Landscapes and Cultures of Mongolia, Siberia and Western Russia

Travel on regularly scheduled Trans-Siberian trains over a dramatic and variegated route that offers limitless opportunities to meet the diverse local people – Mongol, Buryat and Russian. Experience the rolling green hills and nomadic traditions of Mongolia, Siberia’s UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal, and endless taiga forest on your way to the booming capital, Moscow. The July departure features Mongolia’s Naadam Festival.

16 Day Trip

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Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Experiences on this Tour
  • Cheer the Naadam Festival athletes
    Cheer on the school-age jockeys, traditional wrestlers and keen-eyed archers at the Naadam Festival....
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  • Admire the sweeping steppe landscape of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
    Admire the rolling steppe and monumental rock formations in alpine Gorkhi-Terelj National Park; at over 5,000 feet, Terelj is a sweeping alpine landscape of grassland...
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  • Spin a prayer wheel at a Siberian Buddhist monastery
    Honor the chanting monks, townspeople and pilgrims at Ivolginsk Datsan, center of Buddhism in Russia, decorated with beautiful silks, precious stones, and painted...
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  • Sample goodies made by grannies on the railway platforms
    Sample homemade delicacies sold by babushkas, or grandmothers, during quick stops at the local train stations; sweet buns, cookies, blini and homemade pickles...
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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • Over 30 years of Russia and Mongolia travel experience
  • Travel programs such as Princeton and Dartmouth have chosen MIR to guide them to Mongolia, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History as well as Princeton have chosen MIR to guide them to Russia
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • MIR affiliate offices in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Irkutsk and Ulan Ude
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers whom clients rave about
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-4: Ulaanbaatar, Gorkhi-Terelj (Mongolia)

Arriving in the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, visit the Gandan Monastery and explore the National History Museum. Drive to nearby Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, meet a nomadic family living on the steppe, and overnight in an authentic ger, with the option of an afternoon horseback ride. The July trip includes time at Mongolia’s distinctive Naadam Festival back in Ulaanbaatar. The September trip includes a visit outside the capital to Aryapala Meditation Temple, created in 1998 as a center for Buddhist retreat and meditation, and graced with majestic views and profound quiet. Board the overnight Trans-Siberian train heading for Siberia.

Highlights

  • Ulaanbaatar, capital and most important city in Mongolia
  • Cultural performance of traditional song and dance with throat-singing
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Days 5-6: Ulan Ude (Russia)

Arriving in Russia, disembark near the border and drive to Ulan Ude, capital of the Buryat Republic. En route stop at Hargana, a lovely little Buryat village, to visit the flourishing local school and meet the teachers and students. Tour the most interesting sites in and around Ulan Ude, including the Ivolginsk Datsan, the center of Buddhism in Russia. Pay a visit to a village of Old Believers – members of an Orthodox sect who refused changes to their rituals in the 17th century and were sent to Siberia – and enjoy dinner here.

Highlights

  • Hargana Village school visit
  • Ulan Ude, capital of the Buryat Republic with the world’s largest Lenin head
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Days 7-10: Irkutsk, Lake Baikal

Take the day train from Ulan Ude to Irkutsk and enjoy a tour of the city, including the old wooden houses with their carved fretwork. Trace the route of the Old Circumbaikal Railway by boat, Siberian style. Spend a night in Listvyanka village on the shores of UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal. En route to Irkutsk, stop to see the outdoor Wooden Architecture Museum, a collection of authentic houses and community buildings from the 17th century on. Enjoy a home-cooked meal with a local family. Back in Irkutsk, visit the Decembrist House Museum.

Highlights

  • Little Listvyanka Village on the shores of UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on earth
  • Circumbaikal Railway, the most scenic stretch of the original Trans-Siberian Railway
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Days 11-13: Aboard the Trans-Siberian, Ekaterinburg

Relax for two days as the train rolls through Siberia’s vast taiga forest to Ekaterinburg. Explore the city, including the Church on the Blood, standing over the spot where the last czar and his family were executed.

Highlights

  • Aboard the Trans-Siberian train to Moscow, with an overnight in Ekaterinburg

Days 14-16: Moscow

Explore Moscow’s classic sites, including Red Square, the Armory Museum and the Kremlin. Take a tour of the Moscow Metro: The stations in the city center are showpieces of socialist art. Commemorate the journey from Mongolia to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian with a celebratory farewell toast.

Highlights

  • Moscow’s 850-year-old Kremlin and Red Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Tour of the Armory Museum, housing Russia’s national treasures, or the world-class Tretyakov Gallery of Russian art
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See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

Download Detailed Itinerary
Tour Dates & Prices
Trip Length: 16 Days

Land Tour Price, Per Person
based on double occupancy

  • 4-16 Travelers $7,795
  • Partial Single Supplement $995

2019 Dates

  • July 10-25
  • September 4-19
  • $7,795
  • Max 16 Travelers

Group Size

Small Groups – Never more than 16 travelers. Guaranteed!

