You don’t have to be a polar explorer to join a band of voyagers venturing far above the Arctic Circle on a hunt for the celestial phenomenon aurora borealis, the spectacular Northern Lights. You can be a comfort lover as well as an adventure lover, enjoying the amenities of the luxury Golden Eagle private train as it heads north from beautiful St. Petersburg. Rolling through the taiga until the trees thin and lose their stature, the train crosses the Arctic Circle. Across the border, in the Norwegian town of Kirkenes, which is squarely within the Aurora Borealis Zone near the Barents Sea, board a comfortable coach that chases the Northern Lights through the tundra. Visit the cool Snow Hotel, made of snow and furnished with ice sculptures. The trip includes stops in the ice-free Arctic port of Murmansk, the open-air museum at Kizhi Island, the Golden Ring towns of Vladimir and Suzdal, and ends in magnificent Moscow, with four fabulous UNESCO Sites along the way.
Days 1-3: St. Petersburg
Get to know Russia’s second city, with visits to the Hermitage, Catherine’s Palace, the famed Amber Room, monumental St. Isaac’s Cathedral and cosmopolitan Nevsky Prospekt. Board the private train and enjoy a signature caviar dinner as you head north.
Days 4-7: Arctic Circle • Kirkenes • search for Northern Lights
Cross the Arctic Circle and learn more about the Northern Lights from a guest astronomer. Enter Norway by bus, arriving in the polar town of Kirkenes. Take a tour of the Snow Hotel, whose igloo-like rooms glow blue in the night. Search for the Northern Lights across the Aurora Borealis Zone on two consecutive evenings in the comfort of a cozy coach. Ride a dogsled behind a team of huskies and introduce yourself to a herd of reindeer. Re-board the train, keeping a continued lookout for an appearance of the Northern Lights.
Day 8: Murmansk • search for Northern Lights
Arrive 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. Board the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Lenin. As the train rolls back south, there is still a chance to observe the Northern Lights.
Day 9: Petrozavodsk • Kizhi Island
Make a stop in Petrozavodsk on Lake Onega. Weather permitting, board a hovercraft and skim over to Kizhi Island’s UNESCO-listed open-air museum.
Day 10: Vladimir • Suzdal
Discover two of Russia’s Golden Ring towns, Vladimir and Suzdal, UNESCO Sites with some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Russia.
Days 11-12: Moscow
Explore Red Square and the Kremlin, touring the Armory Museum where Russia’s historic treasures are on display.