Discover Russia, Mongolia and China on sample two of the world’s greatest overland journeys – the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railroads.. Visit some of Intrepid’s local friends in St Petersburg and share some afternoon tea in a unique setting – a Soviet-era communal apartment.. Combine train travel with time to explore cities and villages along the way, including two nights in a homestay with a Russian family near Lake Baikal.. Immerse yourself in Mongolian wilderness during a night in a ger camp in Terelj National Park, including a locally-guided hike to a Buddhist retreat and a hand-on dumpling dinner.
Looking for a journey that combines epic train travel with immersive local experiences? Come on board for an adventure through three nations – Russia, Mongolia and China – via the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Trans-Mongolian Railroad. This 20-day transcontinental odyssey takes you from the opulence of Moscow and St Petersburg to the grace of imperial Beijing. Travel along the most famous railway in the world through the heartland of Siberia and to the vast steppes of Mongolia, discovering classical Russian architecture in Irkutsk and rugged natural beauty in Lake Baikal along the way. With traditional accommodation, authentic local experiences and insider knowledge, this tour showcases overland travel at its best.
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Breakfast Included: 13 Lunches Included: 3 Dinner Included: 3
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. Your adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6 pm. Truly one of Europe's finest cities – baroque European architecture combined with the opulent palaces of Russian royalty – St Petersburg was built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great and his legacy will clearly be felt as you explore its mysterious streets and visit its renowned palaces and museums.
Spend the day exploring St Petersburg using the great public transport, and on foot crossing its many rivers and canals. Perhaps enjoy incredible views across the city from the colonnade at St Isaac’s Cathedral, or walk along Nevsky Prospekt – St Petersburg’s main street. Head down to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra where Russia's great musicians and writers like Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky are laid to rest in the cemetery or visit Peter the Great’s ghoulish collection of curiosities at the Kunstamera. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world with one of the world's premier art collections housed in this former imperial Winter Palace – a whole day could easily be spent wandering its halls. Otherwise, you could embark on a canal boat tour or take a look around Peterhof Park. Whatever you choose, the city is easy to get around and your leader can help you make the most of your free day. In the evening, visit a local home and have a tea party Russian-style. Not all family members speak English, but with your leader on hand to interpret and their warm hospitality, you'll be feeling like one of the family in no time. These families live in St Petersburg's communal apartments, which date from Soviet times. Such apartments and their way of living have ceased to exist in other Russian cities, but they are still common in St Petersburg. This is a truly unique local experience that you won't find anywhere else.
St Petersburg / Moscow
Take a free morning in St Petersburg to explore what you may have missed in the previous couple of days, then in the early afternoon, take a high-speed train to Moscow (approximately 4 hours). You’ll then get on Moscow’s famed metro system to your hotel and arrive by early evening. Then, the night is all yours. Perhaps check out Red Square flooded in lights, or wander Arbat street – one of the mostly lively, interesting and oldest surviving streets in Moscow. If you missed the ballet or the opera in St Petersburg, why not check out a show here? If this interests you, it is highly recommended to book well in advance to secure a ticket.
The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and seen Russia through some of its most turbulent years, all the way from the days of the tsars. This morning, head to iconic Red Square with a local guide. This beautiful cobbled city square is framed by St Basil’s Cathedral, the opulent GUM Department store, the imposing walls of the Kremlin and the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum. You’ll also visit Lenin’s Mausoleum with your group. Lenin was the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution which ushered in the era of communism. The afternoon is free for you to continue to explore Russia’s capital. Perhaps you could step inside the colourful St Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. Legend has it that tsar, Ivan the Terrible, had the two architects blinded so that they couldn't build anything as beautiful. Alternatively, relive the nation's turbulent past at Victory Park, travel back to the beginnings of Russian art at the Tretyakov Gallery or do some souvenir shopping at the Izmailovo Markets. The best part is, it’s all up to you.
