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Ukraine & Russia’s Imperial Capitals on the Golden Ring

May 08 to 24, 2020

2 spots left

Ukraine, with its blue lakes and green hills can boast no fewer than seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the historic Centre of Lviv, the wooden Tserkvas and the cathedrals and monastic architecture of Kiev. The second largest country on the European continent, it was the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy and has lain at the heart of the social changes that have beset this region for centuries. With a cultural pedigree that can trace its origins back to Byzantium and the Renaissance, its traditions and food span eons of influences that are just waiting to be discovered. Your Russian adventure begins in Moscow, the wellspring of much of the world’s culture, history, and politics—and then goes beyond this one magnificent city. To the northeast lies the Golden Ring, a collection of ancient towns like Suzdal and Vladimir, whose lifeblood forms the marrow of Old Russia. And to the northwest is St. Petersburg and its “silent, lonely beauty,” as Lillian Hellman describes. Experience the treasures of Russian culture, history and architecture on this journey—wander picturesque towns older than Moscow and marvel at Orthodox frescoes and golden domes. An expert lecturer will lead the way and locals will uncover what was hidden behind the Iron Curtain for years. Visit the Kremlins in the cities along the Golden Ring and contemplate European masterpieces in St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum. The onion-domed churches dotting the skylines of rural villages coupled with the grandeur of Moscow and St. Petersburg are waiting to be discovered.

Wild Frontiers of North Caucasus trip can be added as a post-tour (May 23 to June 08, 2020)

Led by Prof. Norman Jones

Tour cost (Kand only): $7,995.00 Per person sharing in double occupancy

Single Supplement: $1,300.00    

Price based on a minimum of 6 participants and maximum of 14 participants

Optional 4 days/3 nights post extension tour of Kaliningrad exclave by local guide

$1,200.00 per person in double occupancy

Single Supplement:  $250.00

Your tour does not include

  • One visa needed for RUSSIA. (Multiple)

  • Roundtrip air from/to JFK into Odessa and out of St. Petersburg is currently ($1,000.00)

  • Alcoholic beverages and any soft drinks.

  • Trip surcharge to operate below required minimum participants.

  • Transfers if not arriving/departing on scheduled dates

  • Dayroom or overnights necessitated by changes in airline schedules.

  • Items of a personal nature (laundry, phone calls, emails, excess luggage charges, etc.).

  • Travel insurance.

Your tour includes

  • Internal flight Lviv to Kiev and domestic trains in Ukraine

  • Moscow - St. Petersburg high speed train (economy class)

  • Domestic St. Petersburg - Kaliningrad flight for extension tour.

  • All transfers and transportation by A/C minibus

  • Accommodation in 4 star hotels as per itinerary.

  • English speaking local guides throughout the whole trip.

  • Meals as in program (B: Breakfast, L: Lunch and D: dinner)

  • Mineral water during touring days on vehicle.

  • Entrance fees to the museums and historical sites.

  • Porterage of luggage at the hotels.

  • Gratuities to local guides, drivers and restaurant staff for included meals.

Trip Grade: II Active - Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long rides.

Lodging Level: *** Superior - Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined service and comfort level acceptable to western standards. (3 or 4 stars)

About your lecturer...Professor Norman Jones is Professor of History of Religious Studies at Utah State University. Holding a doctorate from Cambridge University, he specializes in the interplay of religion and culture, especially on the cultural fault lines where religions meet and national identities are shaped through religious allegiances, as in the Balkans. He teaches the history of Christianity, and his publications, focusing on the early modern world, include work on the relations between Christianity and Islam. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Oxford, the University of Geneva, the University of Hong Kong, and Cambridge, as well as the Huntington Library and the Folger Library. His expertise will deepen your understanding and enrich the experience.

The Fine Print: We reserve the right to change the order of activities or places visited due to unforeseen schedule conflicts or in order to make the itinerary run smoothly. You must be in good health to participate as there are days with long walks, some on uneven ground. Some drive days long but on good paved roads. By signing up for this tour, participants are acknowledging their full understanding and acceptance of all terms and conditions and are admitting that they are in good physical and mental health and are equipped with open mind, a sense of adventure and patient spirit to cope up with the tour.

