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wildlife & nature • 7 days, 6 nights

Searching for Russia’s Northern Lights

Russia
wildlife & nature • 7 days, 6 nights

Searching for Russia’s Northern Lights

Russia
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  • Group Size 12 People Maximum
  • Activity Level
    Easy
  • Travel Style
    Overland Adventure
from $3,830 USD per person
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Trip Overview
Overview

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. 

Highlights
  • Soak in a Russian banya
  • Sleep in a glass-roofed cabin
  • Ride across a frozen lake in a dog sled
  • Search for the Northern Lights
  • Trace the indigenous history of the Far North and learn about Soviet expeditions
  • Spend the night on a cozy Russian sleeper train

Itinerary

Itineraries and daily schedules are subject to change. We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on weather or other local conditions.

Trip Leader

Dmitry Doronin
Dmitry is a guide, traveler, and experienced Aurora-tracker with a good sense of humor and a deep knowledge of Russian history, culture, and food. Although he’s lived in many parts of Russia throughout his life, Dmitry now lives and works in Murmansk.

Additional Info

Pricing
The listed price of the trip is per person based on double occupancy (and one night in a four-person compartment on an overnight train).  
Traveling Solo?

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. 

Overnight Train Accommodation

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.

Arrival & Departure

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. If you'd like to extend your trip by arriving early to St. Petersburg or extending your travels afterwards in St. Petersburg, Moscow, or elsewhere, we’d be more than happy to provide a recommendation for extended travel services in Russia.

Activity Level

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. 

Included
  • Accommodation throughout the trip in a comfortable boutique hotel, glass-roofed cabins, a chalet, and a cozy compartment on a sleeper train.
  • All meals described in the itinerary.
  • Transportation throughout the trip, including airport transfers. Travel will be by train and by private minivan. 
  • Experienced local guides to accompany you for the duration of the trip, as well as special guests throughout.
  • Admission to all proposed activities, locations, and events.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura travelers, excited to explore all that Arctic Russia has to offer!
  • 24/7 emergency assistance through Global Rescue.
  • Invitation letter for your visa, if applicable.
Excluded
  • Transportation to Saint Petersburg and return from Murmansk.
  • Domestic flight from Murmansk to your connecting international flight.
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including most alcoholic beverages.
  • Applying for a Russian visa, if applicable.
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Trip FAQ

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.

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