The most famous railway journey of them all, the Trans-Siberian railway is a historic line that firmly connects Europe, the remote, and stunning, Siberia, and Asia. It has proven to be a steel lifeline for the Russian people since its completion a century ago. More recently, in the 1940’s, an alternative route was added, travelling between the capital of the Buryat Republic, Ulan-Ude, and the ancient city of Beijing, through the Mongolian steppe and the Gobi Desert; though this tour will begin in Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital. This line is known as the Trans-Mongolian railway.
Golden Eagle Trans-Mongolian tours are timed to coincide with what is considered to be the world’s second oldest Olympics, the Naadam festival. It is Mongolia’s biggest festival of the ear, full of colour and celebration, with events that encompass those activities that defined Mongolian life 800 years ago; archery, wrestling and horse-riding. It is a truly unique festival that was added to UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010, and offers an insight to Mongolia’s social, and cultural, history in a way no other experience can.
Day 1 - Arrival in Ulan Bator
Your tour along the Trans-Mongolian railway will begin in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator (literally meaning Red Hero). Once the centre of one of history’s largest empires (second only to the British Empire) led by Genghis Khan, Mongolia is a country of stunning landscapes and nomadic people, rich in culture and history. Mongolia is famous for its endless green steppes, the Gobi desert, its grazing livestock and the iconic white Gers that are dotted across the landscape.
Your first day will begin with a transfer from the airport to your, centrally located, hotel and end with a welcome reception dinner, offering you the chance to get yourself acquainted with your travelling companions for the next 13 days.
Day 2 – Naadam Festival in Ulan Bator
Naadam, also known as ‘erlin gurvan Naadam’ (the three games of men), begins today, and you will be present at the colourful opening ceremony consisting of local dancers, athletes, horse riders and musicians before being taken to the national horse race outside of Ulan Bator.
The competitors in this particular race are all children aged between five and twelve and have been riding since a very young age, as is traditional on the Mongolian steppe. The race lasts for 20km, and can have anywhere up to 1000 participants.
Day 3 – Naadam Festival in Ulan Bator
You will have another full day to enjoy the spectacle that is Naadam.
Most of the main competitions are held today and, as such, you will have the opportunity to see a variety of events including archery, wrestling and, the unique, ankle-bone shooting that involves flicking a small wedge shaped piece of animal anklebone at two other pieces of bone several paces away.
There will be plenty of opportunities to take photos to share with your friends upon your return home, to show them what an incredible experience Naadam truly is.
Day 4 – Excursions in Ulan Bator
Your last day in Ulan Bator will begin at the Tibetan-style Gandan Monastery, one of the most important Buddhist Monasteries in Mongolia, home to a community of over 500 monks. The full name, Gandantegchinlen, translates as 'the great place of complete joy'.
Visiting Sukhbaatar Square, you will have the opportunity to gaze upon the central monument to Genghis Khan, probably the most famous, and certainly the most feared and revered, Mongol. We then drive out of the city to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and enjoy the beautiful scenery of wild Mongolia, having the opportunity to visit a traditional Ger and meet a nomadic family or try our hand at horse-riding, an intrinsic part of Mongolian life.
Alternatively, there is an option to stay in the city and after Gandan Monastery and Chinggis Square visit the National Museum where we learn about the country’s intriguing history. We will also see Bogd Khan Winter Palace Museum, the winter residences of Bogd Khan, the last Mongolian emperor.
We can also explore the city and have some free time for shopping for Mongolian souvenirs and specialty cashmerebefore enjoying a performance of traditional Mongolian throat singing and contortionists.
Day 5 – Excursions in Ulan-Ude
Ulan-Ude is a unique place, with a unique heritage; it is the capital of the Buryat Republic and home to the native Buryat people.
You will be taken on a tour of the Old Believers' Village, and have the opportunity to learn more about the culture and history of these deeply religious people. Following this you will be treated to a concert featuring local traditions and folk singing.
Day 6 – Travelling by Lake Baikal
One of the major highlights of any journey along the Trans-Siberian, is the section alongside the majesty that is Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world, holding around 20% of the world’s freshwater. Building the railway around Lake Baikal was one of the toughest challenges faced by the original architects, and you will see why as the train spends around five hours following the shoreline, across bridges and through tunnels. Try to look out for Baikal’s most unique residents, the Baikal seal, the only, exclusively, freshwater seal in the world. To top the experience off, the train will be pulled by a Soviet-era steam locomotive along this incredible section of the line.
Weather permitting, the train will stop in an extremely picturesque part of the coastline for some fantastic photo opportunities. For those brave enough, there will also be the opportunity to take a quick swim in the crystal clear waters.
