Venture far above the Arctic Circle in the warmth and comfort of a private train and search for the spectacular Northern Lights.

Starting at: $13,995 Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 The Northern Lights in Norway. Credit: Kirkenes Snow Hotel  Sleigh rides in Suzdal  Members of the <i>Golden Eagle</i> train personnel  Lounge aboard the <i>Golden Eagle</i>  Holiday lights in Moscow  Moscow in winter. Credit: Douglas Grimes  Onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow  Moscow at night during the holiday season.  Credit: Meaghan Samuels  Moscow's Red Square  Cathedral of the Assumption, Vladimir  Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, Suzdal  Interior, Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior, Suzdal  Travelers enjoying the Northern Lights  The Northern Lights. Credit: Kirkenes Snow Hotel  Ice sculpture at the Snow Hotel. Credit: Kirkenes Snow Hotel  Woman in traditional Sami dress with reindeer  Kizhi Island in winter  The Winter Palace, now the Hermitage Museum, covered in snow, St. Petersburg. Credit: <i>Hotel Astoria</i>  Viewing the treasures of the Hermitage Museum  View of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood from a canal in St. Petersburg  The magnificent interior of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg  Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg

Arctic Explorer by Private Train

A Russian Train Journey Aboard the Golden Eagle

13 days from $13,995

Venture far above the Arctic Circle in the warmth and comfort of a private train and search for the spectacular Northern Lights.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

TOUR BROCHURE

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WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

A Smithsonian Journeys tour is not just a tour. It is an education - without the tests!

- Bob and Jasmine, B.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

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Overview

Celebrate winter and the polar night on this unique trip showcasing Russian treasures and a private train journey to the Arctic Circle.

Highlights Include

St. Petersburg: Gaze upon the gems of the Hermitage Museum, the Peter and Paul Fortress, and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Plus, go beyond the city to see Catherine’s Palace.

Crossing the Arctic Circle: Board your train and journey north during the polar night to Nikel where you'll travel by coach to Kirkenes, Norway, for a two-night stay. Here, visit the Snow Hotel, enjoy chilled vodka, see reindeer and huskies, and in the evenings, set off in search of the Northern Lights! Later, your train takes you to the port city of Murmansk to tour the first nuclear-powered icebreaker.

Golden Ring: Travel south to Petrozavodsk to see the 18th-century Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. In the Golden Ring towns of Vladimir and Suzdal, you’ll visit important religious sites, attend a choral concert by monks, and feel the excitement of a sleigh ride on a traditional troika. 

Moscow: During a day in Moscow, visit Novodevichy Convent and the Kremlin’s Armory Museum and view St. Basil's Cathedral during a walk-through Red Square.

Golden Eagle: Comfortable for adventurous travel, this modern private train features a choice of cabin levels (each with private en suite bathroom/shower). Dine on traditional Russian and European cuisine and enjoy a lecture in the bar/lounge car. 

A Smithsonian Journeys tour is not just a tour. It is an education - without the tests!

- Bob and Jasmine, B.

Itinerary

Day 1 — Depart the U.S.

Depart the States on flights bound for St. Petersburg, Russia. (Meals In-Flight)

Day 2 — St. Petersburg, Russia

Arrive in St. Petersburg and transfer to the hotel. Meet your fellow travelers this evening at the welcome reception and dinner. (R,D)

Day 3 — St. Petersburg

At any time of year, St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its miles of canals, laced together with graceful bridges and set amidst pastel 18th-century buildings, have earned it the name, the “Venice of the North.” Conceived by Peter the Great and designed by his favorite European architects, St. Petersburg was meant to be Peter’s link to the western world. A convergence of art and soul, the city survived the calamitous 20th century with its reputation as a storehouse of Russian culture intact. Some of the world’s most radiant artworks hang in its museums, and some of the world’s greatest performers, writers and musicians have walked its streets.

Following breakfast, travel to the town of Pushkin, site of the royal residence Catherine’s Palace, originally built in 1717 by Catherine I. Enjoy a guided tour of the estate. In 1752, famed architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli enlarged and embellished the palace, extending the facade to its current grandeur. The estate and palace buildings were almost completely destroyed by the Germans during World War II, but they have been carefully and expertly restored into a brilliant architectural monument.

The fully restored Amber Room in Catherine's Palace has been years in the making. The wall coverings of amber panels, created in the time of Peter the Great, were taken by the Nazis during the Second World War and never recovered. The beautifully crafted amber panels we see today were re-created from photos and descriptions of the originals, and have become one of the highlights of Catherine’s Palace.

Returning to St. Petersburg, spend the rest of the afternoon getting to know this wonderful city. Take a drive along Nevsky Prospekt, the three-mile avenue that is the backbone of the city, stopping at Gostiny Dvor, the city’s oldest and largest shopping center; the Eliseyevsky, an extravagantly beautiful pre-Revolutionary grocery decorated with crystal chandeliers; and the imposing Kazan Cathedral.

