Snowy trails from Moscow to St. Petersburg

Winter road trip in Russia as a part of RFTWS:

10 days
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Snowy trails from Moscow to St. Petersburg

Moscow – Lake Seliger – V. Novgorod - Upper Mandrogi – Medvezhyegorsk - Kizhi Island – Sortavala - Ruskeala Mountain Park – St. Petersburg
Rain Forest Trophy World Series (RFTWS) is a new project by Luis Wee the founder of the legendary RainForest Challenge race. However, RFTWS is NOT a race or sports competition event this time, but exploration, travel and adventures in the most beautiful corners of the world. Drive To Russia and Luis Wee invite everyone to join one of these trips and ride on the snowy roads of Russia.

Duration: 10 days / 9 nights

Driving distance: 2170 km (40% asphalt and 60% off-road)

Types of driving: highway, snow & ice off-road

Type of tour: Self driving tour

Vehicles: UAZ PATRIOT 4X4

Minimum driver age: 21

Group size: from 6 to 25 person

Accommodation: Best hotels on the route. 5* hotels in Moscow and Saint Petersburg

Meals: 3 times a day

Best time: December - February

Day 1. Moscow

Arrival to Moscow. You will be met by a representative of our company holding a note that you have arrived to the “Rain Forest Trophy trip - Russian Winter” and will take you to your hotel. After checking into the hotel, you will have time to relax. Or if the time allows, we suggest you to take a fascinating tour of the capital of the Russian Federation.

Option 1: Walking tour of Moscow city center: Red Square, followed by a short introduction to Moscow metro (1,5-2 hrs). You will see St.Basil’s cathedral (exterior), GUM mall , Kazan church, State History Museum and the Moscow metro (Revolution Square station).

Option 2: Guided tour of the most iconic streets and architecture with a private vehicle (3-3,5 hrs). Highlights: Red Square and St.Basil's Cathedral, Bolshoi Theatre and the Alexander Garden, the State Duma and Russian Govt buildings, Lubyanka Square with KGB HQ, the Russian State Library, Sparrow Hills, Moscow-City business district, Poklonnaya Hill, Victory Park, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Option 3: Moscow River Cruise on the amazing Radisson yacht (2,5 hrs).

In the evening, when all the participants of our Overland trip will come together, we invite you to the Welcome dinner, where you will have the opportunity to meet the team and get a briefing on the trip. This evening you’re in for lots of surprises. Accommodation in a hotel (Meals: - /-/D)

Day 2. From Moscow to Lake Seliger. Distance: 383 km

Breakfast, after which we meet in the hotel lobby and go to the Parking lot, where our cars are waiting for us – ready to go. Car assignments. Short briefing. Checking the radio connection. And we finally hit the road for our Rain Forest Trophy! We are heading North / Northwest to the Tver region. This day is not too difficult since today our task is to feel how the Russian cars behave (some people even say that they UAZ is equal to legendary Land Rover). And the main thing is to feel the pace of the column and learn to communicate. We will have several stops in interesting places along the way. After lunch we will find ourselves at lake Seliger, which actually includes a chain of natural reservoirs formed after the ice age. Hundreds of large and small lakes and Islands surrounded by magnificent coniferous forests create an amazing landscape covered with snow and ice.

The view from your car window will change from peaceful villages hidden between the lakes and the elegant Orthodox churches on the hilltops to the winter wilderness scenery – surely, a novel experience for some. Off-road driving across the hilly terrain and walks along forest trails are definitely in store. We will check into a cozy hotel on the shore of the lake.

In the evenfall, we will all gather for dinner and share our impressions. It is very important for us to know your opinion on the difficulties that you may have encountered today driving a car in a column, and of course you should share your opinion of the first day of travel.

Accommodation in cottages (Meals: B/L/D)

Day 3. From Seliger Lake to Veliky Novgorod. Distance: 320 km

After Breakfast - get ready for our winter adventure. Our goal for the day is Veliky Novgorod, founded in 859, a mighty stronghold of the medieval era.

Before leaving Seliger, we pay a visit to Nilo-Stolbenskaya Pustyn (Nilova Pustyn), located on Stolobny Island. Founded in 1594, it was once one of the largest and wealthiest Russian Orthodox monasteries, and still is one of the most impressive ensembles of Neoclassical architecture in Eastern Europe. After a short walk on the territory of the monastery, we will climb the bell tower and look around from a height. You will see the vast expanses covered with snow right before your eyes.

We continue our drive along the beautiful Valday Upland, admiring the wonderful views and forest roads. One of the day’s highlights is the source of the Volga River – the longest and decidedly the most renowned river in Russia. We make a short stop and take a walk to the source amidst the pure white snow to appreciate the splendid view of the surroundings.

The day will include real adventures - driving on snowy roads is a real winter Safari. Along the way, we will have many overviews of Russian villages with interesting and unique architecture.

Finally, we reach Veliky (Russian for “great”) Novgorod, once a vital participant of the Hanseatic League. We will have a little time to walk around the city and in the evening we will have a real Russian fun. We will participate in a folk show.

