The Trans-Siberian Mongolian Route with Naadam Festival: Westbound
Ulaanbaatar to Moscow Aboard the Golden Eagle
From the Mongolian steppe to the Siberian taiga to Moscow’s Kremlin, this private train journey celebrates three different cultures: that of the Mongolian nomad, drawn to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, for the year’s biggest celebration; the Baikal Siberian, proud heir of Cossacks, indigenous Buryats, and czarist political exiles; and the modern Muscovite, hailing a taxi in front of an 800-year-old palace. Start by joining in Ulaanbaatar’s Naadam Festival, a singular event that mixes the high spirits of a state fair with the pageantry and athletic excellence of the Olympics. Then board the luxury Golden Eagle private train on a journey that takes you to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with Moscow as your final destination.
- An eastbound Moscow to Ulaanbaatar departure is also available.
Travels to: Mongolia, Russia, Trans-Siberian Railway
Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Golden Eagle.
Day 1-4: Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)
Arrive in the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, to check in for a three-night stay at a leading hotel and gather for a reception and welcome dinner. The following two days are dedicated to the Nadaam Festival, an 800-year-old sports competition.
In terms of grandeur and gravitas, the festival is the Mongolian Olympics. The opening ceremonies are an opulent celebration: brilliantly dressed cavalry officers prance into Ulaanbaatar’s stadium on their steeds; contortionists on lotus-flower floats twist themselves into bewildering postures; women in finely embroidered silk robes and surreally tall hats parade across the field. Over two days of competition, more than a thousand athletes take part in three traditional events – only-in-Mongolia versions of archery, wrestling, and horse racing – with the winners lauded as national heroes.
On the third afternoon, visit the 13th Century Complex, an open-air museum with a giant statue of Genghis Khan.The following morning, board the luxury Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express private train to begin the journey west.
- The one-of-a-kind Naadam Festival, an event first held in the days of Genghis Khan
- The 13th Century Complex, featuring traditional crafts, foods, and shaman ceremonies, and an unforgettable 131-foot-tall equestrian statue of Genghis Khan
Day 5: Ulan Ude (Russia)
A stop in Ulan Ude, capital of Russia’s Buryat Republic, provides the opportunity to visit a village of Old Believers – a religious group that rebelled against changes to the Orthodox liturgy in 1652 and, as a result, were exiled to Siberia. In their isolated enclaves, they’ve preserved 17th century styles of clothing, architecture, and music. UNESCO includes this unique community on its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- A home-cooked lunch with a group of Old Believers, followed by a performance of traditional choral music – chants, lyric songs, and folk prayers passed down over hundreds of years
Day 6: Lake Baikal
Today the Golden Eagle hits a spectacular stretch of track, winding through tunnels and along cliffs above UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest and oldest freshwater lake. Stop en route for a barbecue along the shore before continuing on to the lakeside village of Listvyanka, where you can dip your toes in the water and learn about the lake’s unique ecosystem at the Baikal Museum.
- The rail line along the water, one of the most scenic stretch of the Trans-Siberian trip
- Little Listvyanka village and its Baikal Museum, which includes aquariums displaying the lake’s unique marine life
Days 7-8: Irkutsk, Aboard Train
Arrive in Irkutsk, the cultural capital of eastern Siberia. A tour of this surprisingly sophisticated little city includes examples of the area’s classic wooden architecture and a visit to the Decembrist House Museum, the preserved home of one family from a group of failed 19th century pro-democracy revolutionaries who settled here following their terms in Siberian labor camps. Spend the next day on the train rolling through the Sayan Mountains.
- Irkutsk’s ornate 19th century wooden buildings, many decorated with lacy wooden fretwork
- A private classical music concert at Decembrist House Museum, one of the best maintained historic homes in Irkutsk
- A relaxing day aboard the Golden Eagle as it passes through the isolated Sayan Mountains, where residents have been herding reindeer for more than a millennium
Day 9: Novosibirsk
Pull into Novosibirsk, which thanks to the Trans-Siberian railway is Siberia’s biggest city, with Russia’s largest opera house on its central Lenin Square. The town sits on the Ob River, 2,300 miles from the river’s mouth in the Arctic.
- The daunting scale of Lenin Square, with its domed opera house – nicknamed the Siberian Colosseum – and giant Soviet-era statues
Days 10-11: Ekaterinburg, Kazan
The final stop in Asia is Ekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, situated on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains. Visit the Church on the Blood, built on the spot where the last czar, Nicholas II, and his family were executed in July of 1918. From here continue west to Kazan, a beautiful city along the Volga that’s the capital of Tatarstan, a Russian autonomous region. Kazan 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 12-13: Moscow
Disembark in Moscow, the Trans-Siberian line’s western terminus, and visit Red Square, taking in iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral and the massive Kremlin, where you can tour the Armory Museum, a storehouse of national treasures. If you’re more interested in art, you can opt instead to tour the Tretyakov Gallery, which has a collection spanning a millennium of Russian artwork. Check in to a five-star hotel for a one-night stay and a farewell dinner.
- Moscow’s 870-year-old Kremlin and Red Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The treasures of the Armory Museum, from Faberge eggs to the ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible
- The Tretyakov Gallery, home to the world’s most extensive collection of Russian art
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.
- 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.)
- 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.
The Naadam Festival, included on this program, may present additional moderate challenges. In Mongolia, the highway infrastructure is severely limited outside of Ulaanbaatar; excursions outside the city including to the Naadam horse-racing may involve driving over rough, dusty, and unpaved roads. Seating at the Naadam stadium in Ulaanbaatar may be on hard, unbacked benches, and a significant amount of time (three or more hours) will be spent there. The sun can be intense in the stadium as well. Naadam time also brings out large crowds and pickpockets, so it is important to be extra vigilant of your personal items at that time.
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.