The Golden Ring, Russia

The Golden Ring is the name given to a chain of ancient towns lying to the north and east of the capital Moscow forming one of the oldest Russian routes. There are many interesting ancient Russian cities and towns along the way, full of history and unique Russian architecture. The classical route starts from Moscow, goes through Vladimir, Suzdal, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov Velikiy, Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, and Sergiev Posad.

These ancient towns, which also played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church, preserve the memory of the most important and significant events in Russian history. The towns have been called "open-air museums" and feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th-18th centuries, including kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals, and churches. These towns are among the most picturesque in Russia and prominently feature Russia's onion domes.

Vladimir is one of the oldest Russian cities founded between 990 and 1108 and was once the capital of ancient Russia in the 12th century and for over two centuries, housing many well preserved monuments and architectural ensembles. Among many attractions, the city boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites which are its Golden Gates, St. Demetrius Cathedral, and The Dormition Cathedral.

Suzdal is one of the most beautiful Russian cities considered the pearl of the Golden Ring of ancient cities. Suzdal has a long historical record as one of the important cities in medieval Russia. Nowadays this lovely city features many fine examples of Russian architecture, such as the Transfiguration Cathedral, museum of wooden architecture and St. Epiphany monastery. The juxtaposition of stunning medieval architecture with its pastoral setting makes Suzdal the source of inspiration for artists and a great place to visit at any time of the year.

Kostroma is believed to have been founded by Grand Prince Yury Dolgoruky in the 12th century. The city is most famous for its Ipatievsky Monastery which has links with the Romanov Dynasty as the first Romanov tsar – Tsar Michael – was here when he was made tsar. Kostroma is the Golden Ring city furthest from Moscow.

Yaroslavl is considered the unofficial capital of the Golden Ring and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is believed to have been founded in 1010 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, after whom it is named. The city's main sight is the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery which is now a museum and among its many beautiful churches the most famous are St. Elijah the Prophet's Church and the John the Baptist's Church, both of which are beautifully decorated with frescos.

Rostov Velikiy is among the oldest of cities in Russia, having first been mentioned in chronicles in 862. Its most impressive sight is the white-stone kremlin which stands on Lake Nero and is now a museum-reserve. The city also has three monasteries and museums dedicated to the art of painting on enamel for which the city is famed.

Pereslavl-Zalesskiy is the birthplace of Aleksandr Nevsky – a celebrated Russian hero, prince and saint. It also has links with Peter the Great who used to have a toy flotilla here on Lake Plescheevo. In addition the city also boasts a beautiful 12th-century cathedral, earthen mounds and six monasteries, four of which are active.

Sergiyev Posad is known as the heart of Russian Orthodoxy with The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (or Troitse-Sergieva Lavra), which is one of the largest Orthodox monasteries in the World, as its major tourist attraction. This UNESCO-protected monastery was founded in the 14th century by St. Sergius of Radonezh. The monastery is now one of the most important religious sites in Russian and St. Sergius is one of the most revered native Russian saints.