The Trans-Siberian Insider

15 days’ journey behind the scenes of the Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Insider

China, Mongolia, Russia

  • Themed Trips
  • Asian Delights
  • Cross-Cultural
  • Culture
15 Days
0 Flights
Child friendly

Recommended dates for this trip would be between mid-May and mid-October.

Next Departures

Itinerary

A journey along a railway more than 130 years old, is a journey through an era that reshaped civilizations and the course of history of the old and new worlds. This journey is not your usual Trans-Siberian trip where the train is the theme and the focal point for the trip. Our journey focuses on the cultures and rich histories of the people whose lives have been touched by the railroads, the modern ‘Silk Roads’, connecting east and west.

Unlike other Trans-Siberian tours which consist of seemingly never-ending train rides, we calmly pause at sites and cities along the course of the railway to experience the local atmosphere. We also stop overnight in comfortable hotels along the way. Rather than travel by private trains we travel with the locals and experience their countries the way they do. This trip is designed for those who are not only seeking to impress with the mention of their Trans-Siberian journey, but for those who are really curious about the lives of the people that are seen all too often only as scenery through the train windows.

The Trans-Siberian Railway first started its building process in 1891 under close supervision of Tsar Alexander III, later know as Tsar Nicholas II. Now, it has developed into a train tour that covers a record breaking eight different time zones. All the way from Moscow, the capital city of Russia, to far south Mongolia, China and even North Korea.

An inspiring combination of the famous Baikal lake and the beautiful Ural Mountains in Russia, the great Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and the historic Great Wall of China will make your Trans-Siberian train tour a memorable experience.

Note: Trains schedules and tickets would not be available until 45-30 days prior to day of travel. We therefore cannot guarantee train types, compartment type or availability until 30 days prior to each specific train ride. The schedules depicted in this proposals are based on the schedules known to us at time of compiling this proposals. Changes to the schedules might result in changes to the overall program, and as a result, to the overall trip price.

Day 1. Arrival in Beijing – night train to Datong

  • Dinner

Arrive in Beijing, the fascinating capital of the world’s most populated country. This city mirrors both China’s fast-growing economy and the people’s struggle to make it through another day. Skyscrapers rise only a few steps away from the ancient hutongs; the latest cars glide past rickshaws, and traditions thousands of years old continue to be observed alongside the new economy and a modern way of life. This coming together of the old, and the new makes Beijing one of the world’s most impressive cities. From the airport drive to a hotel to take a shower and recuperate from the long journey east. Late in the afternoon drive to one of Beijing’s three train stations to board the night train to Datong. Spend the night aboard the train in a Soft Sleeper compartment.

Day 2. Datong

  • Breakfast

Arrive in Datong very early in the morning. At the train station meet the local guide, and drive to the hotel in the city to complete the night’s sleep. After breakfast at the hotel go to discover Datong and its surroundings. Until recently, Datong was known throughout China as the “City of Coal”. However, due to China’s ongoing mission to reduce air pollution, and the decline in real estate development, the city’s glory has been dimmed. In Datong witness a phenomena common to many of China’s cities, where new construction projects are being built over the old (and some would say “authentic”) residential areas, to provide modern dwellings. The local and central governments keep on subsidizing the coal industry, to provide for the thousands of families whose livelihood depends on these mines. Back to more glorious times in the city’s history, take the hour and a half drive to explore the marvels of the Xuan Kong Hanging Temple. Hanging some 50 meters above the Jinxia Gorge of the Hengshan Mountain, this architectural wonder of over 1400 years is a clear testimony to ancient Chinese craftsmanship. No less exciting is the dedication of the temple to three very distinct sets of beliefs that co-exist in the temple’s caves. Here, find altars dedicated to Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, and even figures of the main characters in each of these different religions lying side by side, a very uncommon sight. In the evening drive back to Datong to spend here the night.

Day 3. Datong – Jining – Overnight train to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

  • Breakfast

In the days when the Chinese capital and center of power was in Nanning in southern China, Datong was one of the most significant trade centers throughout northern China, later turning into a major trade point on the legendary Silk Road. This is where the railway crosses the ancient Silk Road for the first time, with the second time being towards the end of the long train journey. With such a significant role on the ancient trade routes, Datong has been a major attraction for traders from the entire region, as can be seen from its splendid cultural and historical relics and monuments. Today, explore two of Datong’s most significant and impressive sites. Begin with a visit to the Yungang Grottoes. Like its ‘sister’ sites of the grottoes at Dunhuang and Bazeklik (among a few others), this site tells the story of the advance of Buddhism to China. The earliest carvings on the walls are of distinct Indian style, describing famous tales and figures from early Buddhist mythology. Later carvings show a developing influence of Chinese art, with precise descriptions of Chinese social and religious events and characters. After exploring the caves, return to Datong and pause, if time permits, at the Nine Dragon Screen. Though built some 600 years ago, the screen, one of very few remaining in China and the largest of them all, has been perfectly preserved. Like other sites around Datong, and faithful to wonderful Chinese traditions and history, this is another significant remnant of the superiority of Chinese attention to detail and unique design. Early at the afternoon take the two hours’ drive to the city of Jining to board the Trans-Mongolian train the our journey into Mongolia. Late at night arrive at the border crossing between China and Mongolia. Here, all wagons are lifted up in the air in order to change the bogies to fit the different rail gauge between Mongolia and China. Bogies changed, and passports stamped on both ends of the border, begin the ride into Mongolia and journey through the night on board the train.
Note: all bathrooms will be locked for the entire process of changing the bogies, please make sure you are ‘prepared’ in advance.

