Sail the fabled waterways of Russia’s Volga and Neva Rivers, delving into a fascinating history of tsars and nobles, revolutionaries, writers, and artists. Discover the country’s pulsing political heart in Moscow, where onion-domed cathedrals glitter amid Soviet-era monuments. Glide through the countryside, exploring the storybook towns of the Golden Ring, historic monasteries, and artisan villages. Cruise into Lake Onega to discover the centuries-old wooden structures of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kizhi Pogost, and cap off your journey amid the opulent palaces and graceful canals of St. Petersburg, one of the most magnificent cities in the world. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—and benefit from the insights provided by the National Geographic Expert and the National Geographic photographer who accompany us on the journey.

Trip highlights

Enjoy the insights of a National Geographic expert as you sail the Volga and Neva Rivers from Moscow to St. Petersburg, exploring grand cities and palaces, medieval monasteries, timeless villages, and more.

In Moscow, take an in-depth tour of the Kremlin and Red Square, and learn about the history of Russian space exploration during a talk with a cosmonaut.

Explore charming riverside towns alongside a National Geographic photographer, capturing images of onion-domed churches, whimsical cottages, and bucolic landscapes.

Discover the architectural masterpieces of St. Petersburg including the country estates of Catherine and Peter the Great and attend a Russian ballet performance.

Itinerary - 15 Days

1 Moscow, Russia

Arrive in Moscow and transfer to our elegant ship, which awaits us on the Moscow River. Settle into your spacious cabin and enjoy dinner on board.

2 Moscow

Once the center of power of the vast Soviet empire, Russia’s capital city is the political heart of the nation—an ever-evolving metropolis where remnants of the past intermingle with a vibrant, modern culture. Begin our day seeing some Moscow’s famed sights, including the grand Cathedral of Christ the Saviour; Lomonosov Moscow State University; and the notorious Lubyanka prison, former headquarters of the KGB. Gain insight into contemporary life during a ride on the Moscow Metro, which carries millions of Muscovites each day, and tour some of its opulent stations. Have lunch at a local restaurant, then set out to explore world-renowned landmarks including Red Square—the site of public executions, parades, and protests—and the 16th-century St. Basil’s Cathedral, crowned by colorful onion domes and spires.

3 Moscow

Explore the legendary Kremlin, a complex of cathedrals and palaces that was once the religious center of the Russian Orthodox Church and a former residence of the tsars. Today, this iconic fortress is the official residence of the president of the Russian Federation and a World Heritage site, along with Red Square. Venture inside its sprawling complex of towers, cathedrals, and palaces, which tell the story of Russian’s turbulent history over the centuries. Visit the Armoury Chamber, which houses a vast collection of imperial treasures including weaponry, jewelry, and royal vestments—including the gold coronation robes worn by Peter II. This evening, attend a Russian folk show featuring traditional music and dance.

4 Moscow

Learn about Russian and Soviet achievements in space exploration at the Museum of Cosmonautics, and enjoy a specially arranged talk with a Russian cosmonaut. Later, return to our ship and have lunch on board. This afternoon, choose to explore Russia’s diverse cultures and industries at the VDNKh All-Russia Exhibition Center, home to several museums, or go for a stroll and chat with locals in the Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure—named after celebrated Russian author Maxim Gorky. Designed in the 1920s by avant-garde architect Konstantin Melnikov, this riverside park is one of the most popular outdoor spaces in Moscow.

5 Moscow

Today, we continue our exploration of Moscow with your choice of activities. Delve into Russian art at the Tretyakov Gallery; or visit the fascinating Museum of the Great Patriotic War, where you’ll have an opportunity to examine a vast collection of Russian military memorabilia from World War II. Alternatively, visit the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography, which features contemporary exhibitions as well as a collection of Soviet-era photography; then take a walk with our National Geographic photographer through the Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure. This evening, we begin sailing north along the Volga towards Uglich.

6 Uglich

Arrive in picturesque Uglich, part of the famed Golden Ring of historic towns. Believed to have been founded in the 10th century, Uglich is known for its small-town charm and quiet streets, presenting a dramatic contrast to the urban bustle of Moscow. This peaceful setting belies a darker history—the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible was murdered here in 1591, and the Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood was constructed in his honor. Visit the crimson-colored church as well as the five-domed Transfiguration Cathedral. Later, enjoy free time to browse local shops, and perhaps stop in at the Museum of Myths and Superstitions of the Russian People, which houses an unusual collection of wax vampires, goblins, and other characters from Russian folk tales.

