Travel on the world's finest railway from Russia to China

Come along on an awe-inspiring adventure traversing three great nations - Russia, Mongolia and China. 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 the vast grassy steppe of Mongolia - this trip showcases rail travel at its finest.

Start
St Petersburg, Russia
Finish
Beijing, China
Countries
China,
Mongolia,
Russia
Themes
Explorer
Code
WBSB
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
855kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Climb aboard and discover Russia, Mongolia and China on one of the world’s greatest and most epic journeys
  • Join in local life and customs with a stay in a traditional wooden guesthouse in one of Suzdal's quiet streets
  • Share in traditional tastes with a visit to the home of one of our local friends – indulge in a meal of hearty regional flavours and assist the family in baking pastries
  • Experience a traditional Russian banya – a refreshing steam, wash, and birch branch ‘massage’ in a Russian bath house
  • Stay in the Mongolian wilderness local-style with an overnight in a traditional ger camp
  • Discover Mongolia's rich cultural heritage, from the country’s original Buddhist temple to the city built by Genghis Khan
  • Cross 8,000 kilometres to end in buzzing Beijing and discover China’s ancient past and contemporary culture

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. 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 whilst 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. 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 enigmatic streets and visit its showcase cathedrals and museums.
Built on 42 islands, St Petersburg is also known as the ‘Venice of the North’. Spend the day exploring the city, crossing its many rivers and canals at your own pace. 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. Maybe pop into one of the many bakeries or pancake shops along the way, or head down to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra where Russia's great musicians and writers like Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky are laid to rest in the cemetery. Maybe visit Peter the Great’s ghoulish collection of curiosities at the Kunstamera, while the Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world – one of the world's premier art collections housed in the former imperial Winter Palace. A whole day could easily be spent wandering its halls. Whatever you choose, the city is easy to get around and your leader can help you make the most of your free day. This evening perhaps seek out a cosy restaurant for golubsty (a rice and beef mix, rolled in cabbage leaves), potato dumplings, or some sweet blinis washed down with a few glasses of vodka.

Notes: The Hermitage is closed on Mondays, and in the high season (May-Sep) there can be very long queues. In order to avoid waiting and to make the most of your free day it's possible to book tickets online in advance: www.hermitagemuseum.org.
Before the overnight train this evening, perhaps try your hand at a Matryoshka Doll painting workshop or catch a matinee show at the famous Mariinsky Theatre. Here are some useful 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, it’s recommended to see what's playing at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, as it may be difficult to get tickets when you are there. If you are really keen on seeing a show, please check with your booking agent first and they can confirm the free times available for shows so you don't miss out on any included activities. This evening, head to the railway station by public transport to take your first overnight train to Vladimir (approximately 11 hours). It’s recommended to bring some food with you for dinner in your compartment, before getting an early night – this is the only daily direct train to Vladimir and you’ll arrive at your destination at the crack of dawn.
Arrive in Vladimir and transfer by private minivan to Suzdal (approximately 30 minutes). The town is a main stop on Russia’s legendary Golden Ring, the circle of ancient and former capitals that played an important part in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church and that hold the memories of significant events in Russian history. The fairytale-feel historic small town of Suzdal is filled with contrasting examples of early Russian architecture, where onion-domed monasteries stand next to lovingly decorated wooden cottages. Here there are opportunities to drink mead by the riverside with a symphony of cathedral bells in the air, and peek inside the crumbling churches that line the narrow streets and alleys. Get to know the town a little better with a walking tour of this ‘open-air museum’, where old buildings and churches sprout like mushrooms. Take in the sights – the grandeur of the Kremlin, the carved stonework of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monasteries. Tonight you’ll make new friends down one of the city’s quiet streets when you share a meal of hearty regional flavours with locals.
Transfer to Moscow by private van (approximately 4 hours). 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. In your free time in today you could step inside the colourful St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square. Legend has it that tsar, Ivan the Terrible, had the two architects blinded so that they couldn't again build anything as beautiful. Perhaps visit Victory Hill, the site where the Russians overcame Napoleon in 1812. Completed in the mid-nineties, the park contains chapels, statues, obelisks and over 1,400 fountains, one for each day of the Great Patriotic War. Otherwise you might travel back to the beginnings of Russian art at the Tretyakov Gallery, or pick up some souvenirs at the Izmailovo Markets. You could join one of our sister Urban Adventure tours, and tonight indulge in some traditional Russian cuisine in one of the many nearby restaurants.
Today, with a local guide by your side, enter cobbled Red Square, surrounded by the brightly coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, the opulent GUM Department store, the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum, and the imposing walls of the Kremlin. From the days of Ivan the Terrible to the military parades of the Cold War, the square has long been at the heart of Russian history. Catch a glimpse of revolutionary leader Lenin at his austere eternal resting place before entering the Kremlin grounds, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. Walk through the soaring towers and cathedrals of the political and spiritual heart of Russia before entering the Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging former royal collection of ambassadorial gifts, Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels. Afterwards perhaps take the metro to see elaborately decorated stations unlike any other. From sculptures depicting the glory of the soviet days to ornate chandeliers and stained glass windows, these are the 'Palaces of the People'.

