Beijing to Moscow
16 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. 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 that give an insight into the nation's ancient past, as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. This evening maybe seek out some famous Peking Duck.
Day 2 Overnight Train
This morning board a train out of China and travel into Mongolia - the first leg of this epic train journey that will take you 6,000 kilometres to Moscow. This is an overnight journey (approximately 30 hours) that includes a long border crossing during the night where your passports are processed. It's here that the bogies (train wheels) have to be changed because of the differing rail gauges used in China and Mongolia. Say goodbye to the built-up modernity of the city and get comfortable as you watch the scenery change from urban to rocky desert, and on to rolling green meadows as you enter the relative time warp of Mongolia.
Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. You’ll travel 2nd class on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your comfort and safety (although service standards can vary greatly). Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although with a limited menu. Trains are generally heated but most do not offer air conditioning. The train can become very hot even in winter and the train attendants will not allow the windows to be opened, please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions on these train journeys.
Day 3 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. 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 other 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. Or learn about 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 and so much more than that.
Day 4 Terelj National Park - Ger Camp
Today you’ll enjoy a tour of Ulaanbaatar and the surrounding area. Look out across the city from the top of Zaisan Hill, and then visit Mongolia’s largest and most important active monastery, the lively Gandan Khiid, to learn about the main religion of Mongolia – Tibetan Buddhism. You will also explore the range of fascinating artefacts housed in the Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan.
In the afternoon, 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! You’ll share meals together in the dining quarters. Bathroom facilities here are basic with no showers, but there are toilets and basins with cold water in a support building outside. Please note in the colder months when plumbing is no longer functional there will be no running water and an outdoor pit toilet will be used. Take in the wonderful views across the gers and rocky escarpment as you experience a memorable Mongolian sunset.
Day 5 Terelj National Park - Ger Camp
Today, as our local guide share some insight into Mongolian customs and culture with you, choose to go on a hike to a buddhist retreat, aim high and try your hands at Mongolian archery, or simply relax and enjoy the amazing landscape at the National Park . Tonight, get involved in making your own dinner by learning to cook buuz – traditional Mongolian dumplings!
Day 6 Ulaanbaatar
Return to the hotel in Ulaanbaatar today (approximately 1.5 hours). On the way back to UB, stop and visit the huge Chinggis (Genghis) Khan Monument. Chinggis 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, maybe a little tacky but also pretty amazing. When back in the city, do some shopping to stock up on supplies for tomorrow’s overnight train ride. You can also search out some local handicrafts such as cashmere and felt products. Relax in your hotel or in a local restaurant this evening.
Day 7 Trans Mongolian Train to Ulan Ude
Enjoy your last free morning in Ulaanbaatar. Later today you will leave Mongolia aboard the Trans-Mongolian Railway, which takes you across the border into Russia and on to Siberia (approximately 15 hours).
Day 8 Ulan Ude - Lake Baikal
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, Tibetan Buddhism) are now seeing something of a revival. You’ll notice how the city is an ethnic and spiritual mix of Euro-Russian, Mongolian, 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.
Arrive around 6 am in the morning and drive approximately 2.5 hours to Lake Baikal. This is the deepest lake in the world and holds over 20% of the world's fresh water. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from during your stay in a comfortable local guesthouse here, including hiking, swimming and boat trips. Full board is included here, 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 tastes even better when roasted over a camp fire on the lake shore. Accommodation here is on a multishare basis.
Day 9 Lake Baikal
Today is a free day to enjoy your surroundings. This part of the lake has long, beautiful sandy beaches and some smaller and warmer lakes, where you can relax, play games and enjoy the sun and magnificent scenery. 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! 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. 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! Make the most of the all the local food today, as tomorrow you will by taking your three-night train and the culinary offerings may not be so great!
Day 10 Trans-Siberian Railway
Say goodbye to 'Grandpa' Baikal midday and return to Ulan Ude (approximately 2.5 hours) and before heading to the train station, you will first make a stop to visit the Old Believers Village. The Old Believers are Orthodox Christians who were exiled or fled from European Russia during the church reforms that took place in the 17th century. This visit will take you to a place that has changed little since the 18th century. Visit the local church and ethnography museum, attend a concert of folk songs and games. then continue our journey to the city of Ulan Ude and stop at the city square which is also home to a large and highly unusual head of Lenin, the world biggest!
Early evening, hop on the longest journey of the trip, three-nights on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway to Kungur. Please note that there are limited trains from Ulan-Ude to Kungur, with two different time schedules. Due to the schedule, you may need to leave Ulan-Ude earlier and arrive during the very early morning in Kungur.
Days 11-12 Trans-Siberian Railway
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 will pretty much consist 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.
Day 13 Kungur
Break up the journey with a stop in tranquil Kungur, a pretty provincial Russian town well known for its traditional architecture. When Siberia first opened up for settlement, a new major road turned Kungur into a trade centre. Foreigners seldom visit here, and our aim is that by stopping here, we can have a positive impact on the development of tourism. On a walking tour with a local guide, see the buildings’ interesting mix of architectural styles – architects from all over European Russia were invited to make Kungur into one of the region’s most beautiful towns. We have the first English-speaking guides in the area, students training to work in tourism in the future. The Kungur area also has a unique karst landscape, with its Ice Caves some of the most extensive in the world. Of the 6 kilometres of passages, 1.5 kilometres are open to the public, and there’s a chance to visit them today. The first two caves contain permanently frozen ice formations, waterfalls and underground lakes. Watch out for the mythical monster mammoth that is said to inhabit the caves! Please note that English speaking guides are not usually available. While here 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!
Day 14 Perm - Overnight Train
Today is a long day of travelling. Depart Kungur in a private bus and travel to Perm train station (approximately 4 hours with stops). Perm (whose name comes from the term ‘Far-away-land’) is the most Eastern city in Europe, and is a major rail junction connecting Siberia and the Far East with the European part of the country. Depending on arrival time, 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. 100 kilometres outside of the city is Perm-36, which was once a notorious forced labour camp and wasn’t closed until 1987. In the afternoon, you’ll board your overnight train to Moscow (approximately 25 hours), which departs at approximately 5pm.
Day 15 Moscow
The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and seen Russia through some of its most turbulent years, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Beneath its modern veneer, a sign of Russia's recent embrace of capitalism, Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see. You’ll arrive into the capital around 5pm and take the metro to your centrally located hotel. You can celebrate the end of your epic cross-continental journey here in Moscow with a wander around the famous Red Square by night and a final optional dinner with your group.
Day 16 Moscow
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there is plenty to see and do, staying a few extra days to enjoy everything Moscow has to offer is highly recommended. You could explore the Kremlin and witness its huge collection of imperial riches, walk among the cathedrals and museums, and maybe get a glimpse of Lenin in his eternal resting state. There are endless cultural treasures on offer – perhaps join an Urban Adventure tour to help you get to grips with this vast city.
All This Included
Travel across continents and time zones on one of the world's greatest train journeys. Start in busy Beijing before heading to the untamed wilderness of Mongolia to meet its historically nomadic people. Leave Asia behind as we cross into Siberia for some traditional hospitality and stunning natural landscapes in Lake Baikal and then into Russia to arrive in majestic Moscow. This trip will open your eyes to the history, scenery and unique cultures that make up this fascinating region, so climb aboard for the ultimate Trans-Siberian experience.
Hotel (5 nights)
Overnight Sleeper Train (6 nights)
Guesthouse (2 nights)
Ger Camp (2 nights)
Terms and Conditions
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* 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.