Visit the Church of the Savior on the Spilt Blood, built on the spot where Czar Alexander II was killed by a bomb in 1881, and commissioned in the style of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow by his son and successor, Alexander III. For many years closed for renovation, the church’s beautiful interior is now open to visitors. Four Jasper columns inside mark the spot where the czar was killed.

Stop at St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which 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 apiece. 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.

Return to hotel for a short break. Tonight attend an evening ballet performance at one of St. Petersburg’s world-renowned theaters, schedules permitting. After completion of the performance, return to the hotel.
 (B,L,D) 

Day 4 — St. Petersburg / board the Golden Eagle train

This morning explore the Hermitage, also known as the Winter Palace, built in 1754-62 as the principal home of the czars, and lavishly rebuilt in 1839 after it was destroyed by fire. Originally a small private palace gallery begun by Catherine the Great with a purchase of 255 paintings from Berlin, the Hermitage today houses the largest museum collection in the world including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, the French Impressionists, Van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin and Picasso. The fabulous rooms with their inlaid floors and gilded woodwork and the grand double entry staircase are works of art in themselves.

In the afternoon, board the Golden Eagle private train and settle into your elegant cabin. Enjoy a New Year’s Eve dinner in the elegant dining car and celebrate the New Year at the festive New Year’s Eve party on board.
 (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Onboard / Cross the Arctic Circle

Spend a relaxing day onboard the private train, chatting with the other guests, enjoying the privacy of your stateroom, or watching the taiga forest begin to thin, the trees shrinking as the train heads north, with numerous little lakes and boggy areas looking like empty white patches along the snowy tracks.

Attend a lecture by the study leader and enjoy the services and entertainment onboard the private train. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Kirkenes, Norway

Pack your overnight bag and disembark from the train at the mining town of Nikel near the border between Russia and Norway. Board the coach for the 90-minute drive across the border traveling along a quiet road lined with skinny birch trees, low-growing bushes, and rock outcroppings, passing a farmstead here and there.

Arrive in the polar town of Kirkenes, Norway, which overlooks Norway’s easternmost fjord. With a population of some 3,500, “Kirkenes” means “church on the headland.” Here, the Norwegian coastline swings eastward, so that the town is actually east of Finland, unlike the rest of Norway. Located far above the Arctic Circle, Kirkenes experiences continuous daylight from May to August, and conversely, polar night from late November to late January. In the middle of winter, only a blue twilight brightens the sky around noon. By mid-February, the sky can be significantly brighter, but still, the nights are long here, offering a perfect setting for viewing the Northern Lights.

Upon arrival, take a walking tour of Kirkenes village and visit the fantastic Snow Hotel, assembled each winter since 2006. Enjoy chilled vodka served in a glass made of ice at the Icebar, decorated with snow and ice sculptures carved by craftsmen from the Harbin Ice Festival, and take a tour of the extraordinary hotel.

After dinner, take an evening bus tour in search of the Northern Lights. This region is known as the Aurora Borealis Zone and was chosen as the place to study the phenomenon because of its dry winters and abundance of clear nights. (B,L,D)

Note: An option to stay one night at the Snow Hotel is offered at additional expense.

Day 7 — Kirkenes, Norway

A unique winter experience awaits today on a King Crab fishing adventure. Begin with a snowmobile-drawn sleigh ride across the frozen fjords. Warm clothing and a helmet are provided.

Through a hole in the ice, your master guide will demonstrate how to catch the magnificent Arctic King Crab (which can span two meters and weigh up to 15 kgs). Continue by sleigh to the nearby Fisherman’s Lodge where the King Crab lunch awaits by a cozy log fire.

Return to Snow Hotel in the afternoon to see the resident reindeer and visit the biggest husky dog farm in Eastern Finnmark.

Take another chance this evening to observe the Northern Lights, far from the lights of town. Return to the hotel in Kirkenes for the overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Onboard

Following breakfast, cross the border back to Russia and re-board the Golden Eagle train in Nickel

Spend the afternoon on board traveling through arctic Russia. Enjoy the ever-changing winter landscape outside your window and attend a lecture. Afternoon tea with freshly baked Russian cookies will be served in the stylish bar car prior to dinner. (B,L,D) 

Day 9 — Murmansk, Russia

Today’s stop is Murmansk, the most important city on the Kola Peninsula. Founded in 1916, the port city of Murmansk exists because, despite its being located above the Arctic Circle, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream keep it ice-free for most of the winter. It is so far north that there are no trees, which stop growing over a hundred miles south. The sun neither sets during the summer nor rises all winter.

During your time in the city, board the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Lenin, now a museum ship. The Lenin was launched in 1957 and worked clearing the northern sea routes until 1989. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, records became public that showed the icebreaker had experienced two nuclear reactor accidents, one in 1965 and the other in 1967. After the second mishap, the original reactors were replaced with two more modern reactors. Explore the decks, inner corridors, some of the vessel’s compartments and exhibitions about the future of the Arctic region.

