Russia breathes superlatives: the world's biggest country; its largest supplier of natural gas and second-largest oil producer; and home of the planet's longest railroads, busiest subway system (Moscow's), and one of its deepest, biggest, and oldest lakes (Baikal, in Siberia). It even boasts balmy beach resorts (on the Black Sea), though the Kremlin and the snowcapped cupolas of its cathedrals seem truer reflections of this northern nation's might and mysticism.
What the country lacks in climatic warmth, Russians make up for with their bottomless generosity and jovial hospitality. Survivors of despots from Ivan the Terrible to Stalin, Russians place high value on keeping their home worlds safe from the perils of without and stocking the larders with homemade jams, pickles, and desserts. The past decade has been rough on Russians, but it's sharpened their adaptation skills. Today's Russian university graduates know more languages, more about financial markets, and more about text messaging than many of their Western counterparts.
Day 01 - ARRIVE MOSCOW, RUSSIA
Upon arrival at the Moscow airport you will be met by our English-speaking representative, welcomed to Russia and shown to your waiting car. You will then be privately transferred to your hotel, located in the center of Moscow, where you will be assisted with check-in procedures. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure.
Moscow is the capital and the largest city of Russia. It is also the largest metropolitan area in Europe and ranks among the largest urban areas in the world. It is also the seventh largest city proper in the world with a population of approximately 10,524,400. It is located on the Moscow River in the Central Federal District, in the European part of Russia.
Historically, it was the capital of the former Soviet Union, Russian Empire, Tsardom of Russia and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. It is the site of the Moscow Kremlin, one of the World Heritage Sites in the city, which serves as the residence of the President of Russia. The Russian parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council, and the Government of Russia also sit in Moscow.
Moscow is a major economic center and is home to one of the largest numbers of billionaires in the world. In 2008 Moscow was named the world's most expensive city for foreign employees for the third year in a row.
You will be confirmed for two nights at Moscow Marriott Royal Aurora hotel in deluxe level accommodation, inclusive of buffet breakfast.
Please note that official check-in time is 3.00pm. If your arrival is before this time we will request early check-in on your behalf however this cannot be guaranteed.
Built only in 1999 The Marriott Royal Hotel is one of the most luxurious in town: with the Red Square and the Kremlin as well as the famous Bolshoi Theatre in walking distance, the hotel has the capital’s commercial, political and cultural heart literally on the doorstep. With its arches and spires, the hotel gloriously blends traditional Moscow with modern conveniences. The spacious rooms feature in-room safes, a mini-bar, wireless Internet access as well as video or home theatre. With its beautiful design and an atmosphere that captures Imperial Russia, together with a complimentary Butler service that – uniquely for Moscow – can be enjoyed at the Marriott Royal, it is one of the most exclusive hotels in the whole country.
Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel- Deluxe Double Room
Day 02- MOSCOW
Your guide and private vehicle will meet you today for a full-day (8hrs) tour to Moscow’s greatest collection of monuments, the Kremlin. Here you will visit the Assumption Cathedral and the State Armory Museum, which dates back to 1485. The State Armory is the oldest museum in Russia. As its name implies, it contains many ancient weapons and armor, but you will also find a treasure trove of crown jewels, golden crusted icons, bejeweled royal scepters and exquisitely carved thrones.
After lunch at leisure continue with overview tour of Moscow. From the embankment where your hotel is located you can get a great view of the whole Kremlin complex, Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. Cross the river for a tour of Red Square where you will see the walls of the Kremlin, GUM stores, Lenin’s Tomb and get up close to St. Basil’s itself. Continue your panoramic tour past the infamous former KGB headquarters and see classic Stalinist architecture such as the “Seven Sisters” skyscrapers. See other notable districts of the city such as the Arbat, Gorky Park and Sparrow Hill where you get great views of the Novodevichy Convent complex. Enjoy a ride on the subway, built during the 1930’s and they are real art deco master-pieces and true underground palaces in their own right.
Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel- Deluxe Double Room (B)
Day 03 - MOSCOW - ST. PETERSBURG
This morning visit the visit the Tretyakov Gallery, which houses the world’s best collection of Russian icons and an outstanding collection of pre-Revolutionary Russian art.
Later in the afternoon you will be transferred to the railway station for the 1.30pm departure for St. Petersburg where you will be shown to your pre-reserved seats in the first class carriage. Upon arrival at 6.00pm (times subject to change) you will be met from the train door where you will be transferred the short distance to your hotel and assisted with check-in procedures.
You will be confirmed for 4 nights at the Kempinski Moika 22 Hotel in superior level accommodation inclusive of buffet breakfast.
Nestled on the embankment of Moika River just in the centre of what is referred to as the "Golden Triangle" - the historical and cultural heart of St. Petersburg - the Kempinski Moika 22 enjoys what must be the most impressive location of any hotel in town. Facing the Palace Square with the famous Hermitage as well as the Winter Palace, it is in close proximity to all major sites and the best shopping facilities in the city. Decorated with fine antiques of this period, its interior blends this classic, historical elegance with modern amenities and the utmost of luxury. This secluded jewel of the former Russian capital offers a range of luxurious accommodations in which rich marble is combined with antique furniture and modern conveniences. The understated luxury and style is in many rooms complemented by beautiful antique furniture as well as modern facilities that include full air-conditioning, complimentary Wi-Fi access, telephone and satellite television. Guest can relax in the elegant sitting rooms and enjoy the modern state-of-the-art entertainment and communication facilities whilst gazing upon the splendours of Palace Square. A further highlight of the Kempinski Hotel Moika 22 is marked by the appealing range of restaurants and bars it offers: From a scrumptious breakfast or fine dinner at Beau Rivage Restaurant, over a light snack at Bellevue Restaurant with the awe-inspiring views of Europe's fourth largest city, to Von Witte Lounge with its two original marble fireplaces. Apart from this, an extensive selection of additional facilities including a fitness centre and pampering spa area will make sure guests enjoy the very best of luxury during their stay at this grand hotel.
Kempinski Moika 22- Superior Room (B)
Day 04 - ST. PETERSBURG
Your guide and private vehicle will meet you in today for a half-day panoramic tour of St. Petersburg. With the vast St. Isaacs Cathedral is just outside your hotel, continue along the banks of the Neva River where your guide will point out the most important palaces that line it.
Cross the river to the small island that is home to the Peter and Paul Fortress , the oldest building in St. Petersburg and where Peter the Great founded the city. At the heart of the fortress at the cathedral is the burial site of most of the pre-revolutionary leaders of Russia. You may also wish to see the prison where the pre-revolutionaries were held before being exiled to Siberia. Continue your overview of the city including the Church on Spilled Blood, Mikhailovsky Palace and Nevsky Prospekt before returning to your hotel.
Kempinski Moika 22- Superior Room (B)
Day 05 - ST. PETERSBURG
This morning meet your English-speaking guide for a half day walking tour (4 hours) to one of the most famous museums in the world, the Hermitage. Originally commissioned by Catherine the Great as a winter palace, the museum now houses over two million exhibits.
Some of the interior highlights include the Ambassador's Staircase, the Throne Room and the Ballroom.
The remainder of the day will be at your leisure.
Kempinski Moika 22- Superior Room (B)
Day 06 - ST. PETERSBURG
You have the choice between two excursions today. Either the Peterhof or Pushkin:
Travel to the Peterhof Palace , Peter the Great's summer palace. The lavish décor of the buildings is rivaled only by its famous Grand Cascade of fountains.
Alternatively travel out to the Tsar's village, also known as Pushkin. Dominating the village is Rastrelli's blue and white Catherine Palace with its formal gardens. See the exquisite interiors, notably the ballroom and the newly restored Amber Room. Also see the Pavlovsk Great Palace before returning to St. Petersburg.