Day 4. Arrival in Ulaanbaatar

  • Dinner

Wake up to see the vast open Gobi Desert through the train’s windows. One might spot a camel caravan crossing the desert, or the white spots marking a Mongolian Ger - the felt-made dwelling of the Mongolian nomad. In the afternoon arrive in Ulaanbaatar, meet the Mongolian guide and driver at the train station, and drive to the hotel in the city center. After checking into the hotel, and if time permits, take an orientation tour of the city through the central square. Right at the heart of the square see the figure of D. Sukhbaatar, one of the heroes of the communist revolution of 1920’s, boldly raising his arm towards the statue of the Chinggis Khan, whose name wasn’t allowed to be mentioned during the 70-year communist reign. Then visit the National History Museum, which holds a permanent exhibition on the different civilizations that have inhabited the territory of Mongolia from prehistoric times to the present. This exhibition includes a significant display of objects from the era of the Great Mongol Empire. From here take a short walk to the drama theater to attend an impressive folk concert, featuring some traditional Mongolian art forms. After a welcome dinner drive back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Day 5. Ulaanbaatar – Terelj National Park

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Check-out the hotel, and embark on the one-and-a-half-hour drive to Gorki-Terelj National Park. The park features unique rock formations, scenic valleys, a winding river, and restful groves of trees. Many nomads live in the park itself, where they find good grazing for their animals. Upon arrival in the park, and after checking-in the gers (the felt-made dwellings of the steppe nomads), take an easy hike to the famous Turtle Rock, a symbol of wisdom and longevity to the Mongolian people. Then continue hiking to Ariabal Temple. The temple has been recently reconstructed, after the original temple had been destroyed during the communist purges of the 1930’s. A site of great tranquility, it functions today as a meditation center to Buddhist monks. In the evening return to the camp for a relaxing evening under the Mongolian sky of million stars. Spend the night in a ger camp in the park.

Day 6. Terelj National Park - Overnight train to Irkutsk, Russia

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

After breakfast leave the park and drive to the newly constructed Chinggis Khan Monument. Rising 40 meters in height over the surrounding steppes, this mighty structure plays a major symbol to the renewing Mongolian nation, after more than 300 years of foreign sovereignty over its people and territory. Then head to the Mongolian Capital for yet another overnight train journey. The section of the Trans-Mongolian railway which stretches between Ulaanbaatar and Irkutsk is considered to be one of the most beautiful on the entire trip, initially crossing the narrow valleys of the northern Khan-Khentii Mountain Range, where fertile grass-steppes attract nomadic families to set up camp. The railway then follows the course of the Selenge, one of Mongolia’s mightiest rivers. After the inevitable border formalities on both Mongolian and Russian sides of the border, the train runs beside small Siberian villages that seem as they have frozen in time. The train stops at Ulan Ude, the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Buryatia, before reaching the shores of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. Spend the night on board the train.
Note: And again, during the few hours’ stop at both sides of the border, the bathrooms will be locked. Please keep an eye on the train’s time table, and make sure to be ‘prepared’ in advance.

Day 7. Arrival in Irkutsk

  • Dinner

Arrive in Irkutsk in the afternoon, and go to explore the city for as long as time permit. With traditions running back to the mid-16th century, when the city was a mere fortress collecting taxes from the Buryat people, Irkutsk has played a major role in Russian history and even more so in the history of Siberia. At times, it has been the seat of the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia. Later, it became a magnet for exiles of all walks of life - from noblemen and artists who took part in the Decembrists Revolution against Tsar Nicholas I to Bolsheviks, and then, Counter-Bolsheviks. These political and artistic influences have combined to create a city with a unique fusion of cultures and social classes. Although most of the city was destroyed in a massive fire in July 1879, it was quickly restored as a major trade point between Russia and the emerging Chinese giant to the south. After setting in the hotel, take a first orientation tour of Irkutstk, beginning with a visit to the Memorial Garden, commemorating fallen soldiers, and then a walk along the embankment over River Angara, the only river flowing out of Lake Baikal. This is where city dwellers arrive at the end of a working day for some time in leisure. Watch here the sunset as local fishermen in their tiny boats take to the river. From here take to the hotel for a first night in Irkutsk.