This morning, continue to explore the city when you embark on a tour of the Kremlin grounds, which houses the oldest and most important churches in the country and where many tsars and tsarinas are laid to rest. You’ll also head inside the Armoury Museum which houses a glittering imperial collection of regalia and items once belonging to the world's richest monarchy, including Faberge eggs and ambassadorial gifts. With your free time this afternoon, you may want to go in search of the ornate metro stations that Moscow is so well known for, or simply head to a café and enjoy a relaxing afternoon over a coffee and a pechen'ye (biscuit).
Take a private vehicle in the morning from Moscow to Pereslavl Zalessky (approximately 3 hours). Visit the colourful Goritsky Monastery, which sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Pleshcheevo. Take a walk in the downtown and visit its local red square and ramparts, which date back to the 12th century. Later in the afternoon, continue your travel towards Siberia to the town of Yaroslavl, situated on the Volga River.
Take some free time in Yaroslavl to walk along the Volga River and hop on the riverside tram, visit the Monastery of Transfiguration of the Saviour, the Annunciation Cathedral or the history museum. Spend some time today, also, to stock up on supplies for your mighty Trans-Siberian train journey. There is a dining cart on-board, however if there are specific things that you’d like, it is best to make sure you’ve got snacks and drinks for the long journey. Later in the afternoon, board your train for an adventure of a lifetime. You’ll be passing through vast stretches of Russia’s countryside, and reliving the idea of slow travel – so get ready to sit back and relax on one of the most famous train journeys in the world.
Your long rail journey finally brings you to the Siberian city of Irkutsk, and the gateway to Lake Baikal – the deepest and largest lake (by volume) in the world. On arrival, stop for breakfast before driving to your lakeside village by private minivan (approximately 2 hours). Bolshoye Goloustnoye sits in the delta of the Goloustnoye River, on the western edge of Lake Baikal. Here you’ll be hosted by some of the kindest and most hospitable people around – local Buryat (the ethnic group of the Lake Baikal area) friends in their guesthouse and home. Situated right in the centre of the village, you'll certainly get to experience typical Russian rural life here. Slough away the grit of your long train journey in the family's backyard 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! Make 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.
Enjoy your surroundings today explore the beautiful Baikal nature. There are options for swimming in the lake or river or taking a boat trip along the shore. You can take a short hike up a nearby mountain for epic views of the lake and the village, then hire some bikes to explore further afield. The lake is so flat that you may hardly be able to make out the horizon in the distance. In the village cows roam freely, contained only by the fences keeping them out of the village's produce gardens. The houses themselves are bright examples of 'Siberian Lace' – decorative carved wooden window fixtures that keep evil spirits from entering homes. Each day you’ll be treated to delicious, hearty Siberian home cooking, all made from fresh local produce.
Return to Irkutsk today (approximately 2 hours). Once a boom town of exiles and gold merchants, Irkutsk suffered under a regime that brought Soviet architecture and communist propaganda to its streets. Fortunately, the sophisticated atmosphere it once offered is not totally lost, and Irkutsk remains a fascinating city. Some parts of town are still lined with traditional houses and the old homes of liberal aristocrats exiled from Moscow early in the 19th century. Visit the Angara Icebreaker Museum – a unique piece of engineering and a key part of the history of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Walking through the city, see some of the original wooden residences and stop off at the Central Market to taste some of the amazing range of local produce for sale, and to stock up on supplies for the next train journey tomorrow.
Trans Mongolian Train
Back on the rails early morning today as you travel the Trans-Mongolian Railway for your overnight train trip (approximately 27 hours) into Mongolia. During the journey you’ll cross the border from Russia (Naushki) into Mongolia (Sukhbaatar) at night.
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, business suit-clad entrepreneurs and young monks. Arrive early in the morning in Ulaanbaatar and transfer to the hotel. Drop your luggage then venture out into the city. Enjoy a morning tour of Ulaanbaatar and the surrounding area. 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. Then look out across the city from the top of Zaisan Hill then before exploring the range of fascinating artefacts housed in the Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan.
In the afternoon, perhaps explore one of the city's many museums to learn about the country's turbulent history, including the reign of the most famous of Mongolian historical figures – the feared and respected Genghis Khan.