Kempinski Moika 22- Superior Room (B)
Day 07 - ST. PETERSBURG- DEPART
You will be privately transferred to St. Petersburg Airport today with English-speaking assistance.
Depart any day! Contact an iExplore Adventure Consultant for details!
April 1 to May 11, 2012; July 16 to December 31, 2012
|Room Type||2012 Cost per Person (USD)|
May 12 to July 15, 2012
|Room Type||2012 Cost per Person (USD)|
The above prices are not valid on the following dates at the Kempinski Moika 22 Hotel from June 20 – 25, 2012 due to the World Economic Convention.
Marriott Royal Aurora
This hotel has different weekday and weekend rates. The above costs are based on the least expensive days of the week which are Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. For stays that overlap onto a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday night then a net supplementary charge of EUR 220 per room per night will apply all year around.
First Class rail has been included in the tour price in 2012. All train tickets become available to book 40 days prior to the train’s departure and being able to get seats in this carriage is not guaranteed.
Prices for your dates of travel may vary- please contact iExplore for an exact quote. Quoted prices are based on current rates of exchange, tariffs and taxes as of March, 2011. iExplore reserves the right to increase tour prices to cover increased costs, tariffs and taxes received after prices are published, and to reflect fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. iExplore is under no obligation to give breakdown costs involved in any package.
- Buffet Breakfast.
- Accommodations in a Deluxe Double in the Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel, Moscow
- Accommodations in a Superior Room at the Kempinski Moika 22, St. Petersburg
- Private transport where stated by Ford Mondeo (or similar) for 1-2 persons and Mercedes minivan (or similar) for 3-4 persons. Please note that the vehicle provided allows for two pieces of luggage per person. For additional luggage, larger vehicles can be provided for a supplementary cost
- Airport and train station porterage
- First class train from Moscow to St. Petersburg
- English-speaking guides for all sightseeing
- Entrance fees to St. Basil's cathedral, Moscow Metro, Tretyakov Gallery, Assumption Cathedral, State Armory Museum, Peter & Paul Fortress, Hermitage Museum and Peter's Summer Palace OR Catherine Palace.
- The services of a local representative to meet guests upon arrival in each city, telephone monitoring at each hotel and reconfirmation of all services in advance of the guests
- All taxes
- 24 hour emergency contact service
- International air travel and associated costs
- All meals EXCEPT breakfast
- Any visas and related costs
- Entrance fees not stated in the itinerary
- Hotel porterage
- Holiday surcharges
- All items of a personal nature (e.g. beverages, telephone calls, laundry, personal insurance)
- Anything not specifically mentioned in the "Inclusions" list above
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Options and Extras
An Introduction to Moscow
Moscow is a city of contrast and change. It can be as friendly as a doting "babushka" assisting with directions to a favorite tourist site or it can provide an encounter with a surly city bureaucrat. Both of these serve as a reminder that Moscow is still in need of refining some of its former customs from the Communist era. However, Moscow is hopeful that its future will be more optimistic than melancholy. As never before, it is a city of excitement and opportunity where anything can happen.
The nucleus of Moscow is the Kremlin and Red Square. This is the oldest, most characteristic part of the Russia's capital city. Here you will see some of the country's most well-known landmarks and symbols of Russian and past Soviet power. Once inside the Kremlin's massive red walls, aside from tourists, there is a sense of quietude and repose. Few cars penetrate its walls and grassy lawns are found throughout. The very buildings of the Kremlin map out the stranglehold that the supreme rulers had over every area of the state. About half of the inside of this vast irregular triangle is not open to tourists, occupied by either Kremlin garrison, the president or used only on state occasions. Inside there are four cathedrals, one church, three small exhibitions, the huge Armory Museum, and the exorbitant Diamond Fund Exhibition just to name a few. The Kremlin's main Cathedral Square beckons with gleaming golden domes. The Cathedral of the Assumption was formerly the coronation church of the tsars. The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael is where almost every tsar from the 14th to the 17th centuries is buried. The Cathedral of the Annunciation is decorated with paintings and carvings fit for the christenings and marriages of the royal family.
