Explore the Gulf of Finland & the Baltic Triangle with Professor Rob Smurr
The Baltic Sea serves as an important cultural intersection between Scandanavia and Eastern Europe, brimming with old conifer forests, rushing river valleys, and historic port cities. There’s no better person to accompany you through Finland, Estonia, and Russia than MTS Senior Guide and Professor of Russian & Environmental History than Rob Smurr! Not only is he a wealth of information, but MTS is also the first North American travel company to visit this under-the-radar area. Four days of easy-to-moderate hiking and nine days of fun and fascinating city tours offer an action-packed exploration—the perfect tour for history buffs who enjoy walking without some of the more strenuous aspects of hiking. Discover five cities: Helsinki, St. Petersberg, Petrozavodsk, Narva, and Tallinn. Traverse three national parks—Oulanka and Rissiturnturi National Parks in Finland, with their ancient spruce forests, rocky gorges, rushing rapids, and hanging bogs—and Laheema National Park in Estonia, where you’ll stroll through bogs and along forest trails. Get a guided visit through the world-famous Hermitage Museum, buy traditional handicrafts on the island of Kizhi, and eat your heart out in Peterhof Palace, a summer residence of the tsars!
4 Days of easy-moderate hiking on uneven terrain; 9 Days of easy cultural and city tours; and 1 high-speed boat ride, and 2 high-speed train rides.
- Explore with MTS, the only North American adventure travel company to visit this fabulous, under-the-radar destination
- Discover the nature, history, and cultures of the three countries on the Baltic Sea with Senior MTS Guide and Evergreen Professor Rob Smurr
- Traverse three spectacular national parks—Oulanka National Park (Finland), Riisitunturi National Park (Finland), and Lahemaa National Park (Estonia)
- Visit the open-air museum of Kizhi Island with its stunning architecture and fascinating history
- Discover five cities: Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, Narva and Tallinn!
Duration: 14 days Start Location: Helsinki, Finland End Location: Helsinki, FinlandDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : August 7 ~ Arrive in Helsinki, Finland
Please meet the group in the hotel lobby. This afternoon, we'll enjoy a bus-supported walking tour of Helsinki (4 hours). Tonight we'll either dine at the hotel or at a restaurant nearby.
Day 2 : August 8 ~ Oulanka National Park
Today, we'll transfer from the hotel back to the Helsinki airport to catch our flight to Rovaniemi (departing Helsinki at 12:05pm, and arriving in Rovaniemi at 1:50pm). Upon arrival, we'll transfer to our hotel in Oulanka National Park, where we'll enjoy lunch. This afternoon, we'll take a short walk around the inn to absorb some of the natural surroundings. Dinner tonight will also be at the inn.
Day 3 : August 9 ~ Hike in Riisitunturin National Park
We'll kick off our walk with a 45-minute transfer to the starting point of our hike in Riisitunturin National Park. Riisitunturi National Park represents the fell and hill landscape of the Koillismaa district at its best. The most valuable features of Riisitunturi Fell are the colorful hanging bogs on the slopes, the breathtaking scenery over the Lakes Kitkajärvet, and the forest landscape of Posio. Riisitunturi National Park is a peaceful setting. Both shorter and longer hiking options are available.
After enjoying a picnic lunch in the park, we'll continue hiking through hilly landscapes of bogs and forests and past sparkling lakes to our transfer vehicle, which returns us to the Oulanka Wilderness Inn. Dinner tonight is at the inn.
Day 4 : August 10 ~ Hike in Oulanka National Park
Today we'll enjoy another spectacular hike in Oulanka National Park, Finland’s largest and most visited protected wilderness. Here, we’ll enjoy some of Finland's best-loved scenery walking through rugged rocky forests alongside the rushing rapids and broad meanders of the mighty rivers Oulankajoki and Kitkajoki. Oulanka is on the southernmost fringes of Finnish Lapland, and is a veritable pilgrimage for hikers from near and far. Exciting forest trails lead to hanging bridges that cross spectacular rocky gorges and raging rapids. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch in the park, then continue our hike back to our transfer vehicle. We'll then transfer to the hotel.
