Baltic and Russia

Photo of St. Basil's Cathedral. Built between 1555 and 1561, commisioned by Ivan the Terrible

Helsinki, Finland – whether it’s the quaint street markets that feature fresh strawberries and sugar snap peas or the historic buildings and castles, the Finns are justly proud of their heritage. Their capital boasts a melting pot of romantic, neo-classical, baroque and ultra-modern architecture.

Helsinki is a city of the sea. It was built on peninsulas that stab into the Baltic, and streets, and avenues curve around bays, bridges arch over to nearby islands, and ferries reach out to islands farther off shore. Sweet-tasting salt air hovers over the city, and the sounds from the vessels steaming into port resonate off the city’s building.

From Finland you will journey on to Moscow, Russia. Jerusalem, Mecca, Rome and Moscow – all are places of pilgrimage, whether the faithful come to pray at the Wailing Wall, circle the kaaba, be blessed by the Pope or file past Lenin’s embalmed body in the great mausoleum on Red Square. Holy Moscow – that was the name for centuries and it has remained the symbolic heart of this vast country.

The nucleus of Moscow is the Kremlin and its Red Square. This is the oldest, most characteristic part of the Soviet capital, the site of its finest architectural monuments, and symbols of Russian and Soviet power.

From Moscow your first class overnight train, with sleeping berth, will take you to St. Petersburg, a city of haunting magnificence, an imperial capital that seems to have been built as a monument to its own passing. Less than three centuries have passed since Peter the Great began building this grand city on the Gulf of Finland, but it is difficult to visit its vast, crystalline squares and palaces without feeling the enormity of the gulf that separates that time from our own. All of which, of course, makes St. Petersburg more evocative of Russia’s past than any place except perhaps the Moscow Kremlin. This impression is only deepened by a more familiar acquaintance. The enigmatic homeliness of Peter’s cottage and the city’s placid canals may contrast with the brooding grandeur of the Winter Palace, but they share with it a graceful stillness that is difficult to forget.

DAY 01: TORONTO – HELSINKI, FINLAND

Depart from Toronto by wide-bodied aircraft for Helsinki, Finland. Dinner and breakfast will be served on board and headsets will be supplied for you to enjoy the in-flight movie and the many audio channels available.

DAY 02: HELSINKI (D)

Arrive in Helsinki. After clearing immigration and customs you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Remainder of the time free to acclimatize yourself to the time changed.

Evening: Welcome to Helsinki dinner. Overnight in Helsinki.

DAY 03: HELSINKI – TALLINN, ESTONIA (B/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Take part in a sightseeing tour this morning of the gleaming “White City” of futuristic architecture and vast forested vistas. We see the impressive Mannerheim statue and drive down the city’s central street honoring one of Finland’s most famous heroes. We see Helsinki’s showplace, superb Senate Square, surrounded by the green-domed, white Cathedral; the State Council Building and the University designed in classic symmetry by Carl Ludwig Engel. Also see the Presidential Palace, the world’s most modern and attractive granite Parliament Building, the Olympic Stadium Tower, Finlandia Hall, the innovative post office; the unusual Sibelius Monument, honoring the composer of “Finlandia” and the lively Market Square on the Gulf of Finland harbour.

AFTERNOON: Travel by ferry to Tallin, Estonia’s capital for overnight.

Evening: dinner. Overnight in Tallin.

DAY 04: TALLIN (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

MORNING: Start the day with an included sightseeing tour to appreciate Tallin’s history and beauty with a local guide. The old town, now on the list of World Heritage Sites, is certainly the most interesting part of the city. Also worth remembering are the Hanseatic merchant houses, the mile-long town wall, the medieval Town Hall and the House of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads.

AFTERNOON: Own activities. Overnight in Tallin.

DAY 05: TALLIN-RIGA, LATVIA (B/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

MORNING: Board your coach and travel southwards onto ancient Riga, Latvia’s capital – made famous by the stories of Baron von Münchausen. Arrive in Riga, check in to hotel.

AFTERNOON: Guided tour of the city will brief you on some of the most eventful parts of the city’s 800-year history. Founded by Bishop Albert, head of the Order of Teutonic Knights, in 1201, the old town is a mixture of narrow streets, parks, riverbanks, and a ca

nal flanked by old houses and lofty church spires. The main sights in the old town are Riga Castle and the Dome Cathedral.

Evening: dinner. Overnight in Riga.

DAY 06: RIGA – VILNIUS, LITHUANIA (B/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

MORNING: Time is allowed for you to do your last minute shopping or to further explore Riga on your own.

THIS AFTERNOON you will travel further south to Lithuania, the largest and most densely populated of the Baltic States, then on to the capital, Vilnius, founded in 1323. Upon arrival, check into the hotel. Remainder of the day is free.

Evening: dinner. Overnight in Vilnius.

DAY 07: VILNIUS-MINSK, BELARUS (B/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

MORNING: This morning guided sightseeing tour shows us the ruins of the medieval castle, the centre at Gediminas Square and Gediminas Tower. Also you’ll see the church of St. Peter and Paul, the church of St. Anna plus take a relaxed walk through the old town. Then after visiting the courtyards of the Jesuit University and seeing the ‘Gates of Dawn’, you’ll view the site of the Synagogue destroyed by Hitler in the last war.