Accommodation in a hotel (Meals: B/L/D)

Day 4. From Novgorod to Upper Mandrogi. Distance 345 km

After breakfast we pay a visit to the Novgorod Kremlin nestled along the Volkhov River – the oldest of the extant fortresses in Russia. Then we head on to Upper Mandrogi. It will be a long drive with some interesting stops. We’ll pass Old Ladoga, the oldest inhabited area in the Leningrad Region. According to many chronicles, this was the original capital of Northern Russia of the 800-900s. A fortress dating back to the 1100s, ancient churches, monasteries, barrows and caves make for a significant accumulation of ancient monuments here.

We reach Upper Mandrogi, the most fabulous Russian village on our route, home to dozens of craftsmen who create traditional clothing, pottery, toys and lacework to this day. Hand-forged metal souvenirs, Matryoshka dolls, Christmas decorations, linen, felts – too many to name them all. Some will argue that the most important part is the famous local ‘pirozhki’, the characteristic Russian small pies filled with meat, fish, cabbage or berries. We stay in one of with the whimsical wooden houses painted in a multitude of colours for the night.

But before we go to dinner and to bed, we have some real adventures ahead. Today we will briefly remember that we were children once. We will ride down a high snow slide on snowtubing. And most importantly we will take a tour of the village on horse drawn sleds accompanied by the sound of bells.

Accommodation in cottages (Meals: B/L/D)

Day 5. From Upper Mandrogi to Medvezhyegorsk. Distance: 470 km

Today we head to the northernmost point of our journey, Medvezhyegorsk (yet another fairytale feature, roughly translates as Bear’s Hill). We continue our drive around Lake Onega, the second largest in Europe. About 50 rivers flow into the lake, while only one flows out of it, namely, the Svir – on which Mandrogi actually is located.

This will be a long drive in the midst of the rough northern wilderness. Stop to inhale the frosty air, absorb the silence and serenity of the peaceful landscape In the evening, we check in to a comfortable hotel to spend the night.

Accommodation in a hotel (Meals: B/L/D)

Day 6. Visit to Kizhi Island

After Breakfast, we will drive to the place where the hovercraft will be waiting for us, we will ride on it to the island of Kizhi along the frozen lake. Have you ever skated on thick ice in your life? I'm sure you enjoy it. For those who want extreme sports, we can also offer snowmobiles. Today we are in for real adventures.

Kizhi! Wooden architecture can be found throughout Russia, but Kizhi Island boasts some of the nation's most famous and most intricate pieces. These structures from various times (the oldest one is believed to date back to 1300s), were carefully collected and transported to the island to be preserved and displayed for the public. Masterpieces of church architecture, iconography and household items created in Karelian, Veps and Russian villages over the centuries are all to be found here.

After a fascinating tour of the museum grounds, we will have a picnic with kebabs and baked vegetables. We return to Medvezhyegorsk to spend another great evening and enjoy dinner.

Accommodation in a hotel (Meals: B/L/D)

Day 7. From Medvezhyegorsk to Sortavala. Distance: 380 km

This morning we leave Medvezhyegorsk and head to Sortavala. One of the adventures planned for the day is getting acquainted with the Siberian Huskies. We stop at a fabulous place hidden on a river bank in thick Karelian woods, where the playful energetic dogs are waiting for us. Learn how to harness a sled and experience how amazingly fast the team of these dogs can go. The ride is very exciting for both children and adults, and meeting the Huskies, known to be the kindest dogs in the world, is an absolute delight.

We will have lunch around a fireplace in a traditional Northern chum (tent) and enjoy a local band playing ethnic instruments.

Our day trip finishes in Sortavala, and we spend the night in a hotel on the shore of the small forest Lake.

Accommodation in a hotel (Meals: B/L/D)

Day 8. From Sortavala to St. Petersburg. Distance: 270 km

Ruskeala Nature Reserve – a definitive must-see location we visit after breakfast. The marble extracted in the Ruskeala quarry since the 1600s was widely used for decoration of palaces, churches and even some metro stations in St.Petersburg. The quarry was closed in 1985 and later officially recognized as a cultural heritage site. Operated by a private travel company since 2005, the Ruskeala Mountain Park is a tourist attraction not to miss. Take a walk around the flooded quarry, see the monuments of industrial architecture, enter the mystical tunnels and passages. The winter ice sculpture festival in the canyon is another fairytale spectacle when the canyon and sculptures are lit with a variety of colours. Absolutely recommended for mountain admirers.

Then we will head to the Northern capital of the Russian Federation, the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, First we will wander along the winding road of Ladoga lake and if time and snow conditions allow us, we will try to drive down to the lake shore.