Day 5 : August 11 ~ Return to Helsinki - Train Ride to St. Petersburg
We'll have a 3-hour transfer back to Rovaniemi where we'll catch our 1:50pm flight back to Helsinki, arriving at 3:10pm. After a lunch break, we'll go to the rail station and catch the high-speed train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg (departing at 7:00pm, and arriving in St. Petersburg at 11:30pm). (Dinner is on the train this evening.) Upon arrival in St. Petersburg, we'll transfer to our hotel for a well deserved rest.
Day 6 : August 12 ~ St. Petersburg
We'll begin the day with a three-hour guided tour of the city, including a bus tour of the city's main sites: St. Isaac's Cathedral (not entering Cathedral) & Square, Palace Square, and the monument to Peter-the-Great. Our bus tour will continue along Nevsky prospect as the guide tells about the historical buildings there. The tour offers a great historical background of one of Russia's most iconic cities.
After lunch, we'll visit the Peter-and-Paul Fortress. This iconic fortress, first built by Peter the Great in 1703, never had to serve its real purpose to stand against attacking Swedes, but it did serve as political prison for some of the former Soviet Union's political prisoners. Most importantly, it is home to the Peter-and-Paul Cathedral, the famous burial place of all Russia's emperors and empresses, from Peter the Great to Alexander II. Following our visit, we'll go to tour of the world-famous Hermitage Museum, the former home of five of Russia's tsars and the current home of the country's most extensive art collection with over three million pieces of art and artifacts! Dinner tonight will be in one of the restaurants in the city.
Day 7 : August 13 ~ Petrozavodsk - Staraya Ladoga
Today, we'll drive to Petrozavodsk for a tour of Staraya Ladoga. Staraya Ladoga (Old Ladoga) was founded in 753. Until 950, it was one of the most important trading ports of Eastern Europe. Merchant vessels sailed from the Baltic Sea through Ladoga to Novgorod and then to Constantinople or the Caspian Sea. It was founded by Vikings, Finns, and Slavs. We will visit the old town, the 9th-century fortress, Viking burial mounds, and, weather permitting, St. George’s Church filled with fantastic frescoes from 1160’s.
Petrozavodsk is another city established by Peter the Great (also in 1703) on the very shores of the huge and magnificent Lake Onega from which Alexander Pushkin derived the name for Evgeny Onegin, one of Russia’s most famous literary works. We'll spend tonight at the hotel in the center of Petrozavodsk and enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Day 8 : August 14 ~ Island of Kizhi - Return to St. Petersburg
After breakfast, we’ll transfer to the boat station in time for our 8:45am boat trip to Kizhi.
Once on Kizhi, we’ll see the most astonishing and phantasmagorical wooden structure on planet Earth: the 125’ tall 22 domed Church of the Transfiguration, built in 1714 without a single nail! It is centered on the island of Kizhi, located in Lake Onego, 43 miles from Petrozavodsk. The entire island is an “open air museum” that includes nearly 90 monuments of Karelian wooden architecture. We will also visit traditional peasant homesteads and watch their residents working with traditional crafts.
At 2:15pm, we’ll return to Petrozavodsk--again by boat. Upon arrival in Petrozavodsk, we’ll take a short stroll through the city center, and then have lunch at a restaurant in town. We’ll then have time to explore Petrozavodsk on our own. Dinner tonight is in a restaurant in the center of the town, near the hotel.
Our hotel rooms are available to us until we depart for the train station after dinner this evening. We will have time to clean up and prepare for our overnight train ride and a full day of activities tomorrow. We will not have access to private guestrooms again until tomorrow evening. Later in the evening, we’ll transfer to the railway station in time to catch the 10:50pm overnight train to St. Petersburg.
Day 9 : August 15 ~ Peterhof Palace
Our train will arrive in St. Petersburg at 7:07am. We’ll then transfer to our hotel, where we’ll enjoy an 8:00 am breakfast. We will not be able to check in to our rooms yet, but we can leave our luggage in the luggage room.
