Experience this incredible bucket-list rail adventure through China, Mongolia, and Russia – one of the world’s greatest and most epic journeys. Stay in the Mongolian wilderness local-style with an overnight in a tourist ger camp. Immerse yourself in Mongolia’s rich cultural heritage, from the country’s original Buddhist temple to the city built by Genghis Khan. Discover a way of life that has changed very little since the 18th century with a visit to an ‘Old Believers Village’ near Ulan Ude
Big, bigger, biggest! Travel from the world’s greatest wall, along the world’s longest railway line, through the world’s largest nation, to the world’s deepest freshwater lake. Explore far-flung cities, small rural villages and everything in between in this breathtaking part of the world. Journey to China and see the sights of Beijing, stay overnight in a Mongolian ger, then ride the Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia to see impressive St Petersburg and the small town of Kungur. Immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of this region on this exciting trip, while gaining insight into a big part of the world that is little explored.
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Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. The capital of the most populous country on earth, this sprawling city is home to over 20 million people. We recommend arriving early, if possible, and taking some time to explore the many sights in the centre of the city including Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, as well as the maze of hutongs (alleys) that hide some incredible food options. Your adventure proper kicks off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, after which you may like to seek out Beijing's famous, crispy Peking duck. Delicious.
This morning you'll board a train, making your way out of China and into Mongolia on the first leg of this epic 6000 kilometre journey to Moscow. This is an overnight journey (approx. 30 hours) including a long border crossing during the night where passports are processed and the train are changed because of the different rail gauges used. Get comfortable as you watch the scenery change from urban to rocky desert to rolling, green meadows as you enter Mongolia.
The trains used throughout this journey are simple yet comfortable. You'll be travelling 2nd class, and there'll be a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage, but keep in mind that service standards can vary greatly (it's part of the adventure). Each compartment has four bunks with bedding provided, though some travellers preferto bring their own sheets. there's hot water for drinks and instant meals, and snacks and drinks are sometimes available for purchase with most trains having a dining car too. The trains are generally heated but most do not offer air conditioning, so they can be come very hot even in winter. For this reason, please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions you may experience.
Crammed between the superpowers of Russia and China, the independent nation of Mongolia is a truly adventurous destination. The capital, Ulaanbaatar (affectionately known as UB), is a city where you’ll find elderly Mongolians in traditional dress, suit-clad entrepreneurs and young monks. After arriving mid-afternoon, maybe venture out into the city where the close relationship with the USSR is evident in the Soviet-style architecture. Tonight, perhaps experience Mongolia's rich artistic culture at a performance of traditional throat and ‘long song’ singers, musicians, dancers and contortionists.
For your free time in UB you can explore the city, maybe visiting the Museum of Natural History, which has an excellent dinosaur display, or any of the city’s other fascinating museums. At the Intellectual Museum you can learn about Mongolia's history and culture through puzzles, toys and magic tricks, or uncover the country's turbulent history in the National History Museum, including the reign of the most famous of Mongolian historical figures – the feared and respected Genghis Khan.
Terelj National Park - Ger Camp
In the morning, travel to Terelj National Park by private van (approximately 90 minutes). With rolling meadows dotted with munching yaks, forested hills and imposing rock formations, this is the perfect place to take in Mongolia's natural beauty. In Terelj, you’ll stay in a holiday ger camp (multi-share) with full board. Vegetarians can be catered for, although choices may be limited – please let us know if you have any specific dietary requirements at time of booking. The gers sleep up to four people with comfy beds and plenty of blankets. In the colder months you might want to stoke up the stove in the centre of the ger – you'll be toasty warm in no time! Take in the wonderful views across the gers and rocky escarpment as you experience a memorable Mongolian sunset.
Return to Ulaanbaatar, stopping to visit the Chinggis (Genghis) Khan Monument en route. This gigantic statute can be seen from miles away, and you can climb up the structure to see the view from atop the horse. It's a surreal experience. After arriving back in the city, head off to do some shopping and stock up on supplies for tomorrow's overnight train ride. You could also search out local handicrafts like cashmere and felt products. This evening, either relax in the hotel or sniff out a local restaurant with your group.
Enjoy a morning tour of Ulaanbaatar and the surrounding area. Look out across the city from the top of Zaisan Hill then visit Mongolia’s largest and most important active monastery, the lively Gandan Khiid. Here you'll learn about the main religion of Mongolia – Tibetan Buddhism – before exploring the range of fascinating artefacts housed in the Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan.
Later today you'll leave Mongolia aboard the Trans-Mongolian Railway, which takes you across the border into Russia and on to Siberia (approximately 15 hours).