Diamond Fund Exhibition
The Diamond Fund Exhibition is surprisingly small, although its highlight, a small selection of the Russian Crown jewels, is undeniably impressive. Most of the exhibition is made up of forearm-sized nuggets of gold, sculpted by nature to look like a horse head, and small maps of the former USSR made of diamonds. The jewelry windows contain a dazzling display of beautifully set stones making up brooches, earrings and necklaces.
The Armory Museum occupies two floors. Though this building dates only from the 19th century, the royal collection was housed on this spot from the 14th century. It developed in tandem with Kremlin workshops, in which arms, precious metals and jewels, fine cloth and icons were fashioned for royal use. True to his belief that Russia could be transformed through education, Peter the Great opened the collection as a museum.
Outside the Kremlin walls is Red Square with its most imposing structure, St. Basil's Cathedral (Cathedral of the Intercession). It was built in 1555-60 by order of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the conquest of the Tartar city of Kazan on the Volga. The exotic grandeur of the cathedral, with its intricately painted domes, makes it one of the best and most striking examples of Old Russian architecture. On the west side of the Square strands the red granite Lenin Mausoleum. Opposite the mausoleum is the long facade of GUM State Department Store. The present building stands on the traditional market site dating back to the origins of Moscow.
Pushkin Museum of Fine Art
After the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia's finest collection of non-Russian art can be found in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art. A group from Moscow University originally conceived Roman Klein's neoclassical museum as a place where copies of great classical and European art and architecture could be studied. Following the 1917 Revolution, the vast, nationalized European collections of the Romanovs and exiled aristocratic families were divided between Russia's various museums, including the Pushkin. To this day, the museum's highlights are still the fruits of three tsarist collectors. The magnificent Egyptian Room is an aesthetic treat. The well-labeled exhibits begin at the far end of the room with flint arrowheads and a 3rd millennium BC alabaster jar. One of the most astonishing exhibits is the 14th century BC relief sculpture of mourners at a funeral, whose despair is expressed in the fluid flailing of their arms. Room number two is ostensibly devoted to ancient civilizations of the Middle East, though it also covers a multitude of cultures. As the rooms continue, there are arresting Fayyum portraits, Byzantine icons, medieval European art, and Italian paintings alongside the German and Dutch.
In the mid 19th century, Pavel Tretyakov and his brother Sergei used their family textile fortune to become important collectors of art. Today the Tretyakov Gallery owns the finest collection of Russian icons in existence, including the famous Virgin of Vladimir. This icon inspires great reverence; flowers are laid beneath it and often people are crossing themselves and praying in front of it. It is one of the most tender and human portrayals of the relationship between Christ and Mary, physically united by the gold of his robe and the golden border of her deep red veil. Mary's sad face looks directly out, asking the viewer to consider the tragic fate of her son.
You might wish to visit the Novodevichy Convent, founded in 1524. Although its exterior is that of a beautiful religious complex, it has a checkered history, having once been used as a prison for troubled female nobles. This included Peter the Great's half-sister and his first wife!
The Golden Ring
In the countryside outside of Moscow, Sergyev Posad (Zagorsk) is one of the most important and historic areas to Russia's national history. There are no jewels or riches in the region dubbed "Golden Ring", but these old Russian towns are of great historical importance in the development of Russian arts, intellectual enlightenment and certainly in statehood. Each town serves as a living chronicle of Russia's ancient architecture and culture. These towns of the "Golden Ring" have all seen destruction, human suffering, and international conquest over their long histories. Most date from the 14th century when they were erected primarily as monasteries and seats of learning shortly after which they were invaded by the Mongols from the east, then the Poles from the west and finally by militant atheism under the Soviets. Their names have been changed so many times that when the originals were restored after 1990, no one living could even identify or remember the original destinations.