At 9:00am, we’ll depart by bus on an excursion to Peterhof, where we will enjoy a 1-hour tour of the magnificent Peterhof Park, followed by a 40-minute walking tour of the Peterhof Palace. The Peterhof Parks are very beautiful and known for their outstanding landscape and beautiful fountains. This is one of the summer residences of Russian Tzars. The Great Palace is also very interesting, as it displays the typical interiors of the time. We’ll have lunch in Peterhof then return to our hotel in St. Petersburg. Dinner will be one of the local restaurants
Day 10 : August 16 ~ Lahemaa National Park - Narva, Estonia - Sillamäe
From St. Petersburg, we'll ride for a 200-mile drive to Lahemaa National Park, which should take roughly four hours, plus border-crossing time. Once there, we’ll have lunch at the Narva Fortress and then explore Narva. Narva is Estonia’s third largest city, home to the oldest fortifications in all of Estonia (c. 1000 B.C.), and shares a border with Russia. It has massive 15th-century fortresses that are found on both sides of the Narva River, as the river is the natural border between Russia and Estonia.
After our visit to Narva, we’ll have a short visit to the coastal city of Sillamäe. Sillamäe is a former “secret city” from the Cold War era in which Moscow ordered the mining and processing of uranium. Time permitting, we'll also stop to see Vallaste and Purtse on our way to our hotel in Lahemaa National Park. Dinner will be at our hotel tonight.
Day 11 : August 17 ~ Hike in Lahemaa National Park
We’ll start with a 15-minute transfer to the starting point of the hike in Lahemaa National Park. Today’s morning hike will take us along a boardwalk, crossing 3 – 4 miles of bogs. After a picnic lunch, we’ll hike through rolling forest trails, passing by a few small villages and homesteads as we head toward Altja, a fishing village on the Gulf of Finland. Dinner tonight is at the lovely restaurant in the Vihula Manor, where we will stay this evening.
Day 12 : August 18 ~ Hike Along the Gulf of Finland - Tallinn
We’ll start with a 15-minute transfer to the starting point of the hike. We’ll enjoy a 4.5-mile hike to a few sacred stones (also known as enormous glacial erratic boulders), such as Jaani-Toomi Kivi and Majakivi, and then to the North Star monument that honors the Estonian-Finnish brotherhood-in-arms. We’ll transfer to Viinistu village for lunch, then spend some time exploring the village before another 4.5-mile hike along the Gulf of Finland. Our day ends with a 1-hour transfer to Tallinn, where we check in to our hotel. Dinner will be at the hotel in Tallinn.
Day 13 : August 19 ~ Tour of Tallinn - Farewell Dinner
Today we will start with a half-day bus-supported walking tour of Tallinn. We’ll see the Pirita Cloister, the city’s regional beach, and enjoy a walking tour of the Old Town center of Tallinn before enjoying a delicious lunch at a local restaurant in town. In the afternoon, we’ll have some free time to explore the endlessly fascinating old town on foot. Our farewell dinner tonight is at your guide’s favorite restaurant in Tallinn.
Day 14 : August 20 ~ Fly to Helsinki - Departure Home
As a group, we'll transfer to the Tallinn Airport for our return flight to Helsinki to catch departures home.
DATES: Best time to go: August Departures: Aug 7 - 20, 2013 Forced overnight August 6 (not included)
Sokos Hotel AleksanteriHelsinki, Finland
This hotel is just a 15 minute walk from Helsinki Central Train Station and the Design Museum. It offers a popular breakfast buffet and discounts at Sokos Department Stores. Rooms at Sokos Hotel Aleksanteri feature flat-screen TVs and either neo-Renaissance or neo-Classical décor. Free wired internet access is included in all rooms, while free Wi-Fi is offered in public areas. Restaurant Fransmanni specializes in wholesome French countryside cuisine. Meals are served on the courtyard terrace during summer, and guests can relax in the lobby bar at any time of year. Recreation options at Sokos Aleksanteri include a gym and free access to a sauna in the evenings.
Hotel RukaTonttuOulanka National Park, Finland
Ruka Tonttuis situated next to the hiking trails and other activities of Ruka. After a full day of activities, it is nice to relax in one of the hotel’s saunas. After a sauna, Ruoka Tonttu'sdelicious menu and Pub Tonttu'srelaxed atmosphere will make your day perfect. RukaTonttu has 16 non-smoking hotel rooms. Every room has a view to Lake Talvijärvi. Rooms are located in two floors and the hotel has an elevator. Guestrooms include a 26" LCD-television, mini fridge, drying closet for clothes, hair dryer and free wlan-connection.