Ulan-Ude is the capital of the Republic of Buryatia and homeland of the Buryat people, who are closely related to Mongolians. After years of repression during the Soviet era, Buryat traditions and religions (shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism) have seen a revival, and you’ll notice how the city is an ethnic and spiritual mix of Euro-Russian, Mongolia, and Buryat cultures. The future of Buryatia is directly connected with development of the Lake Baikal area as a tourism zone. By coming here with our groups, respecting environmental issues and with rational use of the area's rich cultural and historic legacy, we aim to contribute to the development of sustainable tourism in Eastern Siberia. The area is fabulously beautiful, Ulan Ude is surrounded by vast, wild nature, boundless steppes, alpine and taiga forests.
You'll arrive at Ulan Ude around 6am in the morning, and head to Lake Baikal (approx. 3 hours), the deepest lake in the world with 20% of the world's fresh water. Please note that the breakfast this morning is included in the guesthouse, so it'll be a late one and it's best for you to have some snacks in case you get hungry. Today and tomorrow will be free days to enjoy your surroundings. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from here, including hiking, swimming, boat trips, or simply enjoy the sun and the magnificent scenery as this part of the lake has beautiful, long sandy beaches and some smaller and warmer lakes. Don't miss out on experiencing a banya, the Russian version of a sauna. Locals swear by the cleansing, healing and meditative properties of having a steam and a wash in the banya, and it can also be quite the social occasion. Be sure to avail yourself of some birch twigs and slap yourself (and others) over the shoulders for a traditional Siberian 'massage' to get the true banya experience. The banya here gives you a chance to cool off from the steam by jumping straight into the lake, before you go back in and do it all again.
Your accommodation tonight is multi-share. Full board is included, with plenty of tasty Russian staples like salads, soups, black bread, pancakes and pies. You'll also get a chance to try the local fish from Baikal – omul – which taste even better when roasted over a camp fire on the lake shore.
Say goodbye to 'Grandpa Baikal' this morning and head back to Ulan Ude. In the afternoon, go on a short walk with your leader to visit the city center and the big Lenin head. Make the most of all the local food today, as tomorrow you'll be taking your three-night train and the culinary offerings may not be so great.
Before hopping onto the Trans Siberian train in the evening, head to the Old Believers' village (approx. 1 hour). The Old Believers are Orthodox Christians who were either exiled or fled from Russia during 17th-century church reforms. Spend some time in the village, which has changed little since the 18th century, visiting the local church and ethnography museum and attending a concert of folk songs.
In the evening, get ready for your home for the next 3 nights and surely this epic train journey won't disappoint.
The Trans-Siberian Railway is the world's most famous train line. It's also the longest, extending from Moscow across Siberia to the far-flung town of Vladivostok. You’ll experience part of this celebrated train odyssey from Ulan Ude to the Ural town of Kungur (3 nights total). Travelling through three time zones, you’ll wind your way through forests, small Siberian villages and big industrial Russian cities to reach the bustling European part of this vast and varied nation.
It might seem like a long journey but the majority of travellers are actually surprised how quickly it goes. Life on the train pretty much consists of eating, drinking, talking, reading, sleeping and gazing out the window. Settle into the rhythm and enjoy the simplicity of having very little to do. Pro tip: buy dill and mint from the station sellers along the way to freshen up your soups and other meals There's plenty to keep you busy and enjoying this relaxing part of the journey, and you may even be reluctant to get off when you reach the next destination.
Break up the journey with a stop in tranquil Kungur, a pretty provincial Russian town known for its traditional architecture. When Siberia first opened up for settlement, a new major road turned Kungur into a trade centre and though foreigners seldom visit, our aim is that by stopping here we can have a positive impact on the development of tourism. Take a walking tour with a local guide to see the interesting mix of architectural styles then perhaps choose to visit some of the most extensive ice caves in the world. The first two caves contain permanently frozen ice formations,w aterfalls and underground lakes, but be sure to keep an eye out for the mythical monster mammoth that inhabits the caves. Back in town, you’ll discover more about the people, their customs, culture and cuisine with a visit to a local family to make traditional gingerbread and enjoy plenty of cups of tea.
Perm - Overnight Train
Prepare for a long day of travelling. Depart Kungur in a private bus and travel to Perm train station (approx. 4 hours). Perm, whose name comes from the term ‘Far-away-land’, is the most eastern city in Europe and a major rail junction connecting Siberia and the Far East with the European part of the country. Depending on when the group arrives, there may have some free time to explore the city, which is home to two of Russia’s largest art museums. Perm was infamously known as the ‘Gateway to the Gulag’, a closed city that was hidden from Soviet maps and not opened until 1990.Approximately 100 kilometres outside of the city is Perm-36, a notorious forced labour camp that wasn’t closed until 1987. In the afternoon, you’ll board your overnight train to Moscow (approx. 25 hours), which departs at approximately 5 pm.