20 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 St Petersburg
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.
Day 2 St Petersburg
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.
Day 3 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.
Day 4 Moscow
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.
Day 5 Moscow
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).
Day 6 Pereslavl-Zalessky/Yaroslavl
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.
Days 7-10 Trans-Siberian Railway
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.
Day 11 Lake Baikal
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.
Day 12 Lake Baikal
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.
Day 13 Irkutsk
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.
Day 14 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.
Day 15 Ulaanbaatar
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.
Day 16 Terelj National Park
Travel to Terelj National Park by private van (approximately 1.5 hours). With rolling meadows dotted with munching yaks, forested hills, and jagged rock formations, this is the perfect place to take in Mongolia's natural beauty. A local guide will share some insight into Mongolian customs and culture with you, as well as lead you on a hike to a local Buddhist retreat. In Terelj, you’ll stay in traditional lodging at a holiday ger camp. 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! Tonight, get involved in making your own dinner by learning to cook buuz – traditional Mongolian dumplings. Take in the wonderful views across the gers and rocky escarpment as you experience a memorable Mongolian sunset.
Day 17 Ulaanbaatar
Return to the hotel in Ulaanbaatar today (approximately 1.5 hours). On the way back to UB, stop and visit the huge Genghis Khan Monument. Genghis Khan, the legendary horseman who conquered half the known world in the 13th century, can be viewed from miles away. You can climb up the structure and see the view from atop the horse. For the rest of your free time in UB you can explore the city, perhaps visiting Mongolia’s largest and most important active monastery, the lively Gandan Khiid, to learn about the main religion of Mongolia – Tibetan Buddhism. Perhaps look out over Ulaanbaatar from the top of Zaisan Hill or visit one of the city’s fascinating museums. At the Intellectual Museum you can learn about the history and culture of this intriguing country through puzzles, toys and magic tricks. In the evening, you may like to experience Mongolia’s rich artistic culture at a traditional throat and ‘long song’ performance or singers, musicians, dancers and contortionists.
Day 18 Ulaanbaatar / Overnight Train
Farewell Mongolia today as you travel from Mongolia to Beijing on the next section of your epic train ride. The overnight journey (approximately 30 hours) leaves early in the morning and includes a long stop at the Mongolia-China border where the train changes bogies (wheels) due to the different rail gauges. The train may have a basic restaurant car but it's advisable to stock up at the supermarket before leaving Ulaanbaatar. Say goodbye to the relative time warp of Mongolia, get comfortable and watch the scenery change from rolling green meadows to rocky desert, to the built-up modernity of the city.
Day 19 Beijing
Arrive in Beijing mid-afternoon and transfer to your hotel. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past, as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture. After a quick freshen up at the hotel, get out onto the streets of Beijing. Perhaps head to Tiananmen Square – the symbolic centre of Chinese power. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People, and the National Museum, it's a place of pilgrimage for the Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation. Here you can enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards. Beijing is vast and overflowing with sights – with your hotel located centrally, a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises.
Day 20 Beijing
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. There's so much to see and do in Beijing that we highly recommend staying an extra few days. In this extra time, you could take a tour to the Great Wall, cycle around the city, visit the park surrounding the Temple of Heaven, or explore the beautiful Tibetan-style monastery of Yonghegong (the Lama Temple). Better yet, there are a range of Urban Adventures tours that take you to more of the sights without the hassle of having to organise yourself. Perhaps take a Beijing Foodie Walk, where you’ll spend the evening strolling through markets and local shops for some local Chinese snacks. See urbanadventures.com/destination/Beijing-tours for more information. If you would like to spend more time in Beijing, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
All This Included
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.
Cases of novel coronavirus were first reported in Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. Since then, further cases of the virus have been confirmed in a number of countries in Asia and further afield. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade travel advisory for China remains at “Do Not Travel”.
Trans-Mongolian (CBSU, WBSB, CBSQC) departures will still be running, with the start/finish point changed from Beijing, China to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for departures starting in April, May & June. Trips will still start and finish on the same dates. We are currently in the process of notifying and assisting affected customers. As per our booking conditions, customers may choose between accepting this changed itinerary, obtaining a refund of money paid on the land portion of the trip only or transferring to an alternative tour.
Trans-Mongolian departures from July onwards will also still be running, wiith the following conditions:
- Should the Do Not Travel advice level remain in place we will reroute all Trans-Mongolian itineraries to avoid Beijing and instead start or finish in Ulaanbaatar.
- Should the Do Not Travel advice level be lifted, our Trans-Mongolian trips will return to Beijing as intended
Further updates on these departures will be communicated in the coming weeks.
Hotel (9 nights)
Overnight Sleeper Train (7 nights)
Homestay (2 nights)
Ger Camp (1 night)
Terms and Conditions
For Intrepid Travel terms and conditions, please click here.
* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.