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To learn more:Traveling with Atlas Obscura amid COVID-19 How We’re Adapting Our Trips Destination Requirements (via Embassy Pages)
In the snow-dusted forests of northern Russia, the night sky routinely transforms into a canvas for neon green-and-pink bands of light hovering just above the treetops. Widely known as the Northern Lights, this display of light from sun-borne particles has captivated people for centuries—and we’re journeying out to one of the best places in the world to watch it. Beginning in Saint Petersburg, we’ll board an overnight train to Murmansk, the capital of the Arctic, where we’ll learn about life on the Kola Peninsula. We’ll mount snowmobiles, visit frozen waterfalls, sleep in glass-roofed cabins, and delve into the Soviet history of Arctic exploration—learning from local experts about this stunning northern corner of the world. We’ll traverse tundra and taiga, learn about reindeer herding from a Saami community, and soak in a traditional Russian banya. The highlight of this trip, however, comes each night after sundown, when we’ll cast our gaze to the sky in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the aurora's otherworldly glow.
You’re in good company. Solo travelers typically make up about half of our small groups. With curiosity at the core of our experiences, there’s a natural camaraderie that develops over the course of a trip. For most of the trip, we have two options for you:
(1) Shared Room (subject to the latest Covid-19 guidelines): You’ll be matched with another solo traveler of the same gender.
(2) Private room: Have your own room, subject to availability, for a supplemental cost of $580 (excluding the overnight train). After booking your trip, please request a private room when you fill out your traveler information form and we’ll add the option to your booking and final balance.
Our group will spend one night on a sleeper train en route from Saint Petersburg to Murmansk. The journey duration is 24 hours. One ticket for a bed in a second-class compartment is included in the cost of the trip. Second-class accommodations on Russian trains include a bed in a four-person compartment (two sets of bunk beds).
A four-berth compartment can be reserved exclusively, subject to availability, at an additional cost of $125 per person if shared with your travel companion, or $290 for a private compartment.
The train is comfortable and most travelers sleep well. Each compartment has heating, electrical outlets, and there is Wi-Fi onboard. There are toilets in each car, but please be advised there are no showers aboard the train. One of the most exciting aspects of overnight trains is that they can be quite social; you'll have the opportunity to meet locals and get to know your fellow travelers. In the restaurant car, you'll likely encounter plenty of friendly Russians who will be happy to join you for a meal, drink, or chat.
Our trip begins on Day 1 with a private transfer upon arrival at the St. Petersburg airport to bring you to our hotel. We'll meet up as a group in the hotel lobby at 5:30 p.m. to walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner. We recommend you arrive in Saint Petersburg at 2 p.m. on Day 1 so that you can settle in at the hotel and meet our guide and group in time for dinner. Our trip concludes at the Murmansk airport in the morning on Day 7. If leaving directly after our trip, we recommend departing any time that day.
This itinerary does not include much time in St. Petersburg, nor does it include visits to many of the famous sites, museums, and landmarks in the city.
Travelers should feel comfortable walking two to four miles over the course of each day, spending time in nature, remaining on their feet for long periods of time, walking on uneven terrain, and (for the overnight train) climbing onto the upper level of a bunk bed. You should be prepared to spend some time in the cold, in appropriate attire, though you'll always have the option to stay in the minivan.
Northern Russia is known to have warm, dry summers and cold, dry winters, with temperatures sometimes dipping below -20°F. From November to March, temperatures typically range from 8°F to 35°F.
In November, daylight is short and generally lasts from about 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Most dietary restrictions can be accommodated with advance notice. If you have a severe allergy, please contact us to find out if this is the right trip for you.
Visa requirements for Russia vary depending on traveler citizenship. Please check requirements for travel to Russia and any countries passed through in transit. U.S. passport holders do require a visa, and we will provide supporting documentation for the application process. A passport is required for international travel. We recommend your passport expire at least six months after your return home. Please note that the e-visas recently implemented by the Russian government for the region of Saint Petersburg can't be used for this trip, as we'll be leaving the city and visiting the Murmansk region. We recommend submitting visa applications well in advance of departure as it can take several weeks for processing.
To start the Visa process you will need a Letter of Invitation. When booking this trip we will ask that you send us a photocopy of your passport right away so that we can create the Letter of Invitation.
Our private banya experience will include all travelers who wish to participate. Though most people opt to wear only a towel, you’re welcome to wear a bathing suit if you’d like.
By participating in this trip, you'll help bring visibility and tourism dollars to sites, individuals, and communities often excluded from traditional tourism—such as the Murmansk region of northern Russia, long home to the Saami people. You can increase your impact by sharing stories from your journey with friends, family, and your community back at home, and, if you wish, by purchasing local goods during the trip.