Day 1. Friday Arrival in Irkutsk
We arrive in the morning in Irkutsk and drive to a hotel in the city center (check-in at 1300 or after). 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 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. We leave our hotel as we go to explore some sights of this fascinating city. We begin at the Volkonsky House Museum. This is a window into the lives of the Decembrists - those who led the failed revolution to abolish serfdom and diminish the power of the Russian monarchy. The Decembrists were exiled to Siberia, leading to the implantation of Russian culture in the Far East. We stop at the local farmer’s market, before visiting the Bogoyavlenski Cathedral, known for its spectacular interior decoration. From here, we continue to the Saviour’s Church, Eastern Siberia’s first stone-built church, which dates back to 1705. We wrap up the day with a stroll along the embankment on the Angara River, the only river leaving Lake Baikal. We stay overnight in Irkutsk.
Day 2. Saturday Irkutsk – Listviyanka
Leaving Irkutsk, we take the one hour’s drive to Listviyanka on the shores of Lake Baikal, a summer retreat popular with Russians and foreigners alike. En route we stop at the Taltsy Open-Air Museum of Wooden Architecture, which is considered the best museum in the Irkutsk region, a place where you can experience the history and traditions of the peoples of Siberia: Buryats, Evenks, and Russians. As we arrive in Listviyanka in the afternoon, and after checking-in our hotel on the shores of Angara river, we pay a visit to the Baikal Ecology Museum, with its permanent exhibition on the rich, and mostly endemic, flora and fauna. We then climb to the top of Chersky Observation Point, a local hill, to enjoy the stunning view and, if we are lucky, a great sunset too. We stay overnight by Listviyanka.
Day 3. Sunday Listviyanka – Polovinyi – Listviyanka - Irkutsk
After an early breakfast we drive to the pier where we board a ferry for a 15 minutes’ ride across the Angara river, and on to Port Baikal. From here we embark on a train journey on 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. We end our journey at the remote and tiny village of Poloviniya. Here we take a short hike, and after lunch we board a boat for a marvelous two to three hours’ private cruise on the crystal-blue lake. If we are lucky, we see from time to time the heads of Nierpas, one of the world’s few species of freshwater seal. As we arrive back in Listviyanka, and if time permit, we stroll through the narrow streets of Listviyanka, which are mostly unpaved and run between high wooden fences. We visit the local church, named after St. Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers, and continue to the bustling market on the lake’s shores. We then take the one hour’s drive back to Irkutsk, where we spend the night.
Day 4. Monday Over the border from Russia to Mongolia
Very early in the morning we leave our hotel, and drive to the train station where we will begin our 24 hours’ train journey across the border to Mongolia with the train leaving 05:12 from Irkutsk. The section of the Trans-Mongolian railway which stretches between Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar is considered one of the most beautiful on this Trans Mongolian/Siberian Railway Tour, initially running along the shores of Lake Baikal before the train stops at Ulan Ude, the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Buryatia. From there the train runs beside small Siberian villages that seem as they have frozen in time. After the inevitable border formalities on both Russian and Mongolian sides of the border, the railway follows the course of the Selenge, one of Mongolia’s mightiest rivers. (please note: during border and immigration formalities, the toilets will be closed, so please do make sure you are prepared for 3-4 hours with no toilets available). As we nearing Ulaanbaatar, the railway crosses the narrow valleys of the northern Khan-Khentii Mountain Range, where fertile grass-steppes attract nomadic families to set up camp. The mountain slopes surrounding the valleys are dotted with white, round Gers. We spend the night on-board the train.
Day 5. Tuesday Ulaanbaatar – Mongol Nomads – Khustai Nuruu
Arrival in Ulaanbaatar at 06:20. Upon arrival, we meet our local guide and driver, and drive to a hotel in the city center for breakfast. After refreshing in the hotel, we drive back in time, to a place that recreates the lives of Mongolian nomads at the beginning of the 20th century. This was when Mongolia gained its independence from the Qing Dynasty and established itself as a reemerging nation under a living god-king. Here we shall attend a demonstration of how the nomads lived their lives during this era, and learn about some traditions that are carried on to this very day. After lunch in the camp we arrive at Khustaiin Nuruu Strictly Protected Area (SPA). The SPA was established as part of a unique project to reintroduce the world’s last surviving wild horses back to their natural environment. On the brink of extinction during the last century, only a very few Takhi or Przewalski’s horses were left in zoos around Europe. This graceful steppe horse was returned to Mongolia, and today, thanks to this special project, two herds again roam the Mongolian steppes. Overnight in a ger camp- the cozy yet simple, Mongolian version of a lodge, consisting of traditional felt-made dwellings the nomads of Central Asia often refer to as yurt.
Day 6. Wednesday Khustaiin Nuruu Spa - Khar Bukh Balgas - Ugii Lake
We Leave Khustaiin Nuruu, and continue our journey west as we arrive at Khar Bukh Balgas. Built during the Kitan Period, at about 1000 AD, this was a part of a chain of fortresses that were used to govern and control the northern region and borders of the Khitan (Kidan) State. Upon arrival to the site, we will explore the ruins, and learn about the various kingdoms that dominated Mongolia at that era. In the afternoon we arrive at the shores of Ugii Lake, where many nomadic families spend the summer. We will take a walk around the lake shores, and spend the afternoon with a nomadic family, learning about their unique way of life. Overnight in ger camp.