In Sergyev Posad you will visit the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius, which for over 500 years has been one of the most important centers of pilgrimage in Russia. The monastery's golden cupolas and blue bell tower are some of the most picturesque in the country. This huge structure began as a tiny monk's cell and wooden church built by two brothers. After the death of brother Sergey, he was canonized as the guardian of the Russian land and buried here, his remains untouched by decay and revered by pilgrims. The monastery complex was actually completed in its present form in the late 18th century, offering a surprising unity for a structure erected over four centuries. The crypt of Tsar Boris Godunov is located in a small building near the Cathedral. Even today the site remains an active monastery with approximately 500 seminarians attending school and living on the premises. There is also a monastic museum of history and art, which contains thousands of icons, carvings, embroidery and fabrics, as well as folk costumes and jewelry. The gateway into the Trinity Sergius Monastery passes in painted splendor beneath the Gate-Church of St. John the Baptist, which was built in the 1690's with Stroganov family money. From its foundation in the 1340's, the monastery was deluged with gifts from Russia's rich and powerful families, including the tsars. At the entrance of the monastery is the Cathedral of the Assumption, the largest church in the ensemble, which was built in the 1500's and modeled on the smaller Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin. It is another monument, like St. Basils' in Red Square, to Ivan the Terrible.
An Introduction to St. Petersburg
Built by Tsar Peter the Great, St. Petersburg is located on the Gulf of Finland, at the Neva river delta. It is one of Europe's most beautiful cities, designed as Russia's "window on the West". Indeed the architecture and city design reflects its Western European influence. With its many canals and bridges, pastel colored palaces, magnificent buildings and statues, St. Petersburg has a charm and splendor all its own. When the Tsar first commanded the construction of the city, the area was swampy and frequently flooded. Thousands lost their lives to illness and disease as Peter created the Peter and Paul Fortress to protect the city from future attacks. No one wanted to live there, but Peter ordered more than 1,500 families and businesses to relocate to St. Petersburg to assure the city's future.
When he died in 1725, the population had grown to 75,000 subjects. Buildings that remain from that time include the Fortress itself, Peter's wooden cabin home, Menshikov and Kikin Palaces and the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. With Peter's death, the imperial court returned to Moscow and many residents happily relocated until Empress Anna ascended the throne seven years later and began the next phase of construction.
Her daughter, Empress Elizabeth (1741-61), continued to work, building many of the most important buildings in the style which became known as Elizabethan rococo, the four-to-five story buildings that sprawled across the flat countryside. These buildings, with their pilasters, statuary and relief, formed a sharp contrast to the soaring towers of Moscow. By the time Catherine died in 1796, approximately 100 years after its beginnings, St. Petersburg emerged as one of the most important cities in the world.
Hermitage Museum / Winter Palace
On the banks of the Neva stands the Winter Palace, home to the Hermitage Museum. It was built between 1754 and 1762 on orders of Peter's daughter, Tsarina Elizabeth, "solely for the glory of all Russia". From that date until the revolution of 1917 it remained the tsar's official residence. Today, the Hermitage has the largest collection of art in Russia with close to three million exhibited items. Almost a million works comprise the Western European collection, from Leonardo da Vinci and Rafael to El Greco, Rembrandt, Titan and Rubens. Catherine the Great first used the Winter Palace as a museum in 1764, housing 225 Dutch and Flemish paintings she had purchased in Berlin.
Other tsars continued to expand the collection, but it was only open to members of the royal family and their friends until the 1917 Revolution, after which it was opened full time to the public. The museum occupies several buildings: Little Hermitage, Old Hermitage, the Hermitage Theater and the New Hermitage, with collections spanning a millennia of art and culture.
Palace Square, the parade ground for the tsar's Winter Palace, was the heart of Russia for over two hundred years and still is one of the world's most striking architectural ensembles. Dating from 1819 when Carlo Rossi designed the square, two large yellow buildings curve around the south end of the square, linked by a triumphal arch, which is crowned by a Winged Glory with chariot and six horses. In the square's center stands the Alexander Column, symbolizing the defeat of Napoleon in 1812.
