Day 1. Arrive St Petersburg.
Transfer to accommodation for three nights. Choice of homestay, hostel or budget hotel.
Depending upon your arrival time your walking guide will meet you for a three-hour introductory walking tour. If your arrival does not suit an immediate start, then this will take place the next day. This tour will orientate you with regard to where you are staying, how to reach the main sightseeing area and the public transport system.
Days 2-3. Remaining two days are free for optional sightseeing.
St Petersburg is where modern Russia was born under the guidance of the Czar known as Peter the Great, and remained capital of the Russian empire up to the Soviet era. The city was established upon a swamp and is now rightly considered one of the gems of Europe. This is where you can see such grandiose palaces such as the Peterhof (summer palace), The Hermitage (winter palace) and the country estate and parkland of Catherine the Great – Catherine Palace. For history buffs there are many sites associated with the 1917 Revolution.
Day 4. Self transfer to Moskovskiy Station to depart for Moscow by fast train – afternoon departure. Departures are frequent throughout the day. Upon arrival you are met and transferred to accommodation. Choice of homestay, hostel or budget hotel.
Three hour introductory walking tour of central Moscow, next two days free for optional sightseeing in or around Moscow. Don’t miss our suggestions for Optional Sightseeing excursions!
Time to experience the famed centre of Soviet-era Russia. This is where central control was wielded. Moscow is now a changed city, but its many surviving examples of architecture complement its thriving theatre and arts and for those so disposed, Moscow has museums to satisfy any interest!
Days 5-6. Moscow sightseeing.
Day 7. Evening departure by overnight train to Kazan.
Day 8. Arrive Kazan early morning. Met and transferred to accommodation. Day for sightseeing.
Kazan is the capital of the state known as Tatarstan. After the break up of the Soviet Union it seemed possible that Tatarstan might become one of the independent ‘Stans’ of Central Asia, but it has remained within today’s Russia.
Here you will experience a different side of Russian culture, but in a city that flaunts many eras of architecture; from the giant mosque within the Kremlin walls through nineteenth-century European-style building. Then you encounter the ubiquitous Soviet-era apartment complexes topped off with a prime real estate-positioned gated community of ostentatious ‘nouveau riche’ mansions.
Russia’s self-proclaimed ‘third capital’ hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the state-of-the-art Kazan Arena.
Of note to foodies is the change in cuisine as Central Asian influences become apparent.
Day 9. Transfer to station for morning departure to Yekaterinburg. Part of this day sees you winding your way East through the Ural Mountains to cross the geographic demarcation between Europe and Asia.
Late night arrival, met and transferred to your accommodation.
Yekaterinburg (or Ekaterinburg) is a city where one might choose to stay longer and explore the famed natural beauty of the Urals region’. The city has undergone some admirable redevelopment and has many modern areas complementing its historical interest.
Yekaterinburg is famed as the location of the brutal July 1918 murder of the last Czar and his family, and the 1960 Soviet propaganda event which followed the shooting down of a U.S. spy plane and the subsequent show trial of the hapless pilot, Gary Powers. These two disparate events are immortalised in stunning roof mosaics at the railway station.
For motorbike enthusiasts this is the home of the famed Ural motorbike and yes you can get to ride one!
Day 10. Guided vehicle tour of Romanoff history points of interest and the Asia/Europe monument, both of which are outside the city proper.
Day 11. Free day, with late check out from your Yekaterinburg accommodation. This stopover can be extended, if you wish.
The Trans Siberian route opens up great visual swathes of Siberia. You will see and thus feel, the immensity of this geographic region, passing sparsely populated village enclaves, interspersed with an occasional large city.
Days 12-13. Break out that copy of Dr Zhivago or War and Peace, or set up a travel chess set! Expect to share a vodka with your Russian fellow travellers, too.
Day 14. Early arrival at Irkutsk and transfer to Lake Baikal for one night’s accommodation. Balance of day free for own activities or additional organised programmes. Lakeside activities. Alternative packages to add if you desire.
Day 15. Lake Baikal village. Afternoon transfer back to Irkutsk accommodation.
Irkutsk offers a range of sightseeing options. Perhaps a suburb with its characteristically Siberian wooden houses, or the Decembrist Museum to see how exiled nobility fared in the 19th century! For those with a technical bent there is the museum featuring the old Lake Baikal Ice Breaker!
Day 16. Irkutsk sightseeing day. Optional programmes.
Train timetables between Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar (both directions) have changed significantly from December 2017. There are now no daily departures.
From Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar your options are:
#306 MON/WED/FRI dep at 03:08 Moscow time (08:08 local time. No two-berth available)
#Nr 6 SUN dep at 03:08 Moscow time.
#Nr 4 SAT dep at 03:08 Moscow time
Therefore, depending upon the start date (=day) of the complete programme we may need to adjust your stopover period for Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.
Days 18-19. Arrive early at Ulaanbaatar where you are met and transferred to a ger (yurt) camp for two nights, within the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park which is about 70km out of the city. Sample the traditionally nomadic Mongol way of life with Grassland Pursuits’ including optional activities such as horse or camel riding, archery and hiking, to be paid for locally. There are many hiking trails around the ger camp and quite stunning scenery.
Day 20. Balance of the day free to explore more of the capital of the independent Republic of Mongolia (bordered by the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, further south).
Originally a centre for Buddhist nomads and lamas, Ulaanbaatar became a permanent townsite in the eighteenth century. Since the 1990 overthrow of Soviet Russian-inspired communism, Mongolian Buddhism has experienced a resurgence.
A vibrant conjunction of traditional and twenty-first century lifestyles typifies modern Ulaanbaatar. The city now bears little resemblance to the windswept and provincial Soviet-style outpost encountered by travellers some thirty years ago.
We also offer a wider selection of stopover options to help you explore Ulaanbaatar or venture further afield.
Day 22. Arrive Beijing. We can arrange extra days in Beijing should you wish to arrive earlier. The Great Wall of China is said to be the Eighth Wonder of the World and this stopover is your chance to experience it up close.
For more information about touring China, including extra services for Beijing, please visit our China pages.
End of arrangements.
The direction of this itinerary is Eastward (West to East) St Petersburg TO Beijing.
The itinerary detailed below uses the standard train and is for more independent travellers. If you prefer different levels of travel comfort, do consider our luxury private train options.
A leisurely journey on the world’s greatest railway, a journey linking two great, if contrasting cultures… from St Petersburg to Moscow, then eastbound across the endless forests of Siberia, then south down across the Mongolian steppes, and so to Beijing. Stopovers are made at Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan; Ekaterinburg; Irkutsk (Lake Baikal) and the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar (formerly Ulan Bator). Recommended for travellers who prefer to explore in depth.
Departures (start – arrival day) from St Petersburg every Friday and Saturday. Depending upon the start date (=day) of the complete programme we may need to adjust your stopover period for Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.
We have been operating a wide variety of independent programmes and tours into Russia since 1989, starting with university language study groups. As Russia opened up we introduced Trans Siberian train journeys at a real price. We were the first to introduce homestay accommodation. Others were paying high costs while our clients were paying low cost! Same bed, same cabin!
All this experience results in
You will also notice our name is referenced in most of the guidebooks relating to these areas. In fact we have helped many of the Lonely Planet guidebook authors travel around Russia.