South Caucasus to Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle
Seek out the spellbinding magic of the Silk Road on this epic journey across the countries on both the western and the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea. With their important places in history at the crossroads of trade, religion, language, and the arts, these countries host fascinating modern cultures, as well as some of the earth’s most ancient and ageless architecture. Begin in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, one of the three South Caucasus countries clustered together on a mountainous strip of land between the Black and the Caspian Seas. Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are fabulously rich sources of ancient artifacts, stunning mountain backdrops, and a strong code of hospitality. Visit their capital cities and discover their craggy mountains, fertile valleys and sweeping vistas, exploring overland and connecting by private jet from Tbilisi to Baku.
Then fly over the oil-rich Caspian Sea to visit Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat and board the luxury Golden Eagle private train. Head down the tracks to Uzbekistan’s Silk Road oases, UNESCO-listed Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. End in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s most prosperous city.
Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Golden Eagle.
Days 1-3: Yerevan (Armenia), Lake Sevan, Dilijan
Begin with a tour of Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, a city older than Rome, and a trip into the nearby mountains to visit the UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery. Then head to Tbilisi, Georgia by coach along the shores of Lake Sevan, making a stop at the mountain resort of Dilijan.
- Geghard Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built into the side of a mountain
- The colonnaded pagan Temple of Garni, located on a cliff near the Azat River
- Sample premium Armenian wines and learn about Armenian wine production at a local winery
- The Cascade, a massive, magisterial staircase that functions as Yerevan’s main public gathering place
- The Cafesjian Museum of Modern Art, which has a gallery within the Cascade and a sculpture garden set amid the steps and fountains
- Brilliant, blue-green Lake Sevan – one of the largest alpine lakes in the world
Days 4-6: Tbilisi (Georgia), Gori, Uplistsikhe, Mtskheta
Entering Georgia, explore the red-roofed Old Town of Tbilisi, the capital city. Next, take a day trip to Stalin’s hometown, Gori; the ancient cave town of Uplistsikhe, where you’ll hear a private concert of Georgian songs; and UNESCO-listed Mtskheta, capital of the early Iberian kingdom.
- Tbilisi’s landmarks: 4th century Narikala Fortress, 13th century Metekhi Church of the Virgin, the Mother Georgia Monument, and the elaborate residential architecture along Rustaveli Avenue.
- Tbilisi’s Simon Janashia Museum, which features 1.7-million-year-old hominid skulls and a collection of ancient gold ornaments
- The Stalin House Museum, located at the site of the wooden hut where the Soviet ruler spent his first years
- The remains of the 3,000-year-old cave town of Uplistsikhe, carved into 22 acres of mountainside
- A stirring concert of Georgian polyphonic vocal music, performed in Uplistsikhe
- Mtskheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was capital the Iberian kingdom and has two exceptional early Orthodox churches
Days 7-8: Baku (Azerbaijan), Gobustan
Fly by private jet to Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, a longtime center of the Caspian oil industry with a UNESCO-listed medieval Old Town. A day trip takes you to Gobustan, an important site of ancient petroglyphs that are also UNESCO-listed. Two nights here are in a leading Baku hotel before a flight to Ashgabat on Day 9, where you will connect with the Golden Eagle train.
- The winding streets, mosques, and tiny shops of Baku’s walled Old Town
- Baku’s Beaux Arts mansions – the byproduct of an early 20th century oil boom
- Gobustan’s petroglyphs, which provide a surprisingly rich portrait of daily life in ancient times
Days 9-10: Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), Darvaza Gas Crater
In Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, explore the flamboyant gilded architecture that has sprung from the rubble of a massive 1948 earthquake, as well as the huge $100-million mosque in the village of Kipchak a few miles away. The following day the Golden Eagle heads toward the Uzbek border, with an evening excursion to the flaming Darvaza Gas Crater, known as the “Door to Hell.”
