The Golden Ring Trip Introduction
The Golden Ring is the name for several cities and smaller towns North-East of Moscow. It's a great route to travel if you want to enjoy the quiet and peaceful life in the Russian province, beautiful countryside views, and enjoy ancient architecture.
The 'classical' route (counter clockwise) starts from Moscow, goes through Vladimir, Suzdal, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov Velikiy, Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, Sergiev Posad. All cities and towns are located relatively close to each other, the 'Golden Ring' forms a ring, so from one place you can reach to another and make a circle until you get back to the one you started with. Probably, most often you'll use buses to move along the golden ring, sometimes you'll use trains. You can also 'make' the golden ring trip by car.
Why Travel Along the Golden Ring?
Russian History & Architecture. The 'Golden Ring' route is known for the famous old cities and towns along the way, so one of the reasons to go there is to see Russian architecture, old churches made of white stone, hear the church bell rings, see old fortifications, fortresses, beautiful monasteries, and learn more about history of Russia. For such trip, the 'classical' route (Vladimir, Suzdal, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov, Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, Sergiev Posad) will be the most interesting. Just be careful: there are so many churches and monasteries, that it can become too much.
Russian Countryside. If you're staying a few weeks in the busy Moscow, you might feel like taking a little break from the pollution, the cars and the noise of the capital after a moment. In the trip to the smallest towns of the 'Golden Ring' you will get to see calmer, slower, more peaceful life, walk around hilly countryside, and just rest. For such trip Suzdal and Rostov Veliky (both 3-4 hours by train or by bus from Moscow) are the best.
Provincial Russia. Also, you'll be interested in going to the biggest towns of the Golden Ring, if you want to experience another, provincial way of life in Russia. Such towns as Vladimir, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Yaroslavl can get you a pick of the Russian province: more traditional way of life, not yet as much westernized, fancy, and hectic as the big cities, with some relics of the Soviet times.
THE CITIES ALONG THE GOLDEN RING. The cities and towns of the Golden Ring counterclockwise direction:
VLADIMIR: The first town of the Golden Ring, 179 kilometers to the east of Moscow with 378 thousand people living there. It is located on the railway to Nizhniy Novgorod, and it is the first stop along the Trans-Siberian route. Vladimir is an old Russian town, it used to be capital of Russia in the 12th century.
There are many interesting sights, like old churches, monasteries and museums, but the interest in the city is in its provincial atmosphere and its contrast with the big cities. [read more about Vladimir]
SUZDAL: A calm ancient Russian town 38 kilometers north of Vladimir with around 13 thousand inhabitants. Suzdal is officially protected from the industries, and the old architecture and buildings are kept intact. The hilly green town is very seducing, walking around is a pleasure, the monasteries and old beautiful churches offer dreaming views.
You can even camp freely along the small river 'Kamenka' that goes through the town, or next to the Kremlin or next to a monastery.
Suzdal is the most similar to Rostov-Velikiy of all the towns along the Golden Ring, and the two towns are located almost the same distance from Moscow (though in different directions). [read more about Suzdal]
IVANOVO: It is quite a big city (450 thousand inhabitants), located between Suzdal (70 kilometers to the south) and Kostroma. Ivanovo is a real Russian industrial city: grey residential buildings, dirty streets, polluted atmosphere, relics of the Soviet times kept intact. Perhaps, you will be happy just to go through this city, but it will be the most interesting stop along the Golden Ring if you want to get the taste of 'industrial' Russian province. [read more about Ivanovo]
KOSTROMA: A surprisingly calm and inviting town, located on Volga river, 120 kilometers north of Ivanovo. The interest is to walk around the town, especially early morning, or late evening, and see the Ipatiev's Monastery on the other side of Volga. [read more about Kostroma]
YAROSLAVL: Yaroslavl got its name from Yaroslav Mudry, who founded the town in the beginning of 11th century, at the place where Volga river meets Kotorosl. Now it is a large industrial city, the biggest along the Golden Ring (630 inhabitants), nevertheless very interesting because of its history, architecture, and city life. [read more about Yaroslavl]
ROSTOV VELIKIY: An ancient Russian town located on the 'Nero' lake. The history of this place started 4 thousand years BC, when the first tribes stayed next to the lake. Until the 11th century the territory of Rostov was inhabited by the Finn-Ugors 'Meryans' people, and the city of Rostov was founded by them (it is known since the 9th century). Slowly they assimilated with the Slavs, who came from the south.
Now it is a small town (32 thousand inhabitants), old buildings, the Kremlin, and authentic Russian architecture.
