As fellow group members will be arriving throughout the day there are no planned activities until the group meeting in the evening at 6:00pm, followed by an optional group dinner. Upon arrival please check the notice board in the hotel reception for details of the time and place of the meeting.
Beijing, the capital city of China, is one of the world's most impressive cities. The attractions are never-ending in this vibrant city. During your free time opt to visit the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and the Lama Temple Monastery. A great way to visit these landmarks is to hire a bicycle and take to the streets, just like the Chinese do. On Day 2 enjoy a guided tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City to learn more about past and present of China. Day 3 takes you on a guided tour of the Great Wall (Mutianyu section). The Wall, an incredible piece of engineering, stretches 6000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect the Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north.
The excitement builds as we board the Ulaanbaatar Express on the morning of Day 4. While on board, quickly settle in and enjoy impressive views of the Great Wall as the train tackles the mountains before descending to the arid lands of Inner Mongolia and continues into the heart of rural Asia.
Awake to the stunning landscapes of the south Gobi. The classic image of Mongolian horses and gers dot the scenery from horizon to horizon. The occasional nomad encampment appears mirage-like through the carriage window. Arrive shortly after 12pm on Day 5 in the world's most remote capital - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Disembark and transfer to the hotel. Crammed between superpowers Russia and China, the now independent nation of Mongolia is a remote destination that has only recently been opened up to tourism. The capital, Ulaanbaatar (UB), is a city in which the new meets the old as Mongolians in traditional dress mingle with the nation's business elite. The nation's close relationship with the old USSR is evident in the Soviet style architecture and old Russian cars that are still being used. Exploring the city's many museums is a real eye-opener into a turbulent history including the time of Chinghis Khan, one of the most feared and respected rulers of his time. On Day 6, enjoy an included city tour with a local guide. Discover one of the most important Mongolian temple complexes, the Gandan Monastery. Learn about the history of Buddhism in Mongolia and hope for the chance see chanting monks. If you're lucky, a local fortune teller may be around to share some widom. After the Monastery, the tour will continue in the Winter Palace of the last Mongolian King (the only King's palace that survived the Revolution). At the end of the tour visit Zaisan Hill, a great viewpoint with a monument dedicated to Soviet soldiers. The remaining hours of the day are free for you to explore the city by visiting more museums, strolling the streets or tasting dumplings (booz) in a local restaurant. On Day 7 we leave the metropolis and travel into Mongolia's Terelj National Park. This alpine park is a beautiful retreat with imposing rock formations and endless forests. Walk through the valleys, visit nomadic families and live simply overnight in a traditional Ger camp. A unique experience not soon to be forgotten, each ger holds up to 5 people.
On the morning of Day 8 you return back to Ulaanbaatar. There is enough time to buy some souvenirs and snacks for the ride before boarding the next train. In the evening board the 2-night train, a journey of approximately 40hrs that takes us into Siberia. This train is the most local of all the trains, providing a basic yet comfortable ride. A restaurant car is not normally provided, and if it is, the food can be basic and limited. It's a very good idea to stock up on snacks before you leave Ulaanbaatar. On Day 9 we reach the town of Naushki where we go through our border formalities at the Mongolian/Russian borders. Walk around this small town, stock up on supplies and stretch your legs before reboarding the train around 3 pm to continue the journey to Irkutsk.
On Day 10 we arrive to the charming Siberian city of Irkutsk where we transfer to a bus for a short trip out to the lakeside village of Listvyanka, located on the shores of Lake Baikal (approx. 2 hrs). After settling into the hotel, opt to tour the Baikal Museum, a unique museum and research complex that houses an exhibition dedicated to the biggest fresh water lake in the world. Learn about Baikal seals, omul fish and the history of surrounding areas. After visiting the museum you can explore the shores of Lake Baikal, where you will marvel at the vastness of this inland ‘sea’. Over 600 kilometres long and up to 80 kilometres wide, Baikal contains one-fifth of the earth's fresh water and is home to many unique species. We enjoy the lakeside village of Listvyanka and a chance to walk along the lake shore, if the weather is nice you might want to hop in the water for a swim. On Day 11 transfer back to Irkutsk for an included city tour of one of the most beautiful cities in Siberia. Old buildings and time-worn mansions decorate this remote but flourishing city, sometimes called "The Paris of Siberia". Founded over 350 years ago it prospered as a market town on the ‘Tea Route’ between China and Europe. Irkutsk today is proud of its place in Russian history, and is always a highlight of any Trans Mongolian rail journey. Before boarding the overnight train westbound, there will be time to shop like the locals at the Central Market for Russian delicacies to keep you well-fed on your voyage.
The Trans-Siberan Railway is the world's most famous train route. It is also the longest, extending from Moscow across Siberia to the far flung town of Vladivostok. We experience part of this celebrated train odyssey, boarding in Irkutsk for the journey to Ekaterinburg (approx. 40 hours). The train is basic yet still makes for a comfortable journey. A providnista (train attendant) is assigned to every carriage to look after your needs and each compartment has four convertible beds with luggage storage space provided. The old-style restaurant car tends to have a jovial atmosphere and can offer interesting insights into local cuisine and culture. Station platforms generally have food for sale at stalls run by the babushkas (Russian grandmothers) helping you replenish your food supply. Life on board can as social or as relaxing as you would like it to be. Play cards with the locals, enjoy a Russian beer or just simply relax in your cabin watching the birch forests speed past. On Day 13, depending on the train timetable - in the afternoon or early evening, we'll arrive to the Ural town of Ekaterinburg.
A city founded by Peter the Great in 1723 and situated just 40 kilometres inside Asia. Ekaterinburg's main claim to fame is the intrigue surrounding the murder of the Romanov family, an event which changed the course of Russian history, as the fall of the Tsar led to the beginning of the Communist era in 1918.
On Day 15 in the morning, we reboard the Trans-Siberian Railway. Today we say farewell to Asia as we cross the Urals and enter Europe aboard the train to Moscow.
We arrive in Moscow in the morning of Day 16. The great city of Moscow has seen Russia through some of her most turbulent years. The city has survived the trauma and tribulations of centuries of revolution, from the days of the Tzars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Despite the glamour and show of modern capitalism, exploring Moscow is like taking step back in time. Names of places such as the Kremlin and Red Square, bring forth unforgettable images of the Cold War era. It's worthwhile taking the time to explore the streets of this evocative city and visit Ivan the Terrible's extraordinary St Basil's Cathedral. On Day 17 we take a guided tour of the Kremlin and the Armoury museum, the afternoon is yours to explore. The metro tour is one Moscow's hidden gems, the city also offers a wealth of museums, shops, and kiosks to discover. On Day 18 continue your exploration of the Russian capital before we catch our last train to St Petersburg in the late evening.
The train arrives in St Petersburg very early in the morning on Day 19. St Petersburg, one of Europe's finest cities, is largely built of baroque European architecture combined with the opulent palaces of Russian royalty. Its tree-lined streets and cosmopolitan atmosphere make it a favourite destination for travellers from around the globe. Upon arrival to St Petersburg take a walking tour of the city. The afternoon is free for you to explore "the northern Venice". On the morning of Day 20 visit the Hermitage museum, one of the biggest museums in Europe, famous not only for its amazing art collection, but for being Tsars' palace for almost 200 years. In the evening we meet for an optional group farewell dinner.
Depart St Petersburg at any time.