Day 7. Thursday Ugii Lake – Khoshoo Tsaidam – Kharkhorin
Leaving the lake’s shores, we drive to the site known as Khoshoo Tsaidam. This is where a Russian explorer and archeologist discovered two massive tombstones back in the late 19th century. The tombstones, built in honor of two Turkic war lords, Bilge Khagan and his brother Kul Tigin, depicting the glorious days of the Turkic people who ruled the region for centuries, until eventually subjecting to the Chinese. The inscription on the stones are written in both Chinese and old-Turkic alphabet. As very little was known at the time about the latter, these stones turned into a sort of Rosseta Stone, allowing linguists and researchers to decrypt ancient Turkic scripts. We visit the site, and the nearby museum funded by the Turkish government as part of the Turkish historical and cultural claim over large parts of central Asia. From here it’s another short drive to Kharkhorin. Built by Ghengis Khan about 800 years ago, Kharkhorin, better known as Karakorum, was famed throughout Asia as the capital of the Mongol Empire. Within the walls of this spectacular city, kings were chosen, laws made, and the fate of the next city to be conquered were determined. We will visit the ruins of the old city, the Erdene Zuu monastery, and other historical monuments in the area. Overnight in a ger camp.
Day 8. Friday Kharkhorin – Elsiin Tasarkhai – Ulaanbaatar
We leave Kharkhorin, and take a one hour’s drive towards Elsen Tasarkhai sand dune. Marking the northern edge of the great Gobi Desert, Elsen Tasarkhai stretches over 130 km north into the heart of Central Mongolia. We take a hike for a marvelous view over the dune that seems as if it’s locked between two mighty mountain ranges. In the afternoon we embark on another 5-6 hours’ drive, arriving late in the evening back in the Mongolian capital, where we will enjoy a farewell dinner, followed by a visit to the Zaisan Hill, for a view over the city at night. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.
Day 9. Saturday Aboard the train to China
With a very early check-out of the hotel, we again head to the train station, this time to board the train which would take us through the Gobi Desert and on to China. At late night time the train shall be stopped in the border for a course of some four hours, as the bogies are switched between the narrow Russian-standard and the Chinese, European-standard width gauge (please note: for the course of this process the toilets shall be closed, and anyone stays on board the train shall not be permitted down until the process is complete). After completing immigration formalities on both sides of the border, we continue our train ride into China.
Day 10. Sunday Arriving in Datong
Around noon time the train would stop in the city of Jinning. Here we disembark the train, meet our local Chinese guide, and take the approximately two-hours’ drive to the city of Datong. 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 we witness a phenomenon 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, Datong once was one of the most significant trade centers throughout northern China, later turning into a major trade point on the legendary Silk Road. 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. Arriving in Datong, we visit 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, we return to Datong for a good nights’ sleep.
Day 11. Monday From Datong to Beijing
We begin the day with a visit to the Nine Dragon Screen. Though built some 600 years ago, the screen, one of the 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. We then leave Datong and 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, we 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. Early in the afternoon we take the four to five hours' drive over the newly built highway to Beijing. Here we have a late dinner and spend our last night of the trip.
Day 12. Tuesday Departure from Beijing
After breakfast at our hotel in Beijing, we transfer to Beijing Capital Airport for the international departing flight out of China.
Dates & Pricing
All prices of this Trans Mongolian/Siberian Railway Tour are in US dollars and per person based on twin share occupancy
4 travelers – 20% discount
6 or more travelers – 25% discount
- Discounted rates applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking Trans Mongolian/Siberian Railway Tour together.
- The discounted price is the price for 2 people (below) less the discount.
- Mongolian Ways Ltd. reserves the right to change Trans Mongolian/Siberian Railway Tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.
15th June, 2020–26th June, 2020
- $4,160 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $362 Single Room Supplement
27th July, 2020–7th August, 2020
- $4,160 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $362 Single Room Supplement
7th September, 2020–18th September, 2020
- $4,160 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $362 Single Room Supplement
- Accommodation at hotels selected including breakfast
- Train tickets for the train rides segments indicated in the program on a half-compartment basis
- Transfers by private A/C vehicles at each train stop
- Meals as indicated in the program
- English speaking guide at each train stop
- Entry fees for all shows and sightseeing as per program
Please note: If you book Trans Mongolian/Siberian Railway Tour on your own (for one traveler), or your travel party consist of an uneven number of travelers, please refer to our Trans Mongolian/Siberian Railway Travel Guide for reference and instruction on what are your options aboard the train. Single occupancy supplement does not include single occupancy in a compartment aboard the train, so unless you book and pay for a private compartment for yourself, you might share a compartment with a complete stranger.
- International airfare to Irkutsk, and from Beijing
- Travel Insurance
- Russian Tourist Visa
- Mongolian Tourist Visa
- Chinese Tourist Visa
- Food, meals or drinks aboard the train
- Excess luggage
- Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
- Anything not clearly mentioned in the program
- Irkutsk: Kupechsky Dvor 4*
- Listviyanka: Angarsky Istok
- Khustai Nuruu: Khustaiin Nuruu ger camp
- Ugii Lake: Khatan Ugii ger camp
- Kharkhorin: Munkhtengerger camp
- Ulaanbaatar: Chinggis Khan Hotel 4*
- Datong: Howard Johnson Jindi Plaza 5*
- Beijing: Novotel Xinqiao 4*
Note: The listed hotels on this Trans Mongolian/Siberian Railway Tour are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.