often be rung by one person.

Decembrist Museum with a concert Decembrist Museum with a concert

The Decembrists were a group of young officers who had served abroad during the War of 1812 and become advocates of political reform. In December 1825, they, along with some 3,000 followers, refused to swear allegiance to the new czar, Nicholas I. Their uprising was quickly put down, and five of the leaders hanged. The rest were sentenced to forced labor in Siberia. Many of them, with their wives, settled in Irkutsk after their terms were over, and brought with them education and culture. The House Museum of the Decembrists is in the former home of Sergei Volkonsky and his wife, Maria.

Wooden Architecture Museum Wooden Architecture Museum

This outdoor museum is a 166-acre collection of authentic Russian and native Buryat, Evenki and Tafalar houses and community buildings from the 17th to the early 20th century. The wooden structures were moved here from various Siberian locations, furnished with period appointments and assembled into little hamlets and nomadic camps that demonstrate how people actually lived.

Baikal Museum and the local fish market Baikal Museum and the local fish market

Visit the Baikal Museum with its focus on limnology, the study of the life and other phenomena in fresh water, particularly lakes and ponds. Learn about the origin of Lake Baikal; its characteristics as the oldest and deepest lake in the world and its species, including some that are found nowhere else. Examples of this are the "golomyanka," a transparent fish; "omul," a tasty salmon-like fish; and "nerpa," a freshwater seal. Several aquariums at the museum are home to a variety of Baikal fish and crustaceans, as well as a pair of these unique "nerpa" seals. Afterwards, enjoy a visit to the little fish market in Listvyanka, where all manner of Baikal fish are presented for sale, including fresh and smoked omul, the endemic fish that is a favourite around here.

Dog sled ride Dog sled ride

This is the place where the famous and cuddly Siberian huskies originated from, and today, you will experience the traditional mode of transportation used in these frozen northern climates for centuries. Climb on board and skim over the snow on a wooden sled drawn by a team of working dogs who are trained to
haul loads over the wintry trails of Siberia.

Snowmobile on Lake Baikal Snowmobile on Lake Baikal

Take to the snow and ice on another mode of traditional transport in these parts, as you bundle up and mount a snowmobile for an exhilarating ride of Lake Baikal. Snowmobiles are a preferred method of travel in Siberia during the winter, and as you glide along with the wind in your face, you'll understand why. Riding a snowmobile is a bit like riding a motorcycle, though easier to balance, and a fun way to zoom from one place to another across the frozen landscape.
You can have a go as a driver or a passenger, as you prefer.

Seredina Ice Station Seredina Ice Station

Continue heading along the ice towards the Seredina Ice Station, located far out on the lake's expanses of ice. This railway stands on the historical ice way which was built by Russian Railways over the lake, before today's railway around the lake's perimeter. You have the option of staying overnight here, giving you the chance to view the beautiful sunset and enjoy dinner at the ice station.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Siberia airport

Flight

Flight to Moscow

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Moscow

Days 4-7

Moscow

Accommodation in Moscow

Three nights in Moscow Three nights in Moscow

During your time in Moscow, you will discover a city with a fascinating history that stretches back over 800 years, dotted with grand landmarks and intriguing museums as well as a striking character that can be attributed to its Soviet past. After ticking off some of its most impressive sights, such as The Kremlin, Red Square and Novodevichy Convent, you can discover a city with famed art and history collections, theatres and film studios, as well as an endless stream of luxury shops, superb restaurants and glitzy bars.

bolshoi-theatre-moscow-russia
Introductory tour of Moscow Introductory tour of Moscow

Begin your experience of Moscow with a drive beside some of the city's most famous sites and attractions, starting with the Duma building where Russia's governing body meets. You'll also see the Bolshoi Theatre, the imposing Lubyanka prison where the KGB was previously headquartered and Moscow State University beside the Sparrow Hills, for some stunning views of the city. You'll finally experience the World War II Memorial and Victory Park before driving along the Sofiyskaya Embankment, past the 16th century Novodevichy Convent and by the Moscow 'White House'.

Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery

In many ways, the striking cemetery found at Novodevichy Convent is just as famous as the convent itself, home to beautifully decorated graves that belong to some of the most iconic Russians of the last 150 years. Including not only artists and poets, but also political leaders, at the cemetery you can stumble across graves belonging to Khrushchev and Yeltsin, countless cosmonauts, the anarchist Peter Kropotkin, female sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko and Stalin's second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva.

