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London to Istanbul by Rail

  • 25 Day(s)
  • Trip Code : GAEEIR

Whether you're looking for Europe's most famous highlights or its undiscovered treasures, the answer lies aboard the trains running between London and Istanbul. This 25-day Rail journey allows you to check out the dramatic landscapes across Europe, as well as experiencing both medieval charm and modern cool in tiny villages and capital cities. Take in the Alpine scenery from the windows of the Glacier Express, step off to visit 'Dracula's Castle' in Transylvania and revel in as much ancient eastern European charm as you can get. Once you've seen the countryside gliding by from a comfortable train, you'll never forget it.

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Itinerary

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Day 1 London

Arrive at any time.

Arrive at any time.

Days 2-3 Paris (2B)

Board the famous Eurostar train for the journey through the Chunnel to Paris. Enjoy an orientation walk and free time to visit the Eiffel Tower, dozens of museums, Luxembourg Gardens, wander the banks of the Seine or sip wine and eat cheese at a sidewalk

Board the famous Eurostar train for the journey through the Chunnel to Paris. Enjoy an orientation walk and free time to visit the Eiffel Tower, dozens of museums, Luxembourg Gardens, wander the banks of the Seine or sip wine and eat cheese at a sidewalk café like a local.

Day 4 Lausanne (1B)

Take a morning TGV train to Lausanne, Switzerland. Spend the afternoon in this charming town.

Take a morning TGV train about four hours to Lausanne, Switzerland. Spend the afternoon in this charming town visiting the cathedral, wandering car-free roads, opting for a cruise on Lake Geneva or visiting the local museums.

Day 5 Zermatt (1B)

Board another train for the journey to Zermatt, a tiny village in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Enjoy the afternoon in the auto-free centre or hiking in the nearby mountains.

Board another train for the roughly three hour journey to Zermatt, a tiny village in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Enjoy the afternoon in the auto-free centre or hiking in the nearby mountains. Opt to board the historic Gornergrat Train for the 33 min ride into the mountains for a stunning view. Operating since 1898, the train rises into the mountains to just above 3000m providing a view of 29 different 4000m peaks.

Day 6 Chur (1B,1L)

Board the Glacier Express for a slow and stunning ride through the Alps. Pass meadows, rushing streams, bridges, villages and massive mountains as the train heads towards Chur. Arrive in the evening after a full day of soaking in the scenery.

Board the Glacier Express for a slow and stunning ride through the Alps. Pass meadows, rushing streams, bridges, villages and massive mountains as the train heads towards Chur, enjoying lunch on board. Arrive in the evening after a full day of soaking in the scenery. Stretch your legs with a walk around town and opt to visit the 800-year-old cathedral.

Days 7-8 Munich (2B)

Day 7 is a full travel day to reach Munich, in the heart of Bavaria. Arrive in time for an optional evening out at a local brewery with a few steins of beer and some typical German fare. Day 8 is free to explore the city or head further afield to visit Fü

Day 7 is a full travel day to reach Munich, in the heart of Bavaria. Arrive by regional train in time for an optional evening out at a local brewery with a few steins of beer and some typical German fare. Day 8 is free to explore the city or head further afield to visit Füssen and the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. Füssen is a typically charming Bavarian city with bakeries and cobblestoned streets. You might even glimpse some lederhosen and feather caps! Crazy King Ludwig bankrupted Bavaria building himself castles and they are on display for you to explore in the area. Neuschwanstein Castle is the most famous, mostly because it was the inspiration for Disney's Cinderella's Castle.

Days 9-10 Salzburg (2B)

Included visit to Dachau in the morning before a short train ride to Salzburg, Austria. This charming city is brimming with history and character. Known for the nearby salt mines, Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music, Salzburg has plenty to pack

In the morning, visit the nearby concentration camp of Dachau. Just at the end of the subway line, it's stunning to see how close Dachau was to the big city. Acting as a model for the other concentration camps of Germany and Poland, Dachau has an upsetting and important place in history. Return to Munich and take a short train ride to Salzburg, Austria. This charming city is brimming with history and character. Known for the nearby salt mines, Mozart and the setting for Sound of Music, Salzburg has plenty to pack into a day and a half. The pedestrian centre is perfect for strolling around, stopping in to a pub or café for a break.

Day 11 Vienna (1B)

Continue by train to Vienna. Opt to visit the famous opera house, join a city tour or visit world-class museums. Vienna's a great city to try some local specialties and enjoy a piece of strudel in a café.

