16 days, Monday, August 5, to Tuesday, August 20, 2019
A thorough overland exploration of a fascinating part of Europe, featuring numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the old towns of Vilnius, Klaipeda, Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg, as well as wonderful coastal and inland scenery. The tour will be escorted by historian Jacques Pauwels, PhD, author of ‘Beneath the Dust of Time: A History of the Names of Peoples and Places’ (London, 2009), ‘The Myth of the Good War’ (new edition, Toronto, 2015), and The Great Class War 1914-1918 (Toronto, 2016), who will lecture on the intriguing and often tragic history of the region.
Late evening departure from Toronto for Frankfurt with Air Canada. Dinner and a light breakfast will be served on board.
Late morning arrival in Frankfurt, and connecting flight to Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. Transfer to the centrally located 4-star/first-class Hotel Vilnia (https://hotelvilnia.lt) and free time to settle in. In late afternoon, leisurely walking tour of the old town, followed by a welcome drink and dinner.
Morning city tour of the Lithuanian capital’s outlying areas and its historical city centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site described as “an impressive complex of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and classical buildings” (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/541). Afternoon free to shop and explore on your own. No group dinner this evening.
Departure after breakfast. A short drive takes us to Kaunas, a quaint old university town and former capital of the country, situated on the banks of the Nemunas (Memel) River. Short walking tour of the old town and free time for lunch. In the afternoon we motor along a fine expressway to the historically important town of Klaipeda(German: Memel), strategically situated between the Baltic and the Curonian Lagoon, near the mouth of the Nemunas River, and very close to the long Curonian Spit. Dinnerand overnight in the centrally-located first-class Hotel National (https://nationalhotel.lt/en).
Morning walking tour of Klaipeda, with sights such as Theater Square, the old sailing ship Meridianas, and the picturesque old town with its ancient half-timbered houses. Rest of the day free to shop and/or explore the town on your own; you may want to visit the Lithuanian Sea Museum, located in a 19th-century fort.
Departing Klaipeda, we motor to the town of Siauliai to visit the “Hill of Crosses,” the Lithuanian national centre of pilgrimage. On into Latvia, and late afternoon arrival in the country’s capital, Riga, situated on a vast inlet of the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Riga. Dinnerand overnight in the first-class Hotel Radisson Blu Elizabete (https://www.radissonblu.com/en/elizabetehotel-riga).
Morning sightseeing tour of Riga’s old town, once an important member of the Hanseatic League, with its medieval castle, the cathedral and many other churches, historical monuments, and numerous attractive old houses, especially in the Art Nouveau style. Old Riga has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/852). Afternoon free. No group dinner this evening.
Today we follow the coastal road north and cross into Estonia. Via the seaside resort, spa, and small seaport of Pärnu,we reach the country’s capital, Tallinn,situated on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. Arrival in late afternoon, dinnerand overnight in the centrally-locate Hotel National 4-star Radisson Blu Hotel Olümpia (www.radissonblu.com/olumpiahotel-tallinn).
Morning sightseeing in old Tallinn, a maze of cobblestone streets and alleys flanked by medieval houses and churches, still surrounded by its ancient city walls. The main sights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/822) are the Russian-Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the historic St Mary's Cathedral, originally Catholic but Lutheran since 1561, lively Raekoja Plats in the heart of the old town, City Hall, Estonia's pink Parliament building, and Raekoda Street with its trendy shops. Afternoon free to explore on your own, shop, visit museums, etc. No group dinner this evening.
After breakfast, transfer to the harbor in time for the departure of the ferry to Helsinki, situated just across the Gulf of Finland. The crossing takes about two hours. Arrival in Helsinki, and panoramic city tour, with as highlights the Lutheran Cathedral, the unofficial symbol of the city, the modern and very unusual Church in the Rock, the onion-domed Russian Uspenski Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe, and the Senate and Railway Station squares with their imposing buildings. Dinnerand overnight in the centrally-located four-star Hotel Presidentti (https://www.sokoshotels.fi/en/helsinki/sokos-hotel-presidentti).
Free time to enjoy Helsinki. You may want to visit one or more of the city’s fine museums. Late afternoon transfer to the harbor and 7PM departure on the overnight ferry service of the St. Peter Line to St. Petersburg, Russia (https://stpeterline.com). Accommodation in comfortable, fully equipped cabins. Dinner will be served on board.
PLEASE NOTE: A RUSSIAN VISA IS NOT REQUIRED! UPON ARRIVAL IN ST. PETERSBURG YOU WILL RECEIVE A 3-DAY TOURIST PERMIT UPON PRESENTATION OF YOUR PASSPORT AND A COMPLETED ARRRIVAL/DEPARTURE FORM.
Breakfast will be served on board prior to our 9AM arrival in St. Petersburg. Arrival and full-day panoramic sightseeing tour of this wonderful city, with sights such as Peter and Paul Fortress,Alexander Nevskiy Monastery, Nevskiy Prospekt, the mighty Neva River’s scenic banks and bridges, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, Kazan Cathedral, Saint Isaac's Cathedral, the Narva Triumphal Arch, and the Rostral Columns, a symbol of the city.
Accommodation in the four-star Hotel Sokos Olympia Garden, located in the historical city centre (https://www.sokoshotels.fi/en/st-petersburg/sokos-hotel-olympia-garden). Dinner in the hotel or in a nearby restaurant.
After breakfast, guided visit to the city’s prime attraction, the world-famous Hermitage Museum, located in the Winter Palace, with masterpieces by Rembrandt, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rubens, and many more. Rest of the day free to explore the city on your own. We recommend an optional boat tour on the scenic canals of this “Venice of the North,” and this evening an optional concert or ballet performance may be available.
Day at leisure. Optional excursions will be available to the palace and gardens of Peterhof, the “Russian Versailles”, named after czar Peter the Great, and/or Pushkin, a.k.a. Tsarskoye Selo, the sumptuous residence of czarina Catherine I, featuring the legendary Amber Room. Late afternoon transfer to the harbour in time for the 6PM departure of the ferry to Helsinki.Accommodation as on the way over from Helsinki, and dinner on board!
Arrival in Helsinki at 7AM. Breakfast, followed by a visit to Helsinki’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, Suomenlinna Fortress, a.k.a. the "Gibraltar of the North" (https://www.suomenlinna.fi/en). Around noon, we check into the Sokos Hotel Presidentti again, and the afternoon is at leisure. This evening, final group dinner in the hotel or in a typical restaurant.
Early morning transfer to the airport and return flight to Toronto, via Frankfurt.
- Flights from Toronto to Vilnius and return from Helsinki (via Frankfurt) with Air Canada and Lufthansa, including all airport taxes/security fees/fuel surcharges; - Overland transportation via private coach; - Ferry services Tallinn/Helsinki and Helsinki/St. Petersburg/Helsinki; - Accommodation based on double occupancy in first-class/4-star hotels and comfortable fully equipped cabins on the ferry between Helsinki and St. Petersburg - the single room supplement is $1,245; - Daily breakfast and a total of nine dinners; - All visits and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments as shown in the itinerary; - Gratuities for the coach driver and local guides.
- All expenses of a personal nature; - Travel Insurance: please call our office for rates.
March 05 - 14, 2020
Land only: $3,345.
March 31 - April 04, 2020
$1,575 CAD taxes included based on double occupancy
April 14 - 27, 2020
$4,895 from Toronto, including air, based on double occupancy