Kremlin and Armoury Museum tour Kremlin and Armoury Museum tour

Overlooking the Moskva and Neglina rivers, the Kremlin is the seat of Russian political power and the centre of Moscow and Russian politics. With architectural themes arching back to Russia's medieval past, inside the fortress walls, you'll discover palaces, cathedrals, government buildings and the Armoury Museum. The latter was built in the 16th century as a warehouse for the Kremlin's weaponry, before being transformed in an exhibition hall and museum in 1814.

Red Square Red Square

Arguably one of the most recognisable symbols of Moscow and the entirety of Russia, the Red Square is home to some of the country's most iconic landmarks, including the Kremlin and St Basil's Cathedral. The square owes its origins to Ivan III, who in the late 15th century had all buildings removed from the eastern wall of the Kremlin, and for the next 400 years the square functioned as a trading centre. In 1920 all traders were banned from the square, and a ban on cars followed in the 1960s, thus making Red Square the pedestrianised area it is today.

St. Basil's Cathedral St. Basil's Cathedral

Built in celebration of Ivan the Terrible's victory at the Tatar stronghold of Kazan in 1552, the mesmerising St. Basil's Cathedral was designed and built between 1555 and 1561. Originally painted white, the domes were not immediately patterned and coloured in the same extravagant way that they appear today, adopting their current design a hundred years after building was complete. During your visit, you'll have the chance to explore the interior of the cathedral, presenting a labyrinth of small vaulted chapels, corridors of ornamental brick and arcades adorned in frescoes, each leading to the next.

GUM Department Store GUM Department Store

On the eastern side of Red Square you'll encounter the elaborate facade of GUM, the former State Department Store comprising a glass-topped 1890s arcade. The galleries are lined with trendy shops that overlook three halls, with many exclusive boutiques populating the department store, offering numerous high-end imports. The space was originally a marketplace that hosted over 1,000 merchants, before being nationalised after the revolution and used for many years as a staging area for enormous Red Square parades.

Moscow Metro tour Moscow Metro tour

This interesting tour will give you the chance to discover one of the largest metro systems in the world, consisting of over 200 stations and 210 miles of track. Serving nearly 2.5 billion travellers every year, the metro's first station opened in 1935, and many of the stations in the city centre are true showpieces of Socialist art, decorated with the likes of statues, frescoes and mosaics, as well as marbled and gilded walls and ceilings. Of the more elaborate stations include Kievskaya Station, with its mosaic-clad walls, Ploshchad Revolyutsii with its bronze sculptures and Mayakovsky Station with its graceful arches forming domes filled with mosaics.

Cold War Museum - Bunker 42 Cold War Museum - Bunker 42

Located more than 200 feet below the city of Moscow, you'll discover Bunker 42, an abandoned relic of the Cold War which was built under orders of Stalin in 1951 to withstand a nuclear attack. Stocked with food and provisions, the 75,000-square-foot space was built to sustain 5,000 people for a period of three months. After completion in 1956, the area functioned as a secret communications bunker and allegedly a missile control centre. During your tour of the bunker, you'll enjoy some informative insights into the Cold War.

Tretyakov Gallery Tretyakov Gallery

The Tretyakov was founded by 19th century Russian merchant, Pavel Tretyakov, who spent 40 years and much of his fortune collecting and preserving works of Russian art. The history and trajectory of Russian art are displayed here, encompassing pieces from the 11th century to the present, and including mosaics, icons, paintings and sculptures by such artists as Rublev, Repin, and Levitan. The collection is rarely seen outside of Russia.

Private Concert in the Tretyakov’s Church of St. Nicholas Private Concert in the Tretyakov’s Church of St. Nicholas

Enjoy a private concert of choral music in the 17th century five-domed Museum Church of St.
Nicholas, the home church of the Tretyakov Gallery. Pavel Tretyakov, the founder of the museum, was a member of the congregation here. Among other treasures, the church shelters the priceless 12th century icon, the Virgin of Vladimir.

Tolstoy House Museum Tolstoy House Museum

Founded in 1911 in a beautiful early 19th-century building, the museum's collection includes Tolstoy's manuscripts, photographs, portraits, memorabilia and an invaluable book depository, including the author's works translated into many of the world's languages. The museum arranges excursions and lectures and conducts extensive research.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Moscow train station

Transfer

High speed train from Moscow to St. Petersburg

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in St. Petersburg

Days 7-10

St. Petersburg

Accommodation in St. Petersburg

Three nights in St. Petersburg Three nights in St. Petersburg

Gazing west across the blue of the Baltic Sea, Russia’s second city was created by Peter the Great in 1703 to function as a window into Europe. The 'Venice of the North', as it has been historically known, has become one of the largest economic, cultural and scientific centres of Russia and the world. It's a cultural hub too, home to more than 250 museums, while its mesmerising historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During your stay here, experience its museums, galleries, ballet shows and opera performances, as well as its incredible beauty, defined by its majestic architecture, winding canals, baroque bridges, striking plazas and verdant parks and gardens.

