Arctic Rail Explorer – Quest for Northern Lights

Travel by train to the Arctic Circle for a rendezvous with Aurora Borealis on your very own version of the Polar Express
Renowned for its theatrical landscapes and dramatic climate, the Arctic Circle is one of the world’s most mystifying places to explore.

Experience a train journey unlike any other. An adventure on rails to the top of the world, the lands above the Arctic Circle where the mythical Aurora Borealis performs her breathtaking celestial dance in the velvet black Polar night sky. This compelling 12-day Northern Lights Train Tour showcases the unique contrast between two of Russia’s most majestic cities and the isolated yet charming communities deep within the Russian and Norwegian Arctic Circle. Commencing in St. Petersburg, we visit some of the city’s most prominent historical and cultural sites, before embarking on this remarkable Arctic railway adventure in search of the elusive Aurora Borealis.

Arctic Rail Explorer Tour Highlights:

  • Admire the architectural splendour of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities on a guided two-day tour of St Petersburg that includes St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Hermitage, as well as a trip to Pushkin to visit the extravagant Catherine Palace
  • In the extreme north of Norway, above the Arctic Circle lies Kirkenes, a tiny frontier town near the Russian border. Ride a snowmobile across the frozen fjords outside town and try your hand at fishing for the Arctic’s most prized seafood, the king crab
  • Hunt for the Northern Lights: We’ll spend a total of five nights above the Arctic Circle, during which time you’ll have an excellent chance of witnessing the Aurora Borealis. Our search will take place on foot and by road as we scope out prime viewing sites in both the Norway and Murmansk in the Russian Arctic
  • Back in Russia, we’ll disembark in the city of Petrozavodsk and travel by hovercraft to visit Kizhi Island on Lake Onega, an open-air museum home to the world’s finest collection of 17th and 18th-century Russian timber architecture
  • Visit two of the most beautiful cities on Russia’s historical Golden Ring circuit. Vladimir, the former medieval Russian capital and Suzdal, one of Russia’s most perfectly preserved walled cities, home to quiet cobblestone streets and picturesque wooden houses
  • Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of one of the world’s biggest metropolises on a guided exploration of Moscow's must-see attractions, including the Red Square, the Kremlin and Armoury Museum, St Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s Tomb

Embark on your very own Polar Express adventure on this enchanting train journey from Russia to the Arctic Circle for a rendezvous with Aurora Borealis. Also known as the Northern Lights, this ethereal dance of radiant colours is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful cosmic phenomena visible from earth.

Imagine indulging in caviar and champagne aboard a deluxe private train, barrelling through Russia, crossing the border into far-flung northern Norway and then making your way into the Russian Arctic territories against a backdrop of snow blanketed plains, frozen fjords and pine forests in their crystalline winter dress.

This compelling 12-day Northern Lights train tour offers a unique contrast between two of Russia’s most majestic cities and the remote, yet charming communities deep within the Russian and Norwegian Arctic Circle. Commencing in St. Petersburg, we visit some of the city’s most prominent historical and cultural sites on this railway journey before embarking on this remarkable arctic adventure onboard the Golden Eagle.

Our quest to see the Aurora Borealis begins in the small mining town of Kirkenes in Norway, one of the greatest vantage points for seeing this incredible natural phenomenon. This two-night highlight combines our evening searches for Aurora with a fantastic daytime activity program. As our adventure continues on this Northern Lights Russia tour, we experience the culture and lifestyle of those living in the harsh climates of the Russian Arctic Circle. Finally, we visit some of Russia’s oldest and most picturesque rural cities along the legendary Golden Ring circuit as we travel onwards to our final destination, Moscow.

On this Arctic adventure, we’ll be travelling on our privately chartered luxury train, the Golden Eagle. Look forward to fine dining, elegant surroundings and first-class service, with a personal cabin attendant available at all times to cater to your every need.

12 days
Make an enquiry Detailed itinerary




Trip style

St Petersburg / Moscow

Moscow / St Petersburg

5* Golden Eagle train

Rail journey


Action rating

Group size

Type of tour

12 days / 11 nights



Guaranteed Departures

Itinerary View map

Day 1:Welcome to Russia

Flight arrivals into Moscow and transfer to the luxurious Four Seasons Moscow situated on Red Square. This evening you are invited to a champagne drinks reception with the opportunity to meet your fellow travellers before our exclusive Welcome Dinner. Specially selected international wines are included with dinner, as with all meals during the tour.