Note on visas: It’s recommended that the US citizens apply for a 3-year multiple-entry tourist visa regardless of the dates of entry/exit, number of entries or period of stay. We cannot guarantee visa or permit approval by foreign governments, and cannot assume responsibility for incorrect or improperly issued visa, permit or passport documentation, nor for any costs associated with a traveler’s refused visa or permit issuance or refused entry into a country due to incorrect or incomplete documentation. It is the traveler’s responsibility to check visas and passports for accuracy.

View Tour Itinerary

Fri – Sat, May 08-09

Depart your hometown arriving the next day at Odessa Airport on May 9. After passing through customs you will be met and transferred to the hotel for rest after your Trans-Atlantic flight. Enjoy the welcome dinner, which is in walking distance from the hotel. Overnight at your hotel 4*. (D) Note: Hotel is available at 02:00 pm on May 09.

Sun, May 10
Odessa Sightseeing

09:00 am - 04:00 pm. Start your day with a walking tour and stroll the age-old streets where you will find Monument to the 12th Chair, the Monument to L. Utesov and beautiful City Garden. You will see masterpieces of architecture and art like Opera and Ballet Theatre, and visit the archeological museum. You will have chance to see the beatiful Duma, Vorontsov Palace with colonnaded entrance, the monument to Duke de Richelieu and the famous Potemkin stairs leading up from the sea port. After lunch, we will have a unique chance to tour the Opera house and see how it looks from inside. Back to the hotel and have some free time. Meet at the hotel lobby and walk to a restaurant for dinner. Overnight at 4* hotel (B,L,D)

Mon, May 11
Odessa - Lviv

09:00 am - 03:00 pm. Today we will visit the Tolstoy Palace currently known as the House of Scientists which is one of the most vivid architectural monuments in Odesa. Also visit the Art Museum with its Grotto located in former Naryshkin Palace. After lunch we will learn about the Jewish community, as Odesa had the biggest Jewish community in the Russian Empire. We will see the famous Brodska Synagogue, the Holocaust Victims Monument and the Odessa Museum of Jewish History. Transfer to hotel for rest and dinner. Pick up from the hotel and transfer to the train station to catch the train which leaves at 10:05 pm. Overnight on the train. (B,L,D)

Tue, May 12
Lviv arrival and sightseeing

Arrival to Lviv train station at 07:55 am and transfer to the hotel for check in. Leave your bags and refresh before the breakfast then start your walking tour of Lviv. During our tour we will walk through pedestrianized medieval Lviv, which is a UNESCO site, visiting Rynok Square, the Armenian Church, the pharmacy museum, and the Italian courtyard in the historical city center. Lviv, which was centuries part of Poland, has magnificent Catholic churches. We will visit the Church of the Transfigurationb and the Jesuit church. Lunch in the city and then explore Lychakiv cemetery, burial place of the Polish Elite. Transfer to the hotel for little rest before the dinner which will be at a walking distance from the hotel. (B,L,D)

Wed, May 13
Lviv Sightseeing

09:00 am – 04:00 pm. Start walking sightseeing tour and our stops are Dominican church, Beis Aharon V'Yisrael Synagogue, Boim Chapel, Bernardine church, Lviv Latin Cathedral, Monument of King Danylo Halytski, Freedom Avenue and Shevchenko monument. Highlights of the tour include visit of the Opera House, built in the classical tradition with Neo-Renaissance details. Then we continue with a visit to the High Castle Hill where a castle once stood to protect the residents of Lviv. You will discover the former Austrian casino, presently called "The House of Scientists". Visit St. George's Cathedral which serves as a great example of rococo architecture. Back to your hotel, free time. Meet at the hotel lobby and walk to a restaurant for dinner. Overnight at the 4* hotel. (B,L,D)