Towards the end of the Trans-Baikal line, the our will board a boat towards Listvyanka, a small Baikal settlement, in order to visit the Lake Baikal Museum and Aquarium, giving you the opportunity to get acquainted with the flora and fauna of the Baikal region.
Before leaving, everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious barbeque by the lake, including freshly smoked omul fish, a species endemic to Lake Baikal and a local specialty.
The ‘Freedom of Choice’ excursion for the day will offer you the opportunity to go hiking, or you can choose to take the chair lift, in the hills surrounding Lake Baikal, offering unparalleled views and some breath-taking photo opportunities.
Day 7 – Excursions in Irkutsk
Irkutsk is often called the ‘Paris of Siberia’ due to its wide streets and ornate architecture, and we are sure you will see why as you take the city tour upon arrival. Exploring the city, you will have the opportunity to take in the beauty of the intricate, lace-like, decorations carved into the classical wooden architecture, that make the regions buildings so distinctive and unique. There will also be time to visit the Volkonsky House Museum, which is dedicated to the aristocrats who were exiled to this, at the time, far flung, corner of Siberia after the failed Decembrists uprising of 1825. We recreate the atmosphere of that time with a champagne reception and private concert.
If adding to your culinary repertoire is something that excites you, the ‘Freedom of Choice’ option is an opportunity to learn how to cook some traditional Russian dishes. A local chef will take you through everything you need to know, before you are given the chance to prepare your own lunch.
If you would rather gain an insight to the day in to day lives of an average Russian family, the alternative ‘Freedom of Choice’ option is a visit to a traditional Russian Dacha (summer house).
Day 8 – On-board
You can take a day to unwind and recharge your batteries after several jam-packed days. Watch the breath-taking scenery go by, share your experiences with your fellow travellers or, perhaps, learn a few words of Russian.
Day 9 – Excursions in Novosibirsk
The most populous city in Asian Russia (at the time that it hit 1 million inhabitants, it was the youngest city ever to do so), located on the banks of the Ob River, Novosibirsk is a thoroughly modern ‘Soviet’ city. Art and science are prominent in the city and it is on this basis that your tour options have been created.
You will take a city tour, taking in Lenin Square and its Soviet era statue of this iconic political leader, where you will find the imposing, and beautiful, Opera House. It is one of the largest opera houses in the world, and hosts two permanent opera and ballet companies.
For those with an interest for precious stones, one of the ‘Freedom of Choice’ options is a visit to the Mineralogical Centre with its fine display of Siberian minerals.
The second ‘Freedom of Choice’ may be for those whose interests lie elsewhere, as you may be able to visit the Novosibirsk Railway Museum. Here you will find a collection of locomotives and rolling stock from the 1800’s up until the present day. Of particular interest are the collection of carriages that were in use by the Tsars themselves.
Day 10 – Excursions in Yekaterinburg
Founded nearly 300 years ago by Peter the Great, Yekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia and holds a very important place in the history of Russia, as it is here that, in 1918, the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were executed.
Our primary tour will take you to the site of the execution, now the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land. The tour will offer an insight into the turmoil that surrounded the Russian Revolution. We will also drive to the obelisk marking the geographical border and we can drink a glass of champagne with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia.
Time permitting, our Freedom of Choice programme features either a visit to the recently opened Museum of Military Machinery. The museum houses an amazing collection of different types of military hardware including tanks, aircraft, boats and even armoured trains.
Alternatively we will make a short stop at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre, recently opened in Yekaterinburg, which is dedicated to the contemporary political history of Russia and its first president.
Day 11 – Excursions in Kazan
Situated on the Volga River, the picturesque and historic city of Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. You will have the opportunity to experience its unique history and culture, with free time to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the city, as well as a tour of the Kremlin Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the walls of this ancient citadel, are a stunning mosque as well as a picture-perfect onion-domed cathedral.
To top off your day, in memory of one of Russia’s most famous opera singers, born in Kazan, Feodor Chaliapin, you will be invited to a private concert of some of his music.
Day 12 – Excursions in Moscow
Having travelled nearly 4,000 miles, today the tour will arrive in its last destination, the historic capital of Russia, Moscow.
While in Moscow, the tours primary destination will be the centre of Moscow itself, including the iconic Red Square, an evocative symbol of Russia’s political and military might throughout the 20th Century. You can marvel at the incredible architecture surrounding the square, including St Basils Cathedral, with its gorgeously ornate onion domes, and the famous, and historic, GUM department store. Not only will you visit Red Square, you will also have the opportunity to step inside the Kremlin, the seat of Russia’s government, while visiting the Armoury Chamber.
