Bolshevik blues, Soviet-symbolism, rural villages and railway riding in Central Asia

This 12-day adventure tour from Russia to Kazakhstan will have you fully immersed in life in both Russia and contemporary Central Asia. Explore Soviet symbolism in Moscow and an former gulag site in Perm, then how one village as overcome the after effects of Soviet collapse with a social enterprise. Learn about Bolshevik history and the fate of the Romanovs in the revolution in Yekaterinburg and finish in glittering Nur-Sultan, formerly known as Astana. At the heart of this journey are two epic train journeys. These day-long affairs are the perfect opportunity to meet local travellers and marvel at the vastness of these two immense countries. 


Start
Moscow, Russia
Finish
Nur-Sultan (Astana), Kazakhstan
Destinations
Kazakhstan, Russia
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
WBSC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • This trip takes you on an overland journey from Russia to Kazakhstan, revealing rural villages recovering from Soviet collapse, historic cities with long-buried secrets and more.

  • Explore emerging cultural destination Perm and tour the former Soviet forced labour camp Perm-36 – said to be one of the most severe of all the gulags.

  • Discover an incredible honey cooperative in Maly Turysh, a tiny village where a social enterprise employs most of the residents and has hopes to revive the village.

  • Uncover hidden history in Yekaterinburg, where the last Romanov’s met their bitter end during the Bolshevik revolution and a local guide will take you to their formerly secret graves.

  • A guided tour of Nur-Sultan reveals some of the most impressive architectural sites in the city, a great way to learn about this young capital.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Overnight trains in Russia are an unforgettable experience, a part of life for locals that travellers can sometimes find a little challenging at first. There are two overnight train journeys on this trip at 23 and 24 hours respectively. Your sleeping cabin will be comfortable, with four bunk beds in one cabin and shared toilet facilities at the end of each carriage.

Itinerary

Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm at the hotel today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. After the meeting, your leader will organise an optional meal so you can enjoy your first taste of delicious Russian cuisine with new friends. For those who arrive early, our Urban Adventures are a great insight into the city and can be booked in advance at https://www.urbanadventures.com/destination/Moscow-tours
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Moscow - Moscow Behind the Icons Urban Adventure - EUR56
  • Moscow - Moscow Underground Urban Adventure - EUR56
  • Moscow - River Cruise - RUB700
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
To avoid disappointment, we recommend that you book tickets for any theatre performances that you wish to attend in Moscow in advance. Both www.bolshoi.ru and www.ticketsofrussia.ru are helpful links for deciding what you would like to see while you are here.
Your morning is packed full of exploration. Explore cobbled Red Square and witness the brightly coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, the opulent GUM Department store, the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum, and the imposing walls of the Kremlin. From the days of Ivan the Terrible to the military parades of the Cold War, the square has long been at the heart of Russian history. Catch a glimpse of revolutionary leader Lenin at his austere eternal resting place before entering the Kremlin grounds, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. Walk through the soaring towers and cathedrals of the political and spiritual heart of Russia before entering the Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging former royal collection of ambassadorial gifts, Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels. The afternoon and evening are free for you to explore more at your own pace.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Moscow - Red Square & Lenin's Mausoleum
  • Moscow - Kremlin & Armoury Guided Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a free morning in Moscow. If you haven't already, this might be a good time to explore some of Moscow's most beautiful metro stations - a sight in their own right. Elaborately decorated with everything from sculptures depicting the glory of the soviet days to ornate chandeliers and stained-glass windows, these are the 'Palaces of the People'. Ask you leader for advice on the best stations to stop at. In the afternoon, board the train to Perm. Taking approximately 23 hours, this journey is long but the perfect introduction to the immensity of this country. Grab some good books and download some podcasts and you will be set to roll. 

Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. You’ll travel 2nd class on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your comfort and safety (although service standards can vary greatly). Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although with a limited menu. Please note that in many cases, due to high demand for tickets on this route, the group is not always together. It's likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four. A brief word about drinking on the tra
Pull into Perm in the late afternoon, ready to explore this suprising city with your free daylight hours and evening. Considering you’ve just spent more than a full day on a train, you’ll likely want to freshen up a little at this your accommodation before hitting the town. Later, you can head to the Esplanade to take a stroll along the Kama River. You’ll be back for a proper tour of the area tomorrow, so perhaps for tonight take a turn on Komsomol'skiy Prospekt, where you’ll find plenty of cafes where you can pop in for a drink or dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Rise and shine for a walking tour of historic Perm. Stroll the central streets and learn their stories, including the aforementioned esplanade, the 20th-century Old Quarter an some local sights that inspired the settings in Boris Pasternak’s beloved novel ‘Doctor Zhivago’. This should have you working up a hearty appetite for your included lunch in a local cafe. This afternoon you will travel by private bus to the former forced labour camp known as Perm-36 (approximately 1.5 hours) to learn more about a dark chapter of Russia's past. Perm-36 is one of many Soviet-era gulag sites throughout Russia and until it closed in 1987 it was regarded as one of the most severe in the country. Take a tour of the site, including the original barracks, and learn more about the opressive times under Soviet rule. Return to Perm in for a free evening tonight. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Perm - Perm-36 Memorial Complex tour
  • Perm - City walking tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Take a 3-hour private transfer to Maly Turysh, a rural village with a heart-warming and fascinating tale of recent revival. Arrive and settle into your guesthouse, then explore village on a guided walk. Learn how one local woman has reinvigorated the village with a successful cooperative honey business. After the state farm that employed locals was dissolved with the Soviet Union, local people were left with few ways of making money – a story familiar in small villages throughout rural Russia. Maly Turysh is a unique story of how investing in people and place can have huge benefits for all. Taste the sweet products the villagers make and package as well as enjoy a honey workshop. We stay overnight in the simple village guesthouse tonight and enjoy home-cooked meals while here.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Maly Turysh - Village tour & honey workshop
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
A visit to the village and cooperative project is both a great chance to learn about rural life in Russia and an opportunity to support a good cause. As operations are still new and we are one of the first foreign groups to visit, local residents may be a bit shy when engaging with travellers.
This morning take a private transfer to Yekaterinburg (approximately 3-4 hrs). Settle in and then set out on an afternoon walking tour through the downtown area. This tour shines a light on the city's history and development, visiting the Vysotsky skyscraper lookout, memorial sites for soldiers killed in war, as well as sites related to the Romanovs - the last royal family of Russia. Enjoy a free evening in Russia’s fourth-largest city. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yekaterinburg - Guided city tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, board a bus and head 15 km north of town to explore Ganina Yama with our local guide. This is where the Romanov family were secretly buried after their execution following in 1918. The existence of this site was not publicly known until 1989 and it is somewhat of a pilgrimage site for Russian Orthodox believers as the Romanovs have been canonised as saints. Explaining some of the history along the way, your guide will show you around Monastery of the Holy Martyrs, a complex of seven beautiful wooden monasteries, each one dedicated to a different Romanov family member. Afterwards, the afternoon is yours to spend as you please back in Yekaterinburg. Some sights to explore if you have time include the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre or the Mineralogical (Gem) Museum.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yekaterinburg - Ganina Yama tour
Optional Activities
  • Yekaterinburg - Urals Mineralogical Museum - RUB100
  • Yekaterinburg - Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center - RUB200
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
The whole day is yours to do as you please. Perhaps spend some time looking for souvenirs in the open-air mall of Vaynera Street for some treasures before you depart Russia. Or maybe you would prefer to check out the slightly rougher-around-the-edges Chinese Market, where you can find cheap eats and bargains in the ramshackle stalls. Another option is to get out of town and visit the Europe-Asia border, standing in both continents at once with a beer in hand. Chat to your leader if you’re interested to arrange this. In the evening, board an evening train bound for Kazakhstan and it's capital, Nur-Sultan (approx 24 hours).
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Cross into Kazakhstan and arrive in the capital of Nur-Sultan (you may know it better as Astana) in the evening. Recently renamed in honour of the long-serving first president, the city was a tiny town surrounded by tundra until the 90s until it was decided to build a new capital for the nation. The city has experienced rapid expansion since it became the capital overnight and is now home to glittering monuments and towering skyscrapers, reminicent of Dubai in some places. After the long train journey, you may be keen for a shower and to turn in early at our hotel. But if you are ready to head out on the town it's a great chance to see the creative architecture lit up at night.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Explore Nur-Sultan on a guided tour this morning, starting in fountain-filled Independence Square. While you’re here, it's hard to miss the 91-meter-high Kazakh Eli monument. Continue to the Khazret Sultan Mosque – the largest in Central Asia – and the pyramidal Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Cross the Ishim River and continue sightseeing on the left bank, visiting the Bayterek Monument and travelling to the top for breathtaking panoramic views of the city below (weather depending). Take a stroll through the Nurzhol Boulevard (Green Water Boulevard) beneath the Bayterek Monument to visit the Round Square. Enjoy a free afternoon to relax before an optional final dinner with your fellow travellers and leader this evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Nur-Sultan - City tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your adventure ends after breakfast today and as there are no included activities you are free to depart at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Hotel check out time is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can ask the hotel to store your bags for you.

Meals

9 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner

Transport

Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Metro, Public bus

Accommodation

Hotel (8 nights), Guesthouse (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (2 night)

Included activities

  • Moscow - Red Square & Lenin's Mausoleum
  • Moscow - Kremlin & Armoury Guided Tour
  • Perm - Perm-36 Memorial Complex tour
  • Perm - City walking tour
  • Maly Turysh - Village tour & honey workshop
  • Yekaterinburg - Guided city tour
  • Yekaterinburg - Ganina Yama tour
  • Nur-Sultan - City tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is bookable on this trip, except Day 3,6 & 9 (overnight trains and homestay), subject to availability.
2. As this is a multi-country trip, please read the visa section of the Essential Trip Information carefully.
3. In order for our local operator to book train tickets we require the scan of your passport information page to be provided to your booking agent no later than 40 days before departure.
Below information must be provided at the same time:
• Passengers full name (First/ Middle/ Last)
• Full Passport Details (number, expiry, issued)
• DOB
Please note that the above information needs to be the same as your travelling passport, any wrong information provided may result in extra personal expense to reissue train tickets.
4. There's not much time on the trip to explore Moscow. We highly recommend you to spend some extra time in Moscow as the city has a lot to offer. Please consult your booking agent if you would like to book extra nights in your Moscow hotel.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

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