Rostov is the most similar to Suzdal of all the towns along the Golden Ring, and the two towns are located almost the same distance from Moscow (though in different directions). [read more about Rostov]
PERESLAVL-ZALESSKIY: An old Russian provincial town, famous for its many monasteries, old churches, the first boat build by little Peter the Great, and Pleshcheevo Lake (which has the status of national park from 1988). [read more about Pereslavl]
SUGGESTED ITINERARY. All the 7 main cities of the Golden Ring can be visited in 6-8 days. You can go in the counterclockwise or clockwise direction. We prefer the counterclockwise direction:
1st day, morning: Moscow. Take one of many daily trains or buses to Vladimir
1st day, late morning: Vladimir. Can be an interesting stop during the day trip to / from Suzdal, if you want to walk around this old town rich with history, see the old and impressive Assumtion Cathedral, Dmitri's Cathedral, and visit the local history and archelology museum. In this case, you can come to Vladimir in the morning (there are many daily trains and buses from Moscow) and then take an evening bus to Suzdal.
If you want a pick of Russian province, it's better to come to Vladimir friday or saturday night, when the main street of the city rocks. You can party in a typical provincial cafe with Karaoke music and lots of vodka, play in one of many city's casinos, take a Soviet style room in Zarya hotel, make the sightseeing the next day, and then take an afternoon bus to Suzdal.
1st day, evening: Suzdal. Visit Suzdal's Kremlin, see the monasteries, have 'bliny' (russian pancakes) in a local cafe. Camp next to the Kremlin or anywhere else in this green, calm town and get woken up by the music of the church bells early in the morning. Walk in the green hilly village from one fairy tale dome monastery to another. In the afternoon you can take a bus to Kostroma.
2nd or 3rd day, afternoon: Ivanovo. Go through Ivanovo – a typical Russian industrial town, see the grey buildings with faded mosaics to the glory of Soviet heros.
3rd day, evening: Kostroma. Just walk around this pretty calm town on Volga river, sleep in a simple pier-hotel on the Volga river, or in an inviting 'Maash" guesthouse. The next day you can travel by hydrofoil on Volga river from Kostroma to Yaroslavl or take a daily morning elektrichka (train).
4th day, late morning: Yaroslavl. See one the biggest city in the northern part of Russia – the ancient and at the same time modern Yaroslavl. In the evening you can take a train or a bus to Rostov (1.5 hours).
4th day, evening: Rostov-Velikiy. Stay in an artist's house just on the shore of the lake 'Nero'. Visit the archeological museum in Rostov Kremlin, feel Russia's origins and learn more about history. Rent a boat and row on 'Nero' lake (just next to Rostov's Kremlin) to the shore where there is a nice beach to swim. Get dizzy in a cafe with the honey alcohol Miedavuka. Take an afternoon bus to Pereslavl-Zalesskiy.
5th day, late afternoon: Pereslavl-Zalesskiy. See old monasteries, churches, walk around this calm provincial town. Take an evening bus to Moscow.
5th day, late evening: Moscow.
The whole trip is approx. 678 kilometers (420 miles) long, the total time spent in the buses and trains: 15h30m
HOW MUCH IT WOULD COST. If you want to spend as little as you can, a trip to the Golden Ring will actually cost you less than living in Moscow or St Petersburg. It's cheaper to travel with someone, but even if you travel alone around the Golden Ring cities, you can spend in a day: around $10-$15 US on accomodation (cheapest doubles are also $10-$15 US for a room), around $4 US on food (day and evening meals in local reastaurants), $1-$2 US on a morning snack (yogourt for $0,5 US and a whole bread for $0.25 US and a fruit for $0.25 US), around $8 for all museums you'll want to visit (if you decide to pay), around $20 US for transport (the whole way from Moscow counterclockwise back to Moscow, suggested in the itinerary above), the city transport costs around $0.1 US for a trip, so not more than $5 US a day.
So, for the 5-day itinerary suggested above the whole trip will cost around $40 + $20 + $5 + $6 + $20 = $85 US.
If you're a camper, well, it will be a nice experience and it'll make the trip even cheaper.
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THE DISTANCES AND TIMES BETWEEN THE CITIES. If you want to know the distance and the time (by train and by bus) between the cities of the Golden Ring, look at the crossing of the corresponding row and column. 'MOS' is Moscow, 'VLA' - Vladimir, 'SUZ' - Suzdal, 'IVA' - Ivanovo, 'KOS' - Kostroma, 'YAR' - Yaroslavl, 'ROS' - Rostov Velikiy, 'P-Z' - Pereslavl-Zalesskiy. The first number is the distance (in kilometers), 'T' is for the time it takes by train, 'B' is for the time it takes by bus. Times are given only if there's a direct connection between two cities.
For example, the distance between Vladimir and Suzdal is 38 kilometers, it takes 1 hour 10 minutes to get from Vladimir to Suzdal by bus, and there are no trains between the two cities.
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