Peter and Paul Fortress
The origins of St. Petersburg are traced to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Peter the Great was attracted to Hare Island situated between the right bank of the Neva and the Kronverk Strait, because of its small size and strategic position in the area. In 1703, Tsar Peter laid the first foundation stone of the fortress, named after the apostles Peter and Paul. The fortress was designed to protect the city from invading Swedes and was built as an elongated hexagon with six bastions that traced the contours of the island. At one point, it served as a political prison. Ironically, the first prisoner was Peter's son, Alexei, suspected of plotting against the tsar. Peter supervised his son's torture and Alexei died in 1718. Peter buried Alexei beneath the staircase of the cathedral, so he would always be "trampled". The Fortress consists of a visitor's entrance at St. Peter's Gate, the oldest unchanged structure of the fort. A straight path leads to St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, built in the 1700's in the Dutch style with Peter the Great laying the cornerstone. The cathedral is the focal point of the square, with its long slender golden spire topped with an angel holding across. The cathedral itself is the burial places for more than 30 tsars and princes, with Peter the Great's resting place just to the right of the main altar. Directly across in a yellow/white building is the Royal Mint that still produces special coins and medals.
Church on Spilled Blood
The Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood was built to resemble Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral. Alexander III commissioned it as a memorial to his father, Alexander II, who was killed on the site by a terrorist's bomb in 1881. The interior is as extravagant as the exterior, adorned with mosaic, gold leaf and semiprecious gems.
St. Isaac's Cathedral
St. Isaac's Cathedral is a pompous building and indulges the Russians instinctive awe of vastness. It is the epitome of an Imperial cathedral and it cost 23 million rubles to build. In 1818 the young French architect Auguste de Montferrand was commissioned by Alexander I to replace the existing cathedral. Such was its scale that it was only finished in the year of his death, 1858, long after the tsar and even his successor had died. The most noteworthy areas are the paintings in the dome and iconostasis. Karl Bryullov, the first Russian painter to gain international fame, decorated the dome. The Virgin Mary surmounts portraits of the apostles and evangelists, above the windows of the dome. Recessed in the very top of the cupola and lit by natural light, hovers a white dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit. Although religious services are once again held in St. Isaac's Cathedral, it is still a museum. During certain hours, you can climb to the colonnade surrounding the dome for a panorama of the city.
The former Mikhailovsky Palace is now the Russian Museum. The palace was built in the early 1800's in the spirit of the age: the piers of its gates are surmounted by mock trophies of war, and the sumptuous classicism of its full-blown Corinthian portico, heroic frieze and heavily stuccoed pediment suggest an empire of an ascendancy. Within its portal however, the Mikailovsky Palace has bee associated more with culture than imperial ambition. After its completion it was the Grand Duke Mikhail's wife Helen, "a blaze of beauty and health and cheerfulness", who infused it with her cultural, intelligent enthusiasms, bringing together artists, musicians and scientists in her "salon". For several years, the pianist Anton Rubenstein used rooms in the palace as a music school before founding the St. Petersburg Conservatoire in 1864. The Russian Museum owes much of its wealth to the nationalization of private collections that took place after the Revolution, to artists bequeathing their works to it and to the museum's appropriation of an estimated 40,000 icons from the churches, which were shut down or destroyed during the Soviet period. It continues to compete with the Tretyakov in Moscow for the best collection of Russian paintings.
The classical Yusupov Palace was built in the 1760's. The Yusupov family amassed a fortune that far surpassed even that of the Tsar. The palace was a gift from Catherine the Great to the Yusupov Family. Aside from the display of aristocratic power, the palace bespeaks more than social history. During the dark days of World War I, the powerful and lecherous priest Gregory Rasputin was lured by assassins to the cellars of the palace, where he was poisoned with cyanide before he stumbled outside where he was shot.