At the start of your adventure why not extend your stay in Moscow with pre-tour nights to explore more of the city at your leisure and enjoy the lively atmosphere of the Christmas markets or go ice skating on one of the outdoor rinks in the central squares?

Day 2:Moscow

Today, we visit Red Square, an iconic symbol of Russia’s former military and political might with its eclectic mix of fascinating architecture, such as the ornate St Basil’s Cathedral’s magnificent onion-domed spires, the beautiful façade of the world famous GUM Department store constructed in Tsarist times, and the sombre and evocative site of Lenin’s tomb.

We’ll also take a tour of the opulent and unique stations of the Moscow metro - showpieces of Socialist art furnished with statues, frescoes and mosaics, unsurpassed anywhere in the world.

Day 3:Vladimir and Suzdal

The historic city of Vladimir was founded in 990 and is one of Russia’s oldest communities. With an architectural wealth, it has been decreed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our tour takes in Uspensky Cathedral, built between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. It is considered one of the most important and beautiful of Russian cathedrals, where many of the prominent Russian Tsars were crowned. From Vladimir we travel to Suzdal, one of Russia’s most perfectly preserved walled cities dating back to 1024, located 35 kilometres from Vladimir. Here we visit the atmospheric St Euthymius Monastery to witness an enchanting choral performance by the resident monks. No Russian winter experience would be complete without the horse-drawn sleigh ride through this stunning location.

We have a unique opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve on board at our signature Gala Caviar Dinner on board the Golden Eagle in the beautifully designed restaurant car, specially decorated tonight for our New Year’s Eve Party. Enjoy complimentary champagne, international wines and live musical entertainment for a New Year’s Eve you won’t forget as we begin our rail journey northwards to the Arctic Circle.

Day 4:Crossing Arctic Circle

Today we have the opportunity to have a relaxed start to New Year's Day with a sumptuous breakfast and to unwind after our evening of celebration. We can reflect on the many sights we are about to experience on our rail journey, maybe listen to a talk or simply relax and enjoy the ever-changing winter landscape outside our window as we cross into the Arctic Circle on our quest to see the Northern Lights.

Day 5:Murmansk

We will continue to Murmansk, a city halfway between Moscow and the North Pole, and 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. As the main city of the Kola Peninsula, it started as a tiny settlement and Arctic trading post. In 1916, under pressure from the British to establish a support port, Murmansk was founded. Thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream, the port is ice-free year-round. Homeport of Russia’s nuclear-powered icebreakers we’ll visit the Nuclear Icebreaker Museum Ship.

Day 6:Kirkenes

This morning we leave our train with an overnight bag at the Russian border station of Nikel and we transfer by bus (90 minutes drive) across the Russian/Norwegian border to Kirkenes for a two night stay at the Thon Hotel (or similar). We will visit the magical Snow Hotel just 15 km outside Kirkenes. We’ll have a welcome drink in the snow bar and a tour of the Snow Hotel with its ice sculptures and snow paintings by local and international artists. After a traditional meal including a reindeer hot dog in the snow hotel’s warm lodge restaurant we’ll take an evening bus tour in search of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). If the sky is clear our guest astronomer will be on hand to advise us during star-gazing and will bring the night sky to life with their extensive knowledge.

Optional Activities in Kirkenes: You may like to book some additional optional activities such as a Snow Shoe Walking Tour (2 hours), go in search of the Northern Lights by snowmobile (3 hours) or take a magical excursion by husky dog sledge (2 hours). Each sledge is pulled by a team of eight dogs and can seat two people and a driver called a dog musher. These activities have limited places and should be requested at the time of booking the tour - please contact us for prices.

For a really memorable experience why not choose the ‘coolest’ hotel check-in around and stay overnight at the Snow Hotel? Upgrades to the snow hotel are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. The snow hotel stays at a constant minus five degrees centigrade and thermal sleeping bags are provided. Showers, toilets and a Scandinavian sauna are provided in a building next to the snow hotel.