In the evening, we will arrive in St. Petersburg and stay in one of the best hotels in the city. A lovely dinner is waiting for us today. Accommodation in a hotel (Meals: B/L/D)

Day 9. St. Petersburg

This day we will see the most beautiful landmarks of Russia’s Northern Capital. Let’s take a walk along Nevsky Prospekt with our experienced guide sharing amazing information about the mysterious history of the city. Almost each building of the avenue makes you plunge into the past. Let us head to the magnificent buildings of Winter Palace, admire the most spectacular of 218 bridges and impressive St.Isaac’s and Kazan Cathedrals, Zinger Building, and the icing on the cake - Church on the Spilled Blood… The Russian Museum, the Admiralty, the iconic Spit of Vasilyevsky Island, the glorious Peter and Paul Fortress – Saint Petersburg has always something to surprise you!

OPTION: Visit the Hermitage (up to 2 hours). The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg is a Russian Museum complex of world significance, the first buildings of which were laid during the reign of Empress Elizabeth. The foundations of the collection started during the reign of Catherine II. By her order, gorgeous buildings were created to store paintings, sculptures, and decorative and applied arts. Today's complex includes five historical buildings on Palace square, among which the Winter Palace is considered the main one.

Accommodation in a 5* hotel (Meals: B/-/-)

Day 10. Departure

Transfer to the airport. End of the program.

Day 11. Moscow

Day 12. Departure

The cost includes:

  • Rent of UAZ Patriot (2018-2019) specifically designed for driving tours. One vehicle for 3-4 guests
  • Support car with all the necessary equipment
  • Mechanic-instructor
  • English-speaking guide
  • RFTWS representative to lead the way
  • Accommodation: best hotels on the route, 5* hotels in Moscow and Saint Petersburg (list of hotels is sent when booking the program)
  • Meals: 3 times a day, according to the program
  • Route preparation, including off-road part
  • Sightseeing and active programs according to the program
  • Dog and horse sledding, snowmobile riding
  • Winter jackets branded with the RFTWS logo

The cost does not include:

  • Single supplement
  • Early check-in
  • Meals not indicated in the program
  • Additional activities and services
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Personal expenses

Winter road trip in Russia as a part of RFTWS

Endure the notorious Russian frost on a fabulous drive from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. Apart from the thrilling 2200 kilometers of winding roads through the dense woods covered with snow, the program is jam-packed with winter experiences: dog-sledding, horse-sledding and snowmobile rides are just a fraction of what is in store. Make sure to try ice-fishing, tubing down ice slides, snowballs and cross-country skiing. Maybe even attempt a dive in the immensely cold water?

You will take part in a real Safari, that takes place only in winter. We have included the most interesting activities in our Overland Adventure. You will See traditional wooden architecture of the Russian North in Kizhi Island open-air museum and ethnic music shows with songs, dance and local food specialties. Understand how Russian history evolved, moving from the medieval monasteries in Novgorod to the grandeur of the Empire in St. Petersburg. We invite you to test out the Russian-made UAZ Patriot in exactly the challenging conditions for which it was developed. This program is designed specifically for those who have already had multiple experiences traveling with Rain Forest trophy and shares its ideology. All you need to bring is warm clothing and your camera, the rest is thoroughly planned by RFTWS experts together with local team!

Rain Forest Trophy World Series (RFTWS)

Rain Forest Trophy World Series (RFTWS) is a new project by Luis Wee the founder of the legendary RainForest Challenge race. However, RFTWS is NOT a race or sports competition event this time, but exploration, travel and adventures in the most beautiful corners of the world. Drive To Russia and Luis Wee invite everyone to join one of these trips and ride on the snowy roads of Russia

*** Luis J.A.Wee, Founder of RFC (Rainforest Challenge), RFCGS (RFC Global Series); Rainforest Trophy (RFT) RFTWS (Rainforest Trophy World Series).

The RFC was established as a racing event in 1997 in Malaysia. Through the years, it has grown to become the No.3 of World’s Top Five Toughest Offroad Races. The franchising of RFC races took off in 2012 later became RFCGS with affiliated RFC races in more than 27 countries worldwide in Asia, Eurasia, Europe South America.

The RFT was established as an adventure expedition tourism event (no racing involved) in 2017 (Malaysia). By the 2nd year (2018), RFT format expanded globally to become RFTWS with events across Asia, Eurasia, Europe, South America. Now Russia, represented by Drive to Russia Company is also in this list.

Mr Luis J.A.Wee graduated from University of Wales in Cardiff, UK with a B.Sc Economics (Hons) a post-graduate Advanced Diploma in Tourism from Hollings Faculty, UK with credentials in banking, adventure tourism off road racing.

What will the weather be like?

As everyone knows, January is the coldest month of the year in Russia. There is even such a period of natural phenomenon called Epiphany Frosts, it begins on January 19 and lasts a week. This is usually the coldest week of the year and the temperature along our route can reach up to-25-30 degrees Celsius. On Frosty days, the weather is always clear. These are the dates of our trip. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare for the coldest and most extreme conditions. But there are natural anomalies and warm winters. Closer to the tour, we will inform you about the weather in Russia.

What do I have to take with me?

  1. Good mood!
  2. Warm down jacket for extreme temperatures (-25), but it should be convenient to drive the car in it, or take an additional one
  3. Warm pants (ski or snowboard)
  4. Hat and gloves
  5. Several pairs of warm socks
  6. Waterproof, warm shoes

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