This legendary great rail journey across Russia, connecting east and west, from Moscow to Vladivostock, takes just over two leisurely weeks with a night each in the start and end cities and a dozen nights on board the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express. In that time, you’ll cross the Ural Mountains, meander through the steppes, skirt Lake Baikal and get to see Mongolia as you traverse this extraordinary engineering achievement. With a flexible set up so you can join as many or as few excursions, it’s up to you whether you want to step down from the train and explore the places you pause at along the route. To travel along this route though is by far the best way to experience the vastness and grandeur of Russia’s rarely visited interior. What’s more, brave the elements and travel the route in March to experience a stunning Siberian winter, Dr Zhivago-style, with the chance to explore by horse-drawn sleigh and watch ice fishing on frozen Lake Baikal. Imagine the memories you’ll make.
Following a complimentary chauffeur-driven trip to the airport, let the anticipation build as you enjoy a drink in the complimentary airport lounge before your flight to Moscow. On arrival, we’ll whisk you to the neoclassical Ritz-Carlton. Settle into your spacious, sumptuous room, freshen up in the marble bathroom and then climb to the rooftop terrace lounge for a chance to toast your arrival and drink in panoramic views of Red Square and the Kremlin. Join your fellow passengers later for a champagne drinks reception and exclusive Welcome Dinner to set the tone for the trip ahead.
Stay: Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Moscow
Start your day with a guided city tour with a local, who will lead you to the austere Lenin’s Tomb and ornate St Basil’s Cathedral, show you the Tsar treasures of the Armoury Chamber and introduce you to Red Square, overlooked by the Kremlin, the historical and political heart of the city, where you’ll enjoy an exclusive private viewing. Take advantage too of the complimentary entry into Moscow’s must-see exhibitions such as the Space Museum and State Tretyakov Gallery. Later, we will tear you away from the city treasures to take you to the Kazansky Station. After a welcome glass of champagne in the Imperial Waiting Room, a car attendant will escort you to the platform where a brass band will be playing as you catch a glimpse of the iconic Trans-Siberian Express train for the first time. Step up onto the carriage and make your way to your cabin. As the train leaves the platform, head to the bar car to meet your fellow passengers, mingle and sip a perfectly-prepared cocktail while a pianist plays Chopin on a baby grand. When hungry, move through to the opulent dining car for a gourmet meal. Tuck into the caviar and enjoy local specialties. Treat yourself to a nightcap after – the bar car doesn’t call ‘Time’ while there’s still someone in it – before returning to your cabin where the sitting area will have been discretely and cleverly converted into a sleeping berth.
Wake to discover a new vista and kick off your day with a cooked-to-order breakfast as you steam into the picturesque city of Kazan, situated on the banks of the River Volga. Descend from the train to explore the city, one of Russia’s oldest, in the company of a guide. Explore the UNESCO-listed Kremlin Fortress and admire pretty churches, grand courts, the Golden Gate and the Uspenski Cathedral, where the Tsar’s would be crowned. After exploring and even catching a private opera concert in honour of celebrated singer and local alumni Feodor Chaliapin, return to the train in time for pre-drinks in the bar car as you continue your journey.
The train starts to climb into the Ural Mountains, which mark the natural border between Europe and Asia. Watch the hills slide past from your large panoramic windows. At Yekaterinburg the two continents collide; the looming Border Monument marks the point and you’ll be able to straddle the continents with a foot in each as you raise a glass of champagne. While exploring the city with a guide you’ll get a sense of the cultural shift taking place and uncover the city’s dark and violent past at the Church of Spilled Blood, where the Romanov, Tsar Nicolas II of Russia was executed with his family by the Bolshevik’s in 1918. After the history lesson on the turmoil of the Russian Revolution, retire to the train again to mark it moving on into Asia.
Next stop for the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express is Novosibirsk. Climb down from your carriage to discover a modern ‘Soviet’ city centred on Lenin Square, where a statue of the political leader stands in front of the enormous Opera House. Let your local guide bring the theatre, the largest in Russia, to life, with stories of its past and performances. Explore deeper and visit the Railway Museum to see rolling stock and locomotives right from the time of the Tsars to the Soviet era, or admire an impressive display of Siberian minerals at the Mineralogical Centre. After, return to your contemporary train to contrast the historic rolling stock and carriages of the Tsars with the creature comforts that you’re able to enjoy.
With a day dedicated to rolling across the steppes, spend the day cosseted in your cabin, watching the stark beauty of Siberia unfold outside. From your room with an ever-changing view, spectate as snow-laden panoramas slip by. Perhaps read from a well-thumbed copy of Eric Newby’s classic The Big Red Train Ride and concur with the author when he succinctly notes that, ‘The Trans-Siberian is the big train ride. All the rest are peanuts.’ Slip away and spend time in the bar car, swapping stories, forging friendships over card games and vodka and imagining what lies ahead.
After a day without disembarking, you’ll be grateful of the stop in Irkutsk, nicknamed the ‘Paris of Siberia.’ See how the city earned the moniker on a guided walk to take in the traditional wooden architecture and domed residences overlaid with intricate lace-like carved decorations. Stop at the Volonsky House Museum, dedicated to the aristocrats who were exiled to this remote outpost after the failed Decemberists uprising, and recreate the atmosphere of the 1820s with a champagne reception and private music concert. You might also choose to join a local cookery class with a top chef in order to learn how to prepare some traditional Russian recipes. Or take a short trip to a Russian Dacha to see what these traditional summer houses are like.
Beyond Irkutsk lies Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake. For five hours you’ll follow lake-side rails on a cliff-hugging track that carves through hillsides in tunnels that emerge to still be adjacent to the water, known colloquially as the Pearl of Siberia. To add to the grandeur, the Golden Eagle will be pulled by a Soviet era steam locomotive on this section of the line. Keep your eyes open for a unique breed of freshwater seal and a vast number of seabirds when you break the journey for a lake cruise and shore-side barbecue. Brace yourself and take a chilly swim in the crystal clear ice-cold lake waters of Baikal before taking a boat on the lake to the small settlement of Listvyanka where you’ll explore the Lake Baikal Museum and Aquarium. The chefs from the Golden Eagle will prepare a barbecue of freshly smoked lake fish while you contemplate an ascent oif Chersky Mount, either on foot or, if that seems like too much exertion, by chair lift. Later, board the train to travel onwards, toast your bravery and embellish the time you spent swimming.
As Lake Baikal recedes look ahead to Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryat Republic. This isolated mountain republic was initially settled by nomadic Mongols. Let your expert guide introduce you to the region’s unique culture on a visit to the Old Believers’ Village where you’ll meet local families, listen to authentic folk songs and take part in ages-old traditions. Uncover the world’s largest Lenin head but also note the Datsan Rinpoche Bagsha, a golden Buddhist temple.
By now you’re immersed in Mongolia. Take in the vast expanses only dotted with occasional Gers (yurts) and imagine life as a herder grazing livestock here. Contrast the empty steppes with the vibrant city of Ulaanbaatar, the one-time capital of Ghengis Khan’s enormous empire. A monument to the great warrior himself stands guard over Chinggis Square, where your guide will take you to the National Museum and the Gandan Monastery, held by Buddhists to be one of the most important monasteries in the country. Having met some of the 500 monks who live here, journey into the countryside and the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park to experience life in a traditional Ger. Listen to a nomadic family describe their traditional way of life and try your hand at horse-riding too.
Settle into the rhythm of life on the train for the next three days as you roll across what seem like endless expanses of wild Siberia. As you venture further into the Russian Far East you’ll realise how empty and challenging these regions are, just as you come to appreciate how spectacular and starkly beautiful they can be as well. As you skirt the Chinese border, make the most of your opulent surrounds. Let the car attendants anticipate your every whim and spoil yourself by tucking into caviar or snacks in the bar car.
Conclude your great rail journey some 6,000 miles and eight time zones later by pulling into the military port of Vladivostock. As you get down a little sadly, contemplate the fact that you’ve travelled a quarter of the way around the world on the metal ribbon that lies across Asia from Moscow to where you now stand. The fact that you’re stood in a city that was closed to foreigners for much of the 20th century, should take the edge off too. Vladivostock was, until 1992, a secretive place with a heavy military presence. Uncover its past with a trip to a well-preserved WWII submarine. See too the Golden Horn Bay’s renowned suspension bridge, reputed to be one of the largest anywhere in the world. At night, instead of the sonorous rumble of the bogies below you you’ll have peace and quiet in your room at the Hotel Hyundai, which sets the standard for luxury accommodation in the city. Climb to the Sky Bar to revel in panoramic city views and giant starscapes and then attend a celebratory Farewell Dinner to conclude your great rail adventure.
Stay: Hotel Hyundai
After a final, leisurely breakfast, we’ll arrange for you to travel to the airport where you’ll fly back to the UK, before being whisked back to your door via our complimentary chauffeur service.
"Much of Russia's vast and varying terrain is rarely seen by tourists but a trip on the Trans-Siberian Express will introduce you to much of it's wild unknowns. I recommend upgrading to an Imperial Suite to make the most of your stay on this beautifully classic train. And, make sure not to indulge too much in the luxury that it offers because you don't want to miss out on seeing the country itself. Spend days exploring and nights unwinding at the Golden Eagle's bar. "