Notes: On occasion Lenin's Mausoleum and Red Square may be closed to the public during regular opening hours without prior warning. As Moscow's premier tourist attractions, tickets for the Kremlin and Armoury are in high demand, and the Moscow Tourism Administration sets strict quotas to control visitor numbers. Time in each area is also limited to 90 minutes, with any exceptions possibly resulting in the guide losing their license. While we appreciate that some travellers would like to spend longer in the Armoury Museum, we ask for your understanding that the guide is under pressure to keep to the schedule. The Diamond Fund isn't included in your tour, but after the Kremlin and Armoury there may be time to visit. Entrance tickets can be purchased in the ticket office at the Armoury. The Diamond Fund is open for visitors from 10am-1pm and from 2pm-4pm. On Thursday it is closed.
Take the metro to Yaroslavsky Station, the starting point of your epic journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway. It’s a 3-day, 4-night trip to Irkutsk (approximately 90 hours). There is only one daily train between Moscow and Irkutsk that has a total travel time of less than 100 hours and departs at a convenient time from Moscow. Some foreign travel companies that have less regular departures than Intrepid may take the train that departs late evening, however this train only departs every second day. In order to ensure that this trip can always run on the same itinerary, we take the daily train that leaves during the day. The downside of this is that we only have a limited time in Moscow, so you will need to plan carefully to fit as much in as possible. The upside is that this train has fewer foreign tourists on board and gives you much more of a chance to interact with regular Russian travellers. 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 drinks, soups and other meals

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. 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.
Your long rail journey finally brings you to the charming Siberian city of Irkutsk, gateway to Lake Baikal – the largest freshwater lake in the world. Drive direct from the train station to a 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 – our lovely local Buryat (the ethnic group of the Lake Baikal area) friends in their guest house and home. Accommodation is basic and multi share, with no running water and outside toilets, but cosy and comfortable. 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 traditional 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 and be at one with nature. Spend your free time relaxing, reading a book, or keep busy with the many optional activities available. At Bolshoye Goloustnoye, 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 and explore the village and the lake. 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 one of the most charming of Siberia's cities. 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 House Museum of Maria Volkonskaya. Sometimes called the Princess of Siberia, Maria was one of the many Decembrist revolutionaries' wives who voluntarily accompanied their husbands into exile. Her house is still filled with many of her personal items and visitors can get a sense of how she must have felt, a young aristocratic woman banished to depths of Siberia. 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 our next journey. Then you’ll get back on the Trans-Mongolian Railway for a two-night train trip (approximately 40 hours) into Mongolia.