Thu, May 14

Early morning check-out and transfer to the airport for the morning flight to Kyiv at 08:10 am. Arrivals to Kyiv airport then meet your guide and driver, and transfer to the local restaurant for breakfast. Our sightseeing today will include the Motherland Statue - the third tallest in the world and Kyivo-Pechersk Lavra monastery which is a UNESCO site. After lunch we will check-in to a hotel, and start our walking tour to Opera house (from outside), Golden Gates, Shevchenko Park and University, Bessarabskyi market. Enjoy your dinner out in the city. Overnight at the hotel (B,L,D)

Fri, May 15
Kyiv - Moscow

09:00 am – 04:00 pm. Our tour will start from exploring ancient part of Kyiv city center. You will enjoy visiting St. Sophia Cathedral, St. Andrew church, and St. Michael Golden-Domed Church. We continue with a walk along Khreshchatyk Street and Maidan- the square where all of the Ukrainian revolutions started. Our stops will include Arch of Friendship, Administrative buildings such as Parliament, Cabinet of Ministers, National bank and Maryinskyi Palace. Return back to hotel to pick up our bags and have dinner. Transfer to the train station at 06:20 pm to catch our train to Moscow. Overnight on the train. (B,L,D)

Sat, May 16
Moscow sightseeing

Welcome to the capital of Russia. Meet your guide and driver and transfer to your hotel for refreshing and breakfast. Late morning start our sightseeing from the Red Square and Kremlin, the stunning St Basil’s Cathedral, the embankments of the Moskva River, the historic central part of the city, the famous Bolshoi Theatre, Sparrow Hills with a panoramic view of the city, and Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Enjoy the lunch in downtown Moscow. We will explore the Kremlin surrounded by ancient red brick walls and crowned with 19 towers. Our next visit is the Armory which is one of the oldest museums on the Kremlin grounds founded in 1511. It contains an immense collection of jewelry, rare fabrics, beautiful thrones, royal carriages and gifts. Finish the day in Arbat Street. Enjoy dinner in down town. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Sun, May 17
Moscow- Vladimir-Suzdal(GOLDEN RING STARTS)

After breakfast depart for Vladimir which is about 3 hours' drive. Upon arrival visit the Assumption (or Dormition) Cathedral, with its frescoes. You will then proceed to the small, one-domed cathedral of St. Dmitry, built in the XII century. Stop at the Golden Gates - considered to be the door to Vladimir built by Prince Andrei Bogolubsky, who destroyed Kiev in the 12th cent. We will also visit the Museum of Crystal, lacquer miniatures and embroidery. It possesses an amazing collection of traditional Russian handicrafts and folk art. Visit Bogolyubovo church which is on the list of UNESCO Sites. Transfer to Suzdal, check in to the hotel and enjoy dinner. (B,L,D)

Mon, May 18

Morning city tour of Suzdal, often called the Russian Mecca because of its churches and monastery. Suzdal is amazingly tranquil and beautiful town with its numerous churches, wooden houses, bird songs and the ringing of bells throughout the day. The tour will take you to the oldest part of the Kremlin, the heart of Suzdal. Its Kremlin dates back to the X century. On its territory you will admire the Cathedral of the Nativity, the largest relic of which is the Golden Gates. The next stop will be to the Archbishops' Chambers, which is an architectural master piece. The open-air Museum of Wooden Architecture recreates the life and traditions of the people of Suzdal in the XVIII-XIX century. Enjoy dinner in the city. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Tue, May 19
Suzdal-Kostroma -Yaroslavl

Breakfast in the morning and start driving to Kostroma. Upon arrival enjoy a lunch and start city tour of the five-domed Epiphany Cathedral that was the first stone edifice in the city. You will then visit the Ipatievsky Monastery and admire the frescoes at the Trinity Cathedral painted by the famous Kostroma master, Guri Nikitin. Transfer to Yaroslavl. Enjoy dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Wed, May 20

After breakfast at the hotel, we will go on a city tour with a visit to the Savior Transfiguration Monastery and the Church of Elijah the Prophet and the Icon Museum at the Prior's chambers. Enjoy dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Thu, May 21
Yaroslavl-Rastov Velikiy-Moscow-St. Petersburg (GOLDEN RING ENDS)