Introduction to St. Petersburg Introduction to St. Petersburg

Enjoy a rewarding first impression of the grand city of St. Petersburg with this introductory tour, beginning with a drive near the Neva River which will welcome you to the heart of Peter the Great's beautiful city. Next, visit the spit of Vasilievsky Island with its beautiful view across the river to the Winter Palace and the Peter and Paul Fortress, before driving by imposing Palace Square, framed by the Winter Palace and the General Staff Headquarters. Other highlights include the façade of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the statue of Peter the Great, named the Bronze Horseman.

st-isaacs-cathedral-winter-russia
St. Isaac's Cathedral St. Isaac's Cathedral

St. Isaac’s Cathedral took 40 years to complete. The 48 red granite columns around the lower part of the building each weigh 110 tons, and the upper columns around the rotunda weigh 67 tons a piece. The dome is covered with 220 pounds of gold, and the interior columns faced with lapis lazuli and malachite. The cathedral is bursting with sculptures, frescoes, stained glass works and woodcarvings.

white-nights-russia
Peter and Paul Fortress Peter and Paul Fortress

Set across the Neva River from the Hermitage, the Peter and Paul Fortress was one of the first structures built in St. Petersburg, with Peter the Great laying the cornerstone of the earthen fortress in May 1703. The intention was for it to be used to repel a Swedish invasion, and after the Swedes were defeated, the fortress was transformed into a prison in 1718. As you'll discover during your visit, the most important feature of the fortress is its role as a burial place for the majority of the Tsars, including Peter the Great.

winter-palace-st-petersburg-russia
Hermitage Museum Hermitage Museum

This tour will allow you to experience one of the most famous museums in the world. Built from 1754-62 as the principal home of the Tsars and a portion of the Winter Palace, the structure was rebuilt to it lavish modern-day appearance in 1839 after being destroyed by fire. The museum originally held a private palace gallery, but today the Hermitage houses one of the largest museum collections in the world.

Here you can see works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, and Rubens, as well as stunning decor and architecture, with the inlaid floors and gilded woodwork and the grand double entry staircase are works of art in themselves.

Hermitage Collection at General Staff Headquarters Building Hermitage Collection at General Staff Headquarters Building

Giving you another flavour of the spectacular exterior and interior of the Hermitage and its collection, the neoclassical yellow General Staff Headquarters encircles the southern side of Palace Square across from the Hermitage's main site, and was designed in the early 19th century.

The east wing of the building belongs to the Hermitage, housing several permanent exhibits there including the museum’s renowned collection of French Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings. Here you can see works by the likes of Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Picasso to name a few.

Opera master class Opera master class

Sit in on a master class in opera, observing and listening to skilled artists working on their technique. After the class, sit down with the performers and chat over tea. The location for this exclusive experience will be announced closer to the program’s start date. It is likely to take place at one of the rehearsal halls in the city and not at the Mariinsky Theater.

Catherine's Palace Catherine's Palace

Located outside of St. Petersburg in Pushkin, the royal residence of Catherine's Palace was originally built in 1717 by Catherine I. The palace was then enlarged in 1752 under the guidance of famed architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli who extended the facade to its current splendour. Despite experiencing damage during World War II, the estate and palace buildings have been carefully and expertly restored into a brilliant architectural monument, something you will come to appreciate during your visit.

Pavlovsk Palace Pavlovsk Palace

Today you will discover Pavlovsk Palace and its beautiful park. Given to Czar Paul I and his wife by Catherine the Great, Pavlovsk was designed by Scottish architect Charles Cameron. Set in a lovely park, the palace holds a special place in the hearts of city residents.

Despite being destroyed by the Nazis during the WWII, most of its treasures were hidden in advance of the attack. Reconstruction began immediately after the German withdrawal and the park was reopened in 1950 and the first renovated rooms in 1957. You will also have the opportunity to enjoy a traditional troika ride around the grounds of the palace.

Farewell dinner at a dacha Farewell dinner at a dacha

Spend your evening outside of the city and experience the essence of Russian dacha life. A dacha is a city-dweller’s country cottage and can vary from a summer cabin with no running water to a fine home suitable for living year-round. Dacha gardens were responsible for a significant portion of the produce grown during Soviet times, and this experience will allow you to enjoy a traditional meal with a Russian family in their home.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to St. Petersburg airport

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Winter in Russia

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