5. The Volga
- Chief draws: Architecture/city sightseeing, exposure to Russian culture, nature appreciation
- Considerations: More limited cruise window, not a notable wine route
Anyone whose interest is even remotely piqued by Russian history, culture, and scenery should consider a cruise on the broad, beautiful Volga, Europe’s longest river and a fundamental part of Russia’s national identity. Home to more than a third of the country’s population and many of its biggest cities, the Volga offers a variety of cruise routes thanks to extensive canal systems. Many packages include Moscow-to-St. Petersburg itineraries, while extended voyages may run all the way to the Caspian Sea via Kazan, Samara, and Volgograd.
Fans of historical architecture can have a ball on Volga trips, especially in the grand capital of Moscow, the classic departure city and home to the Kremlin, Red Square, and other landmarks. You’ll also relish the well-preserved townscapes of some of the famous “Golden Ring” cities, including Uglich, with its mighty Palace of the Uglich Princes; and UNESCO-listed Yaroslavl, home to the venerable Spassky Monastery and the 17th century Church of the Epiphany. Nature lovers will also appreciate the cruise, including the giant lakes of Onega and Ladoga, Samara Bend National Park, and the flamingo-flocked Volga Delta. And a typical Volga cruise will also feature plenty of hands-on Russian cultural education, from painting matryoshka nesting dolls to experiencing Russian tea ceremonies.