A Train Journey Across Eurasia from Beijing to Moscow with Smithsonian Journeys
Jul 5 – 20, 2012
Tour Leader: Gordon Smith
Book by Oct 1 and Save $250 per person or $500 per couple.
It is one of the most epic journeys on earth, crossing two continents and linking the capital cities of two of the world’s largest countries. Covering nearly 5,000 miles and passing through five time zones, the Trans-Siberian railroad unfurls across a magnificent and ever-changing landscape, offering unparalleled views of mighty rivers, pristine lakes, and immense stretches of taiga forests, as well as glimpses of daily life in cultural capitals and isolated villages. Starting in the bustling Chinese capital of Beijing, head to Mongolia, arriving in time for the opening ceremony of the Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar. From the darkness of mountain tunnels, the train emerges onto the shores of sparkling Lake Baikal as it travels to the fascinating town of Irkutsk. In both Ulaanbaatar and Irkutsk, you’ll disembark and spend the night in centrally located hotels, allowing time to explore both cities independently after scheduled activities. Your journey continues, tracing waterways like the Amur River through narrow valleys, rolling past wooden villages of the steppes, and winding through the mineral-rich Ural Mountains. You’ll witness this vast, changing landscape from the comfort of a private train, stopping at villages and cities along the way. Conclude this journey of a lifetime in the Russian capital of Moscow.
- Witness the festive traditions of the colorful Naadam Festival, Mongolia’s most celebrated annual event. Enjoy the thrill of watching 512 wrestlers, 250 archers, and over 1,000 horses and young horseback riders compete in various sport events.
- Learn about the Slavic peoples of Irkutsk and view the “wooden lace” architecture of traditional homes.
- Take a cruise on Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world, and picnic along its shores.
- Visit historic Yekaterinburg, site of the execution of the last tsar and his family.
- Spend a day in Moscow, with visits to Red Square, the Kremlin, and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
- This tour features the following World Heritage sites:
- The Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing, China
- Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
- Lake Baikal, Russia
- The Kazan Kremlin, Russia
- The Moscow Kremlin, Russia
July 5-6 — U.S. to Beijing, China
Depart for Beijing. After crossing the International Dateline, arrive in China the following day. Check into the hotel. Peninsula Hotel.
July 7 — Imperial Beijing
As an introduction to Chinese history, visit the Temple of Heaven, where the hubbub of local seniors singing and dancing in the park outside the temple grounds is as exciting as the architecture inside is majestic. Then visit Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, which symbolizes the political center of China. Continue into the Forbidden City. Standing at Noon Gate, looking at the massive, imperial buildings spread out before you, it is easy to imagine the grandeur of China’s later dynasties. This evening, enjoy a festive dinner of Imperial cuisine overlooking Beihai Lake. (B,L,D)
July 8 — Beijing
Follow an expert into the hidden alleyways of Beijing’s hutong neighborhoods to see courtyard-style homes and learn about the principles of fengshui. Explore the Yonghegong Lama Temple, the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing. Then board an overnight train to the Mongolian border. You will be on this train only for one night before transferring to your private train in Mongolia. Chinese train (B,L,D)
July 9 — Border Crossing, Mongolia and the Gobi Desert
Arrive at Erlian and explore this rapidly growing border town before crossing into Mongolia. Board the Tsar’s Gold private train and continue the journey north through the Gobi Desert as you settle into your comfortable cabin. Tsar’s Gold (B,L,D)
July 10 — Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Arrive in Mongolia’s capital city this morning. Taking an overnight bag, visit the Gandan Monastery and the Fine Arts Museum. Enjoy a festive Naadam feast this evening. Bayangol Hotel (B,L,D)
July 11 — Ulaanbaatar
Join in the festivities of the Naadam Festival, Mongolia’s famous three-day sporting event. From a special seating area in Central Stadium, watch the competitions and cultural performances, including wrestling, archery, and spectacular horse racing events. Enjoy some time at leisure to witness other festivities surrounding Mongolia’s most exciting annual event. Return to the train in the evening. Tzar’s Gold (B,L,D)
July 12 — Ulan Ude, Russia
Bid farewell to the Mongolian steppes as the train rolls through the valley of Selenga, featuring the largest river of Mongolia. Here you can stroll through the city streets or join the guided tour of the city. In Ulan Ude the train joins the main route of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. (B,L,D)
July 13 — Lake Baikal
The entire day is dedicated to Lake Baikal. Before noon arrive at the old station of Port Baikal, located directly on the shore. Absorb the breathtaking scenery during two stops along the ancient tracks, which run parallel to the shore. Enjoy a short boat ride on the lake and some time to swim or visit a picturesque Baikal village. If the night is warm, dinner will be served as a picnic on the shores of the spectacular lake before reboarding the train. (B,L,D)
July 14 — Irkutsk
Arriving in Irkutsk in the morning, take your overnight bag and check in to a centrally located hotel. A tour of the city includes the lively market hall, the drama theater, and a rather spectacular oddity, a newly erected statue of the Tsar. The afternoon features an excursion to an open-air museum displaying traditional Siberian life. Irkutsk Hotel (B,L,D)
July 15 — Crossing Siberia
Reboard the train this morning and travel through the landscapes of Eastern Siberia with its mountains, crystal-clear rivers, and verdant slopes. On board, enjoy lectures about Siberia by your Smithsonian Expert. A get-together complete with caviar and vodka tasting familiarizes you with Russian hospitality. Tzar’s Gold (B,L,D)
July 16 — Novosibirsk
Arrive at Novosibirsk, Siberia’s biggest city, and enjoy a traditional Russian welcome featuring balalaika music. Visit the Trans-Siberian Monument and the mighty Ob River. After dinner, the train continues westward. (B,L,D)
July 17 — Yekaterinburg
In the afternoon the train stops in Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Ural Mountains and the border between Asia and Europe where Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Visit the Romanov execution site, view the city’s ornately decorated wooden houses, and stop by a monument marking the border between Europe and Asia. At this point your journey continues through Europe. (B,L,D)
July 18 — Kazan
After breakfast, arrive in Kazan, the old Tartar capital on the banks of the Volga River. On a guided tour of the Kremlin, learn about the bloody relations of the Tartars, Cossacks, and Russians, and enjoy a short cruise and lunch on the Volga. Return to the train for your last dinner on board. (B,L,D)
July 19 — Moscow
Arrive in Moscow late in the morning. After checking in to your hotel, take a guided tour of the Kremlin and its beautiful cathedrals. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner then stop by Red Square to view the colorful St. Basil’s Cathedral illuminated against the night sky. Renaissance Hotel (B,L,D)
July 20 — Depart Moscow for the U.S.
Depart for the airport for return flights to the U.S. (B)