What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • Shared accommodations in superior tourist class hotels, guesthouses, and gers (yurt accommodations that sleep two).
  • Overnight sleeper train accommodations between Ulaanbaatar and Naushki, Irkutsk to Ekaterinburg, and Ekaterinburg to Moscow, in second-class rail compartments. One berth per traveler in four-berth train compartments is included in the program cost. Each traveler will share the compartment with three other travelers, possibly of mixed sexes as is the standard on trains in this region. Call for train upgrade prices.
  • 15 breakfasts, 11 lunches and 12 dinners. Some meals are not included so that you may enjoy a chance to experiment on your own.
  • Restaurant tips for included meals.
  • Services of an experienced, English-speaking MIR Tour Manager with local guides at specific sites.
  • Arrival/departure transfers. MIR will arrange for all travelers to be met on arrival and seen off on departure whether we make your airfare arrangements or not, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates in the tour start/end cities.
  • Ground transportation by van/jeep throughout Mongolia, by coach/van throughout Russia, by seated day trains between Ulan Ude and Irkutsk, and by private boat along the Old Railway route. (Size of vehicle used for overland drives depends on final group size.)
  • Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees as outlined in the itinerary.
  • Baggage handling where available.
  • Gratuities to local guides and drivers.
  • Naadam entrance fees – July departure only.

Before Your Tour

  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list, reading list and insurance information.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
  • Customized visa application and instruction kit (please note, visa fees are not included in the tour price).
  • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
Download Detailed Itinerary
Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

More Info

Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

More Info

Visas

Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

More Info

Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

MIR can arrange for extensions to Beijing, Vladivostok, the Gobi, Kara Korum, St. Petersburg or Seoul. All of MIR’s destinations are open to you, and all can be attached to this program. Please contact MIR for more details about exciting options for extended travel.

Or, choose from one of these suggested itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

This Cultural Series program, by nature, is designed to be adventurous, but also comfortable for rustic travel in this region. Accommodations vary from three star hotels to simple and basic accommodations in lodges and ger camps. Four nights total are spent on overnight trains in four-berth compartments with shared WC, but no bath facilities. Each traveler will share the compartment with three other travelers.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour are explained in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

Read our Travel Journals

MIR's Travel Journals offer first hand accounts of MIR's fascinating destinations.

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From the Blog
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Ride aboard a Russian Railways Public Train

Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo: Vlad Kvashnin

Riding a regularly scheduled Russian train is an adventurous, immersive experience. Train travel is still the most typical way for Russians to get around the largest country on earth, so riding the trains alongside local people is a great way to get an insider’s look into the diversity of Russian culture. Travel by train is a chance to disconnect (no Wifi on board) and enjoy a relaxing few days. 

Contact a MIR Tour Specialist for more information, photos, and travel tips for traveling aboard this public train. We are happy to provide you with a handy “What to Know Before You Go” Guide.

 

Train & Hotel Accommodations
Exterior of a Russian Rail regularly scheduled train

Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train

Typically, regular rail travelers share quarters with others. This is part of the enjoyment on a regularly scheduled train – you travel like the locals do, meeting and interacting with other train travelers.

Each sleeping car has a daytime and a nighttime attendant, called a provodnik (male) or a provodnitsa (female). They are responsible for giving you your bedding (included in the price of the ticket) at the start of the journey, selling supplies such as cups, instant coffee, and tea, and keeping the WCs clean.

Sleeping compartments are smallish, with maybe two-three feet between the bunks.

Storage space can be found under the lower bunks, as well as over the door. Carry-on size luggage fits best in these spaces. Large luggage must be left at the end of the carriage.

Sleeping Options: First or Second ClassAboard the rails, the sleeping cabin options are generally two-berth (first class) or four-berth (second class) cabin types. While both cabins are the same size, first-class cabins are furnished with two lower bunks; while second-class cabins are outfitted with four bunks – two up, two down – divided by a two-foot passageway. Cozy quarters, but the design is very efficient, and there’s typically storage space under the lower bunks, as well as over the doorway.

On the this Mongolia to Moscow small group tour program, second-class, four-berth compartments are the standard. MIR travelers are assigned a second-class cabin, sharing with three other people, or can choose to upgrade to a two-berth cabin (when booked in advance).

Mixed-Gender Compartments:One of the most interesting features of riding the Russian rails is interacting with other travelers from across Russia and the world.  