Day 7:Kirkenes

Today a unique winter experience awaits on our King Crab Fishing adventure. The excursion begins with a snowmobile drawn sleigh across the frozen fjords. Warm clothing and a helmet is provided. Through a hole in the ice you will be shown by your guide a catch of the magnificent Arctic King Crab (which can span two metres and weigh up to 15kgs). We then continue by sleigh to the nearby Fisherman’s Lodge, where it is hereby a roaring log fire that your fresh King Crab meal awaits.

Also included during your stay in Kirkenes is a one-hour husky dog sledge ride and a visit to the resident reindeers.

Day 8:Nikel Murmansk

Today we cross the border back into Russia and re-join our train which is waiting for us in Nikel Murmansk.

We’ll spend the afternoon on board travelling through Arctic Russia. Relax and enjoy the ever-changing winter landscape outside your window or chat to fellow passengers. Afternoon tea with freshly baked Russian cookies will be served in our stylish Bar Lounge Car.

Day 9:Petrozavodsk

Petrozavodsk stretches along the western shore of Lake Onega - the second largest lake in Europe. It is one of the major cultural and industrial centres of the North-West of Russia and is the capital of the Republic of Karelia.

We take a city tour and then celebrate Sochelnik (Russian Christmas Eve) with a Karelian Folk Performance and continue our festivities with a traditional Russian Christmas Eve meal, known as the Holy Supper. As always a generous allowance of international wine and drinks are included with our dinner as we celebrate together.

Day 10:St Petersburg

Scheduled for a morning arrival, our final stop is St Petersburg which is a stunning city, crowded with splendid palaces, impressive historical monuments, wide boulevards, beautiful bridges and is renowned as the Ballet Capital of the World.

Today will see Russians celebrate their Christmas Day and the city will be beautifully decorated for Rozhdestvo (Russian Christmas). Included in our time spent in St Petersburg is two nights in the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel (or similar).

Make one of your evenings in St Petersburg extra special by purchasing a ticket for a ballet or opera performance at one of the world-renowned St Petersburg theatres (subject to schedule and availability and pre-booked at least six weeks prior to departure).

Day 11:St Petersburg

During our time spent in St Petersburg we have a guided tour of Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin and the world-famous Hermitage Museum, the former Winter Palace of the Tsars which houses the royal art collection of over three million works. It is one of the world’s largest and most impressive art museums.

There is also a city tour of St Petersburg featuring the key sights including St Isaac's Cathedral and Nevsky Prospect.

Tonight we enjoy a Farewell Dinner as we reflect on the experiences we have enjoyed over the last 11 days.

Day 12:Farewell

After breakfast in the hotel our tour to Arctic Circle finally comes to a close. Lunch, if required, would be by your own arrangement.

Flights should be booked to depart after 3pm or why not extend your stay in St Petersburg to explore more of the city at your leisure, go ice skating on the open air ice rink or enjoy the continuing Russian Christmas celebrations?



Luxurious 5* hotels

Accommodation on board comfortable Golden Eagle train


Full board, starting with dinner on the first day and ending with breakfast on the last day

Welcome and farewell dinners


Arrival and departure transfers, all transportation according to the itinerary with professional drivers


English speaking tour leader throughout the tour

24 hour service attendant and English speaking doctor services

Porter services at all railway stations

Activities and sights

Guided enriching tours with experienced English speaking guides

Wide choice of optional off-train tours


All gratuities

Russian visa support documents

*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Not included

Flights, travel insurance, visa, optional excursions, individual transfers

Dates & Prices

DatesAvailabilityPriceSingle sup. 
2 Feb 2019 - 13 Feb 2019 (SPB to M)
Guaranteed Departures
Sold out US $12,595 US $5,200
29 Dec 2019 - 9 Jan 2020 (M to SPB)
Guaranteed Departures
Limited spaces US $12,595 US $5,200 Reserve
2 Feb 2020 - 13 Feb 2020 (SPB to M)
Guaranteed Departures
Available US $TBA TBA Reserve
29 Dec 2020 - 9 Jan 2021 (M to SPB)
Guaranteed Departures
Available US $TBA TBA Reserve
12 days
St Petersburg / Moscow to Moscow / St Petersburg
Make an enquiry Detailed itinerary
12 days
Make an enquiry Detailed itinerary
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