Great Dane Journeys: Russia by Rail

Two men playing chess as they ride the train to their next destination. Pictures from Great Dane Journeys website.
Two men playing chess as they ride the train to their next destination. Pictures from Great Dane Journeys website.

By Taylor Owens

Are you someone who likes to fully immerse yourself in the culture and history of the place that you’re visiting? Do you tend to stray from the traditional tourist sites and routes during your travels?

A group waiting to greet the vacationers at the the train station.
A group waiting to greet the vacationers at the train station.

If you enjoy a more engaging travel experience, Great Dane Journeys provides an upscale niche travel adventure with a twist...the trips are by rail.

The Company

The company is creating the first-ever trip by rail from Moscow to St. Petersburg to the Solovetsky Islands to Murmansk and other stops along the way.

A Unique Journey

The one-of-a-kind nature of this trip cannot be overstated. Great Dane Journeys arranges a private train journey on the Kirov Railroad, also known as the “Murmansk Railroad," from St. Petersburg all the way to the Arctic Circle!

Bjarne Mikkelsen, owner of Great Dane Journeys.
Bjarne Mikkelsen, owner of Great Dane Journeys.

The itinerary for Great Dane Journeys' trip that includes Solovetski and Kizhi Islands, Murmansk, St. Petersburg, and Moscow is unlike any other due to the fact that it is so laden with history.

From Moscow, the capital;  St. Petersburg one of the cultural capitals of the world; the Kizhi Islands with a wooden church masterpiece; The Solovetski Islands, one of Stalin’s first and biggest Gulag camps; Murmansk, the port that meant so much to Lenin’s revolution and the Allied forces in WWII as well as Russia’s navy today to Kirkenes, Norway’s last port on a string of fishing ports along the Norwegian coast.

With an emergence of more private trains in more countries, Great Dane Journeys has been a pioneering force in mixing travel by rail with immersive vacations.

A Trip to Russia


The never before done trip from St. Petersburg to the Arctic Circle is not just unique because of the destinations and mode of travel.

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Czar-style gourmet feasts are held on board, and fun, informative daily lectures about regional people, places, and culture are taught aboard, as well.

An additional touch of Russian culture is added to the trip by the inclusion of a gourmet vodka tasting with various Russian snacks on board during your travel time.

The csar-style dinner set up that is held onboard the train.
The csar-style dinner set up that is held onboard the train.

During your trip, you are accompanied by an experienced multilingual tour director and an expert staff that includes a doctor.

The onboard program of activities complements a comprehensive excursion and sightseeing package.

Rail Travel

Rail travel isn't the mode of transportation that most of us are used to when we think of our past travels.

The few times that I've traveled by rail, I remember getting to the train station and being really excited as soon as I saw the train roll in.

Owner and President of Great Dane Journeys, BJ Mikkelsen, describes rail travel as being "similar to a river cruise" because you are able to "unpack once and you are on your way."

A classic scenic view of the Solovetsky Spaso-Preobrazhensky Transfiguration Monastery, and the big, old boat from the white sea side.
A classic scenic view of the Solovetsky Spaso-Preobrazhensky Transfiguration Monastery, and the big, old boat from the white sea side.

Traveling by train makes it easy for a traveler to get downtown, which allows for your tours to begin as soon as you board the coach, or start your walk!

In addition to the convenience of traveling by train, the journey is also quite an intimate experience due to the fact that most meals are served on board the train.

A Less-Traveled to Country

Russia is not necessarily a country that comes to mind when someone first thinks of a vacation abroad, but its lack of tourists is what makes Great Dane Journeys' experience that much more intriguing.

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When asked if traveling in Russia was all that different than traveling in any other country, BJ Mikkelsen said that "traveling in Russia is really not that different," and that "the biggest difference is the alphabet (Cyrillic), but most services and sites are as easily accessible as in other parts of the world."

A photo taken during the travel group's time in Moscow.
A photo taken during the travel group's time in Moscow.

Mikkelsen also described Russian locals' attitudes toward foreign visitors as being very understanding, and that locals are very accepting and welcoming of foreigners.

How to Go

Traveling by train makes so much sense when you are traveling to areas with a lack of good hotels and the obvious convenience of unpacking only once.

Great Dane Journeys’ programs all have one thing in common:  The owner has traveled them all and can, therefore, be of great assistance to the clients.

As a matter of fact, the owner arranged the very first visit to the Solovetski Islands in 1995, bringing 120 Americans to the islands by ship.

The common denominator in Great Dane Journeys is adventure and unique itineraries, even in the Arctic and Antarctica.

The dates for this first by rail are July 1-11, 2019 or July 5-9, 2019. To find ticket prices, a full itinerary, and more information, visit the Great Dane Journeys' website.  Reach Bjarne Mikkelsen by email.

Taylor Owens

Taylor Owens is a Tennessee native who is currently calling the Massachusetts Berkshires home. She is passionate about the classics, folk music, and coffee. Taylor spends her days as a ski instructor at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, paddling plenty of rivers, skiing the slopes, sipping coffee, or on the hunt for the best breakfast.