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Russian River Cruises: A Guide to the Volga and Svir Rivers

  • Learn about the Volga – the longest river in Europe – and what to expect on a Russian river cruise
  • Explore the best Russia has to offer with our guide to what to see and do in St Petersburg and Moscow
  • Essential travel information for a Russian river cruise – what to pack, visas, currency and expert travel advice

There’s no better way to explore the world’s largest country than on a Russian river cruise. Setting sail from Moscow on A Russian Odyssey Aboard the MS Rossia, passengers cruise in comfort along the meandering Volga river, then take a trip along the scenic river Svir, before arriving in beautiful St Petersburg.

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The Winter Palace

Volga river facts

The longest river in Europe, the Volga flows 2,193 miles from the Valdai Hills northwest of Moscow through the centre of Russia to the Caspian Sea in the south. Often referred to as Mother Volga – many Russians consider the river to be their country’s lifeblood – the Volga provides the nation with water, as well as much work. The river has played a significant role in Russia’s history, allured artists and explorers, and today its picturesque route, taking in a series of reservoirs and dams, is nothing short of captivating. It’s an exhilarating journey for anyone keen to embark on a Russian river cruise.

Keen to explore Russia, St Petersburg and Moscow on a Russian river cruise? Our Russian Odyssey Aboard the MS Rossia is a perfect introduction and includes visits to the Kremlin, the Hermitage Museum, Mandrogi, and the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in Goritsy.

Why choose a Russian river cruise?

An enigmatic capital city, quintessential Russian villages, two of Europe’s largest lakes, breathtaking St Petersburg – a cruise along the Volga river offers all this and so much more. Aboard the MS Rossia, a traditional river cruise ship built to navigate the waterways of Russia, you’ll get a fascinating insight into Russian history and culture, sample local specialities and return home with memories to last a lifetime. If you’ve been contemplating a holiday to Russia, then a river cruise is an exciting way to see the country’s highlights. There are convenient flights are available from Birmingham, Manchester, London Heathrow, and Edinburgh to your journey’s start point in Moscow or St Petersburg.

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St Basil’s Cathedral

Our Russian river cruise itinerary

Cruises to Moscow and St Petersburg start in the country’s capital, famous for its iconic Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the vast Kremlin fortress. Two days are devoted to tours around the enthralling city, then the river ship sets sail along the Moscow Canal, towards the Volga river.

On day four of our Russian river cruise, the MS Rossia arrives in Uglich, an attractive city on a sharp bend of the Volga that forms part of Russia’s Golden Ring – a group of ancient towns that played an important role in the formation of Russian Orthodox Church. Highlights here include the green-domed Cathedral of Transfiguration and the remarkable Church of St Dmitry on the Blood. UNESCO-listed Yaroslavl is the next port of call. The old town is particularly fascinating, with an ancient monastery, merchants’ houses and a plaque commemorating the first woman to orbit Earth.

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The Rybinsk Reservoir and the pretty medieval village of Goritsy are also on our itinerary, as are two of Europe’s largest lakes – the Onega and Ladoga. The scenery at both lakes is awe-inspiring. On the tiny island of Kizhi, you’ll find another mesmerising church which has 22 onion-domed cupolas, some which rise to a staggering 37 metres. Even more impressive is the fact that it was built in 1714 without using a single nail.

Cruising the river Svir is a memorable part of a Russian cruise too – the diverse and atmospheric landscape is delightful. As is Mandrogi, a typical Karelian village with a quirky artisans’ quarter – it’s the perfect place to buy a traditional souvenir, some stacking matryoshka dolls.

Then it’s time to arrive in the cruise’s crowning glory, glorious St Petersburg. One of the most spectacular cities in Europe, it has a wealth of historical treasures, and there’s so much to see and do here. For inspiration, read our first-time travellers’ guide to Moscow and St Petersburg.

Best time of year for a Russian river cruise

Russia has a short season when it comes to river cruises, with departure dates starting in May and continuing for just four months. You should be able to avoid the crowds at popular attractions if you travel in spring, and in June you can witness the natural phenomena known as White Nights – evenings don’t turn dark. July and August are the most popular months for cruising, with the average temperature on the Volga river around 22°C. It will be a few degrees warmer in the cities.

What to pack for a Russian river cruise

If you’re on a Russia cruise during White Nights, pack an eye mask. Light sleepers may find it challenging to snooze off when the Midnight Sun is still high in the sky. Summer can mean mosquitoes too, so bring insect repellent, and wear long-sleeved tops and trousers to prevent being bitten.

As for what to wear during the day, comfortable casual clothes are the norm on all river cruises, along with your favourite sightseeing footwear. Be aware that you may get caught in a rain shower, even in the summer, so pack a small umbrella or light waterproof jacket. It can be chilly in the mornings and evenings, too, if travelling early in the season – layers are a good idea. If visiting Orthodox churches, note that women may need to cover their shoulders or head with a shawl, and you may be refused entry if wearing shorts.

russian river cruises church of the savior on spilled blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Russian river cruises: other travel essentials

Along with a valid passport, UK citizens must have a visa in order to travel to Russia. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit Visa cost is £101.40* per person. Applications are initially made online, however you must also go in person to a Russian Visa Application Centre in either London, Manchester or Edinburgh for biometric data (fingerprints) to be collected. Full details of how and when to apply will be sent with your booking confirmation.

The currency in Russia is the rouble, and all transactions and purchases on land must be made in roubles. It’s a good idea to exchange money while in Moscow or St Petersburg.

The Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet, and you’ll rarely see signs in English. Learning a few local phrases before you travel can be useful.

For more information about travelling safely throughout Russia, see

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The Kremlin

If contemplating a Russian river cruise, then you’re sure to love our Russian Odyssey Aboard the MS Rossia. As you sail along the Volga river, expert guides will bring the country’s history and historic people to life, and there’s time to learn more about Russian traditions – music, language, food and crafts – too.

If you’re not sure if a river cruise is right for you, but you’re tempted by travel through Russia, be sure to check out our tours to Russia, including escorted tours to Moscow & St Petersburg and St Petersburg & Moscow for solo travellers.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

* Please note that visa costs may be subject to change.