The Golden Ring is a collection of historic Russian cities, northeast of Moscow and southeast of Saint Petersburg. They are close enough to each other that most could be reached from any other in 24 hours (by horse). Their architecture and traditional crafts make them popular for tourism.
There is some debate as to which cities constitute the Golden Circle. Soviet officials were not inclined to tolerate such ambiguity, and therefore created an official list: Ivanovo, Kostroma, Pereslavl Zalessky, Rostov Veliky, Sergiev Posad, Suzdal, Vladimir, and Yaroslavl.
Other important stops on the route, however, include Alexandrov, Gus-Khrustalny, Murom, Rybinsk, and Uglich, as well as numerous other small towns and villages.
Since the cities have similar architecture, it is seldom worth visiting them all. Most visitors only make four–six stops. The most fascinating is Suzdal (near Vladimir) and so these two are worth a combined trip. Sergiev Posad is also worthwhile (and easily accessible from Moscow). For those with more time, Yaroslavl may also be worth a visit (perhaps combined with a trip to Sergiev Posad). None of this is to say that any of the destinations included below are not worth seeing—quite the contrary! But it is worth picking and choosing the ones that interest you most.
The vast majority of international visitors arrive via Moscow and its big international airports. But you can get to the individual destinations on the circuit with relative ease from any nearby part of Russia—Russia's intercity rail network is extensive and fairly efficient, supplemented by a more confusing and less efficient bus/marshrutka network. For those interested in hitting the path less (far less) beaten, the other possible international point of entry is the airport in Nizhny Novgorod to the east.
There is only one major Golden Ring destination in Moscow Oblast, but it is a major one that probably should not be left out of anyone's Golden Ring tour. Sergiev Posad is the center of the Russian Orthodox Church, centered in the incredible Sergiev Posad Monastery.