Day 8. Irkutsk – Listviyanka

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

After early breakfast take the one-hour drive to the pier for a 15 minutes’ ferry ride across the Angara river, and on to Port Baikal. Here embark on a train journey aboard the Circum-Baikal Railway, a true engineering marvel with 38 tunnels, 15 stone galleries, and 20 bridges, allowing this unique railway to travel along the shore of Lake Baikal, providing magnificent views over the lake and its surroundings. After about 2-hours ride aboard the CircumBaikal, disembark the train, and take a two hours’ private cruise on the crystal-blue lake. If lucky, one might see from time to time the heads of Nierpas, one of the world’s few species of freshwater seal. Once back on land, ride a cable car to the top of Chersky Rock, for a marvelous view over Lake Baikal and the Angara River from high above. From the vantage point take a walk down the mountain. Then set in the simple yet cozy hostel in Listviyanka.

Day 9. Listviyanka – Irkutsk

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

This morning take an easy stroll through the narrow streets of Listviyanka, which are mostly unpaved and run between high wooden fences. Visit the local church, named after St. Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers, and continue to the bustling market on the lake’s shores. Then pay a visit to the Baikal Ecology Museum, with its permanent exhibition on the rich, and mostly endemic, flora and fauna. Leave Listviyanka and head to Taltsy Open-Air Museum of Wooden Architecture, which is considered the best museum in the Irkutsk region. It's a place where one can experience the history and traditions of the peoples of Siberia: Buryats, Evenks, and Russians. Late in the afternoon reach Irkutsk, and spend here the night.

Day 10. Irkutsk sightseeing

  • Breakfast

Spend the day exploring Irkustsk, probably one of the most charming cities all throughout Russia. Take a walking trip visiting Bogoyavlenski Cathedral, known for its spectacular interior decoration, and The Saviour’s Church, Eastern Siberia’s first stone-built church, which dates back to 1705. Then take to the lively farmers market before visiting Volkonsky House- nowadays a museum that commemorates the lives of the Decembrists in Irkutsk, but once a cultural and social center for those army officers that conspired to overthrow Tsar Nicholas I back in December 1825. The revolt was suppressed by the Tsar supporters, and the conspires turned to be some of the first (but by no means last) political prisoners that were exiled to Siberia. Then take to the History of Irkutsk Museum, offering an interesting view into the city’s development from a remote trade post to the regional super-power it is today. In the evening take the time to stroll the lively pedestrian street by Sedova street, to join the locals as they hang out in the evening, going shopping and enjoying some of the best restaurants in town. The hotel located right at the heart of this bustling pedestrian area, so at the end of the stroll revert to the hotel for a last night in Irkutsk.

Day 11. Irkutsk ✈ Yekaterinburg

  • Breakfast

Early morning transfer to Irkutsk airport for the morning flight to Yekaterinburg. Yekaterinburg is named after Catherine I, the wife of Tsar Peter the Great. Located east of the Ural Mountain range, the city marks the border between Europe and Asia, and thus, between old and new Russia. In common with many other cities in what was then the eastern frontier, the city was established in the early 18th century as an industrial center for metal works. In July 1918, the entire Romanov family - Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children - were executed in the city. Arrive in Yekaterinburg in the morning hours, and go to explore the city center, beginning with the Church on the Blood, built on the exact spot where the Romanov family members were shot to death. Then take a walking tour along the City Pond and the Weir on the River Iset- a beautiful urban park in the heart of the city. The park is surrounded with fashionable cafés and restaurants, reflecting the vibrant artsy atmosphere of the city. Overnight in Yekaterinburg.

Day 12. By the Ural Mountains

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

eave Yekaterinburg and drive some 100 km to the town of Nevyansk. This is where one of the oldest metal factories of the Urals was established under the decree of Peter the Great in 1710. Nevyansk is the cornerstone of Russian settlement in the Urals and eastern Russia, across the massive mountain range. Visit the town’s undeniable trademark - the Leaning Tower, which serves as magnificent testimony to the region’s industrious history with doors, stairs and bars cast in local iron forming the framework of the tower. From here drive to a local village for a traditional Russian country meal before embarking on a light hike through the Ural Mountains and its thick pine forests, often covered during summer time with flourishing meadows. At the afternoon drive to Ganina’s Pit, the place where the remains of the Romanov family were disposed of on the night of their execution. Over the site and its surroundings, a monastery was built, following the canonization of the Tsar’s family. Late in the evening return to Yekaterinburg for a second night.