Notes: This train is the most basic on our journey and a restaurant car is not always provided, so we recommend bringing some supplies with you for your meals. There's only one train from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar that departs daily – other, faster trains only depart once a week. We take the daily train to ensure we're able to offer this trip at regular, set departures without the need to change the itinerary each time. During the journey you’ll cross the border from Russia (Naushki) into Mongolia (Sukhbaatar). There's a long wait at the border towns while passports are processed, customs does their checks and we wait for the engine to rejoin the train. It can sometimes be a long, hot and frustrating day, so a healthy dose of patience and understanding is recommended. After everything is finally completed, you’ll be rewarded with the magical landscapes of Mongolia.
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. As more and more traditionally nomadic Mongolians are moving to the city in hope of a better life, they bring with them their traditional lifestyle of living in gers, and so UB is surrounded by a growing number of such ‘ger districts’. Life here is hard, with high unemployment and little access to facilities such as electricity and running water. Together with local guide you'll visit one such district located in Northern outskirts of the city, where you’ll meet some of the residents, have a cup of traditional Mongolian tea and a chat about life in an urban ger community.
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). 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. For the rest of your free time in UB you can explore the city, perhaps experience Mongolia's rich artistic culture at a performance of traditional throat and ‘long song’ singers, musicians, dancers and contortionists. Maybe visit 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.
Farewell Mongolia today as you travel from Mongolia to Beijing, the next part 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.

Notes: Due to the high demand for train tickets from June-October, and the fact that the train only runs once a week, some groups may need to depart Ulaanbaatar a day later and stay the extra night in Mongolia at the ger camp. The itinerary will be amended to fit in all the included activities. For this reason we recommend either booking a late night flight on departure day, or planning to stay a few extra days in Beijing.
Arrive in Beijing 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 Tian'anmen Square – most famous outside of the country for the 1989 massacre – this is 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. There's so much to see and do in Beijing that staying an extra few days is highly recommended. In this extra time you could take an Urban Adventure to the incredible Great Wall, visit the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour, cycle around the city, visit the park surrounding the Temple of Heaven, or explore the beautiful Tibetan-style monastery of Yonghegong (the Lama Temple). Beijing is vast and overflowing with sights – with your hotel located centrally, a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises.
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.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
11 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 3 dinners
Transport
Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Public bus, Metro, Taxi
Accommodation
Ger Camp (1 night), Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (8 nights), Overnight sleeper train (8 nights)
Included activities
  • Suzdal - Russian Meal and Traditional Pastry Baking Demonstration
  • Suzdal - Guided Walking Tour
  • Moscow - Kremlin & Armoury Guided Tour
  • Moscow - Lenin's Mausoleum
  • Bolshoye Goloustnoye - Banya (Russian sauna)
  • Irkutsk - Decembrists Museum
  • Irkutsk - Central Market
  • Ulaanbaatar - Ger district walking tour
  • Ger Camp - Terelj National Park
  • Ger Camp - Cooking class
  • Terelj National Park - Chinghis Khan Monument

Dates

There are currently no departures for this trip.

{{departure_day.departure_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}} {{departure_day.arrival_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}}

Style: {{departure.style}}

Boat/Ship: {{departure.vehicle_name}}
On sale Hot deal Departure guaranteed On request
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.base_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.discount_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
Fully booked Bookings closed

Total price per person {{room.room_type | lowercase}}
Includes {{departure.kitty_currency_code}} {{departure.kitty | noFractionCurrency:departure.kitty_currency_symbol}} kitty
Includes {{extra.extras_code}} {{extra.extras_symbol}}{{extra.extras_value}} in local payments Single supplement available from {{product.currency_code}} {{departure.single_supp | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}

Contact us to arrange an alternative departure for you

Book {{departure.places_left}} spaces left! space left!

If you can’t find the dates you’re after here, click on the button below to find options for the next season. Please bear in mind that some of our itineraries can change from year to year, so this trip may differ slightly next season to the information shown on this page.

Next Season Dates

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 Trans-Mongolian Experience trips score an average of 4.86 out of 5 based on 51 reviews in the last year.

Trans-Mongolian Experience , July 2016

Trans-Mongolian Experience , July 2016