Russia is a huge country spanning 17,125,200 square miles and consisting of approximately 1/8 of the earth’s inhabited land. From vast freshwater lakes to huge rocky mountain ranges, Russia’s unprecedented size and dramatic landscapes cannot be understated. So, how do we even begin to think about exploring a country that is almost twice the size of the rest of Europe combined? Well, by train of course!
Why travel Russia by train?
The pros and cons of Russian train travel
Travelling by train in Russia is not without its problems. For one, train stations, especially in larger cities such as Moscow or St. Petersburg, are notoriously crowded and deal with both domestic and international passengers. In rural areas, navigating trains can be difficult since timings, place names and information is mostly in Russian with very little English available. Aside from this, train travel across Russia will take you hours which is understandable for a country of its size.
Despite these difficulties, travelling Russia by train is an enriching and albeit rewarding experience for any traveller that wants to really see what Russia is about. While planes may take you across Russia in a fraction of the time, trains allow you plenty of opportunity to really immerse yourself in Russian culture from your seat. What’s more, travelling by train has less impact on the environment than other forms of transport, so what’s not to love?
3 awe-inspiring train routes you must take when exploring Russia
Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM)
Around 2680 miles long, the Baikal-Amur mainline was built as an alternative to the Trans-Siberian railway, officially starting from Tayshet (although western travellers often join at Irkutsk) and travelling east towards the Pacific Ocean. Much of the BAM is constructed over permafrost so highly durable materials that can withstand severe terrain and weather conditions have been used as part of the track design.
- Bratsk (crossing the Angara River)
- Ustkut (crossing the Lena River)
- Severobaikalsk (northern tip of Lake Baikal)
- Komsomolsk-on-Amur (crossing the Amur River)
- Sovetskaya Gavan
Things to experience on the Baikal-Amur mainline
Lake Baikal – One of the most popular tourist spots in Russia, Lake Baikal is the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world with a maximum depth of 1,632m and measuring 23,000 cubic km in size. Aside from spectacular views, the lake is home to the only freshwater seal in the world.
The Kirov railway is a Russian rail network linking Murmansk with St. Petersburg. Although a relatively short railway journey (around 900 miles) compared with the Trans-Siberian, the Kirov is still a popular journey for tourists wanting to explore The Northern-most parts of Russia. The line was originally known as the Murman railway and has been of strategic military importance since Murmansk is one of the few ice-free ports on the Arctic Sea.
The route (ARKTIKA):
- St Petersburg
- Saint Petersburg Ladozhski
- Volkhovstroy 1
- Lodeynoye Pole
- Medvezh'ya Gora
- Polyarnyye Zori
- Apatity 1
Things to experience on the Kirov railway
Mumansk - Murmansk is a port city located in the northwestern part of Russia close to the Norweigian border, now home to numerous naval monuments and even a museum ship, Lenin. Aside from the city’s impressive military history, Mumansk and the Kola peninsula is one of the best destinations in Russia to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) with over 40 days of clear night skies.
As the longest railway in the world at around 5772 miles, the Trans-Siberian is without question one of the most extraordinary engineering achievements of recent times. Renowned for its ability to connect Western and Eastern Russia (Moscow to Vladivostok), the Trans-Siberian is an icon for train enthusiasts and travellers alike. This major route works as an artery for traversing Asia and splits into three main routes, the first, official route leading to Vladivostok, the second starting from Moscow and heading to Bejing, China (Trans-Manchurian), and the third starting from Moscow and heading to Bejing via Ulaan-Baatar (Trans-Mongolian).
The route (Trans-Siberian)
Things to experience on the Trans-Siberian
Kazan – A major tourist destination located on the banks of the Volga River, Kazan is known for its multi-ethnic history and was the capital of the Tatarstan Republic. This city boasts a multitude of cultural delights including the only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia, the Kazan Kremlin and the Qol Sharif Mosque.
Ulan Ude – Ulan Ude is a vibrant city close to the border of Mongolia, and home to the Buryats an indigenous people with a proud heritage spanning many generations. Today, the city is known for being the centre of Buddhism in Russia.
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Why people choose us for Russian train travel
At Real Russia, we pride ourselves on being able to deliver a fast, stress-free service to our customers. Our live train schedules highlight any days that trains are departing between your selected cities and the scheduled trains section will list all trains running for your chosen month. We also offer a secure order tracking process so you can double-check your train tickets before you travel. Need help planning your journey? Our destinations page will go through some of the most popular Russian cities to visit. For more information on how to understand and book your Russian train tickets, please visit our dedicated Russian trains page or contact us directly.
If you are interested in booking any supplementary tours along the way, why not take a look at the Russian tours we have on offer? We have a range of excursions to suit any budget.