Day 13. Day train to Kazan

  • Breakfast

This morning drive to Yekaterinburg’s train station, for a day train to Kazan. Board the train in the morning hours, and spend the good part of the day aboard the train, enjoying the views of the vast Taiga and the occasional remote villages nestled by the railway. Late in the evening arrive in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. The Tatars are a cluster of Mongol-Turkic tribes. When the Mongol Empire collapsed, the Tatars remained the sovereigns of the region until it fell under Russian occupation following a series of battles in the 16th Century. Although today nearly half the population comprises of ethnic Russians, in many ways the city and the region preserves its Muslim heritage as Islam is the main religion practiced by the Tatars. Disembark the train, meet the local guide, and take to the hotel for the night.

​Day 14. Kazan – Night train to Moscow​

  • Breakfast

From the hotel drive to Kazan’s Tatar Quarter. This quarter is probably the place at which Tatar culture has been best kept to these very days. The quarter is divided into communities, with each such community having its own mosque that serves not only as a religious center, but also a social center where the community meets, spends time together, and takes care of its members in need. Walk through the narrow streets and along these neighborhoods, stopping at mosques and talking to members of the communities. At the afternoon visit Saints Peter and Paul Church, dated back to 1722 when it was built by a local industrialist to commemorate the visit of Peter the Great to Kazan on that year. This church is a fine example of Naryshkin Baroque (often dubbed ‘Moscow Baroque’), a unique architectural style of fusion between classic baroque design and traditional Russian architecture. Elaborately decorated in bright colors, this church is unlike any seen on the trip so far. Take the time to explore the ornamented building, with its iconostasis all covered in precious stones and metals, serving as one of the church’s focal points, and if permitted, climb to the top of the staircase for a view over the entire city. Late in the afternoon take to Kazan Kremlin in the historical part of the city (‘Kremlin’ means ‘fortified complex’ in Russian). The compound is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built by Ivan the Terrible on the ruins of the ancient palace of Kazan Khans. Within the Kremlin wall, visit Qol Sharif Mosque, which, at the time of its construction was the largest mosque in Europe and Russia outside of Istanbul, and to date still is a very impressive piece of architecture. At dusk enjoy a romantic evening walk in the compound which is beautifully lit during evening time before heading to the train station to board the night train to Moscow. Overnight aboard the train.

Day 15. Arrival in Moscow – Departure

  • Breakfast

Arrive early in the morning in Moscow. At the train station meet the local guide, and enjoy a breakfast in a restaurant by the train station. Then drive to the airport to board the departing flight out of Russia, and back home.

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Dates & Pricing

Trip rates valid for two confirmed travelers and above. If you are booking this trip for a party of four travelers or more, please contact us for our special rates.

[email protected] reserves the right to change tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, train tickets fair, and other local circumstances.

Prices are based on twin share occupancy in hotels, and a bed in four berth occupancy aboard trains.

Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$7780/ person
6 travelers- US$7128/ person
8 travelers- US$6741/ person

  • Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.

4th June, 2020–20th June, 2020

  • $8,673 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $994 Single Room Supplement

6th August, 2020–22nd August, 2020

  • $8,673 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $994 Single Room Supplement

Additional Information


Inclusions
  • Train tickets as per program
  • 8 nights in 4-star hotels
  • 1 night in a 3-star hotel
  • 1 night in a simple guesthouse
  • 1 night in Mongolian ger (Yurt)
  • Meals as per program (half board in China, full board in Mongolia and around Lake Baikal, half board in Russia)
  • Private transfers in A/C vehicle at each location (in between train rides)
  • Local English speaking guide at each location (no guiding services on board the train)
  • All entrance fees and transfers as per program

Exclusions
  • International airfare to Beijing and from Moscow
  • Visas (to China, Mongolia, and Russia)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Excess luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Anything not mentioned in the program

Accomodation
  • Beijing: Kingrand 5-star
  • Datong: Howard Johnson Jindi Plaza 5-star
  • Terelj National Park: Terelj Lodge Ger Camp
  • Ulaanbaatar: Chinggis Khan Hotel 4-star
  • Listviyanka: Mayak Hotel 3-star
  • Irkutsk: Courtyard by Marriott 4-star
  • Novosibirsk: Novosibirsk Marriott Hotel 4*
  • Omsk: Kamelot Hotel 4-star
  • Yekaterinburg: Hotel Novotel Yekaterinburg Centre 4-star
  • Kazan: Ramada Kazan City Center 4-star

Note: the above listed hotels are tentative, and shall be confirmed only upon confirmation of the trip.


Testimonials

Bernie Fanny Elias

We just got back from a nineteen days on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow. The trip was spectacular! The endless Taiga, the Baikal and a surprise snow storm just outside of Ulanbaatar. This trip was special, with every detail taken care of perfectly. There is no doubt in our minds we shall take another trip with [email protected]!

Bernie and Fanny Elias, USA

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