St. Petersburg • Solovetsky Island • Arkhangelsk • Rostov-on-Don • Elista • The Golden Ring • Moscow

Join Bill Altaffer, one of the world’s most traveled people, on this exceptional journey exploring three distinct regions of Russia. Beginning in the imperial capital of St. Petersburg, head north almost to the Arctic Circle, to Solovetsky Island, the first camp of what Alexander Solzhenitsyn referred to as The Gulag Archipelago. Next, fly down to the southern steppe, visiting Buddhist Elista and Rostov-on-Don, ancestral home of the Don Cossacks. To round out the journey, take a turn around Moscow’s historic Golden Ring. Discover five UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as rarely-visited Russian gems.

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Day Trip

  • Small Group
    Limited to 18 Travelers
  • Travels to:
    Russia, Western Russia
  • Special Tour:
    St. Petersburg to Moscow via northwest and southwest Russia

Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Experiences on this Tour
  • Experience Russian hospitality in a private home
    Venture inside a private Russian home for a traditional home-cooked meal of Russian specialties such as blini and borscht....
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  • Appreciate Russian artistic traditions at a center for lacquer miniature painting
    Appreciate Russian artistic traditions with a visit to a center of authentic lacquer miniature painting in Fedoskino, where the art was perfected....
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  • Wander the halls of one of the world’s great museums
    Marvel at the fabulous collection of art on display in the world-renowned Hermitage Museum....
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  • Visit a reserve for the critically endangered saiga antelope
    Enjoy tea on the steppe at a reserve for the critically endangered saiga antelope, an odd-looking creature with a bulging, inflatable nose similar to a tapir’s. ...
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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • Over 25 years of Russia travel experience
  • Travel programs such as Princeton and the Harvard Museum of Natural History have chosen MIR to guide them to Russia
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • MIR affiliate offices in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Irkutsk and Ulan Ude
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-3: St. Petersburg

Get a taste of Russia’s cultural capital, St. Petersburg, dipping into the riches of the Hermitage, touring St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Peter and Paul Fortress. Learn about the city’s military history at Kronstadt, Peter the Great’s island naval fortress; the Siege Museum, telling the story of the terrible 900-day Siege of Leningrad; and Piskarev Cemetery, where over half a million besieged Leningraders are buried.


  • Historic city center of St. Petersburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Peter and Paul Fortress, the earliest structure in St. Petersburg
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Days 4-8: Solovetsky Island, Arkhangelsk

Board a boat from Kem’ over the White Sea to Solvetsky Island, where 15th century Orthodox monks set up a hermitage. Later, the czars found the isolated monastery to be a perfect place for political prisoners, and in the 20th century, Stalin sent countless ordinary citizens here as slaves and laborers. Explore the old monastery, and relive the history of the Solovki “special purpose camp.”

Spend some time in Arkhangelsk, where Peter the Great built an admiralty and seaport in 1693 and launched the Russian Navy’s first ship. Explore the city’s highlights, including visits to the local History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts.


  • UNESCO-listed Solovetsky Islands, transformed from a sacred place to a gulag
  • 15th century Solovetsky Monastery, where self-sufficient monks drained swamps, fished and evaporated salt for trade
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Days 9-10: Rostov-on-Don

Fly to Russia’s southern steppe, where Rostov-on-Don is a modern city of a million. In the old capital of the Don Cossacks, an open-air museum gives you a feel for what life was like in those days. In the new capital, tour the Don Cossacks Museum, supplied with its exhibits by all the Cossack settlements in the region around 1899.


  • Cathedral of the Nativity designed by Konstantin Thon, famous for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow
  • Rostov-on-Don’s Regional Museum, with artifacts from its early history
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Days 11-15: Elista, Stavropol

Take a drive through the steppe to Elista. Populated by Kalmyk people, remnants of the Golden Horde, Elista boasts the largest Buddhist temple in Europe, visited regularly by the Dalai Lama; futuristic Chess City, built amidst scandal for the 1998 international Chess Olympiad; and a breeding reserve for the critically endangered saiga antelope, a hump-nosed, spindly-legged, but very valuable creature.

Founded in the late 18th century after the Russo-Turkish War, Stavropol became a strategic location in the campaign to win the Caucasus, and is known for its mineral springs and health resorts.


  • The Golden Temple, largest Buddhist temple in Europe
  • Chess City, a huge complex built for the 1998 Chess Olympiad
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Days 16-17: Suzdal, Vladimir

After a flight to Moscow, set out to explore the Golden Ring, a modern name given to the ancient towns northeast of the capital. Stop in Vladimir to admire the 12th century Cathedral of the Assumption, as well as the graceful little white stone Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, considered one of the most perfectly proportioned churches in Russia. Continue to nearby Suzdal, whose UNESCO-listed monuments have been remarkably preserved over the ages.


  • Museum of Wooden Architecture, with the
18th century shingled and domed Church of the Transfiguration
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site, “White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal”
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Days 18-19: Yaroslavl, Plyos

Drive through the lovely Volga region to Plyos, to enjoy lunch in a private home. In UNESCO-listed Yaroslavl, discover the 12th century Spassky Monastery, the 15-domed Church of St. John the Baptist and the Metropolitan’s chambers, built in 1680 and housing a rich collection of icons from the 13th-19th centuries.


  • Lunch in a private home
  • Visit to a Russian izba, or cabin
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Days 20-22: Rostov Veliky, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Sergiev Posad, Fedoskino, Moscow

Set off for Rostov Veliky, founded in 862. Rostov is known for its immense 17th century kremlin and for the art of Russian bell ringing. Continue to 9th century Pereslavl-Zalessky. In 1152, Moscow’s founder, Yuri Dolgoruky, built a fortification around the town that extends for almost one and a half miles. Next is the small town of Sergiev Posad, which grew around the UNESCO-listed Trinity St. Sergius Lavra. Make a final stop in Fedoskino, where several small factories produce traditional Russian lacquered boxes to this day. Arrive in Moscow in time for a festive farewell dinner.

The tour concludes with transfers to the airport for international departures.


  • Immense ensemble of the Rostov Kremlin, built in the 17th century with more than 20 million bricks
  • History and Art Museum-Preserve of Pereslavl-Zalessky
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See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

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Tour Dates & Prices

There are no departures available at this time.

Please contact us for more information and a MIR Destination Specialist will contact with you shortly. Thank you!

What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • Shared accommodations in well-located four star hotels in the major cities and best available hotels elsewhere.
  • Meals as listed in itinerary, including in private homes. A few meals are not included so that you may enjoy a chance to experiment on your own.
  • Services of an experienced, English-speaking MIR Tour Manager (with a minimum of 6 passengers) with local guides at specific sites.
  • Arrival/departure transfers. MIR will arrange for all travelers to be met on arrival and seen off on departure whether we make your airfare arrangements or not, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates in the tour start/end cities.
  • Transportation throughout itinerary by private van or motorcoach (size of vehicle depends on group size), and by air.
  • Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees as outlined in itinerary.
  • Special events, excursions and cultural performances per the itinerary.

Before Your Tour

  • Personalized pre-departure support from one of our knowledgeable Tour Specialists.
  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list and reading list.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
  • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
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Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

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Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

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Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

MIR can arrange for an extended program in Western Russia or nearby Eastern Europe. All of MIR’s destinations are open to you, and all can be attached to this program.  Please contact MIR for more details about exciting options for extended travel.

Or, choose from one of our private travel suggested itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

While the accommodations we utilize are superior tourist class, please keep in mind that some aspects of the tourism infrastructure in are not up to the standards North American travelers expect. Services are improving in the region; however you may encounter problems with bureaucratic service, road conditions and availability and quality of public restrooms.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour is given in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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