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Trans-Mongolian Experience

Destinations China, Mongolia, Russia

Trans-Mongolian Experience

Hiking
·
Start: St Petersburg
·
End: Beijing

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

Activity
Hiking
LocationDestinations China, Mongolia, Russia
Duration20 days
Start / EndSt Petersburg / Beijing
Tour operatorIntrepid Travel

Destinations China, Mongolia, Russia

Trans-Mongolian Experience

Hiking·
20 days·Intrepid Travel
Start: St Petersburg
·
End: Beijing

Description

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.


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Itinerary

Day 1St Petersburg
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. 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 palaces and museums.
Day 2St Petersburg
Built on 42 islands, St Petersburg is also known as the ‘Venice of the North’. Spend the day exploring the city on foot and using the great public transport, 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. Whatever you choose, the city is easy to get around and your leader can help you make the most of your free day.
Day 3St Petersburg / Overnight Train
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. 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. 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.
Day 4Suzdal
Arrive in Vladimir very early this morning 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. Take in the sights – the grandeur of the Kremlin, the carved stonework of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monasteries (approximately 3 hours total). Today you’ll also have a chance to try hearty home cooking at the home at one of our local friends for lunch or dinner.
Day 5Moscow
Transfer back 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. Otherwise you might travel back to the beginnings of Russian art at the Tretyakov Gallery or join on of our Urban Adventure tours.
Day 6Moscow
Visit the mausoleum of Russia’s most famous revolutionary – Lenin. He was the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution that ushered in the era of communism, and you will join the sometimes long queue lining up to visit his austere eternal resting place on Red Square. Then enter the Kremlin grounds with a local guide, 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'.
Day 7Trans-Siberian Railway
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 us 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 parsley from the station sellers along the way to freshen up your soups and other meals!
Day 11Lake Baikal
Your long rail journey finally brings you to the 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 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 12Lake 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 13Irkutsk
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 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. The 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.
Day 14Trans Mongolian Train
Back on the rails early morning today as we travel the Trans-Mongolian Railway for our overnight train trip (approximately 27 hours) into Mongolia. During the journey you’ll cross the border from Russia (Naushki) into Mongolia (Sukhbaatar) at night. There can be 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.This can be a long process so a healthy dose of patience will definitely help.
Day 15Ulaanbaatar
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, transfer to our hotel - we won't be able to check in yet as the check-in is at noon time. Leave our luggage here, then we will venture out into the city, where the close relationship with the USSR is evident in the Soviet style architecture. 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. 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 16Terelj National Park
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.
Day 17Ulaanbaatar
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, 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.
Day 18Ulaanbaatar / Overnight Train
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.
Day 19Beijing
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 Tian'anmen 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. 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 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). 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 20Beijing
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.

More info

Last modified (date)

26 Nov 2018

Trip title

Trans-Mongolian Experience

Trip code

WBSB

Validity

Validity: 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019

Introduction

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.

Style

Original

Themes

Explorer

Transport

Overnight Sleeper Train,Private Bus,Public Bus,Metro,Taxi

Physical Rating

3

Physical preparation

You will be expected to carry your own luggage including up and down stairs, in busy public transport hubs, and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. Good general fitness and mobility will play a big part in making your trip more enjoyable.

Joining point

M-Hotel М-Отель

Joining point description

M-Hotel is situated in the 'Golden Triangle' of St Petersburg in close vicinity to world-famous museums such as the Hermitage, Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Blood, Russian museum and Alexandrinsky theatre where ballet performances staged by famous choreographer Boris Eyfman take place during the summer. Next to the hotel, guests will find a great variety of cafes and restaurants caterin... Read more

Joining point instructions

Please be aware that Russia requires all foreign nationals to register their passports upon arrival in each city. Please see ACCOMMODATION for the most recent information about registration. ARRIVAL TRANSFERS Arrival transfers are available - if you have pre-booked a transfer with us your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals section near where you clear customs. The driver will arrive ... Read more

Finish point

King Parkview Hotel (Huayu Hotel) 北京华育宾馆

Finish point description

King Parkview Hotel is centrally located in Beijing, close to many historical and cultural landmarks, including Jinshan Park, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and the National Art Museum, and the hutong areaThe hotel offers comfortable rooms including en-suite bathroom, TV & AC. Hotel rooms may include a vanity pack which are not complimentary. You will be charged at checkout if you open o... Read more

Finish point instructions

Beijing Capital International airport is located north-east of Beijing, 25 km from the city centre. One of the biggest airports in the world, it is relatively easy to navigate and many signs are written in English. Most international flights take off from Terminal 3. For more information about Beijing Capital Airport, please go to http://en.bcia.com.cn/ A departure transfer from the airport i... Read more

Group leader

All group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader... Read more

Safety

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and upd... Read more

Visas

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with ... Read more

Why we love it

Climb aboard and discover Russia, Mongolia and China on one of the world’s greatest and most epic journeys.Here's just some of what is in store for you: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/picture-worth-8000-kilometres-trans-mongolian/

Is this trip right for you

This trip is based around long train journeys, including a 4 night trip from Moscow to Irkutsk and 2 nights from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar. Conditions are simple but comfortable – an authentic experience and a great way to meet, and travel like, the locals. There is a toilet/bathroom and compartments with bunks/berths. Please note that we travel 2nd class on all overnight trains (4 people per compart... Read more

Health

GIARDIA Giardia intestinalis, a parasite that causes severe diarrhoea has been reported from time to time in the water supply in Russia. For this reason, we recommend against drinking unboiled tap water in all Russian cites. MEDICATION From June 2016 legislation was introduced requiring travellers bringing prescribed medicines into Russia to carry a prescription in the traveller’s name, plus the ... Read more

Food and dietary requirements

FOOD IN RUSSIA: What is food in Russia really like? See our blog here for some must try foods: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/5-foods-really-need-try-russia/ VEGETARIANS & VEGANS: Vegetarians in Russia certainly won't go hungry as there are usually plenty of meat-free options on menus including salads, certain soups, and cooked dishes such as mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, buckwheat, du... Read more

Money matters

SPENDING MONEY: When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so ... Read more

What to take

What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage, and walk with it for short distances or up or down a flight of stairs. Our travellers usually find the smaller their luggage is, ... Read more

Climate and seasonal

CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS: Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractio... Read more

A couple of rules

Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol... Read more

Feedback

After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.

Emergency contact

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential nega... Read more

Responsible travel

We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.

The Intrepid Foundation

Organisations and projects currently supported by us in Russia include: * Nochlezhka provides food, shelter, social services and support to Russia’s most vulnerable and marginalised, their homeless. https://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/nochlezhka Please advise your leader if you have any unneeded clothing or toiletries you would like to donate, so that they can arrange for them to be passed on ... Read more

Accommodation notes

OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multisha... Read more

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and th... Read more

Your fellow travellers

As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit... Read more

Itinerary disclaimer

Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Essential Trip Information a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes th... Read more

Accommodation

Hotel (9 nights),Overnight Sleeper Train (7 nights),Homestay (2 nights),Ger Camp (1 night)
20days
€3,475per person
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Apr 8
St Petersburg
Apr 27
Beijing
€3,475
Seats left: 5
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May 6
St Petersburg
May 25
Beijing
€3,475
Seats left: 1
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May 13
St Petersburg
Jun 1
Beijing
€3,475
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May 20
St Petersburg
Jun 8
Beijing
€3,615
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