Discovering the hidden treasures of the North

 (St.Petersburg / Old Ladoga / Tikhvin)


The tours presented below are recommended for buying on the spot as extra tours aimed to introduce travellers to the history of Rus (the name of the medieval Russia before unification) and the most revered Orthodox relics.

The tours start from St.Petersburg and include visits to the old provincial towns of Old Ladoga and Tikhvin, both very interesting for their unique history and monuments.

Often called “The first Russian capital” Staraya Ladoga is indeed among the earliest known Russian cities. It is believed that the name of ancient Novgorod (The New Town) derives from comparison to the even older settlement of Old Ladoga. Scientific data suggests that Ladoga was founded in 753. Until 950, it was one of the most important trading ports of Eastern Europe. Merchant vessels sailed from the Baltic Sea through Ladoga to Novgorod and then to Constantinople or the Caspian Sea. This route is known as the Trade Route from the Varangians (Russian name for the Vikings) to the Greeks. An alternative way led down the Volga River along the Volga trade route to the Khazar capital of Atil, and then to the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, all the way to Baghdad. The oldest Arabian Middle Age coin in Europe was unearthed in Ladoga.

According to the Hypatian Codex, the legendary Varangian (Viking) leader Rurik arrived at Ladoga in 862 and made it his capital. He later established the dynasty that ruled Russia for nearly 700 years. Allegedly invited by the Slavonic tribes to stop the unceasing internal wars, Prince Rurick started by building a fortified town on the steep banks of the Volkhov river and annexing the adjacent lands of Beloozero and Izborsk. 15 years after he moved the capital of his state from Old Ladoga to Novgorod.

The town of Tikhvin (founded 1560) is known for the Assumption Monastery, one of the biggest in Russia, and the icon of Our Lady of Tikhvin, which is housed in it. It is also the birthplace of the composer Rimsky-Korsakov.

The first settlement on the site of the modern town dates back to 1383, the year of miraculous occurrence of the icon of Our Lady and building of the wooden Assumption Church on the scene of it (was replaced in 1515 by the stone church of the same name). In 1558, aiming to convert Tikhvin into an important strong point in the Ladoga region, the tsar Ivan the Terrible ordered to enlarge the monastery and build massive defensive walls around it, which gave start to rapid developing of the town.

I. The program of the one-day tour to Tikhvin:

Breakfast. Leaving the hotel for Tikhvin (at around 8:00). Stop on the way in Old Ladoga. (some 120 km away from St.Petersburg). Tour of the fortress. Visits to sanctuaries: the Church of St.George (12th century), the Church of Demetrius Solunsky (17th century), St.Nicolas’ Monastry, the Assumption Nunnery (an unique sample of the 12th century Bizantian-styled architecture).

Arrival to Tikhvin (some 100 km away from Old Ladoga). Lunch at the Monastery’s refectory. The tour of the Assumption Monastery and the Assumption Church built to house and protect the miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Tikhvin.

It is believed that the icon was painted by the Apostle Luke in the lifetime of Virgin Mary and was staying in Jerusalem until the 5th century, when it was carried to Byzantium. In 1383, 70 years prior to conquest of Byzantium by the Turks, the icon vanished from the shrine and occurred miraculously over the waters of the Ladoga Lake.

Founded by edict of Ivan the Terrible specially to protect the icon, the Assumption Monastery was closed by Bolsheviks in 1924. In the same year the icon, along with other Monastery’s relics, was carried to Pskov. In 1944 it was brought to Riga and later carried by the archbishop John (Garklavs) firstly to Germany and afterwards to the United States, where it was housed at the St.Trinity’s Cathedral in Chicago.

According to the terms of the archbishop’s testament the icon could be returned to Russia only on condition of reopening the Assumption Monastery. The testament was satisfied by the Russian Orthodox Church after thorough restoration of the Monastery, which cost the Church some 20 million roubles.

Return to St.Petersburg.

II. The program of the tour to Old Ladoga (2 days / 1 night):

Besides including all the highlights of the previous one-day tour, it adds:

  • overnight in Tikhvin;
  • visiting the Rimsky-Korsakov Museum (on the day of departure);
  • a concert of classical music specially arranged in a church.

The price of the tour is quoted by request.