From China to Russia Aboard the Tsar’s Gold
This rail journey starts and ends with two of the world’s great cities, Beijing and Moscow. In between, the Tsar’s Gold private train rolls through Mongolia and Siberia, where you’ll encounter extremes of natural beauty, from the starkly brilliant Gobi Desert to placid Lake Baikal – the world’s deepest and oldest freshwater lake – to the conifer-clad Sayan Mountains. Along with seeing the landmark sights of Beijing and Moscow, you’ll discover the under-visited cities of Ulan Ude, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, and Kazan– places that reveal a remarkably diverse Russian culture little known to outsiders. Among the trip’s highlights are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Eastbound Moscow to Beijing departures are also available.
Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Tsar’s Gold.
Day 1-3: Beijing (China)
Check in to a Beijing hotel for a two-night stay. Explore the city’s most iconic sights, including the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City, where 14 Ming and 10 Qing emperors ruled. Day 2 includes a trip outside the city to visit the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. The final dinner in Beijing is a banquet featuring traditional Peking duck. On the afternoon of Day 3, board a Chinese charter train for an overnight ride to the Mongolian border.
- Visits to some of Chinese most impressive landmarks, including the UNESCO-listed Forbidden City, Great Wall, and Ming Tombs
- Beijing’s exceptional cuisine, including a Peking duck dinner
Day 4-5: Gobi Desert (Mongolia), Ulaanbaatar
Transfer to the Tsar’s Gold private train at the Mongolian border, continuing through the great Gobi Desert and onto the open steppe. Spend a night at a hotel in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, where you’ll explore the majestic Gandan Buddhist Monastery, attend a performance of Mongolian throat singing and dancing, have a picnic lunch in a rural ger, and witness demonstrations of Mongolian horsemanship and wrestling.
- The main temple of the Gandan Monastery, Migjid Janraisig Sum, which houses an 85-foot-tall, 20-ton, gold-gilded statue of Migjid Janraisig, a Buddhist bodhisattva
- Watching classic Mongolian cultural practices, including throat singing, dance, horseback riding, and wrestling
Days 7-8: Ulan Ude (Russia), Lake Baikal
Reboard the train for a trip through the Selenga River Valley, stopping at Ulan Ude, capital of Russia’s Buryat Republic and the cultural center of the Buryats, a Mongolic people who make up Siberia’s largest indigenous group. The following morning the train travels a spectacular stretch of track, winding through tunnels and along cliffs above UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest and oldest freshwater lake. After an afternoon boat ride, dinner is a lakeside picnic (weather permitting).
- A tour of Ulan Ude, the home to a majority of the half-million Buryats, Siberia’s largest indigenous group
- The rail line along Lake Baikal, one of the most scenic stretches of the Trans-Siberian trip
- A picnic on the banks of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake, with the chance to take a dip into its clear, placid water
Day 9-11: Irkutsk, Novosibirsk
Arrive in Irkutsk, a surprisingly cultured little city that’s been an important Siberian way station for expeditions and exiles. Tour the open-air ethnographic museum, which consists of restored wooden buildings dating from the 17th to the early 20th century. Stay overnight in an Irkutsk hotel. The following day is spent rolling through the Sayan Mountains, accompanied by a Russian vodka and caviar tasting on board the Tsar’s Gold. Pull into Novosibirsk, situated on the mighty Ob River, to be greeted with a traditional Russian bread-and-salt welcome. Thanks to the presence of the Trans-Siberian railway, Novosibirsk has grown to be Siberia’s biggest city, with Russia’s largest opera house on central Lenin Square.
- Irkutsk’s 166-acre ethnographic museum, a collection of authentic Russian and native Buryat, Evenki, and Tafalar houses and community buildings, furnished with period appointments
- A relaxing day aboard the Tsar’s Gold as it passes through the isolated Sayan Mountains, where residents have been herding reindeer for more than a millennium
- The daunting scale of Lenin Square, with its domed opera house – nicknamed the Siberian Colosseum – and giant Soviet-era statues
Days 12-13: Kazan, Ekaterinburg
The final stop in Asia is on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains at Ekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city. Visit the Church on the Blood, built on the spot where the last czar, Nicholas II, and his family met their demise in July of 1918. Cross the mountains and arrive the next day at Kazan, the beautiful capital of Tatarstan, a Russian autonomous region. The city is noted for its centuries of religious harmony; here mosques, minarets, and Orthodox church domes share the skyline.
- Ekaterinburg’s Church on the Blood, consecrated in 2003 on the site where Bolsheviks executed Czar Nicholas II and his family
- The UNESCO-listed Kazan Kremlin, considered the only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia
Days 14-15: Moscow
Transfer to a centrally located hotel and spend the afternoon touring Moscow, including Red Square, home to the imposing Kremlin and iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral. After a farewell dinner, take a City of Lights tour that includes a ride on the Metro to see two of the city’s opulent subway stations.
- Moscow’s 870-year-old Kremlin and Red Square, UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- The extravagantly decorated Moscow Metro stations, known as “underground palaces”
Dates & Prices
Minimum group size: Minimums vary – call for confirmation status
Land Tour Price, Per Person.
Call for dates and prices
- Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
- Most meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- 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.
- Baggage handling at all railway stations.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
- 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.
- 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.
- Gratuities not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Baggage handling not specified as included in the itinerary.
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. Travelers on the train will likely number 120-180 passengers, comprising travelers from English and non-English speaking countries. 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.