After breakfast, transfer to RostovVelikiy. This city is located on the shores of Lake Nero and is one of the oldest towns in Russia, dating back to 862 AD. Enjoy city tour with visit to the Kremlin and the Museum of Finift (enamel painting). It is speculated that Rostov was an important Viking trade settlement along the Volga trade route. Rostov was sacked by the Mongols in the 13th and 14th centuries and invaded by the Poles in 1608. Transfer to the town of Pereslavl Zalessky and walk on the Red Square, admire Transfiguration Cathedral and take some pictures of the lake. Transfer to Moscow train station to catch the high speed train to St. Petersburg. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Fri, May 22
St. Petersburg

Start your panoramic city tour from Nevsky Prospect which is St. Petersburg's most famous and vibrant thoroughfare. From the exterior you will visit Kazan Cathedral and the Winter Palace then proceed to Vasilevsky Island. The tour will include a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress - a symbol of St. Petersburg and the oldest building in the city. While there, you will visit Peter and Paul Cathedral, the burial place of the Russian Tsars from Peter the Great onward. We will enjoy the lunch in downtown St Petersburg. Our next stop will be Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, formerly called Tsarskoe Selo. Tour the blue-and-white baroque palace and marble interiors including the Amber Room, spectacularly coated in amber and mirrors. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Sat, May 23
St. Petersburg

After breakfast we will head to one of the finest art museums in the world - the Hermitage. The museum contains over 3 million pieces of art with dates ranging from high antiquity to the present day. Among the Hermitage's treasures are artworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens as well as many others. We will spend 3 hours at the museum; however, to view the collection in its entirety would take almost 15 years, spending 8 hours a day. Enjoy lunch in downtown. Our next stop is Peterhof (Petrodvorets) a jewel of Russian art - a town of parks, palaces and fountains. You will visit the Grand Palace, the 18th cent “Versaille of Ruusia” begun by Peter the Great. After this you will proceed to the Lower Park (Nizhny Park) which is a genuine masterpiece of French Formal landscape design. The park is adorned with more than 150 fountains and 4 monumental cascades. There are several other small palaces and pavilions on the park territory. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Sun, May 24
St. Petersburg – US OR St. Petersburg – Kaliningrad

Check out from hotel and transfer to the airport to take flight back to US or extend your trip to Kaliningrad. End of service. (B)


Sun, May 24
St. Petersburg–Kaliningrad

Take morning flight to Kaliningrad. Upon arrival we will explore Kaliningrad, formerly Königsberg, and a rather grayish and yet fascinating Baltic port town, where German architectonic heritage and Soviet modernism incongruously run into each other. Highlights of our city tour will include well-preserved Prussian-era buildings, such as the city gates, the fishing village, the old bridges over the Pregolya River and the German cathedral, as well as the rather brutal House of the Soviets, a truly impressive concrete attraction. We'll also pay a visit to the house and the grave of Immanuel Kant who was world famous German philosopher. After lunch we will pay a visit to the legendary Amber museum and B-413 Soviet Submarine which is also known as World Ocean Museum. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Mon, May 25
Kaliningrad-Svetlogorsk-Curonian Spit-Kaliningrad

Today we will discover the resort of Svetlogorks on the Zamland Peninsula which is famous for spa with therapeutic waters. Visit the Art Nouveau bath house, 19 century water tower and stroll along beautiful avenues and buy the local amber souvenirs. Continue to UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Curonian Spit National Park. We may have opportunity to see migrating birds. Learn more about the area in the local museum. Take a walk on Sand dunes of Efa where you can listen to the singing sands. Drive back to Kaliningrad for dinner and overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Tue, May 26
Kaliningrad- Tscherniahovsk-Georgienburg

Today we will explore Tscherniahovsk which is third city of East Prussia and founded in 14th century as Teutonic Fort. Our next stop will be Georgenburg’s horse stud where horse riding school has been set. The Trakehner horse breed was started its history in 18 century when the sate stable of the East Prussia appeared. (B,L,D)

Wed, May 27
Kaliningrad – US

In the morning transfer to the airport to take flight back to home. (B)

We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed