DAY 1. FRIDAY ARRIVAL IN IRKUTSK
Arrive in Irkutsk in the afternoon and explore the city for as long as time permits. With traditions running back to the mid-16th century when Irkutsk was a mere fortress collecting taxes from the Buryat people, it has played a significant 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 it was destroyed in a massive fire in July 1879, it was quickly restored as a central trade hub between Russia and the emerging Chinese giant to the south. After setting in the hotel (check-in at 14:00, earlier check-in subject to supplement), take a first orientation tour of Irkutsk. Visit Bogoyavlenski Cathedral, known for its spectacular interior decoration, and The Saviour's Church, Eastern Siberia's first stone-built church, dating back to 1705. Then take to the lively farmers market before visiting Volkonsky House. It once served as a cultural and social center for the Decembrists - those army officers who conspired to overthrow Tsar Nicholas I back in December 1825. The Tsar supporters suppressed the revolt, and the conspires turned to be some of the first (but by no means last) political prisoners that were exiled to Siberia. In the evening, take 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 Russia.
DAY 2. SATURDAY IRKUTSK – LISTVIYANKA
After early breakfast, take the one-hour drive to the pier for a 15-minute ferry ride across the Angara River to Port Baikal. Here, embark on a train journey aboard the Circum-Baikal Railway- a true engineering marvel! It comprises 38 tunnels, 15 stone galleries, and 20 bridges, allowing the railway to travel along the shore of Lake Baikal, providing unparalleled views over the lake and its surroundings. After about a 2-hours ride aboard the Circum-Baikal, disembark the train, and take a two hours' private cruise over the crystal-blue lake. If lucky, one might see from time to time the heads of Niyerpas, one of the world's few freshwater seal species. 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 3. SUNDAY LISTVIYANKA – IRKUTSK
This morning, take a leisurely 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 primarily 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 is 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 set in the hotel for the night.
DAY 4. MONDAY OVER THE BORDER FROM RUSSIA TO MONGOLIA
Very early in the morning leave the hotel, and drive to the train station to embark on the 24 hours’ train journey across the border to Mongolia. The section of the Trans-Mongolian railway which stretches between Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar is considered one of the most beautiful on this Trans Mongolian 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 the train approaches Ulaanbaatar, the railway crosses the narrow valleys of the northern Khan-Khentii Mountain Range, where fertile grasslands attract nomadic families to set up camp. The mountain slopes surrounding the valleys are dotted with white, round Gers. Spend the night on-board the train.
DAY 5. TUESDAY ULAANBAATAR – MONGOL NOMADS – KHUSTAIN NURUU
Arrival in Ulaanbaatar at the early morning. Meet the local guide and driver, and take a journey back in time, to a place recreating the lives of Mongolian nomads during 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. Attend a demonstration of how the nomads lived their lives during this era and learn about some traditions carried on to these very days. After lunch in the camp, arrive at Khustai Nuruu Strictly Protected Area. Khustai was established as part of a unique project to reintroduce the world's last surviving wild horse back to its natural environment. On the brink of extinction during the previous 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 unique project, several herds again roam the Mongolian steppes. After a short stop at the visitors' center, drive to a vantage point at the midst of the park to see the herds of horses sprinting from the mountain tops to the narrow river valley, where they come to drink as the temperatures in the lowlands cool down. In the evening, drive to the camp by the protected area's buffer zone, and set in for a first night in 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, and the Mongolians call- ger.
DAY 6. WEDNESDAY KHUSTAI NURUU SPA - KHAR BUKH BALGAS - UGII LAKE
Leave Khustai, and drive towards Khar Bukh Balgas. Built during the time of the Khitans - an early steppe-empire that ruled much of central Asia at about 1000 AD - this was a part of a chain of fortresses that used to govern and control the northern borders of the Khitan (Kidan) State. Upon arrival to the site, explore the ruins, and learn about the various kingdoms that dominated Mongolia at that era. Late in the afternoon, arrive at the shores of Ugii Lake. After setting in the camp, take a walk along the lake's shores.
DAY 7. THURSDAY UGII LAKE – KHOSHOO TSAIDAM – KHARKHORIN
This morning drive to Khoshoo Tsaidam. Here, back in the late 19th century, a Russian explorer and archeologist discovered two massive tombstones. The tombstones, built in honor of two Uyghur warlords - Bilge Khagan and his brother Kul Tigin - depict the heydays of the Uyghur people who ruled the region for centuries until eventually subjecting to the Yenisei Kyrgyz. The inscription on the stones is 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 Rosetta Stone, allowing linguists and researchers to decrypt ancient Turkic scripts. 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. Late in the afternoon, arrive in Kharkhorin. Built by Chinggis 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 was determined. In the afternoon, visit the Karakorum Museum. This museum holds a permanent display of various archeological findings and compiles a picture of how the city looked like during the reign of the Mongol empire. Then ascend to a hill overlooking the small town to visit the Monument of Empires, erected to commemorate the 800th
anniversary of the coronation of Chinggis Khan as the king of all kings of the steppes. Explore the site, depicting the history of three of the largest steppe-empires that were first formed here, and enjoy the marvelous view of the sun setting over the sacred Orkhon valley before setting in the camp for the night.
DAY 8. FRIDAY KHARKHORIN – ELSEN TASARKHAI – ULAANBAATAR
Check-out and take the one-hour drive to Elsiin Tasarkhai sand dune. Marking the northern edge of the great Gobi Desert, Elsiin Tasarkhai stretches for over 130 km north into the heart of Central Mongolia. Arrive at the dune and take a hike for a marvelous view over the dune that seems as if it's locked between two mighty mountain ranges. If lucky, get to see a plethora of waterfowl in the small seasonal lake by the dune. After lunch embark on the five hours’ drive all the way back to Ulaanbaatar. In the evening, take a tour 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 the 1920s, boldly raising his arm towards the statue of Chinggis Khan, the nation's forefather whose name was not allowed to be mentioned during the 70-year communist reign. Then continue to the hotel by the city center.
DAY 9. SATURDAY ABOARD THE TRAIN TO CHINA
With a very early departure from the hotel, head back to the train station, this time to board the train that travels across the Gobi Desert and on to China. Late at night, the train shall stop by the Mongolian side of 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, as well as during immigration formalities on both sides of the border, 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, complete the train ride into China.
DAY 10. SUNDAY ARRIVING IN DATONG
Around noon time the train arrives in the city of Jinning. Disembark the train, meet the 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. 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 was one of the most significant trade centers throughout northern China, later turning into a major trade hub on the legendary Silk Road. With such a substantial 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 historical relics and monuments. Visit the Yungang Grottoes, which 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 for a good nights’ sleep.
DAY 11. MONDAY DATONG - BEIJING
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 one can find altars dedicated to Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, and even figures of the main characters in each of these different religions standing side by side, a very uncommon sight. Early in the afternoon drive back to Datong for the approximately two hours bullet train ride to Beijing. At speeds of about 300 kph (approx. 186 mph), this is an apt ending for a fabulous Trans-Siberian tour. Arrive in Beijing, and transfer to a hotel for the last night of the trip.
DAY 12. TUESDAY DEPARTURE FROM BEIJING
After breakfast at the hotel in Beijing, transfer to Beijing Capital Airport for the international departing flight out of China.
Dates & Pricing
17th June, 2022–28th June, 2022
- $2,782 Per Person (For a group of 6 or more)
- $413 Single Room Supplement
29th July, 2022–9th August, 2022
- $2,782 Per Person (For a group of 6 or more)
- $413 Single Room Supplement
9th September, 2022–20th September, 2022
- $2,782 Per Person (For a group of 6 or more)
- $413 Single Room Supplement
All prices for Trans Mongolian/Siberian Railway Tour are in US dollars and per person based on twin share occupancy
Rates for private tours:
2 travelers – USD3590/ person
4 travelers – USD3118/ person
- Prices valid for payment by wire transfers. Payment facilitated by credit cards would incur a supplement of 3.8%.
- 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.
Upgrades for twin share (for an ensuite ger- some would have toilets and shower, some just toilets within the ger; limited availability). More information on accommodation in Mongolia.
Ugii Lake: Deluxe Ger +USD36/ [email protected] share | +USD36/ [email protected] occupany (1 night)
Kharkhorin: Deluxe Ger +USD24/ [email protected] share | +USD41/ [email protected] occupany (1 night)
Ulaanbaatar: Best Western Premier 5-stars +USD41/ [email protected] share | +USD66/ [email protected] occupany (1 night)
- 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
- PCR/COVID tests, or any tests that might be required for international or domestic travel
- Expenses that might incur due to the results of COVID tests before, during or after the tour
- 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.