On MIR’s Mongolia to Moscow small group tour program, travelers are generally matched with other members of the group, and the pairings are based on the group make-up which means they may be mixed gender.  

Russian train travelers are accustomed to sharing a train compartment with people of a different gender. If you find yourself sharing with such a person, the tradition is to ask them to exit the compartment while you are dressing or preparing for bed; they will expect the same of you.

You may find yourself in close and prolonged contact with a grandfather from Perm on his way to pick up a car in Vladivostok, or an English teacher from a small village who has never conversed with a native English speaker before. Rail is the preferred way for regular Russian people to travel, and you are sure to disembark with a deeper understanding of daily life here.

Please Note:A variety of styles are in use aboard the train. Decor, layout, type and number of dining, bar and sleeping cars on your journey may differ from the sample images depicted in our brochures/websites.

  • Location and Hours of the WCs

    Location and Hours of the WCs

    For each carriage there are two WCs with toilet and sink, one at each end. Wear your flip-flops or rubber-bottomed slippers when you use the facilities, as there is often water on the floor.

    Additional Information

    WCs will usually be locked from 20 minutes before arrival at a station until 20 minutes after departure, so plan ahead.

    Showers are generally not available on the regular trains and should not be expected.

    (click on photo to view larger version) 

     

  • Second Class Cabins – Four-Berth Cabins

    Second Class Cabins – Four-Berth Cabins

    Second Class cabins, called kupés (pronounced koo-PAYs), are efficient four-berth cabins, with two upper and two lower bunks.

    Additional Information

    Upper bunks are accessed by a short ladder, and can fold up during the day, making more headroom for those sitting on the lower bunks. A small fold-away table sits beneath the window, ready to hold snacks, drinks, or perhaps playing cards or games. 

    The cabins can be locked from the inside and out, and there is storage below the lower bunks and above the corridor.

    Each traveler will be sharing with three other travelers, possibly of mixed genders, as is the standard on trains in this region, for the nights on board trains.

    (click on photo to view larger version) 

  • Upgrade: First Class Cabins – Two-Berth Cabins

    Upgrade: First Class Cabins – Two-Berth Cabins

    First Class cabins are the same as the Second Class, but they feature two berths per traveler in a four-berth compartment on the overnight trains.

    Additional Information

    Please Note: Single compartments are not available, even for travelers who pay the partial single supplement and the train compartment upgrade charge. Solo travelers upgrading to two travelers per cabin accommodations will be matched with a roommate, possibly of a different gender.

    (click on photo to view larger version)


  • Hotel Accommodations

    Hotel Accommodations

    On this rail journey, accommodations range from four star hotels in larger cities, comfortable three star properties in the smaller cities, and one night in a rustic ger camp, with shared facilities.

    Additional Information

    (click on photo to view larger version)


Life Aboard the Train
Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train

Read, snack, and watch the world go by in your cozy cabin, or meet and greet out in the corridor. Visit with new friends in their cabins, or passing through other cars on your way to the restaurant car.

Hot water is always available free of charge in a samovar at the end of each carriage, though coffee, tea and mugs are not complimentary. A good idea is to purchase a glass of tea at the beginning of a train journey and then keep the glass for tea, hot chocolate or any other beverages you have brought with you or purchased along the way. Most carriage attendants are aware of this practice and don’t mind as long as the glass is either returned or purchased at the end of the journey.

The corridor outside the kupés is a popular place to stand and gaze out the window, or chat with other travelers.

At longer platform stops, jump off to look for home-baked goodies sold by local babushkas (grandmothers).

Please Note:A variety of styles are in use aboard the train. Decor, layout, type and number of dining, bar and sleeping cars on your journey may differ from the sample images depicted in our brochures/websites.

  • Dining Car

    Dining Car

    Food in the dining car on the train tends not to be as bountiful as off-train meals. Each restaurant car or canteen is run separately by a private company, so it is difficult to predict the exact standard of food that will be available on the train, but it tends to be quite basic. Bringing some snacks with you on the train journey is a good insurance policy in case you’d like to supplement meals.

    Additional Information

    If you are on a MIR tour, your Tour Manager will help you navigate the dining car during independent lunches. Breakfast and dinner are included, and will be served here.

    We encourage independent train travelers to go ahead and use the restaurant car or canteen, even if you don’t speak Russian (although it’s a good idea to carry your own snacks). The menu may have English translations; if not, you can point at menu items and try whatever you’ve ordered, as intrepid travelers do. A Russian/English dictionary is handy for occasions like this.

    (click on photo to view larger version)


  • MIR Off-Train Tours

    MIR Off-Train Tours

    Private vehicles and local guides pick your group up at the stations and whisk you away for explorations of the principal towns and cities along the line, including hotel stays. Read through this tour’s itinerary for more information.