The Crimean Express by Steam is a remarkable, historic and sweeping journey you won't want to miss. The last time IRT's Eleanor & Owen Hardy accompanied an IRT group on this itinerary, we both agreed it was one of our best ever.
It was the perfect mix of the ancient (a cave monastery and a Greek settlement) to the historic (Catherine the Great's gorgeous summer palace and the site of the Yalta Conference
) to the delicious (visits to fabulous wineries and dining on local delicacies with the region's famed dessert wines). Just thinking of these places now makes us want to pack our bags and do it again!
Scheduled to be steam-hauled throughout the 3,750-mile journey, the tour begins in St. Petersburg and continues through Belarus and the Crimea by the private, steam-hauled Golden Eagle
train. The journey ends in the Black Sea resort of Yalta.
The trip includes two nights at the 5-star Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace in St. Petersburg, and three nights at the 5-star Villa Elena Hotel in Yalta on the Black Sea.
This is a fabulous itinerary — perfect for steam train aficionados, history buffs and lovers of the beautifully exotic.
Railfan highlights include: the St. Petersburg railway museum, enjoying time on the train between Pavlovsk to Novgorod as you are hauled by the last steam locomotive built in the USSR, and taking in the Belarussian countryside en-route to the capital Minsk, hauled by two Su class steam locomotives, followed by two P36 class locos.
Visit the largest remaining strategic reserve of steam locomotives in Roslavl (45 in total), tour the narrow-gauge Gagarin Children's Railway in Rostov-on-Don, and visit a locomotive repair depot in Tikhoretsk.
Meanwhile, history and architecture aficionados will marvel at the ancient settlement of the Greeks, the cave monastery, Catherine the Great's frothy blue and white summer palace with its Amber Room.
We'll also visit places important to the Yalta Conference during World War II: you'll feel like you were there, exploring Churchill's villa that overlooked the Black Sea, viewing Roosevelt's quarters and viewing Stalin's base.
Lunch at the Swallow's Nest, narrowly perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Black Sea, was unforgettable, Eleanor says.
"And one of the most memorable last nights on any train trip I've ever done," Eleanor says, "was dinner surrounded by roses, overlooking the Black Sea, listening to live local music and saying goodbye to a train full of friends."