Highlights of Russia & the Baltics

Highlights of Russia & the Baltics

From $ 5,525 AUD

Description

Taste mystery and intrigue on a revealing tour of Russia – a land that lay hidden behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Experience the grandeur of Moscow, the beauty of Russia’s ancient capitals Suzdal and Novgorod, and the grace of St Petersburg. Visit the intricately detailed cathedrals, historic monuments, age-old treasures and romantic landscapes of this great nation, and find the heart of enigmatic Russia. Experience the diverse delights of the Baltic states on this adventurous journey through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. From the medieval spires of Tallinn and the funky bars of Riga to the Baroque-styled quirks of Vilnius, hidden delights await. Visit colourful markets, be immersed in art and architecture and trek past Lithuanian lakes.

Trip Name
Highlights of Russia & the Baltics
Last Updated
2018-12-10
Days
22
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • 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
  • Discover the secrets of Russia’s oldest kremlin in Novgorod and see the Millennium Monument, which tells the story of 1,000 years of Russian history
  • Share in traditional tastes with a visits to the homes of our local friends in Suzdal & St Petersburg for a hearty home cooked meal, piles of pancakes and endless cups of tea
  • Experience the joys of train travel as we traverse by high-speed Sapsan train and on an overnight sleeper from Moscow to Novgorod.
  • Encounter the legacy of Russian tsar Peter the Great while exploring the enigmatic streets that showcase the many palaces and museums of St Petersburg.
  • With its perfectly preserved medieval wall and watchtowers, Tallinn's quaint Old Town is a great place to explore on foot
  • Aukstaitija National Park offers unique opportunities for both activity and relaxation. Kayak across pristine lakes, indulge in home-cooked meals and cleanse yourself in a traditional sauna
  • Warsaw's Uprising Museum offers a thought-provoking insight into the 1944 Polish resistance against Nazi Germany
  • Cycle along the endless dunes and stunning beaches of Lithuania's Curonian Spit National Park on a full-day bike tour, making a visit to charming Nida village
  • History is signposted on every corner of Berlin. The empty shelves of Bebelplatz, the Holocaust Memorial, the confronting Topography of Terror, and of course the remains of the Berlin Wall are just some of the sites paying homage to the city's dark past