If you have been to Moscow before we offer included Freedom of Choice touring where we show you other sights of Moscow such as the famous State Tretyakov Gallery (National Museum of Fine Art) or the Space Museum.
You will stay overnight in Moscow at the stylish five-star Four Seasons Hotel Moscow. Located in the historic building of Moskva Hotel and occupying one of the most enviable addresses in the very heart of Moscow, the hotel is a short walk from the Kremlin, Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre.
Day 13 – Depart from Moscow
Breakfast will be served at your hotel before you are transferred to the airport to begin the journey home.
If you are not yet ready to journey home, why not try one of Real Russia’s Moscow extensions?
This tour includes:
Experienced tour managers:
Golden Eagle tour managers are selected for their linguistic and organisational capability, allowing you to sit back and relax on your Trans-Siberian adventure.
Hotel and on-board accommodation:
Although you will spend much of your time sightseeing or socialising in the trains public areas, you will find your hotel room or cabin a welcome retreat at the end of the day. All hotels are 5*, or the best available.
Welcome and farewell dinners:
Golden Eagle welcome dinners offer all travellers the opportunity to make friends with one another before the adventure ahead. The farewell dinner offers the chance to share stories of your time on the Trans-Siberian and look ahead to future tours.
Route guide, itinerary and information pack:
Once you have boarded the train, a brochure will be available in your cabin outlining the journey ahead. Each evening the Golden Eagle tour manager will offer a briefing and a programme for the next day’s activities.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily:
All departures feature Golden Eagles uniquely designed restaurant cars, it is here you will be served your meals. On occasion the tour will also provide meals in that day’s destination in order to sample the finest local cuisine.
Drinks with meals and from the Bar Lounge Car:
A generous drinks allowance is included with lunch and dinner. For those travelling Gold Class, all drinks on the Standard Drinks List are included. For those who have chosen Imperial Suite, all drinks from both the Standard, and Premium, Drinks Lists are included.
You can expect service that is attentive, friendly and unobtrusive. Your car attendants provide 24-hour housekeeping and bedding turndown services. Complimentary tea, coffee and bottled water are available in your cabin 24 hours a day.
Imperial Suite travellers will have the added benefit of the option of a private car and guide in many of the places visited en-route.
‘Freedom of Choice’ touring:
In many of the places that you visit, Golden Eagle guides will offer you a selection of different tours to take, to best suit your interests. Please note, though, that ‘Freedom of Choice’ options may be subject to variations depending on finalised train timings ad local charges. Touring options that are available will, typically, be advertised the evening prior to the days tour.
On all excursions, a lightweight headset will be provided to ensure that you hear your guide clearly, and do not miss out on any of the fascinating information them are imparting.
On-board doctor and medical facilities:
For your peace of mind, Golden Eagle tours are always accompanied by a doctor for the whole journey. They will be on call 24 hours a day, and are generally English speaking, registered with the General Medical Council in the UK.
You will not have to worry about tipping while travel with the Golden Eagle as any, and all, gratuities are covered in the tour price.
A Golden Eagle embroidered backpack for use during excursions (one per cabin):
A handy way to ensure that you never leave anything behind on your day to day excursions and to carry any souvenirs that you may pick up.
Souvenir DVD upon finishing the tour, containing photos, itineraries, distances travelled and menus:
The perfect way to remember your adventure along the most famous railway in the world.
Lectures on Russian history, life under Communism vs today and the Trans-Siberian Railway:
Golden Eagles’ local experts will insure that you will come away from your adventure with a deeper understanding of Russia, Mongolia and their people.
After-dinner live musical entertainment on-board:
A variety of traditional and popular music to keep you entertained into the night.
Russian language courses:
Golden Eagle will ensure that you need not worry about travelling from, or to, your Trans-Siberian adventure once you are in Russia.
While you will stay on the train for the duration of your journey, when you do arrive at, and the leave, the train, you can be assured all of your bags will be in safe hands.
- Any flights or travel costs not covered in the itinerary.
- Visa costs. See the Real Russia Trans-Siberian Visa’s page
- Insurance. See Real Russia’s advice on travel insurance.
- Drinks from the Bar Lounge Car not included in your travel class. For more information visit ‘About the Golden Eagle’.
- Any laundry services not included in your travel class. For more information visit ‘About the Golden Eagle’.
- Personal expenses such as souvenir shopping or extra food and drink not included in the itinerary.
- Excess baggage charges