WHAT IS THE GOLDEN RING: ‘The Golden Ring’ is one of the oldest Russian routes. It goes to the north-east of Moscow and forms a circle. There are many interesting ancient Russian cities and towns along the way, full of history and unique Russian architecture of the XII-XVII centuries.
The ‘classical’ route (counter clockwise) starts from Moscow, goes through Vladimir, Suzdal, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov Velikiy, Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, Sergiev Posad. All cities and towns are located relatively close to each other, the ‘Golden Ring’ forms a ring, so from one place you can reach to another and make a circle until you get back to the one you started with. Probably, most often you’ll use buses to move along the golden ring, sometimes you‘ll use trains. You can also ‘make’ the golden ring trip by car.
WHY GO THERE?
Russian History & Architecture. The ‘Golden Ring’ route is known for the famous old cities and towns along the way, so one of the reasons to go there is to see Russian architecture, old churches made of white stone, hear the bellring, see old fortifications, fortresses, beautiful monasteries, and learn more about history of Russia. For such trip, the ‘classical’ route (Vladimir, Suzdal, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov, Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, Sergiev Posad) will be the most interesting. Just be careful: there are so many churches and monasteries, that it can become too much.
Russian Countryside. If you’re staying a few weeks in the busy Moscow, you might feel like taking a little break from the pollution, the cars and the noise of the capital after a moment. In the trip to the smallest towns of the ‘Golden Ring’ you will get to see calmer, slower, more peaceful life, walk around hilly countryside, and just rest. For such trip Suzdal and Rostov Veliky (both 3-4 hours by train or by bus from Moscow) are the best.
Provincial Russia. Also, you’ll be interested in going to the biggest towns of the Golden Ring, if you want to experience another, provincial way of life in Russia. Such towns as Vladimir, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Yaroslavl can get you a pick of the Russian province: more traditional way of life, not yet as much westernized, fancy, and hectic as the big cities, with some relics of the Soviet times.
THE CITIES ALONG THE GOLDEN RING
The cities and towns of the Golden Ring counterclockwise direction:
VLADIMIR: The first town of the Golden Ring, 179 kilometers to the east of Moscow with 378 thousand people living there. It is located on the railway to Nizhniy Novgorod, and it is the first stop along the Trans-Siberian route. Vladimir is an old Russian town, it used to be capital of Russia in the 12th century.
There are many interesting sights, like old churches, monasteries and museums, but the interest in the city is in its provincial atmosphere and its contrast with the big cities. [read more about Vladimir]
SUZDAL: A calm ancient Russian town 38 kilometers north of Vladimir with around 13 thousand inhabitants. Suzdal is officially protected from the industries, and the old architecture and buildings are kept intact. The hilly green town is very seducing, walking around is a pleasure, the monasteries and old beautiful churches offer dreaming views.
You can even camp freely along the small river ‘Kamenka’ that goes through the town, or next to the Kremlin or next to a monastery.
Suzdal is the most similar to Rostov-Velikiy of all the towns along the Golden Ring, and the two towns are located almost the same distance from Moscow (though in different directions). [read more about Suzdal]
IVANOVO: It is quite a big city (450 thousand inhabitants), located between Suzdal (70 kilometers to the south) and Kostroma. Ivanovo is a real Russian industrial city: grey residential buildings, dirty streets, polluted atmosphere, relics of the Soviet times kept intact. Perhaps, you will be happy just to go through this city, but it will be the most interesting stop along the Golden Ring if you want to get the taste of ‘industrial’ Russian province. [read more about Ivanovo]
KOSTROMA: A surprisingly calm and inviting town, located on Volga river, 120 kilometers north of Ivanovo. The interest is to walk around the town, especially early morning, or late evening, and see the Ipatiev’s Monastery on the other side of Volga. [read more about Kostroma]
YAROSLAVL: Yaroslavl got its name from Yaroslav Mudry, who founded the town in the beginning of 11th century, at the place where Volga river meets Kotorosl. Now it is a large industrial city, the biggest along the Golden Ring (630 inhabitants), nevertheless very interesting because of its history, architecture, and city life. [read more about Yaroslavl]
ROSTOV VELIKIY: An ancient Russian town located on the ‘Nero’ lake. The history of this place started 4 thousand years BC, when the first tribes stayed next to the lake. Until the 11th century the territory of Rostov was inhabited by the Finn-Ugors ‘Meryans’ people, and the city of Rostov was founded by them (it is known since the 9th century). Slowly they assimilated with the Slavs, who came from the south.
Now it is a small town (32 thousand inhabitants), old buildings, the Kremlin, and authentic Russian architecture.
Rostov is the most similar to Suzdal of all the towns along the Golden Ring, and the two towns are located almost the same distance from Moscow (though in different directions). [read more about Rostov]
PERESLAVL-ZALESSKIY: An old Russian provincial town, famous for its many monasteries, old churches, the first boat build by little Peter the Great, and Pleshcheevo Lake (which has the status of national park from 1988). [read more about Pereslavl]