Multi-Region

The Silk Route ’Stans by Private Train: Westbound

Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Duration
13 Days
Price
From $18,195
Trip Type
Rail Journey
Group Size
Varies
Activity Level
12345

Almaty to Moscow Across Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

Overview

This Silk Road private rail journey stretches from Central Asian Kazakstan to European Russia, visiting four countries and five UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way. Precious Russian furs and Central Asian silks once traveled along this path on the backs of swaying camels, creating in their wake brilliant oasis cities and a fascinating mix of cultures. Today you can make the epic journey aboard the exclusive Golden Eagle private train.

There’s also the option of taking a longer version of this trip that starts in Beijing and spends a week following the Silk Road’s path across China: The Silk Route by Private Train.

Travels to: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Western Russia

Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Golden Eagle.

Map

The Silk Route ’Stans by Private Train: Westbound map

Itinerary

  • Days 1-2: Almaty (Kazakhstan)

    Arrive in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city and a thriving business center situated amid the majestic Tien Shan Mountains. On your first full day, have lunch in a traditional Kazakh yurt and then board the luxury Golden Eagle private train to begin your rail journey.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Vibrant, modern Almaty’s beautiful setting in the green foothills of the Tien Shan Mountains
    • Getting a taste of Kazakh culture with lunch in a traditional yurt
  • Days 3-5: Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Samarkand, Bukhara

    Cross the Uzbekistan border and make a stop in Tashkent, the capital and largest city, touring some of its noteworthy sights including Amir Timur Square and Kukeldash Madrassah. Continue to the blue-tiled Silk Road oasis of Samarkand, Tamerlane’s legendary capital, hailed by UNESCO as “the crossroad of cultures.” Take in massive Bibi Khanum Mosque, Ulug Bek’s incredible observatory, and gracefully proportioned Registan Square. Next, spend a day in beautiful Bukhara, Central Asia’s most ancient living city. Its UNESCO-listed Old Town encompasses more than 140 protected monuments, including the Lyabi-Hauz Plaza at the heart of the city and the Ark Citadel, Bukhara’s original fortress.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • The classic glazed tile façade of Tasahkent’s Kukeldash Madrassah, one of the largest 16th century madrassahs remaining in Central Asia
    • UNESCO-listed Samarkand’s Registan Square, bordered by three beautiful madrassahs
    • The 14th century conqueror Tamerlane’s architectural legacy in Samarkand, including Bibi Khanum Mosque, the largest mosque of its day
    • Ulug Bek Observatory, where Tamerlane’s grandson made historic advances in astronomy
    • Bukhara’s evocative Old Town, with its ageless domed bazaars
    • Central Lyabi-Hauz Plaza, adorned with a reflecting pool
    • Ark Citadel, Bukhara’s giant ancient fortress
  • Days 6-7: Merv (Turkmenistan), Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater

    Cross into Turkmenistan and head to the UNESCO-listed ruins of Merv, a city of Bronze Age origin. It was such an important Silk Road stop that it grew into one of the world’s largest cities, only to be brutally sacked by the Mongols in the 13th century. In the modern capital of Ashgabat, explore the flamboyant gilded architecture that has sprung from the rubble of a massive 1948 earthquake, and gain insight into the country’s history and culture at the beautifully situated National Museum. As the train heads back toward the Uzbek border, disembark for a nighttime excursion to the flaming Darvaza Gas Crater, one of Turkmenistan’s most unusual sights, nicknamed “the Door to Hell.”

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • The vast archaeological site of Merv, one of the world’s great lost cities
    • The opulent modern architecture of Ashgabat, which holds a Guinness record for the highest density of white marble buildings in the world
    • Learning the story of Turkmenistan at the National Museum, where the collection includes Stone Age tools, drinking horns used in Zoroastrian rituals, and beautifully crafted amulets
    • The brilliant glow of Darvaza Gas Crater at night
  • Days 8-9: Khiva (Uzbekistan), Kyzl Kum Desert

    Reentering Uzbekistan, visit the city of Khiva, the last great oasis on the northern caravan route. Wander through the winding alleys of the UNESCO-listed Old Town filled with minarets, cobbled alleys, mosques, and the beautifully preserved Kunya Ark, the original residence of the ruling khans. Then travel across the vast Kyzyl Kum (Red Sand) Desert, where caravans and conquerors have journeyed for thousands of years. From on board the Golden Eagle you may spot a camel or two.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Khiva’s Old Town (Ichon-Qala in Uzbek), a UNESCO World Heritage Site
    • Tash-Hauli Palace, built in the 19th century for the khan and his four wives
    • Dzhuma Mosque, famous for its carved wooden pillars
    • Kunya Ark, the original residence of Khiva’s khans
  • Days 10-13: Volgograd (Russia), Moscow

    Arriving in Russia, visit Volgograd (Stalingrad during Soviet times), where a war memorial and a museum commemorate a crucial WWII battle that took place here. After a final night aboard the Golden Eagle, arrive in Moscow and check into a five-star hotel for two nights. Spend the last full day of the trip seeing the city’s classic sights including Red Square, home to iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral and the massive Kremlin.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Volgograd’s Mamaev Kurgan war memorial and Panorama Museum, both of which commemorate the first WWII battle in which Hitler was defeated
    • Red Square, the heart of Moscow and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Dates & Prices

Minimum group size: Minimums vary – call for confirmation status

Land Tour Price, Per Person.

  • 2020 Dates
    Oct 9 - 21
    Silver Class, double occupancy
    $18,195
    Silver Class, single occupancy
    $26,695
    Gold Class, double occupancy
    $21,995
    Gold Class, single occupancy
    $33,195
    Imperial Suite Class, double occupancy
    $38,195
    Imperial Suite Class, single occupancy
    $76,295
  • 2021 Dates
    Apr 18 - 30
    Oct 7 - 19
    Silver Class, double occupancy
    $18,995
    Silver Class, single occupancy
    $28,495
    Gold Class, double occupancy
    $22,895
    Gold Class, single occupancy
    $37,995
    Imperial Suite Class, double occupancy
    $39,795
    Imperial Suite Class, single occupancy
    $79,495

What's Included

  • Tour Includes
    • Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
    • All meals, from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on final tour day, including a generous allowance of wine, local beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner.
    • 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.
    • Complimentary tea, coffee, and mineral water from your car attendant at all times while on board the train.
    • 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.)
  • Not Included
    • 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.
    • Travel entry pass to Turkmenistan payable on arrival.

Activity Level

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 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.

 

Traveler Reviews

  • "Many interesting destinations that are difficult to get to. However the train experience is a large part of the trip. We shared our satisfaction with MIR with our fellow passengers aboard the Golden Eagle and Shangri-La Express, and would be happy to share our experiences with prospective travelers. It was an amazing experience."

    L. and D. Curran

    Newtown, PA