Russia was an once-in-a-lifetime experience and we loved every minute of it! - Beyond Travel
This is just a short note to express our gratitude for the wonderful itinerary that you planned for us in the great journey we had across Russia from Vladivostok to St Petersburg. It was just wonderful! There is very little indeed that we would change about the itinerary.
The only two suggestions we have would be to spend a bit more time at the Voroshilov Battery Museum in Vladivostok. Our guide included a tour of the University on Russky Island. I would not include that into the future. I do note that you did not include this as well. We both think that one night in Vladivostok was sufficient, particularly if arrival is early on day one and the train departure is late on day two. We really enjoyed stopping at Khabarovsk and in particular. Ulan Ude, where we absolutely loved visiting the Old Believers at Targagatai. That was a real treat and we would highly recommend anybody else to do this. Even though the train journey from Khabarovsk to Ulan Ude was about 2 1/2 days, it was fabulous. Just sitting and watching the Russian countryside go by and witnessing all the little villages and at times really beautiful scenery was again an absolute treat.
We actually found that the train really catered very well for us and in each carriage there is an attendant carriage manager who has a variety of food and all of them seem to have a coffee making machine which for me was quite vital. On each of the platforms, it is very easy to get food. There is a little sign in each carriage which gives details of when the train is likely to pull into a station and how long it will remain. If it is only stopping for five minutes you cannot get off but anything longer than that gives sufficient time to purchase food and drinks and stretch legs. Obviously we were travelling in first-class carriages and I could not vouch for what it was like elsewhere. However, if anyone is doing this, we would highly recommend the same as we did namely first-class as it is incredibly comfortable.
Irkutsk was a real treat as was Lake Baikal. We found an absolutely beautiful restaurant in Irkutsk very close to the Hotel Imperia. The visit to the Buryat People was a tour highlight and we would strongly recommend that as well. For the rest we really enjoyed the stops in Novosibirsk although we would probably question the inclusion of the visit to the scientific city of Akademgorodok. This must have been really interesting a decade ago but given the alternative of possibly visiting the dam in this area, we would probably now go for the dam and hydro station. There appears to be some major traffic problem as well as our guide was very anxious that we might miss the train due to traffic jams coming back from the scientific city.
We loved pulling up at Ekaterinburg and visiting the Ural Mountains. That’s quite an experience to stand on the divide between Europe and Asia. We also had a nice time in Kazan where the hotel was brilliantly located right next to the Kremlin.
There is not much to say that you do not already know about Moscow and St Petersburg. We went out to Suzdal and Sergiev. The drive to Suzdal is extremely long and there is actually another historic village much closer to Sergiev which we actually found to be a bit more compelling than Sergiev. If people wanted to save a bit of time, and not have such a long drive in one day, they could drop Sergiev and go to Suzdal and the other village.
Finally Kizhi Island is just magic not to be missed.
So all in all this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we loved every minute of it!
– Ross & Sharon, Queenland