Suvorov HotelSt. Petersburg, Russia
Suvorov is a 3-star Hotel located in Saint-Petersburg’s historic district, close to cafés, restaurants, and night clubs. The Moscow Train station is a 15-minute walk away. Rooms are comfortably furnished and include a desk, sitting area, and ironing facilities. Surrounding The Suvorov there are museums and movie theaters. Guestrooms are equipped with a TV, telephone, safe, and hair-dryer. Wi-Fi is available in all areas and is free of charge.
Hotel SevernayaPetrozavodsk, Russia
Situated less than a mile from Lake Onega, Severnaya Hotel is located in downtown Petrozavodsk, just a 15 minute walk from the train station and public transportation. Severnaya Hotel is nearby the town's shopping and business areas, restaurants, museums. Guests can enjoy exploring Petrozavodsk's neoclassical architectural heritage or take walks by Lake Onega. Wi-Fi is available in all areas and is free of charge.
Cabin, Train (Russia)
1stClass (2-person coupe), or 2nd Class (4-person coupe for only 2 people). The 1st class compartment is a private 2-person cabin containing two couches that convert into beds, and feature a table beside the window. The 2ndclass cabin has 4 beds, but will be booked for only 2 of our guests. Cabins will be determined closer to departure, and are dependent on availability.
Park Hotel PalmseLahemaa National Park, Estonia
Palmse Manor is one of the grandest baroque mansions in Estonia. The mansion and open-air museum was the first fully restored manor complex in the country. They are surrounded by the beautiful natural environment of Lahemaa National Park and provide an overview of Estonian manor life and architecture throughout the ages. The open-air museum boasts parks, gardens and historical buildings and features exhibitions, workshops, a training center, a Palm House, a wine cellar, a romantic café and a tavern serving national dishes. Guests are offered everything which can be expected from a comfortable country hotel, including internet access.
Vihula ManorLahemaa National Park, Estonia
The first written record of Vihula manor in Lahemaa National Park dates back to 1501. At the time it belonged to the Danish Baron Hans von Lode. The manor was damaged by fire during the Great Northern War, after which it was purchased by the Wekebros, who bequeathed it to their daughter's family, the von Helffreichs. In 1810 it was purchased in turn by Alexander von Schubert. The manor you see today at Vihula was built during the era of the von Schuberts, between 1820 and 1880. It has since been fully restored and renovated, and now houses a fine restaurant. It hosts concerts, conferences, weddings and other receptions. Visitors are welcome to wander the grounds and admire the views of the manor. Guests are offered everything which can be expected from a comfortable country hotel, including Wi-Fi internet access.
Hotel Vana WiruTallinn, Estonia
Hotel Vana Wiru is located in the Old Town of Tallinn, on the main street that links the medieval city center with the trendy business quarter. Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats), Toompea, churches, boutiques, handicraft shops and shopping centers as well as the best theatres, restaurants and nightclubs – everything within a few steps. The building dates back to the 1950s. In 2002, it was renovated and converted into a hotel. The hotel has a spacious lobby/lobby bar, restaurant Complemento, Vana Wiru Pub, Summer Terraces, a Turkish bath and a Finnish sauna, and a luggage room. There is also WIFI and a computer with Internet connection in the lobby. There is free Internet access in the rooms. However, the hotel is not accessed by bus, so we will need to walk 5-6 minutes from our bus to the hotel. Our luggage will be carried in a luggage cart.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Rob is both a professor of Russian and Environmental History at Washington’s Evergreen State College and an experienced outdoor guide in the former Soviet Union. He spent two seasons leading climbs on Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe (in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia) and several more seasons leading numerous treks in the Pamir, Tian Shan, and Altai mountains in Central Asia. Rob has excellent Russian language skills. He served as a U.S. Department of State interpreter in Leningrad and Moscow and studied at such places as the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and the University of St. Petersburg in Russia. He obtained an M.A. in International Studies and a Ph.D. in Russian History at the University of Washington. Rob’s outdoor skills include mountaineering (he has summited peaks like Aconcagua and Mont Blanc), rock climbing (5.10), and advanced (Class V) whitewater kayaking. Rob is also a triathlete.