Russian Railways (RZD) has revealed an exciting array of winter rail tours departing from Moscow and various cities across Russia. These rail journeys promise to immerse travelers in a diverse range of experiences, from meeting two “Ded Moroz” (Father Frost) figures to witnessing the Northern Lights, exploring the Arctic city of Murmansk, and rediscovering the historic Golden Ring.
Meeting Ded Moroz in Veliky Ustyug
Winter rail excursions to Veliky Ustyug, home to Ded Moroz, are particularly popular among travelers of all ages. Russian Railways offers two family-friendly options for 2023: a three- or four-day “Winter Fairytale” rail cruise departing from either St. Petersburg or Moscow. Passengers embarking on these cruises can look forward to interactive programs, meticulously planned itineraries, skip-the-line access to all route attractions, and seamless transfers.
Given the high demand for Veliky Ustyug tours during the winter season, organized trips can significantly save travelers time and effort, especially when exploring other nearby destinations. Kostroma, with its Terem Snegurochka and Vologda with its famous butter tastings, are among the neighboring attractions.
Russian Railways is also set to introduce another Veliky Ustyug option called “Moroz Express.” This three-day journey departing from Moscow will commence at the end of December and continue almost daily until the end of January.
Unlike regular trains, all tourist trains travel directly to Veliky Ustyug, which minimizes transfer time and allows passengers to explore the city’s landmarks at their own pace.
Flagship Tours to Wintry Karelia
Another noteworthy rail offering of the season includes cruises to the enchanting region of Karelia. The four-day “Into Karelia” program, which is a year-round travel destination, is slightly adapted for the winter season. In addition to the traditional route covering Petrozavodsk, Sortavala, Ruskeala Mountain Park, and Vyborg, the winter tour includes a visit to Chalna. In Chalna, tourists can explore the residence of another enchanting figure, Talvi Ukko, known as the “Karelian Ded Moroz.”
For those wishing to spend more time in Ruskeala, the “Ruskeala – Karelian Saga” tour is ideal. This three-day journey includes an entire day at Ruskeala Mountain Park, providing more time to explore the stunning marble caves.
Karelia remains a popular destination for both summer and winter vacations, with bookings often made several months in advance, and waitlists for certain tours.
Experiencing Siberian Winter and the Northern Lights with Russian Railways
For those seeking the authentic feel of winter, Russian Railways offers two intriguing cruises. The first is a six-day “Siberian Winter Journey,” beginning on January 2, 2024, and spanning the route of Moscow – Kazan – Tyumen – Tobolsk – Perm – Moscow. A highlight of this journey is a visit to the thermal spring in Tyumen, offering travelers a chance to bathe in a warm outdoor pool in the heart of the city.
Booking for this rail cruise is currently underway, and availability is limited.
The second tour, a season newcomer, is the “Chasing the Northern Lights” cruise. This five-day themed tour departs from Moscow and includes stops in Petrozavodsk, Murmansk, and Vologda. This unique experience presents an opportunity to witness the stunning natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights.
Given the initial high demand for this route, Russian Railways is exploring the possibility of adding additional carriages and new departure dates.
A Fresh Perspective on the Golden Ring
One more captivating winter journey to consider is the “Golden Ring Expedition.” While this tour lasts just three days, it offers a distinctive style. Travelers departing from Moscow will visit Yaroslavl, Ivanovo, Vladimir, and have the chance to explore Suzdal. This tour is one of the most comprehensive Golden Ring programs, featuring guided tours, museum visits, and tastings of local cheeses and other specialties.
The “Golden Ring Expedition” is especially recommended for school-age children, who can briefly experience life as ancient Russian students in Yaroslavl and learn to write with a real quill pen.
In addition to the Golden Ring, travelers can delve into Russian history on other tours, such as the “New Year’s Silver Route” (Moscow – Pskov – Veliky Novgorod – Rybinsk – Yaroslavl – Moscow), which starts on January 1, 2024, and features folkloric entertainment in the dining car.
For school-aged children during the fall and winter seasons, there are also single-day trips available, such as “Along the Sovereign’s Road” (Moscow – Tver – Torzhok – Moscow) and the “Journey to Pereslavl-Zalessky,” featuring a narration about Lake Pleshcheyevo and Peter the Great’s boat.