Red Square has long been at the heart of Russian history – visit the austere mausoleum of Lenin, the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution, contrasting with the eye-bulging treasure collection in the Kremlin and Armoury Museum.. Share in traditional tastes with visits to the homes of local friends in Suzdal and St Petersburg for a hearty home cooked meal, piles of pancakes and endless cups of tea.. With its perfectly preserved medieval wall and watchtowers, Tallinn’s quaint Old Town is an ideal place to explore on foot.. Explore 13th-century Turaida Castle on a guided tour, then wander through pristine woodlands and along the winding Guaja River.
Get the low-down of the historical, cultural and culinary highlights of Russia and the Baltics on a 19-day immersive experience through Russia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Marvel at the grandeur of Moscow, the beauty of Russia’s ancient capitals Suzdal and Novgorod, and the grace of St Petersburg. See the medieval spires of Tallinn, the funky bars of Riga and the Baroque-styled quirks of Vilnius. Visit colourful markets, be immersed in art and architecture and kayak Lithuanian lakes. Discover what these northern European neighbours are hiding within their bounds – often the most unassuming of places have the best-kept secrets, and spots on this trip are no exception.
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Moscow, a city that has survived centuries of revolution and tumult, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight at your hotel. After the meeting, your leader will organise an optional meal so you can enjoy your first taste of delicious Russian cuisine with new friends. If you arrive in Moscow with time to spare, there’s plenty to see in this fascinating, historic city. Consider taking an immersive local-led tour with Urban Adventures like the Moscow Underground tour, which reveals Soviet Russia through the mind-bending Moscow Metro.
Get ready for a morning of travelling. You'll take the train to Vladimir and then get transferred to Suzdal, arriving around middday. The town is a main stop on Russia’s legendary Golden Ring, the circle of ancient and former capitals that played an important part in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church. Fairy tale-esq Suzdal is filled with contrasting examples of early Russian architecture, where onion-domed monasteries stand next to lovingly decorated wooden cottages.
In the afternoon, get to know Suzdal on a 3-hour walking tour of this ‘open-air museum’. Take in the grandeur of the Kremlin, the carved stonework of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monasteries. If there’s time, walk along the banks of the river and then pop into a local cafe for tea, bliny (pancakes) with caviar, or the Suzdal specialty of medovukha (honey-based spiced mead) or peek inside the crumbling churches that line the narrow streets and alleys.
Tonight, meet with your group and be welcomed into a local household to enjoy some hearty home cooking.
This morning, say goodbye to Suzdal and travel back to Moscow. The afternoon and evening is all yours to spend. Maybe hop on and off the metro to explore the palace-like stations, visit Tretyakov Art Gallery, or spend a leisurely afternoon at Gorky Park. Tonight would also be the perfect time if you want to see any of the theatre performances, but we recommend you to book the ticket in advance as they are in high demand.
Moscow – Overnight Train
Visit the mausoleum of Russia’s most famous revolutionary – Lenin. Join the groups of tourists and locals waiting see the preserved body of the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution, contained in an austere building in Red Square. Continue with a local guide to the Kremlin grounds, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and the resting place for many Tsars and Tsarinas. Walk through the soaring towers and cathedrals of the political and spiritual heart of Russia before entering the Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging former royal collection of ambassadorial gifts, Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels. This evening board an overnight train to Novgorod (approximately 8 hours) from Moscow's Leningradskiy railway station.
Arrive early in the oldest city in Russia. Explore the city's sights on foot with your local guide. The city's foremost attraction is the graceful Kremlin on the banks of the Volkhov River. Inside there are museums and the Cathedral of St Sophia, as well as the amazing Millennium Monument, which tells the story of 1000 years of Russian history. On the opposite bank of the river are quiet shady streets, the graceful ruins of Yaroslav's Court, and other echoes times gone by. In your free time, maybe check out the Yurev Monastery on the shores of Lake Ilmen, visit the Wooden Architecture Museum just outside of town, or catch a performance at the Philharmonic Hall. In the summer you can relax on the little riverside beach or take a boat trip on the Volkhov River. Tonight, maybe hit the banya (bath house) for a refreshing steam and wash with the locals.
Travel by private bus from Novgorod to St Petersburg, one of Russia’s most celebrated cities (approximately 4 hours). Truly one of Europe's grandest cities, the living museum of St Petersburg is a blend of baroque European architecture and Russian royal history, built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great by forced peasant labour. Head out on a walking tour with your leader to learn about the city. In the evening, visit the home of our local friends and have a tea party, Russian-style. Not all of the family members speak English, but with your leader on hand to interpret and their warm hospitality, you'll be feeling like one of the family in no time. These families live in St Petersburg's Soviet-era communal apartments, which are still common in St Petersburg. This is a truly unique local experience that you won't find anywhere else.
Built on 42 islands, St Petersburg is also known as the ‘Venice of the North’. Spend a free day exploring the city, crossing its many rivers and canals at your own pace. Perhaps enjoy incredible views across the city from the colonnade at St Isaac’s Cathedral, or walk along Nevsky Prospekt – St Petersburg’s main street. Maybe pop into one of the many bakeries or coffee shops along the way, or head down to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra where Russia's great musicians and writers like Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky are laid to rest in the cemetery. Feeling artistic? You could give life to a family of matryoshka dolls in a painting workshop. Whatever you choose, the city is easy to get around and your leader can help you make the most of your free day. Tonight, perhaps gather together your fellow travellers and seek out a cosy restaurant.
After breakfast, transfer to the train station in St Petersburg for your onward travel to Finland. Say goodbye to your Russian leader and hop on the train to Helsinki. Keep in mind that you do have another meeting scheduled at 6 pm, so if you’ve got a few hours spare once you’ve arrived, perhaps check out the magnificent Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Senate Square or catch a performance at the National Theatre. You may want to consider purchasing the Helsinki Card – which is both an economical way to travel on Helsinki City Transport (HKL) services and free admission to the main Helsinki sights and nearly 50 museums.
Leave Helsinki after breakfast and catch a ferry across the Gulf of Finland to the Estonian capital of Tallinn (approximately 3 hours). Arrive mid-afternoon, check into your hotel and start your time here with a short orientation walk through the city. The rest of your day is then free to enjoy this exceptionally preserved medieval city and all it has to offer. Perhaps head out and enjoy some of the region's culinary specialties or stop for a drink and people watching on the main square. With its steep red roofs, spires, pastel-coloured buildings and new restaurants and bars, Estonia's capital is a real treat to explore. Seeing the vibrant streets of Tallinn now, it's difficult to fathom that Soviet occupation only ended in 1991.
Today is free to do as you wish, but an exploration of the Old Town is recommended. Located here is the last remaining gothic town hall in northern Europe, Old Thomas; the Raapteek, which has housed a pharmacy since the 15th century; and St Olaf Church, a major landmark of Tallinn. You can head towards Upper Tallinn, home to the noble families, to see amazing views of Lower Tallinn and the medieval spires of the town walls. The 13th-century Toompea Castle, where the Estonian Parliament sits, and the 19th-century orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral are some of the main attractions of Upper Tallinn. Alternatively, you could head to Pirita to chill out at Tallinn's most popular beach, or visit Kadriorg Palace, a palace built by czar Peter the Great for his second wife Catherine I. Make sure you spend some time in the beautiful gardens surrounding the palace. Or perhaps head to the Kalamaja district, with it's well-preserved streets lined with colourful wooden houses.
Tallinn / Riga
Spend the morning in Tallinn and visit any sites you missed yesterday. Depart by bus after lunch, crossing the border and arriving in the Latvian capital of Riga in the early evening. The 4-hour journey is a good chance to take a nap or relax with a podcast. Riga is renowned for its welcoming locals and a fascinating art nouveau heritage. Tonight, perhaps grab a drink at one of the many bars in the Old Town after you’ve settled into your lodgings.
Sigulda / Riga
Travel by public transport to Sigulda, a pretty town with medieval history that backs onto Gauja National Park. Take the cablecar across the river to Turaida Castle, which began construction in 1214 and is made from striking red bricks. Take a guided tour and then explore the castle grounds which feature sculptures set in evergreen woodland. Take a hike along the winding Gauja River with your leader, taking in the clear air and thick Latvian forest. Return to Riga in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day as you please.