tour@expresstorussia.com

Ancient Russia, the Beginning

6 days and 5 nights

  • Schedule
    Tour can be started on any day
  • Route
    St. Petersburg - Novrogod (1 night) - Pskov (2 nights) - Izborsk - Pechory - Smolensk (1 night) - Moscow
  • Languages
    English-speaking guide is guaranteed. Other languages are on request.
  • Accommodation
    The following hotel options are available:
    3 stars - 4 stars
  • PRIVATE TOUR
    This is a private tour, there won't be other people in your group
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Itinerary

The Central European part of Russia is known for its ancient towns, many of them fortified with Kremlins and all containing medieval cathedrals and other monuments. This tour will give you a great opportunity to break away from the bustle of the city and see the real Russia. You will make stops in the most important towns of the Silver Ring - Velikiy Novgorod, Pskov, Izborsk and Pechory. Each of these towns are home to unique monuments of Russian history and culture. You will also visit the picturesque town of Smolensk, called the “key to Moscow” and famous for its fortress wall, the longest in Europe. Come explore the history of ancient Russia with us!

Day 1

In the morning our driver will pick you up at your hotel in St. Petersburg and take you to the train station, where you will take a train to Novgorod.

Veliky Novgorod is one of Russia's most ancient cities and was Russia's first capital. No other Russian city can compete with Novgorod in the variety and age of its medieval monuments. It was founded by the Viking King Rurik in the 9th century who became the first King of Russia and founder of the Rurik Dynasty which ruled the Russian lands until the 16th century. In the 12th century the Novgorod city state controlled most of Europe's North-East, from today´s Estonia to the Ural Mountains making it one of the largest states in medieval Europe. Novgorod is located in the North-West part of the Russia, about 2-3 hours drive from St. Petersburg.

In Novgorod, a local driver will meet you at the train station and take you to your hotel. Lunch at the hotel.

After lunch, you will be taken on a 3-hour sightseeing tour. Your first impression of the city will be the Kremlin of Novgorod - the oldest in Russia. The structure dates back to 864. You will have the chance to walk along its ancient walls during your visit. The cathedral of St. Sophia dominates the structure of the Kremlin. Built between 1045 and 1050 under the patronage of Vladimir Yaroslavich, the son of Yaroslav the Wise. It is the best preserved of 11th century churches, probably the oldest structure still in use in Russia and the first one to represent original features of Russian architecture (austere stone walls, five helmet-like cupolas). It is adorned with beautiful frescoes from the 12th century and icons. The dome of the cathedral is made in the form of a huge helmet, to show the defendant power of the city. You will also see the Millennium of Russia Monument that displays Russia's history from Rurik to Nicholas I.

After the tour, you will have the chance to take a look at local handicrafts. In the evening, you will have free time to stroll along the city streets and to dine at a restaurant of your choice.

Included meals: lunch

Day 2

Breakfast at the hotel.

After breakfast you will head to the Yuriev Monastery, a medieval religious complex built in 1030 along the Volkov River. The Cathedral of St. George will impress you by its size and beauty, as it was initially intended to surpass even St. Sophia Cathedral in grandeur.

In the afternoon, you will depart for Pskov. The trip will take about 2 hours. Upon arrival in Pskov, you will have lunch at a local restaurant

After lunch, you will check into the hotel and have some time to rest before your next tour.
In the evening, you will be taken on a Pskov city tour. You will visit the Kremlin, the Trinity Cathedral, the Dovmont's Town, and the Administrative Chambers. You will also see merchant houses dating back to XVII century.
Pskov is one of the most ancient cities in Russia. It is the administrative center of the Pskov Oblast located in the European part of Russia. Visiting Pskov will give you an excellent opportunity to see firsthand how the Rus(an ancient name of Russia and its people) developed.

Pskov is also home to the world-famous Pskov paintings - masterpieces of ancient art including icons and frescoes. It is also home to many fabulous works of ancient, Russian architecture. In the 16th century, Pskov was well known as one of Russia's most beautiful cities with its magnificent churches and cathedrals. In the 18th century, Pskov was considered to be the third most important Russian city after Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Included meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 3

Breakfast at the hotel

After breakfast, you will visit Pogankini Palaty, a great example of medieval architecture which houses a rich collection of ancient Russian icons. The tour will be followed by souvenir shopping opportunities.

Lunch at a local restaurant

After lunch you will head to Izborsk and Pechory.
Izborsk is a village in the Pechora district in the region of Pskov, approximately 850 km from Moscow and 300 km from St. Petersburg. Izborsk is home to an ancient settlement and a stone fortress set on the Zheraviya Hill. Here, much of Russian history began. Meetings between different nations took place here and the city is still a place where their cultures, traditions and faiths are intertwined. Artists and writers always found sources of inspiration in this area. Today, the past and present of Izborsk is studied by archaeologists, ecologists, anthropologists, linguists and folklorists.