- The opulent new architecture of Ashgabat, which holds a Guinness record for the highest density of white marble buildings in the world
- The $100-million Kipchak Mosque, with its 164-foot golden dome and room for 10,000 worshippers
- An after-dark view of the flaming gas crater of Darvaza, set alight during Soviet times and visible from miles away
Days 11-14: Khiva (Uzbekistan), Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent
Three days in Uzbekistan take you to three UNESCO-listed Silk Road oasis cities: Khiva, with its distinctive dun-colored walls; Bukhara, site of the 2,000-year-old Ark Citadel; and Samarkand, Tamerlane’s blue-tiled capital. Last stop in Uzbekistan is the present-day capital, modern Tashkent, with its wide, tree-lined boulevards.
- Khiva’s Old Town, a “living museum” that looks much the same as it did hundreds of years ago
- Tash-Hauli Palace and Dzhuma Mosque, two of Khiva’s most impressive structures
- Old Bukhara’s ageless domed bazaars and its central plaza, adorned with a reflecting pool
- Ark Citadel, Bukhara’s huge 2,000-year-old fortress
- Samarkand’s Registan Square, bordered by three beautiful madrasahs
- The 14th-century conqueror Tamerlane’s architectural legacy in Samarkand, including Bibi Khanum Mosque, the largest of its day, and Ulug Nek Observatory
Days 15-16: Almaty (Kazkahstan)
On the journey’s last full day, explore Kazakhstan’s “City of Apples,” Almaty, set in the orchard-rich foothills of the majestic Tien Shan Mountains. The commercial hub of Central Asia’s wealthiest nation, Almaty is quickly growing and modernizing.
- Lunch in a traditional Kazakh yurt
- A farewell dinner in the bustling city
Dates & Prices
Minimum group size: Minimums vary – call for confirmation status
Land Tour Price, Per Person.
Sept 21 - Oct 6Silver Class, double occupancy$28,095Silver Class, single occupancy$42,195Gold Class, double occupancy$35,195Gold Class, single occupancy$57,995Imperial Suite Class, double occupancy$57,695Imperial Suite Class, single occupancy$115,295
Sept 12 - 27Call for Pricing
- Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
- All meals starting with dinner on Day 1 until breakfast on final tour day.
- Complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water round the clock from your car attendant while on board the train.
- A generous allowance of wine or local beer, soft drinks and water with all lunches and dinners.
- Complimentary draft beer in the Bar Car for all passengers.
- Arrival/departure transfers, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates and in the tour start/end cities.
- All guided off-train tours, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Services of an experienced Train Tour Manager as well as local guides for scheduled off- train tours.
- All gratuities.
- Baggage handling.
- Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost.)
- Complete pre-departure electronic document that includes detailed packing suggestions, reading list links, country-specific information, maps, travel tips and more.
- Customized visa application and instruction kit (please note, visa fees are not included in the tour price).
- Electronic final update bulletin, with any late news, updates and important information.
- International airfare, including taxes/fuel surcharges, and surface transport to the point of joining/leaving the tour. MIR is able to assist with arrangements, as detailed in the itinerary.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement (difference between double rate and single occupancy rate) if requested or required.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Visa fees, excess baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination and other medical costs.
- Travel insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
Level 2: Moderate
This rail journey by private train features significant touring on foot, throughout which travelers are expected to keep up with other group members. Walking during touring days will be on a variety of surfaces, with many streets and sidewalks being uneven; and elevators generally not available during touring excursions, leading to some stair climbing. Challenges on board the train include long onboard distances with heavy doors, as well as steep steps and gaps to navigate while embarking and disembarking. Only those willing to accept local standards of amenities and services should consider joining this program.
Travelers must be able to walk a mile per day keeping up with other group members. Streets and sidewalks can be uneven or unexpected surfaces, and handrails are not always present. Steps, which may be required due to lack of elevators, may be steep and/or uneven, and may also lack handrails. The distance on board the train between sleeping and dining carriages may be significant, and there are many heavy doors to navigate when moving throughout the train. Getting on and off the train involves navigating steep steps, low platforms, and possible gaps between the train and the platform. Navigating rail stations may also involve traveling up and over steep steps/footbridges to cross tracks, or steep steps and dark tunnels to cross under to/from the train station. Although porterage is provided where possible, you may have to carry your baggage for short distances.
General shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure may include problems with bureaucratic service and availability and quality of public restrooms when not on board the train.