Russia: Moscow, Saint Petersburg and the Golden Ring
16 Day Inn Tour
How do you take on a country as vast and diverse as Russia? A good way to start is by what has been dubbed by a travel writer of the 1960s as The Golden Ring. Left largely unscathed by Communist industrialization, this loop of villages, towns and cities northeast of Moscow tells the story of Russia’s past, and how the past has shaped the lives of everyday Russians today.
By bicycle and foot, we’ll explore centuries-old Orthodox churches and learn how Europe’s longest river, the Volga, provides both resources and recreation. We’ll take time to sip tea in Russian banyas and drink vodka in local eateries. We’ll start the tour in the modern capital city of Moscow and finish in the historic former capital of Saint Petersburg.
Rolling hill terrain. Roads are mostly quiet and paved but can be rough. There are short stretches of gravel, sand and dirt. Moderate cycling level. More leisurely with an e-bike.
15 nights lodging, most meals, admission to cultural sites, guided walking tours of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, bicycle rental, van support, fast train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, shuttle to Peterhof Palace, Moscow airport transfer, and trained bilingual guides.
Hybrid bike is included, as the roads are paved, but rough. E-bike is $295.
Fly into Moscow and out of Sant Petersburg or in and out of Moscow by taking the 4-hour fast train back to Moscow.
DAYS 1-2 After a transfer from the airport, we will meet at our starting hotel in the late afternoon for an orientation and our first dinner together. We’ll spend the next day exploring Moscow, Europe’s most populous and enigmatic city. Led by an English-speaking Muscovite, our urban walking adventure will take us to iconographic locales, including Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the Kremlin. 0 miles.
DAY 3: Today we begin our cycling adventure around the Golden Ring. After shuttling out of Moscow, we’ll spend time touring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox religion. Then we’ll take an easy bike ride to Uglich, one of the oldest and best-preserved towns in the country. We’ll have a walking tour of the city and a visit to the Museum of the History of Russian Vodka before we finally call it a night at our hotel facing the Volga River. 12 miles.
DAY 4: In case you’re wondering how the Volga River affects the day-to-day lives of Russians, flip on a light switch and then head over to the Hydropower Engineering Museum. This group tour will "empower" you to pedal your way to our next Golden Ring destination, Myshkin.
If you can pronounce the name of this picturesque little town, then you already know the Russian word for "mouse." The town's legend makes a hero of one mouse who saved a prince from a deadly snake. Myshkin has both a sweet little mouse museum, and a museum devoted to the traditional felted wool boots called valenki. 25 miles.
DAY 5 Today we cycle north along the Volga, taking in the colorful wooden houses built at the turn of the 20th century. We cross the Volga by ferry to the city of Rybinsk and visit the Rybinsk State Historical, Architectural and Art Museum Preserve to learn more about life in the region through the centuries. Then we’ll pedal to a country inn to savor a swimming pool and spa. 47 miles.
DAY 6 Today’s cycling takes us to the 1,000-year-old city of Yaroslavl, positioned where the Volga and Kotorosl rivers meet. The largest of the Golden Ring cities, Yaroslavl has always been on the cutting edge of urban planning (thanks to Catherine the Great), stunning religious architecture (especially prolific in the 17th century), and industry (currently based on petrochemicals). We’ll spend the night in the historic city center, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 56 miles.
DAY 7 With so much to explore, we spend another day in Yaroslavl, but this time, off the bikes. The city center alone has 140 federally recognized architectural monuments. A local guide will take us to many of them, and in the evening we’ll be treated to a special dinner and video screening. 0 miles.
DAY 8 In the early 2000s, a businessman by the name of Oleg Zharov gave the modest village of Vyatskoye a bit of sprucing up. That renovation no doubt helped Vyatskoye win The Most Beautiful Villages in Russia national competition. We cycle to this pretty place, which now houses nearly a dozen museums, and see how Russians lived a few centuries back. We also learn first-hand what the ancient Slavic banya ritual is like. Trust us, it’s good, clean fun! 37 miles.
DAY 9 Bike travel in Russia is nothing if not an adventure, and today’s adventure takes us through quiet country roads, sandy pathways that cut through forests, and then across the Volga on a boat in order to make it to Kostroma, another city that straddles the Volga. We’ll dine on board a river boat and sample some of the local spirits. 35 miles.
DAY 10 Today we change our gaze to the landscape. Plyos is a small town of bucolic beauty that not only inspired the wealthy to build their getaway dachas, but also the revered Russian landscape painter Isaac Levitan to do some of his best work. Read all about the artist's affair with his student and married mistress in Anton Chekhov’s short story, “The Grasshopper”.
We will cycle through this hilly bohemian community, taking in iconic vistas from Cathedral Hill and have the option to sip coffee at a café named after Levitan’s lover. There you can relish two other temptations: zapekanka, or Russian cheesecake, and a savory pastry filled with smoked bream. 39 miles.
DAY 11 We wake up in the pastoral community of Suzdal that largely looks like it did centuries ago. We tour this UNESCO World Heritage Site on bike, seeing both the Spaso-Yevfimiev Monastery and the 12th century Church of Boris and Gleb. We will dine at one of Suzdal’s best restaurants for dinner. 12 miles.
DAY 12 Our last day of cycling starts with a trek along country roads to Bogolyubovo, a handsome village that dates back to the 12th century when it became the royal home of Prince Andrei Bogolyubovo. We will tour the pristine white stone Church of the Intercession on the Nerl River. Then we’ll return to Moscow by bus to enjoy dinner at the hotel. 31 miles.
DAYS 13-15 No visit to Russia is complete without going to Saint Petersburg. At times known as Petrograd, Leningrad, and Venice of the North, St. Petersburg is a living story of remarkable transformation - from swamp to royal compound to cosmopolitan urban outpost.
After a fast train from Moscow in the morning, our time here will include guided tours to the legendary Hermitage and Faberge museums, as well as a visit to the Peterhof Palace, also known as the Russian Versailles. We’ll stroll the city’s canals and take our last photos of the famous and beautiful Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood before we celebrate the end of our adventure at our last dinner together. 0 miles.
DAY 16 You are free to travel to the airport today for your trip home. Paka! 0 miles.