You will visit the Izborsk Fortress that dates back to the XIV century. You will also get the opportunity to sample the healing waters of Slovensky Springs, also known as the Springs of the 12 Apostles. In about half an hour, you will reach PechoryPechory is a small town located 43 km from Pskov. The town was founded in 1472 when the Assumption Church that was dug out of the rock was consecrated here. This was the first church of the Pskov-Pechory Assumption Cave Monastery. Being located on the Russian – Estonian border, Pechory was an important Russia’s outpost. Because of this strategic location, a mighty fortress was built here in 1565. The fortress more than once succumbed to the onslaught of Polish and Swedish forces in the XVI-XVIII centuries. In 1782, Pechory was granted the status of a town. During WWI, the town was occupied by the German army. After the war, Pechory became the site of a struggle between the Red Army and the troops of bourgeois Estonia. Estonia won the struggle and Pechory became a part of its territory. This was favorable for the monastery as it was not closed down as most churches and monasteries were during the Soviet times. In 1944, Pechory became part of Russia. The Assumption Cave Monastery is still the heart of town.

In Pechory, you will visit the amazing Cave Monastery – one of the most famous and oldest monasteries in Russia (founded in 1473).
In the evening you will enjoy free time in Pskov.

Included meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 4

Early breakfast at the hotel

After breakfast, you will depart for Smolensk. This is the longest coach journey on the route (about 8 hours). On the way to Smolensk two stops at cafes are scheduled, so you will be able to stretch your legs and relax a bit. Smolensk is designated as a 'city of heroes' because of the roll that it and its citizens have played throughout its turbulent history. Smolensk is located in the western, central part of Russia on both banks of the Dniepr River - about 420 km from Moscow. It is one of the oldest cities in Russia. Smolensk's history is very rich and varied but unfortunately many tragic events are associated with the city. For many centuries the city took the first blows of the enemies coming from the west, it was destroyed several times throughout its long history. Smolensk once was a part of Kievan Rus' and in the twelfth century, it was already the capital of an independent principality. Due to Smolensk's favorable location, the city became a famous trading and craft center. Today Smolensk is a place with numerous cultural attractions including the great Smolensk Fortress Wall, ancient churches and monasteries, monuments, museums and more.

As you approach Smolensk, you will be offered a late lunch, after which you will have some time to rest at the hotel and prepare yourself for further sightseeing.

In the evening, you will be invited for a city tour of Smolensk. The tour will start with the Cathedral Hill complex and the Assumption Cathedral founded in the XVII century and famous for housing the icon of Our Lady of Smolensk, one of the most venerated icons in Russia. You will also see the Smolensk Fortress, which used to be one of the most important fortifications of ancient Russia. The wall of the Fortress, dating back to the XVI-XVII centuries is the longest in Europe!

After the tour you have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and have free time in downtown

Included meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 5

Breakfast at the hotel

On this day, you will get to know the Smolensk region. You will take a tour of Talashkino - a village near Smolensk where the Russian Art Centre of XIX-XX centuries is located.

Talashkino estate was acquired by the Tenishevs in 1893. Princess Maria Tenisheva, a famous patron of the arts and artist, turned the estate into the Russian Florence of the time. Many famous artists came to work here: Vrubel, Repin, Roerich, Prakhov, to name a few. The traditional Russian style was revived in the Talashkino workshops. You will be amazed by the traditional Russian architecture and will have the chance to become guests of the Teremok fairy-tale house and see breathtaking examples of Russian woodcarving, based on Russian epic and folk tales.

After Talashkino, you will be invited to see three functioning churches of the pre-Mongol period (XII century).

The church tour will be followed by a Smolensk city walking tour. It covers the historic part of the city which is mostly pedestrian. You will see the Central Square, two parks, the architectural ensemble of the Smolensk Museum Preserve, a small memorial park dedicated to the victory of 1812 and a house where Napoleon stayed while in Smolensk.

Lunch at a local restaurant
Late check-out from the hotel
Transfer to the train station
Departure to Moscow by an overnight train

Included meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 6

Arrival in Moscow
Transfer to hotel/airport

Included Sightseeing

These sights are included into the standard package:

Pechory
Pskov-Pechory Assumption Cave Monastery
Pskov-Pechory Assumption Cave Monastery

Pskov-Pechora (Assumption) Monastery is one of the richest in Russia. Located in the Pskov region, almost on the border with Estonia, it is the westernmost monastery in Russia. The monastery emerged around the middle of the XV century in the caves of natural origin. In the XVI - XVII centuries, the monastery repeatedly withstood the sieges of the Polish and Swedish troops. The monastery is surrounded with a fortified wall with 9 towers. On the territory once can see a number of XV-XIX century churches. Monastery cemetery is located in 7 caves that stretch for about 200m.

Smolensk
Talashkino
Talashkino

Talashkino estate belonged to Princess Tenisheva and it was a center of Russian cultural life on the turn of the XIX and XX centuries. The owner of the estate spared no time and effort to create a school for peasant children, workshops of applied arts, balalaika orchestra and, of course, the art workshops. At different such masters as Repin, Korovin and Roerich worked here.

