Road Trip Through Russia’s Heartland
The Golden Ring is the name given to the historic towns that form a loop to the north and east of Moscow, many of which were seats of power long before Moscow’s rise to prominence. Today they are mostly quiet towns dotted with historic kremlins, monasteries, and some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Russia. A journey here, with a MIR expert as your guide, is a look into the soul of Slavic culture.
Travels to: Russia
Days 1-3: Moscow (Russia), Sergiev Posad, Yaroslavl
After meeting up with your guide in Moscow, begin the tour with an introduction to classic Russian crafts at two locations, the Museum of Lacquer Miniatures in Fedoskino and a matrioshka (nesting doll) factory in Sergiev Posad, both longtime centers of Russian craft making. Sergiev Posad is also home to the Trinity St. Sergius Lavra monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s deeply intertwined with the history of Russia and continues to be an important center of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The following day tour Rostov, one of Russia’s oldest and most beautiful towns, with an immense 17th century kremlin that’s also UNESCO-listed. In the afternoon head to Yaroslavl on the banks of the Volga River, where the Old Town’s palace, fortress, and green-and-white domed churches have also earned it a UNESCO listing.
- The meticulous artistry on display at Fedoskino’s Museum of Lacquer Miniatures and Sergiev Posad’s nesting doll factory
- The rich history of Sergiev Posad’s Trinity St. Sergius Lavra monastery, where St. Sergius blessed soldiers fighting the Golden Horde and Ivan the Terrible paid monks to pray for him
- Immense Rostov Kremlin, built in the 17th century from more than 20 million bricks
- The beautiful artwork of Yaroslavl’s historic churches, including the brilliant frescoes of the Church of Elijah the Prophet and the tiled façade of the Church of the Epiphany
Days 4-5: Kostroma, Plyos
Devote a day in Kostroma, which was once Russia’s third-largest city. It burned to the ground in 1773, and Catherine the Great seized the opportunity to rebuild it as a showpiece of enlightened design principles; it remains a singular example of late 18th century city planning. Across the Kostroma River from the city’s main square is St. Ipaty Monastery, featuring golden-domed Trinity Cathedral. St. Ipaty was considered by the Romanov family to be its personal sacred space.
The next day, en route to Suzdal, spend some time in Plyos, a charming little town known as the “Pearl of the Volga.” It gained renown in the 19th century as an artists’ retreat, and today it’s a popular destination for Muskovites looking for a break from city life. Lunch here is a chance to experience Russian hospitality in a private home.
- Kostroma’s city plan, designed to follow principles championed by Catherine the Great
- The many features of St. Ipaty Monastery, including Trinity Cathedral, the Romanov family chambers, the Museum of Wooden Architecture, and a five-tiered bell tower
- The House Museum of Isaak Levitan, dedicated to the most lauded artist of 19th century Plyos
- Lunch in a private home
Days 6-8: Suzdal, Vladimir, Moscow
Tour Suzdal, often labeled the jewel of the Golden Ring. It’s distinguished by exceptionally well-preserved architecture, some dating back to the 12th century when the city was a seat of power. The centerpiece of the UNESCO-listed Old Town is the kremlin, which encompasses several churches and other historic buildings. The Museum of History and Art, located in the former chambers of the archbishop, has one of the largest collections of religious icons in Russia. Suzdal’s Savior Monastery of St. Euthymius is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noteworthy for its five-domed cathedral and its interior frescoes by renowned 17th century artist Gury Nikitin.
On your final full day, stop at Bogolubovo to view the lovely little white stone Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, and then continue to Vladimir, which was founded in 1108 by the last great Kievan prince, Grand Duke Vladimir Monomakh. The gilded domes of its 12th century Cathedral of the Assumption were an indication of Vladimir’s exalted status at the time. Street traffic still passes under the city’s Golden Gate, which was erected in the to fend off invading Tatars.
Complete your circle around the Golden Ring by returning to Moscow for an overnight. The itinerary ends the next morning with a transfer to the airport – or with further MIR touring (see “Stay a Little Longer …” below).
- The well-preserved medieval buildings of Suzdal’s Old Town
- The standout collection of icons at Suzdal’s Museum of History and Art
- The frescoed cathedral at the Savior Monastery of St. Euthymius
- The graceful little Church of the Intercession on the Nerl
- The blue-and-gold gilded domes of Vladimir’s Cathedral of the Assumption
Dates & Prices
- Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
- Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
- Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.
Land tour price, per person, starting from:
- Shared accommodations as noted in the itinerary. Contact MIR for hotel upgrade prices.
- Meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- Restaurant tips for included meals.
- One arrival and one departure transfer. Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost.) MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether or not we make your air arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle (type of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group).
- Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff, as noted in the itinerary.
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Special events, excursions, and cultural performances, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and 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).
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement if requested or required.
- Baggage handling.
- Gratuities to local guides, drivers, porters, and other service personnel.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel-related insurance, including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Visa fees, excess-baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination and other medical costs.
- Items of a personal nature, such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
Level 2: Moderate, but Customizable
This ‘Essential’ itinerary in modern and cosmopolitan Western Russia, which is designed for private travel, features long days walking and standing, and some possibly long days in the touring vehicle. Only those fit to travel and who accept the local conditions should consider joining this program.
There is a significant amount of touring on foot, and those travelers planning to take the program as written should be able to walk one to two miles a day comfortably. Footing can be an issue and travelers should be able to negotiate cobblestones, uneven surfaces (possibly steep and/or wet), and deal with situations without handrails or ramps. Some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases. Museums rarely have elevators.
Past travelers have also encountered challenges with plumbing, bureaucratic service, variety of locally available foods, and availability and quality of public restrooms.
Accommodations in the basic program are generally four-star hotels. Upgrades may be available, please call for details.