Russia has launched its first train service from St Petersburg through remote Arctic regions to Norway.
The service made its debut journey last week with 91 passengers on board. German tour operator Lernidee Trains & Cruises are the company behind the venture, which they launched as no other operator were offering journeys through the Russian Arctic. The train is called “Zarengold” (“The Tsars gold” in German) and has two restaurant cars as well as sleeping cabins in three different classes.
Tours officially start in Russia’s fascinating capital Moscow, where passengers can take in sights like the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral; then an express train takes you to the beautiful imperial capital St Petersburg for a few days’ exploration before the boarding the Zarengold north to the city of Petrozavodsk. Here passengers can visit the local star attraction of Kizhi Island, home to Russia’s iconic wooden Transfiguration Church. The last stop before the Arctic is Kem, from where passengers get a ferry to the Solovetsky Islands, the site of a Unesco-listed monastery.
The next stop is the world’s largest Arctic city, Murmansk, an industrial but lively place surrounded by stunning scenery. The following morning passengers get off the train and continue by bus to Kirkenes over the border in Norway before flying to the waterfront Norwegian capital Oslo the next day.
The 11-day tours cost from €3550 (US$4017) per person and include all accommodation, train tickets, internal flights, meals and excursions.
Passengers on the inaugural service came from seven countries, including the USA, Germany, Norway and Russia. Lernidee hope to run the service regularly: there are two trains currently scheduled for next year and four in the works for 2021. They take place in summer to make the most of the Arctic’s famous Midnight Sun and avoid harsh winter weather conditions.