Continue another three hours by train to Vienna. Opt to visit the famous opera house, join a city tour or visit world-class museums. Vienna's a great city to try some local specialities and enjoy a piece of strudel in a café.

Day 12 Vienna/Budapest (1B)

Enjoy a free morning before a train to Budapest, Hungary. Opt to enjoy a night out in this western city with eastern charm.

Enjoy a free morning before a four hour train to Budapest, Hungary. Opt to enjoy a night out in this western city with eastern charm.

Days 13-14 Budapest (1B)

Enjoy two full days in Budapest starting with an orientation walk. Opt to visit Buda Castle, the famous thermal baths or take a bike tour of the city. In the evening on Day 14, board an overnight train to Sighisoara.

Enjoy two full days in Budapest starting with an orientation walk. Opt to visit Buda Castle, the famous thermal baths or take a bike tour of the city. In the evening on Day 14, board an overnight train to Sighisoara (12 hrs). Situated on a beautiful stretch of the Danube, Budapest consists of two parts: Buda and Pest. Buda is the older and more historical part of the city, with old narrow winding streets and medieval buildings. Here you can find Buda's most ancient sights: the Royal Palace, St. Matthias Church, Fisherman's Bastion and Castle Hill with its old town. Across the Danube is grand Pest with its vibrant streets such as Váci Utca, which is the bustling main street of Budapest.

Day 15 Sighisoara

With a local guide, venture into the Romanian countryside to visit traditional villages. Get a true sense of life in this less-visited region.

Arrive early and begin by exploring Sighisoara's fabulous medieval walled citadel with its many cultural attractions and great restaurants and bars. Enjoy a half-day guided tour of the area. Much of Transylvania harks back to a time gone by, with the traditional rural villages seeming to have stepped straight from the pages of a fairytale. Enjoy the beautiful rolling scenery as we visit medieval villages and fortified churches, and learn about the life and folklore of olden times from our expert local guide. Be sure to sample some Romanian cuisine while you are here - the Casa Dracula (original home of Vlad the Impaler, the model for Count Dracula) is now a restaurant specializing in the hearty meat and game dishes of the region.

Days 16-17 Brasov (2B)

Ride the rails to the city of Brasov, the best preserved medieval city in Romania. Explore the 'Black Church' or enjoy a coffee in one of the many cafés. Use some free time to explore this charming city's baroque architecture, beautiful squares or just ge

Transfer to Brasov (Kronstadt), one of Transylvania's major cities, beautifully set amidst forested hills. Brasov is a delightful city with baroque architecture and charming squares where you can enjoy the café culture, and friendly locals. Walking in the medieval centre, one of the best preserved in Romania, you can visit The Black Church, the biggest church between Vienna and Constantinople, the City Council Square, the ramparts erected in medieval times by the Saxon colonists, and one of the narrowest streets in Europe, the Binder Street. Estimated travel time Sighisoara to Brasov: 3 hours

Day 18 Bucharest (1B)

Travel to Bucharest via 'Dracula's Castle' at Bran and Snagov. Enjoy an orientation walk and time to explore the Soviet-esque architecture, the beautiful cathedral or indulge in Bucharest's international cuisine.

Travel to Romania's capital via Bran Castle and Snagov. We visit the picturesque Bran Castle. Impressively situated on a rock outcrop and dominating the valley, this 14th-century castle is steeped in history and folklore and is an unmissable highlight. It is claimed to be the home of Count Dracula, and more recently was a favourite summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania. Bucharest has huge squares and imposing buildings (the Palace of Parliament is the second-largest building in the world!) and is a city of contrasts. You can get a sense of Communist times from the grandiose Goverment architecture, visit the magnificent Cathedral, dine in eclectic international restaurants, or check out the burgeoning bar scene. Estimated travel time Brasov to Bucharest: 4 hours

Days 19-20 Veliko Tarnovo (1B)

Cross the border into Bulgaria and head to one of the oldest cities in the world, Veliko Tarnovo. Wander the medieval town, visit the museums or sample your first taste of Bulgarian cuisine. Opt to visit the Tsarevets Fortress just outside the city. On Da