7 Yaroslavl

The history of Yaroslavl' dates back to 1010, when it is believed to have been founded by Prince Yaroslav I. Sacked by the Tatars in the 13th century and by Ivan I Kalita a century later, the city eventually became a prosperous trading hub and industrial center. Explore its beautiful World Heritage–listed historic center, dotted with churches. Then visit the Yaroslavl Art Museum, housed in the former governor’s mansion and featuring exhibits on 18th- to 20th-century Russian artwork—including thousands of paintings, icons, and sculptures.

8 Goritsy

Disembark at the small town of Goritsy and drive through forested hills to Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery—one of the largest and best-preserved medieval monasteries in Russia. Founded in 1397, this religious center flourished under the patronage of the Russian tsars, including Ivan the Terrible. Explore the monastery’s vast lakeside complex containing numerous churches, and visit a museum housing a magnificent collection of Russian Orthodox icons. Later, if you wish, sample some local vodka—a spirit that has been integral to Russian culture for hundreds of years.

9 Kizhi Island

Continue north through the Volga-Baltic Waterway to Lake Onega—the second largest lake in Europe—in the Karelia republic. On Kizhi Island, visit Kizhi Pogost—a World Heritage site and an open-air museum that is home to dozens of historic wooden structures. Discover centuries-old churches, houses, and a windmill, as well as the island’s most impressive sight: the 18th-century Church of the Transfiguration. Adorned with 22 intricate cupolas, this architectural masterpiece—made entirely from wood—is one of the finest examples of traditional Russian carpentry.

10 Mandrogi

Spend the day exploring the charming, 18th-century village of Mandrogi, where Russian craftspeople continue age-old artisan traditions. Walk amid intricately-carved, whimsical cottages—reproductions of original structures that were destroyed during World War II. Visit an array of workshops to observe blacksmiths, weavers, and potters at work, as well as artists painting Matryoshka “nesting dolls.” If you wish, pay a visit to the local vodka museum, which houses thousands of varieties of Russia’s national drink; then enjoy an authentic shashlik barbecue.

11 St. Petersburg

With over a hundred miles of canals, picturesque bridges, and countless architectural gems, St. Petersburg is one of the most enchanting cities in the world. The historical and cultural heart of the nation, the city was conceived by Peter the Great as Russia’s “window on the West” and served as the county’s capital from 1712 until just after the revolution. Start your day with a tour of the world-famous State Hermitage Museum, home to a treasure trove of priceless art including works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Picasso. Have lunch at a local restaurant, then enjoy a tour of this dazzling metropolis and its historic district—a World Heritage site.

12 St. Petersburg/Peterhof

Today, we visit the site where Peter the Great built his grand country estate, Peterhof, on a ridge by the Gulf of Finland. Nearly all the estate’s palaces were left in ruins after World War II and have since been painstakingly restored. Explore the Imperial Bath House and the gilded fountains of the Lower Park, or be seduced by the extravagance of the Grand Peterhof Palace, which was designed to rival Versailles. Alternatively, explore both the Upper Garden and Lower Park of the estate, which unfold with lush greenery, beautiful statues, and the tsar’s mischievous “trick fountains.” This afternoon, return to St. Petersburg and choose to visit the golden-domed St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox church in the city, along with the famed Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood; or discover the riverside Yusupov Palace, where Grigori Rasputin was murdered in 1916.

13 Pushkin/St. Petersburg

Travel outside the city to Pushkin, site of the lavishly-adorned Catherine Palace—the country estate of Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great, which was originally built in 1717. Embark on a guided tour of the estate, including the iconic Amber Room, clad in brilliant panels of amber. Enjoy a traditional Russian lunch at a local restaurant. This evening, take your seat inside the majestic Vladimir Palace and enjoy a glass of sparkling wine before watching a splendid performance of Russian ballet.

14 St. Petersburg

Enjoy a leisurely boat cruise along the city's canals, gliding beneath some of its hundreds of elegant bridges, and gather for a farewell dinner on board.

15 St. Petersburg

Depart this morning.

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