Itinerary

Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Essential Trip Information a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or just let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Moscow
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and tumult, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Beneath its modern veneer – a sign of Russia's recent embrace of capitalism – Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see. There’s so much to see and do in Moscow that it’s worth arriving a few extra days before the start of the trip. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm at the hotel today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. Please also have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. Your leader will collect one; the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on the trip. After the meeting, your leader will organise an optional meal so you can enjoy your first taste of delicious Russian cuisine with new friends.
Day 2 - Suzdal
Travel by private bus to Suzdal (approximately 4 hours). 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 and that hold the memories of significant events in Russian history. The fairytale-feel historic small town of Suzdal is filled with contrasting examples of early Russian architecture, where onion-domed monasteries stand next to lovingly decorated wooden cottages. Here there are opportunities to drink mead by the riverside with a symphony of cathedral bells in the air, and peek inside the crumbling churches that line the narrow streets and alleys. You’ll stay in a guesthouse in one of Suzdal's quiet streets. Some rooms are twin share, while others are triple or quad share or interconnecting rooms. There’s a shared toilet and bathroom on each floor, and you have access to a spacious kitchen and group dining area. On occasion, the group may stay in different guesthouses that will be located nearby. Tonight you’ll have a chance to try heart home cooking at the home at one of our local friends.
Day 3 - Suzdal - Moscow
Get to know the Suzdal a little better today with a walking tour of this ‘open-air museum’. Take in the sights – the grandeur of the Kremlin, the carved stonework of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monasteries (approximately 3 hours total). If there’s time, walk along the banks of the river, spanned by wooden footbridges and then pop in to a local cafe for tea, bliny (pancakes) with caviar or the Suzdal specialty of medovukha, a honey-based spiced mead. Transfer to Vladimir by private van (approximately 30 minutes) and then take the super modern high speed Sapsan train to Moscow (less than 2 hours). Return to the hotel by metro. Spend the evening back in Moscow – maybe wander around the famous Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral by night if you haven't already.
Day 4 - Moscow - Overnight Train
Visit the mausoleum of Russia’s most famous revolutionary – Lenin. He was the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution that ushered in the era of communism, and you will join the sometimes long queue lining up to visit his austere eternal resting place on Red Square. Then enter the Kremlin grounds with a local guide, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. 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. Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. You’ll travel 2nd class on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your comfort and safety (although service standards can vary greatly). Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although with a limited menu. Please note that in many cases, due to high demand for tickets on this route, the group is not always together. It's likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four. A brief word about drinking on the train: Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Intrepid travellers (in moderation). While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it's important that you show due respect for your fellow group members, and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work.
Day 5 - Novgorod
Arrive early in the morning in the oldest city in Russia, and see how well-preserved architectural treasures linger as echoes of medieval times and glories of the past. As the former capital of ancient Russia, Novgorod is often seen as the cradle of modern Russian civilisation. 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 1,000 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 here you might like to 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 also relax on the little riverside beach, or take a boat trip on the Volkhov River for glimpses of the quiet countryside surrounding Novgorod. Tonight, maybe join your leader and plenty of friendly locals for a refreshing steam and wash at the public banya (bath house) – no trip to Russia would be complete without experiencing this custom.
Day 6 - St Petersburg
Travel by private bus from Novgorod to St Petersburg, one of Russia’s most celebrated cities (approximately 4 hours). Truly one of Europe's finest 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, whose legacy can be felt in its enigmatic streets and showcase cathedrals and museums. After arriving and checking in, go out on a walking tour with your leader to learn about this great city. In the evening, visit the home of our local friends and have a tea party Russian-style. Not all 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 communal apartments, which date from Soviet times. Such apartments and their way of living have ceased to exist in other Russian cities, but they are still common in St Petersburg. This is a truly unique local experience that you won't find anywhere else.
Day 7 - St Petersburg
Built on 42 islands, St Petersburg is also known as the ‘Venice of the North’. Spend the 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. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, and houses one of the world's premier art collections. A whole day could easily be spent wandering its halls. Feeling artistic? 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 also help you make the most of your free day. On your final evening, perhaps gather together your fellow travellers and seek out a cosy restaurant for a farewell meal.
Day 8 - St. Petersburg - Helsinki
Your Russian adventure will come to an end today after breakfast. You will be taken to the train station in St. Petersburg for your onward travel to Heksinki. Say goodbye to your Russian leader and hop on the train to Helsinki. Note: your travel from St Petersburg to Helsinki is unaccompanied. After arrival at train station in Helsinki, please make your own way to our hotel there. The hotel is very close to the train station with a 3 min walk. Your Russian leader will give you detailed instruction on how to find the hotel. There will be a group meeting held at 6pm, so you'll have some free time until then to meet your new group leader and fellow travellers.
Day 9 - Tallinn
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 on the main square for a spot of people watching. 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.
Day 10 - Tallinn
Today is free to do as you wish and an exploration of the Old Town is a must. You'll see 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.
Day 11 - Riga
Cross the border by local bus into Latvia today and travel to Riga (approximately 4 hours). On arrival, go on an orientation tour around Riga, renowned for its welcoming locals and a fascinating art nouveau heritage. Some of the sights we see include the Doma Cathedral, St Peter's Basilica, House of Blackheads, the Swedish Gate, Mentzendorff's House, Riga Castle, The Great Guild & Small Guild and the Cat House.
Day 12 - Riga
Today is a free day in Riga. Perhaps pay a visit to The Museum of Occupation of Latvia. This offers a fascinating insight into the hardships suffered by Latvians during its occupation by, first, the Germans and, later, the Soviets. The Central Market Halls are a must-see and a great place to haggle for supplies for a picnic lunch if it takes your fancy. It is housed in 4 disused German zeppelin hangars and is said to be Europe's largest market after Rungis in Paris, comprising over 3000 trade stalls.
Day 13 - Klaipeda
Set off by private bus after breakfast and cross the border into Lithuania. After a stop at the famous Hill of Crosses at Siauliai continue onto the former Prussian city of Klaipeda (approximately 6 hours in total). Klaipeda used to be a member of the Hanseatic League and is the gateway to the Curonian Spit - a long and narrow sand dune peninsula separating the Curonian lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Upon arrival head out to the waterfront with it's old brick buildings, and explore the old town centre. Perhaps head out for dinner with the group in the evening, at one of the many harbour-side cafes.
Day 14 - Curonian Spit National Park
Today, take an included bike ride to explore the unique World Heritage-listed Curonian Spit National Park - the second oldest national park of the former Soviet Union. This is a spectacular landscape full of beaches, sand dunes and forested areas. The peninsula is only 400 m wide in parts but 98 km long, 52 of which belong to Lithuania, while the rest is part of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. It formed only 5000 years ago by strong winds and currents which constantly change the shape of the landscape to this day. Only recently a whole village was swallowed by the inexorable sand. According to legend, the spit was formed by the girl giant Neringa, who poured sand into the Baltic Sea to protect the bay from storms and create an embankment for fishermen to live. On our day trip you will explore the tiny village of Nida and the surrounding beaches by bike. Look in the distance to see the Russian border. For lunch, perhaps try the smoked pike for which the spit is famous. Return to Klaipeda in the late afternoon.
Day 15 - Vilnius
You'll continue your journey today by bus or train to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius (approximately 4 hours). Having once been occupied by Sweden, Poland, France and Russia, each occupier has left its mark in some way on this picturesque city. Vilnius offers a different picture of the Baltics than Riga and Tallinn, but it's every bit as interesting. On arrival, take an orientation walk with your leader that covers Cathedral Square and its free standing belfry, the famous chapel of Saint Kazimieras and Gediminas Tower. The 16th century Gate of Dawn houses an icon of the Virgin Mary which is said to have miraculous powers, and thus luckily escaped destruction by the Soviets. For a break from Vilnius' historic monuments, take a walk through some of the charming gardens and parks that are dotted around the city or visit the 'republic' of Uzupis, an inner-city quarter that has declared independence from Lithuania in 1997. The inhabitants have even adopted a tongue-in-cheek constitution, and have erected a statue of Frank Zappa, the only one on the world.
Day 16 - Vilnius
Today is a free day to explore Vilnius. Perhaps take the 40-minute bus trip to Trakai, which is situated on a lake and guarded by an impressive 14th century castle on an island. Rent paddle-boats, swim in the lake, or just wander around the old castle. This is a quaint town that's extremely popular due to its beauty and location. For those who want to uncover the hidden gems of Vilnius, why not go on an Urban Adventure. Explore both the old and new sides of this amazing city, while visiting cafes, bars and attractions that only the locals really know about. One museum that shouldn't be missed is the Museum of Genocide (also known as the KGB Museum). It is located in Vilnius' formed KGB headquarters and is dedicated to the 50-year history of Soviet occupation which has left a visible mark on the city and the country.