Petrodvorets is Peter the Great's summer palace, with lush parks and gilded fountains. The palace plans were drafted in 1710 after the defeat of Sweden to celebrate the might of Russia. Its architects were summoned from around the world with trees, soil, and building materials all brought in by barge for use in construction. Originally called Peterhof, the name was changed to Petrodvorets during World War II, to dissociate it from things German.
The palace itself is three stories high and attached to wings containing galleries. More than 70 marble sculptures adorn the garden's paths and a valuable collection of Peter the Great's personal effects are on display.
The town of Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo), meaning Tsar's Village, is located approximately 15 miles south of St. Petersburg. Peter the Great won this region between the Neva and the Gulf of Finland during the Northern War. He later presented this land to his wife Catherine I who built parks and gardens and Catherine the Great's Palace. During Catherine's reign, many renowned architects worked in the neo-classical style on the palace. Many exhibition halls, the Green Dining Room and Chinese Blue Room are breathtaking. The walls of the Blue Room are decorated with Chinese blue silk and the Empress Elizabeth is portrayed as Flora, Goddess of Flowers. One of the palace's most famous rooms, the Amber Room, has been meticulously restored. The walls were lined with amber panels that were stolen by the Nazis and never found. The restoration is now complete and gives an idea of the original interior. The Lyceum is linked to the Palace by an archway. It was originally built by Catherine the Great as the school for her grandsons and was expanded in 1811 for the children of aristocracy. The classrooms were on the second floor and the dormitory on the third. The Lyceum's first open class consisted of 30 boys between 11 and 14. One of the students was Alexander Pushkin.
The flamboyant court life of Tsarskoye Selo frightened away most of the wildlife, so the royal family went into the nearby area of Pavlovsk (about two miles away) to hunt. Two wooden hunting lodges here were known as "Krik" and "Krak". In 1777, Catherine the Great presented the villages, along with the serfs, to her son Paul, whose first son, Alexander, had just been born. The village was actually named Pavlovsk when Paul became tsar.
Located about three hours' drive from St. Petersburg, Novgorod is one of the oldest towns in Russia, having been founded almost twelve hundred years ago. It is situated on the shores of Ilmen Lake and served as the main northern trade route between Greeks and the settlers known as Varangians. In the 12th century there were more than 200 churches here. The 30 that remain today contain icons, frescoes, mosaics and birch bark manuscripts. The city has an important but tragic history, often being ransacked by tyrannical Russian Tzars. In the 15th century, Ivan III attacked and annexed the city as part of his empire. In the mid 16th century, Ivan the Terrible razed the city and slaughtered some 60,000 people in a savage pogrom. The city lost its influence completely with the creation of St. Petersburg. The town is surrounded by a kremlin and offers both an open-air and an indoor museum with many thousands of exhibits. Inside the Kremlin is the Cathedral of St. Sophia. This Byzantine building was completed in 1050 and is perhaps the oldest building in all of Russia. Displayed inside the church are many impressive 14th century icons. Also in the citadel stands the Millennium of Russia Monument. Unveiled by Alexander II in 1862, this large circular statue is dedicated to the 1,000th anniversary of Russian Civilization. On the other side of the Volkhov River lies the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the only remains of what was once the palace complex of the Novgorod princes. Also here is the Church of Our Saviour-at-Ilino, a charming building containing the only surviving frescoes by Theoplane the Greek, a legendary Byzantine artist. They were almost destroyed when the church became a machine-gun nest for the Nazis during World War II.
All travelers require a visa to enter Russia. When booking this tour you will need to provide your iExplore Adventure Consultant with a copy of the informational pages of your passport so that a Letter of Invitation can be obtained on your behalf. This document is required to support your visa application. It is advisable to begin the visa process as soon after your booking as possible. It is the responsibility of the traveler to arrange his or her visa and to ensure he or she has the correct visa(s) to travel.