Smolensk Fortress
Smolensk Fortress

Smolensk Fortress was built in 1602, during the reign of Fedor Ioannovich and Boris Godunov. The Architect Fyodor Kon created a truly impregnable fortification by the standards on that time. Its length is 6,5 km (making it the fortress wall in Europe!), the width of the walls is around 6 m and its height is 13 - 19 m. In addition, the Smolensk fortress was also very beautiful. For example, loopholes were decorated with aprons. This fortress was much higher than all the preceding ones, and, had 22 towers, each of which had its name and individual style. 17 towers survived to this date.

Cathedral Hill
Cathedral Hill

Cathedral Hill is a symbol of Smolensk and one of the main attractions of the city. The hill is not the highest part of Smolensk, but the Assumption Cathedral and other buildings located here can be very well seen from almost any part of Smolensk. A staircase built in 1767 leads from the bottom of the hill right to the entrance of the Assumption Cathedral. Other parts of the architectural ensemble are the Belfry, Epiphany Cathedral, Church of John the Baptist, and the Bishop’s Palace. Cathedral Hill is a perfect viewpoint – almost all the attractions of the city can be seen from here.

Pskov
Trinity Cathedral
Trinity Cathedral

The cathedral is located inside the Kremlin walls. Since 1589 it has been the main church of the Pskov Eparchy. The first wooden Trinity Cathedral was built here in the 10th century, which makes it one of the first churches built in the time of Christianization or shortly thereafter. This church was replaced by a stone church in 1138, which was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. The current building dates back to 1691.

Pskov Kremlin (Krom)
Pskov Kremlin (Krom)

The Kremlin (also called Krom) is the main attraction of Pskov. This is one of the best examples of ancient Russia defense architecture. It is not known when exactly the Kremlin was built, it was first mentioned in chronicles in 1605. It lived through more than a hundred wars and dozens of sieges.

Pogankiny Palaty
Pogankiny Palaty

This is one of the oldest museums in Russia. The collection includes church utensils, icons, paintings, weapons and more. Today the exterior of the palace looks very austere, but in its early years the palace was richly decorated, it had many wooden balconies, towers, galleries and two more wooden storeys. It was even painted on the outside.

Izborsk
Izborsk Fortress
Izborsk Fortress

One of the main attractions of Izborsk is a fortress on the hill Zheraviya, which was built in the 14th century and survived to our days in a relatively good condition. The imposing stone walls of the fortress Izborsk reach a thickness of up to 3 m, and the total length of approximately 850 m. The total area of the fortress is about 2.5 hectares. The fortress protected Western borders of the country for many years. The tower "Lukovka" was restored in 2010 and it equipped with a viewing platform.

Novgorod
Yuriev Monastery
Yuriev Monastery

Yuriev Monastery, a medieval religious complex built in 1030 along the Volkov Riverm is considered to be the oldest one in Russia. According to legend, a wooden monastery was founded in 1030 by Yaroslav the Wise (whose Christian name was George). The Cathedral of St. George will impress you by its size and beauty, as it was initially intended to surpass even St. Sophia's cathedral in grandeur.

Novgorod Kremlin and St. Sophia Cathedral
Novgorod Kremlin and St. Sophia Cathedral

This is the oldest Kremlin in Russia. The structure dates back to 864. The most famous buiding inside the Kremlin is St. Sophia. Built between 1045 and 1050 under the patronage of Vladimir Yaroslavich, the son of Yaroslav the Wise. It is the best preserved of 11th century churches, probably the oldest structure still in use in Russia and the first one to represent original features of Russian architecture.

Prices and Terms

All seasons
  hotel 3 stars hotel 4 stars
2-3 $2049 $2353
4-5 $1439 $1747
6-7 $1185 $1421
single supplement $192 $356

*Prices are per person based on double occupancy in a specific hotel. You should add single supplement to the price in case you travel in a group but you stay at a single room. 

Prices include

  • Transportation for excursions and tours
  • Guide service
  • Hotel accommodation (with late check-out from the hotel in Smolensk on Day 5)
  • Meals according to the program
  • Train ticket St. Petersburg - Novgorod: train 171 Lastochka (departure 07:11 AM - arrival 09:50 AM), 2nd class seats
  • Train ticket Smolensk - Moscow: train 34 (depature 22:59 PM - arrival 05:42 AM on the next day), 2nd class (4-berth compartment)
  • Free visa invitation – the document necessary for obtaining a Russian visa when applying for one at the local Russian Consulate in your country.

Prices do not include

  • Visa processing costs. For US, UK and Canadian citizens, our company offers Full Visa Support. This is where you send us your passport and other documentation and we obtain the Russian visa for you. 
  • International airfare. Our Russian tours are offered as land only where you arrange your own airfare and we meet you at the airport and handle everything else. 
  • Optional services as well as theater tickets
  • Travel insurance

Tour dates are flexible. Tours can be customized to your taste. We can include additional excursions or performances on your request. We can also mix and match and adjust the accommodation to any hotel of your choice.

Payment policy:
To book a tour, 30% deposit is required at the moment of booking. The trip must be fully paid 31 days before departure.

Cancellation policy:
61 or more days before departure - a fee equal to 15% of the entire package will be charged.
60-15 days before departure - a fee equal to 30% of the entire package will be charged.
14 days or less before departure or no-show - a fee equal to 100% of the package will be charged.

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