From Russia to China Aboard the Tsar’s Gold
This rail journey starts and ends with two of the world’s great cities, Moscow and Beijing. In between, the Tsar’s Gold private train rolls through Siberia and Mongolia, where you’ll encounter extremes of natural beauty, from the conifer-clad Sayan Mountains to placid Lake Baikal – the world’s deepest and oldest freshwater lake – to the starkly brilliant Gobi Desert, where Genghis Khan once ruled. Along with seeing the landmark sights of Moscow and Beijing, you’ll discover the under-visited cities of Kazan, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Ulan Ude – places that reveal a remarkably diverse Russian culture little known to outsiders. Among the trip’s highlights are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Westbound Beijing to Moscow departures are also available.
Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Tsar’s Gold.
Days 1-2: Moscow (Russia)
Check in to a centrally located hotel and meet fellow passengers at a welcome dinner, then take a City Lights tour that includes a stroll through Red Square and a trip down into the Metro to see the ornate stations. The next morning, revisit Red Square by daylight to get a closer look at the massive Kremlin and iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral. In the afternoon, board the Tsar’s Gold private train to begin your journey.
- Moscow’s 870-year-old Kremlin and Red Square, UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- The extravagantly decorated Moscow Metro stations, known as “underground palaces”
Days 3-4: Kazan, Ekaterinburg
Make a stop along the Volga in Kazan, the beautiful capital of Tatarstan, a Russian autonomous region. The city is noted for its centuries of religious harmony; here the minarets of mosques and Orthodox church domes share the skyline. The next stop marks the transition from Europe into Asia, on the eastern side of the Ural mountains in 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.
- The UNESCO-listed Kazan Kremlin, considered the only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia
- Ekaterinburg’s Church on the Blood, consecrated in 2003 on the site where Bolsheviks executed Czar Nicholas II and his family
Day 5-7: Novosibirsk, Irkutsk
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.
The following day is spent rolling through the Sayan Mountains, accompanied by a Russian vodka and caviar tasting on board. 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. Spend the night in an Irkutsk hotel.
- The daunting scale of Lenin Square, with its domed opera house – nicknamed the Siberian Colosseum – and giant Soviet-era statues
- 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
- 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
Days 8-9: Lake Baikal, Ulan Ude
After an hour’s drive and a short boat ride, reboard the train to travel a spectacular stretch of track, winding through tunnels and along cliffs above UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest and oldest freshwater lake. Weather permitting, dinner is a lakeside picnic. The next day continue along the lake and through the beautiful Selenga 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 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
- A tour of Ulan Ude, the home to a majority of the half-million Buryats, Siberia’s largest indigenous group
Day 10-12: Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), Gobi Desert
Cross the border into Mongolia and stop at its capital, Ulaanbaatar, where you’ll explore the majestic Gandan Buddhist Monastery. The following day venture out of the city for lunch in a ger (a traditional yurt), followed by a demonstration of Mongolian horsemanship. The Tsar’s Gold continues through the great Gobi Desert to the Chinese border, where passengers transfer to a Chinese charter train for the trip to Beijing.
- 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
- Traditional lunch in a ger and a horseback-riding demonstration – two classic Mongolian experiences
Day 13-16: Beijing (China)
Transfer to a Beijing hotel for a three-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. Then travel outside the city to visit the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. The final night’s farewell banquet features authentic Peking duck.
- 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
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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.