Visit China and Mongolia before reaching Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway

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.

Start
Beijing, China
Finish
Moscow, Russia
Countries
China,
Mongolia,
Russia
Themes
Explorer
Code
CBSU
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
652kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Experience this incredible bucket-list rail adventure through China, Mongolia, and Russia – one of the world’s greatest and most epic journeys
  • Encounter the Mongolian wilderness in local-style with an overnight in a traditional ger camp
  • Discover a way of life that has changed very little since the 18th century with a visit to the Orthodox Christian’s ‘Old Believers Village’ in Ulan Ude
  • Cross over 6,000 kilometres between Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and Moscow’s iconic Red Square

Itinerary

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. Please also have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. Your leader will collect one; the other is for you to keep on you at all times while on the trip. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where the meeting will take place – if you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. This evening maybe seek out some famous Peking Duck.

Notes: As we will depart for Mongolia early morning on Day 2, we highly recommend arriving in Beijing a few days early to experience all this city has to offer. In this extra time you could take an Urban Adventure to the incredible Great Wall, explore Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, visit the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour, cycle round the city, visit the park surrounding the Temple of Heaven, or an explore the beautiful Tibetan-style monastery of Yonghegong (the Lama Temple).
Today 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.

Notes: 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. Please note that in many cases, particularly in peak travel season, due to high demand for tickets on the Trans-Mongolian route we aren't always able to get all of our tickets together. It is likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four.
Crammed between the superpowers of Russia and China, the independent nation of Mongolia is a true Intrepid 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. When you arrive, venture out into the city, where the close relationship with the USSR is evident in the Soviet style architecture. 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. For your free time in UB you can explore the city, maybe visitng 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. Tonight perhaps experience Mongolia's rich artistic culture at a performance of traditional throat and ‘long song’ singers, musicians, dancers and contortionists.
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. 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 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. Tonight, get involved in making your own dinner by learning to cook buuz – traditional Mongolian dumplings! Then take in the wonderful views across the gers and rocky escarpment as you experience a memorable Mongolian sunset.
Return to the hotel in Ulaanbaatar today (approximately 1.5 hours) after breakfast. 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 silver 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.
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. Later today you will leave Mongolia aboard the Trans-Mongolian Railway, which takes you across the border into Russia and on to Siberia (approximately 26 hours).

Notes: A brief word about drinking on the train: Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Intrepid travellers (in moderation). While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it's important that you show due respect for your fellow group members, and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work.
Arrive in Ulan-Ude, 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, Intrepid aims to contribute to the development of sustainable tourism in Eastern Siberia. The area is fabulously beautiful, Ulan Ude surrounded by vast, wild nature, boundless steppes, alpine and taiga forests. You’ll arrive in the town in the evening and settle into your hotel.
Ulan Ude has a unique cultural mix of local and Russian traditions – it's the site of numerous flourishing Buddhist Datsans and its main square is home to a large and highly unusual head of Lenin, the world's biggest! Today you’ll visit an 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, and enjoy a meal of timelessly tasty home-cooked dishes. Then you will drive approximately 2.5 hours to Enhaluk at Lake Baikal. This is the deepest lake in the world, amazingly holding 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 in Enhaluk, 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 definitely tastes even more delicious when roasted over a camp fire on the lake shore. Tonight's accommodation is multi-share.
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 be 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!
Return to Ulan Ude (approximately 2.5 hours) and head to the train station. This is the longest journey of the trip, three-nights on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway to Kungur. There are limited trains from Ulan-Ude to Kungur, with two different time schedules. Due to late schedule changes, you may need to leave Ulan-Ude earlier and arrive during the very early morning in Kungur. Major stops (15-40 minutess) are usually at Irkutsk - Angarsk - Zima - Nizhneudinsk - Ilanskaya - Krasnoyarsk - Mariinsk - Tayga - Novosibirsk - Barabinsk - Omsk - Nazyvayevsk - Ishim - Tyumen - Ekaterinburg and finally Kungur, where you’ll disembark. ALWAYS double check with the carriage attendant and your leader if leaving the train during stops, and do not stray too far from the trains. Trains in Russia run on Moscow time even when passing through different time zones, so make sure you and the train are on the same schedule. It would be a very long wait for the next trains and it's unlikely that many people at the station will speak English if you get left behind (it has happened!). Even if you get off the train for a short stop, make sure you have your passport and valuables with you, as well as the itinerary with contact details of your leader and your train ticket. Additional safety issues will be discussed by your leader at the group meeting.
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 an Intrepid 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. Intrepid has the first English-speaking guide in the area, a student training to work in tourism in the future. Please take this into account during the walking tour. 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. In the evening, you’ll discover more about the local people, their customs, culture and cuisine with a visit to a local family for a Russian dinner experience. Your accommodation in Kungur tonight is centrally located in twin rooms, with one bathroom shared between two rooms.
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 the Perm-36 Memorial Complex, 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 17:20.
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 and St Basil’s Cathedral by night, then maybe indulge in some traditional Russian cuisine in one of the many nearby restaurants.
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 to help you get to grips with this vast city.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
8 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 4 dinners
Transport
Overnight sleeper train, Public bus, Private Bus, Taxi, Train, Metro
Accommodation
Ger Camp (1 night), Guesthouse (2 nights), Hotel (6 nights), Overnight Sleeper Train (6 nights)
Included activities
  • Ger Camp - Terelj National Park
  • Cooking Class
  • Terelj National Park - Chinghis Khan Monument
  • Ulan Ude - Old Believers Village
  • Lake Baikal - Banya (Russian sauna)
  • Kungur - Family visit
  • Kungur - Guided walking tour

Dates

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip.
2. Please note in order for our local operator to book train tickets in Russia, we require the following information at time of booking or no later than 60 days prior to departure.
• Passengers full name (First and Last)
• Full Passport Details (number, expiry, issued)
• DOB
• City of Birth
3. In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's St Petersburg Office can be reached on Tel: +7 911 7033155
4. Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
5. To avoid disappointment we recommend that you book any theatre performances that you wish to attend in Moscow or St Petersburg in advance. Please consider carefully which performances you are going to want attend and make sure that the dates correspond to your trip. Here are some useful internet sites to check for what will be on (ballet, opera, exhibitions, etc) in Moscow and St Petersburg when you are there: www.mariinsky.ru, www.bolshoi.ru and www.ticketsofrussia.ru. In particular we recommend you see what's playing at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, as it may be difficult to get tickets when you are there especially during White Nights in St Petersburg.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Beijing to Moscow trips score an average of 4.96 out of 5 based on 45 reviews in the last year.

Trans-Siberian & Mongolia , September 2015

Trans-Siberian & Mongolia , September 2015

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