AFTERNOON: After lunch (on own) continue on to Minsk. Learn about the history of the capital of Belarus (White Russia), a city plagued by wars. When liberated during World War II, 95% of Minsk lay in ruins. It has now been totally rebuilt, and is the most prosperous and dynamic city of the region. Check in to hotel for overnight.

Evening: dinner. Overnight in Belarus.

DAY 08: MINSK – SMOLENSK, RUSSIA (B/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Head for the Russian border and cross the Russian Steppe to Smolensk by way of Borisov, where Napoleon’s army was routed in 1812’s terrible winter retreat. Smolensk stands on both banks of the River Dnieper, surrounded by hilly, woody countryside. On arrival, check in to hotel.

Evening: dinner. Overnight in Smolensk.

DAY 09: SMOLENSK – MOSCOW (B/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

THIS MORNING enjoy an orientation tour of Smolensk. Only 230 miles of motorway separate you from Moscow. Arrival in the afternoon and giving you time to get acquainted with this vast country.

Evening: dinner. Overnight in Moscow.

DAY 10: MOSCOW (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

FULL DAY sightseeing tour will takes you to the banks of the Moskva, the huge university, the older part of the city, the Bolshoi, and Paveletsky Square. You walk into Red Square, overshadowed by the Kremlin walls, and also visit one of Moscow’s subway stations.

Overnight in Moscow.

DAY 11: MOSCOW- ST. PETERSBURG (B/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Entire day is left free for own activities. Evening: Transfer to rail station for your first class night train (with sleeping berth) to St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg was created in 1703 by the iron will of Peter the Great. He made it the capital of all the Russias and ensured that it should rival any other European capital in splendour, beauty, and distinction. Palaces, parks, monuments, squares, wide boulevards, and 600 bridges delight visitors with their symmetrical beauty, and the River Neva adds to the city’s charm. During World War II the city was besieged for 900 days and much of it was destroyed, along with hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants.

Overnight on board the train.

DAY 12: ST. PETERSBURG (B/D)

Breakfast on board the train.

Upon arrival in St. Petersburg board coach for your full day sightseeing excursion of the city’s highlights: the Tsar’s Winter Palace, Nevsky Prospekt, Peter and Paul fortress, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Russian Museum and the statue of Peter the Great. Evening: dinner. Overnight in St. Petersburg.

DAY 13: ST. PETERSBURG (B/D)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning sightseeing to Petrodvorets, the luxurious former summer Palace of the Czars. After the excursion to Petrodvorets return to St. Petersburg – you will be dropped off at the Hermitage Museum, one of the worlds largest and most valuable Art collections set in the splendour of the Winter Palace. Return to your hotel on your own. Overnight in St. Petersburg.

DAY 14: ST. PETERSBURG - HELSINKI (B/D)

Early breakfast you depart by coach for Helsinki.

Evening: dinner. Overnight in Helsinki.

DAY 15: HELSINKI – TORONTO (B)

Breakfast at the hotel.

After breakfast at the hotel, bid farewell as we transfer you to the airport for your flight home to Canada.

HELSINKI-TALLIN, ESTONIA:

  • Arrival transfer from airport to hotel
  • Ferry ticket: Fast ferry from Helsinki – Tallin, Estonia
  • Half day sightseeing tour of Tallin

TALLIN - RIGA, LATVIA:

  • By deluxe air-conditioned motor coach from Tallin – Riga, Latvia
  • Half day guided tour of the Riga

RIGA – VILNIUS, LITHUANIA:

  • By air-conditioned deluxed motor coach from Riga – Vilnius

VILNIUS – MINSK, BELARUS:

  • Half day guided sightseeing tour of Vilnius
  • Travel by deluxe air-conditioned motor coach from Vilnius to Minsk

MINSK – SMOLENSK, RUSSIA:

  • Transfer by deluxe air-conditioned motor coach from Minsk – Smolensk
  • Half day orientation tour of Smolensk

SMOLENSK – MOSCOW:

  • Travel by deluxe air-conditioned motor coach from Smolensk – Moscow
  • Full day guided sightseeing tour of Moscow

MOSCOW –ST. PETERSBURG:

  • Transfer to rail station for train to St. Petersburg
  • First Class Train ticket from Moscow to St. Petersburg (with sleeping berth)
  • Full day guided sightseeing tour of St. Petersburg
  • Half day sightseeing tour of Petrodvorets
  • Departure transfer from hotel to airport for flight home

INCLUSIONS:

  • Air: Toronto/Helsinki – St. Petersburg/Toronto
  • 13 nights hotel accommodation in twin occupancy at Superior Tourist class and Moderate First class hotels.
  • Buffet breakfast daily & dinners as specified
  • Deluxe air-conditioned motor coach as per itinerary
  • English speaking tour escort
  • Sightseeing with local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary

EXCLUSIONS:

  • Airport departure taxes: TBA
  • Russian Visa Fee: TBA
  • Cancellation & Comprehensive medical insurance

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