Arctic Explorer by Private Train: Quest for the Northern Lights Northbound

Photo credit: Kirkenes Snow Hotel

12 Days
From $16,295
Trip Type
Rail Journey
Group Size
Activity Level
All Russia tours for 2022 have been canceled.

From Moscow to St. Petersburg via the Arctic Circle Aboard the Golden Eagle


Experience winter above the Arctic Circle in the best way imaginable – aboard the luxurious Golden Eagle private train. You’ll travel through the snow to Kirkenes, Norway, where, if luck is on your side, you’ll get a view of the spectacular but elusive Northern Lights.

The trip begins in Moscow and ends in St. Petersburg, with time to see the sights in those two great cities, and also to visit two of the most beautiful towns on the historic Golden Ring. Along with the romantic train journey, winter adventures include rides in a dogsled and a horse-drawn sleigh, and ice fishing for succulent snow crab.

Travels to: Russia

Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Golden Eagle.



  • Days 1-3: Moscow (Russia), Vladimir, Suzdal

    Arrive in Moscow and enjoy a champagne reception and welcome dinner. The next day, tour the heart of the city – Red Square – and take in the iconic domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the massive medieval Kremlin, and the Armory Museum before boarding the Golden Eagle private train to begin your journey. Take a trip outside of Moscow to Vladimir and Suzdal, two of the towns that make up the historic Golden Ring. Both were seats of power from the 12th through the 14th centuries, and they continue to be home to some of Russia’s most beautiful architecture, collectively designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Site “White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal.” Take a sleigh ride in Suzdal before re-boarding the trip for the trip to the Arctic Circle.


    • Moscow’s 850-year-old Kremlin and Red Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
    • The colorful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral
    • The treasures of the Armory Museum, from Faberge eggs to the ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible
    • The blue-and-gold gilded domes of Vladimir’s Cathedral of the Assumption
    • Suzdal’s kremlin, which encompasses several well-preserved churches and other historic buildings
    • A choral performance by monks at Suzdal’s frescoed cathedral at the Savior Monastery of St. Euthymius
    • Dashing through the snow in a classic Russian horse-drawn sleigh
  • Days 4-5: Arctic Circle, Murmansk

    Watch the snow-covered woods transform into open tundra as the Golden Eagle crosses into the Arctic Circle. Stop in the port city of Murmansk, headquarters of Russia’s Northern Fleet; the warm waters of the Gulf Stream keep it ice-free for most of the winter. Tour the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Lenin, now a museum ship. As the train rolls north, continue to watch the sky for the Northern Lights.


    • The snowy train ride into the Arctic Circle
    • An onboard discussion of the Northern Lights over tea with a guest astronomer
    • The ghostly fog that keeps the waters of Murmansk’s port warm in winter
    • A tour of the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, launched in 1957
    • Searching for the Northern Lights from a comfortable coach
  • Days 6-7: Kirkenes (Norway)

    Disembark and travel by bus to Kirkenes, Norway, a town so far north that for more than a month each winter the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. Over a two-night hotel stay, spend evenings riding in a comfortable bus through the “Aurora Borealis Zone” in search of optimum locations for viewing the Northern Lights. When not Lights hunting, tour the fascinating Snow Hotel, built entirely from snow; ride in a dogsled behind a team of huskies; meet a herd of reindeer; and go king-crab fishing on a frozen fjord.


    • More opportunities to look for the Northern Lights
    • The novel, surprisingly intricate décor of the Snow Hotel
    • A dogsled ride on the tundra
    • Fishing for king crab with a master fisherman, and then eating your catch
  • Days 8-9: Nikel (Russia), Petrozavodsk

    Return to Russia to re-board the train and Nikel before continuing south. On the way, stop in Petrozavodsk, a town created by Peter the Great as the site of an iron foundry to outfit the ships of his navy.


    • More opportunities to look for the Northern Lights from the cozy bar or the warm cabin of your train
    • Petrozavodsk’s Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, built by and for the city’s foundry workers
  • Days 10-12: St. Petersburg

    Arrive into St. Petersburg and explore Peter the Great’s imperial capital and Russia’s most beautiful city. Make visits to the Hermitage, one of the world’s great museums; majestic St. Isaac’s Cathedral; Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s grandest thoroughfare; and, outside of town, beautifully restored Catherine’s Palace.


    • The Hermitage Museum, home to the world’s second-largest art collection (after the Louvre), with works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Titian, Van Gogh, and scores of other masters
    • St. Isaac’s Cathedral, with its dome covered in 220 pounds of gold
    • Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s grandest street, lined with elegant buildings and upscale shops and restaurants
    • The beautifully restored Amber Room at Catherine’s Palace
    • A gala first dinner in the handsome dining car of the Golden Eagle private train

Dates & Prices

Minimum group size: Minimums vary – call for confirmation status

Land Tour Price, Per Person.

  • 2023 Dates
    Dec 29 - Jan 9, 2024
    Silver Class, double occupancy
    Silver Class, single occupancy
    Gold Class, double occupancy
    Gold Class, single occupancy
    Imperial Suite Class, double occupancy
    Imperial Suite Class, single occupancy

What's Included

  • Tour Includes
    • Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
    • All meals, from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on final tour day, including a generous allowance of wine, local beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner.
    • Arrival/departure transfers, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates and in the tour start/end cities.
    • All guided off-train tours, as outlined in the itinerary.
    • Services of an experienced Train Tour Manager as well as local guides for scheduled off-train tours.
    • Complimentary tea, coffee, and mineral water from your car attendant at all times while on board the train.
    • All gratuities.
    • Baggage handling.
    • Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
    • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost.)
  • Not Included
    • International airfare, including taxes/fuel surcharges, and surface transport to the point of joining/leaving the tour. MIR is able to assist with arrangements, as detailed in the itinerary.
    • Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
    • Single supplement (difference between double rate and single occupancy rate) if requested or required.
    • Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
    • Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
    • Visa fees, excess baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination, and other medical costs.
    • Travel insurance, including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
    • Items of a personal nature, such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.

Activity Level

Level 3: Medium

This rail journey by private train features significant touring on foot, throughout which travelers are expected to keep up with other group members, and will feature cold weather and icy and/or wet walking surfaces. Walking during touring days will be on a variety of base surfaces as well, with many streets and sidewalks being uneven, and elevators generally not available during touring excursions, leading to some stair climbing. Challenges on board the train include long onboard distances with heavy doors, as well as steep steps and gaps to navigate while embarking and disembarking. Only those willing to accept the local standards of amenities and services should consider joining this program.

Travelers must be able to walk one to two miles per day while keeping up with other group members. Streets and sidewalks can be uneven or have unexpected surfaces, and handrails are not always present. Steps, which may be required due to lack of elevators, may be steep and/or uneven, and may also lack handrails. The weather will be cold and likely wet and icy when off the train. The distance on board the train between sleeping and dining carriages may be significant, and there are many heavy doors to navigate when moving throughout the train. Getting on and off the train involves navigating steep steps, low platforms and possible gaps between the train and the platform. Navigating rail stations may also involve traveling up and over steep steps/footbridges to cross tracks, or steep steps and dark tunnels to cross under to/from the train station. Although porterage is provided where possible, you may have to carry your baggage for short distances.

General shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure may include problems with bureaucratic service and availability and quality of public restrooms when not on board the train.


Traveler Reviews

  • "We can’t thank you enough for arranging our tour of Russia. Everything went perfectly and the trip was more than we’d dreamed of.… Every day brought more unexpected surprises. I had many preconceived ideas about what the country would be like and had much to learn about the real Russia."

    S. Duggan & G. Stoiber

    Put-in-Bay, OH

  • "Travel in Russia is a great experience, despite international political issues. Accommodation and food were very good. Guides, monasteries, palaces and museum are world-class."

    D. & J. Kruger

    Exeter, NH

  • "The guides were wonderful and gave us deeper insight into the places we were visiting than we would’ve gotten on our own. Having the transfers and hotels set up took the stress out of the trip. Each day was well planned with interesting variety. I wouldn’t have known where to start without our guides. They gave us the essence and were so informative. I am so grateful for your service!!!"

    M. Hanson

    Lynnwood, WA

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    Trips to Russia (including the Trans-Siberian Railway), Belarus and Ukraine have been cancelled and new future trip sales to these destinations are presently suspended. We will continue to pray for peace in Ukraine and to support organizations providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine–we hope you will join us.

    Please explore our adventures in other destinations at the crossroads of Europe and Asia this season including the Silk Route, the South Caucasus, the Balkans or our new trips in the Middle East.