Cross the border into Bulgaria today as we travel to the fascinating town of Veliko Tarnovo. Settled continuously since 4500BC, Veliko Tarnovo is one of the most ancient and historic places you will ever visit - no wonder it was capital of the Kingdom of Bulgaria in medieval times. The town still retains a medieval feel, with buildings huddled above an S-shaped gorge in the river Yantra. it is a fantastic place to explore, visit the museums, and sample your first Bulgarian food, which is lighter than Romanian and has some similarities to Greek and Turkish cuisine. The Tsarevets fortress just 1km outside central Veliko Tarnovo is a must-see. This huge complex has been an important stronghold for thousands of years, and you can wander at will around the remains of homes, churches and watch towers, dating from the fifth to the twelfth century. On Day 20 we enjoy a hike uphill to Arbanasi (5km, approx 90 minutes). This hilltop village was the residence of choice for the wealthy Roman elite and is still a country haven for the high-flyers of modern Bulgaria. The views all around and down to Veliko Tarnovo are amazing. We also recommend you pop into the 16th-century Church of the Nativity to see the amazing murals. Afterwards, we walk down to Veliko Tarnovo again. Estimated travel time Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo: 6 hours

Day 21 Sofia (1B)

On arrival, take an orientation walk of Sofia. Later, wander down Sofia's pedestrian street, Vitosha, or visit the eclectic Ladies' Market. A mix of western grandeur and Soviet bulk, Sofia also boasts a gold-domed church and delicious international dining

We arrive in Sofia by mid-afternoon, giving us enough time for a short orientation walk to explore the city. Enjoy a stroll down Sofia's chic pedestrianized Vitosha Street, then take in the eclectic Ladies' Market. Sofia is an intriguing mix of wide graceful Parisian-style boulevards and Communist-era architecture. Don't miss the stunning gold-domed Alexander Nevski church, honouring the Russian liberators whose contribution saw the end of Ottoman rule in Bulgaria. This is an excellent place to sample modern takes on Bulgarian and international food, with some great trendy dining opportunities. Don't forget to bid farewell to Bulgaria with a glass of the excellent home-grown wine either. Estimated travel time Veliko Tarnovo to Sofia: 4 hours

Days 22-23 Plovdiv (2B)

Travel to Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second-largest city. Visit the hilly old town, museums or the Theatre of Ancient Philippopolis, one of the many Roman ruins found here. Continue exploring on Day 23 before an overnight train to Istanbul.

Travel to Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second city. It is amazingly rich in Roman ruins and a fascinating place to while away a few hours. Wander the atmospheric streets of the hilly Old Town, visit the excellent Ethnographic Museum which has a great collection of traditional Bulgarian costumes, or go back nearly 2000 years and tread in the steps of Roman legionnaires by visiting the Theatre of Ancient Philippopolis. Afterwards, opt to relax over a coffee and a Bulgarian baklava- a local treat of the city. In the evening of Day 23, board an overnight train to Istanbul. Please note, occasionally this train is cancelled and will be replaced by a bus journey instead. Estimated travel time Sofia to Plovdiv: 2 hrs Estimated travel time Plovdiv to Istanbul: 14 hrs

Day 24 Istanbul

Arrive early to Istanbul and take a city tour with a local Turkish guide. Options for free time include the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, Aya Sofya and the Tokapi Palace. Enjoy the last night of this adventure in the city that straddles Europe and Asia.

Arrive early to Istanbul and take the metro and tram to get us right into the heart of the city, to our hotel in Sultanahmet. Settle in before enjoying a guided city tour with a local Turkish guide. Options for free time include the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, Aya Sofya and the Tokapi Palace. Steeped in centuries of history, this city of turrets and domes is a highlight for any traveller. In the evening, there are plenty of cool little bars and restaurants where we can celebrate the end of an amazing journey over a raki or two.

Day 25 Istanbul (1B)

Depart at any time.

Depart at any time today. Please note that check-out time from the hotel is normally mid-morning, but luggage storage facilities are usually available.

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  • TRIP NAME: LONDON TO ISTANBUL BY RAIL
  • DURATION: 25 DAYS
  • FROM PRICE: $4749
  • TRIP CODE : GAEEIR
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You will visit

  • Romania > Bulgaria > Austria > Germany > Turkey > Switzerland > France > Hungary > United Kingdom

Is this for me?

  • Trip Style: Small Group Adventures
  • Comfort Level: Standard
  • Physical Demands: There'll be some light walking and hiking. Suitable for most fitness levels. Nothing too challenging.

What's included?

Eurostar ride through the Chunnel. Paris orientation walk. TGV train. Lausanne orientation walk. Zermatt stay. The Glacier Express train with lunch onboard. Dachau tour (Munich). Salzburg orientation walk. Vienna orientation walk. Budapest orientation walk. Romanian villages and countryside tour (half-day, from Sighisoara). 'Dracula’s Castle' (Bran). Bucharest orientation tour. Hike to Arbanasi village. Sofia orientation walk. Istanbul city tou ...

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