Day 17 - Aukstaitija National Park
After breakfast, travel by local train to the town of Ignalina (approximately 2 hours) and then on to Aukstaitija ('Owk-sty-chee-ah') National Park and the charming village of Ginuciai where our home stay is located. As one of the most delightful national parks in the Baltic states, Aukstaitija has 126 lakes, an abundance of waterways, hills and woods. This afternoon you will take a guided kayak ride through the lakes and rivers, past villages and through forests, to an ancient pagan site on top of a hill with a wishing tree. The top affords great views across the surrounding forests and lakes. Transfer back to your accommodation later in the afternoon and enjoy the hospitality and home-cooking of our hosts for the next two days.
Day 18 - Aukstaitija National Park
Today is free to visit some of the local attractions, such as the nearby villages that date from the 14th century and consist of traditional wooden houses and farmsteads. The 19th-century Ginuciai Watermill is another point of interest. You can hike to some glorious lookouts, do some fishing, take a swim in the lake or river rapids, or just relax. Perhaps ask our host family to fire up the sauna for the ultimate relaxation and cleansing experience.
Day 19 - Warsaw
Exit Lithuania today and cross the border into Poland, making the epic and long journey to Warsaw. Unfortunately, there's no faster way so get comfortable with a good book and take in the sights en route (make sure to bring snacks for the long journey). Warsaw is Poland's large, bustling capital, with a love of culture and art, as well as entertainment. There are numerous theatrical and musical venues, including the prestigious National Opera, the Chamber Opera and the National Theatre. As you won't have much time to explore when you arrive, perhaps head out for dinner with the group in the evening.
Day 20 - Warsaw
Not long after breakfast today, head out on a short Orientation Walk and an included visit to the evocative Warsaw Uprising Museum. Opened on the 60th anniversary of the Uprising, this museum recounts the events which saw the people of Warsaw fighting against the Nazi occupation. The museum is a moving tribute to those who fought and died for independence. The rest of your day is free to do as you wish. There are plenty of other museums to browse, including the Ethnographic Museum, Marie Curie Museum and Natural History Museum. The Palace of Science and Culture Observation Deck is a great way of seeing the city of Warsaw in all of its glory. Alternatively continue to explore Warsaw's old town, rebuilt true to the original after WWII had left 85% of Warsaw in rubble. The effort was recognized by UNESCO in 1980 when it was added to the world heritage list. Make sure you also head down the Royal Mile past the university, beautiful baroque buildings and the occasional royal park.
Day 21 - Berlin
Leave Poland behind and cross the border into Germany today, as you head to Berlin by train (approximately 7 hours). On arrival into Berlin there won't be too much daylight left, but the city has a unique nightlife that presents delicious food, bars, pubs and clubs (if that's your thing). The Brandenburg Gate, Germany's symbol which is minted on the Euro coins, is a great place to visit at night, as the whole area is completely lit up. Other areas great for night life are the inner-city neighbourhoods of Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, perfect for all-nighters. 24-hour public transport makes venturing around the city a breeze.
Day 22 - Berlin
Your 'Baltic Experience' adventure comes to an end after breakfast today. There are no more activities planned and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you're a bit daunted by the size of the city, an ideal way to find your feet are bus lines 100 and 200 as they are perfect to reach many of the main tourist sites for just the regular bus fare. There are many unique memorials and sites holding significance in Berlin's more recent history, which are all designed to provoke thought as well as commemorate. These include the Jewish Memorial, the empty book shelves of Bebelplatz and the confronting Topography of Terror. The 19th century Reichstag, whose cupola was designed by British architect Norman Foster, holds a special and symbolic meaning outside of its role as the home of parliament. The great glass dome that crowns the building also offers sweeping views over Berlin. Make sure you book your visit early in the morning, as queues can snake around the building for hours on end. Find the crumbling remnants of the Berlin Wall that are scattered all over the city. Checkpoint Charlie is also a significant site in German history, as its museum overlooks the former border checkpoint dividing East and West.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
12-06-201903-07-2019AUD $ 5,525-
19-06-201910-07-2019AUD $ 5,525-
24-07-201914-08-2019AUD $ 5,525-
07-08-201928-08-2019AUD $ 5,525-
14-08-201904-09-2019AUD $ 5,525-
28-08-201918-09-2019AUD $ 5,525-
04-09-201925-09-2019AUD $ 5,525-
18-09-201909-10-2019AUD $ 5,525-
10-06-202001-07-2020AUD $ 5,525-
17-06-202008-07-2020AUD $ 5,525-
22-07-202012-08-2020AUD $ 5,525-
05-08-202026-08-2020AUD $ 5,525-
12-08-202002-09-2020AUD $ 5,525-
26-08-202016-09-2020AUD $ 5,525-
02-09-202023-09-2020AUD $ 5,525-
16-09-202007-10-2020AUD $ 5,525-

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights),Guesthouse (6 night),Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night),Homestay (2 nights)

Transport

Overnight Sleeper Train,Private Vehicle,Public Bus,High Speed Train,Taxi,Metro,Ferry,Canoe,Tram

Map