Time permitting, visit the Murmansk Regional History Museum featuring exhibits on the history of the Kola Peninsula from the 17th century, national costumes of northern indigenous people, and rare photos and documents from more recent history. (B,L,D) 

Day 10 — Petrozavodsk, Russia

Today stop in Petrozavodsk, a city founded by Peter the Great who recognized that he would need a local iron foundry to outfit the ships he intended to build for his new navy.  Petrozavodsk grew around the foundry that Peter built here on the shore of Lake Onega.

During our time in the city, see the 18th century Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, constructed by and for the Petrozavodsk foundry workers, the Museum of Fine Arts, and enjoy a performance of Karelian song and dance at Kantele House. (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Vladimir / Suzdal, Russia

Today discover two of Russia’s Golden Ring towns: Vladimir and Suzdal. The Golden Ring is a modern name given to the ancient towns that form an elliptical circle to the north and east of Moscow. Many of these were seats of political and economic power long before the rise of Moscow. Today, they are mostly quiet, sleepy towns dotted with the remnants of defensive kremlins, with active monasteries and some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Russia. Suzdal and Vladimir, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are among the oldest of the Golden Ring towns, and offer intimate views into Russia's past.

Founded by the last of the great Kievan princes, Grand Duke Vladimir Monomakh, Vladimir is between 900 and 1,000 years old. The capital of Kievan Rus’ from the 12th to the 14th centuries, Vladimir subsided into a small provincial town after power shifted to Moscow. During the Soviet years, it grew into an industrial and cultural center, and much of its wonderful old architecture has been preserved. Here visit the 12th-century Cathedral of the Assumption (Uspensky Cathedral) rising gracefully from the surrounding countryside. Its 6 pillars and 12 blue and gold domes made it one of Russia’s largest churches for over 300 years.

Suzdal was founded in 1024 by Grand Duke Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev, who came to the region to quell a peasant uprising. In the 12th century, Suzdal was a capital city exceeding London in physical size and population. Suzdal’s UNESCO-listed monuments have been remarkably preserved over the ages; so much of the town’s original architecture has been kept that a law was passed to prevent modern development from encroaching on these historic places.

Visit Suzdal’s biggest monastery, UNESCO-listed Savior Monastery of St. Euphinius, founded in 1352, with its protective brick walls and towers dating from the 17th century. Inside the walls stands the five-domed Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior, whose interior was frescoed by Gury Nikitin in the late 17th century. The monastery’s 16th-century bell tower chimes every hour. Here attend a choral concert by some of the monks; then go dashing through the snow on a traditional sleigh ride, called a troika, around the monastery.

Return to the train in the evening for the final dinner on board before arrival in Moscow the following morning. (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Moscow, Russia

The train arrives in Moscow this morning. Founded in 1147 by Yuri Dolgoruky (literally “Yuri of the Long Arms”), Moscow rose to prominence during Mongol domination and eventually became the Russian capital. Eclipsed for 200 years by St. Petersburg, Moscow was restored as a political center after the October Revolution in 1917 and served as the capital of the Soviet Union until 1991. Moscow today is a booming metropolis, dignified yet dynamic, where ancient churches sit shoulder to shoulder with 21st-century financial institutions, and where the new high-rise commercial district of Moscow-City is changing the face of the city forever.

Spend the day exploring Russia’s capital city. Take an introductory drive through the city, enjoying the panoramic views of the city from Sparrow Hill and Moscow University. Stop at the Novodevichy Convent, a World Heritage Site founded in 1524 by Grand Prince Vasily III to honor the returns of Smolensk city to Russia from the Lithuanians. The main attraction of the convent is its cemetery. Such luminaries as Gogol, Chekhov, Scriabin, Mayakovsky, Prokofiev, Eisenstein, Khrushchev, Raisa Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin are buried here, and some of the graves are quite fanciful.

Following lunch at a local restaurant, take a tour inside the Kremlin. The Moscow Kremlin reminds modern-day Russia of its medieval past. Built on the site of Prince Yuri's hunting lodge, the Kremlin overlooks the Moskva and Neglina rivers. In the mid-14th century, the Russian princes, ruling from the Kremlin, became so powerful that Moscow was named the center of the Russian Orthodox Church. Under the guidance of Ivan the Great, Moscow extended its influence and soon became the seat of Russian political power.

Today, the Kremlin remains the center of Moscow and Russian politics. Inside the fortress walls are palaces, cathedrals, government buildings and the Armory Museum. Built in the 16th century as a warehouse for the Kremlin's weaponry, the Armory was transformed into an exhibition hall and museum in 1814. It now houses Russia's national treasures, such as religious icons, Fabergé eggs, a bejeweled chalice belonging to Prince Yuri, and Catherine the Great’s ball gowns and shoes.

Finish the day with an evening walk on Red Square, which, along with St. Basil’s Cathedral, is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Russia; then check into a deluxe hotel in the center of the city. This evening celebrate the journey with a festive farewell dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 13 — Depart Moscow

Following breakfast at the hotel, the tour concludes today with transfers to the airport for international departures. (B, In-Flight)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)