Moscow to Vladivostok in Winter Aboard the Golden Eagle
Russia is fantastic in the winter. The air crackles, burnished by fresh snowfall. Across Siberia, the lights of the Trans-Siberian railway shine through the darkness like moving beacons. From aboard the luxurious Golden Eagle private train, it’s a gorgeous, almost unbearably romantic experience. After visiting Moscow’s most iconic landmarks, Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral, this epic winter trip takes you to parts of Russia that are less famous but just as captivating, including serene, gigantic Lake Baikal, where the ice becomes a winter playground for dogsledding, snowmobiling, and fishing. The cities and towns along the route – Kazan, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Ulan Ude, and Vladivostok – reveal a remarkably diverse Russian culture little known to outsiders. When you’re finished you will have crossed the Urals into Asia, spanned Siberia’s vast snowy wilderness, and made a side trip to Mongolia, on a journey of 6,600 miles. It’s an adventure you’ll never forget.
- The Trans-Siberian route between Moscow and Vladivostok also has summer and fall departures, eastbound and westbound.
Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Golden Eagle.
Days 1-2: Moscow (Russia)
After arrival and an overnight stay in a five-star hotel, start the day with a visit to Moscow’s 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 intrigued by art, you can opt instead to tour the Tretyakov Gallery, which has a collection spanning a millennium of Russian artwork. In the afternoon, depart Moscow aboard the luxury Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express private train.
- Red Square, the heart of Moscow and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The treasures of the Kremlin’s 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
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 mosques, minarets, 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: 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 6-7: Aboard Train, Irkutsk
After a day spent rolling through the snow-covered Sayan Mountains, 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 after completing their terms in Siberian labor camps. In the evening there’s the opportunity to take an authentic banya (steam bath) at a hunters’ lodge.
- 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
- Irkutsk’s ornate 19th century wooden buildings, many decorated with lace-like wooden fretwork
- A private classical music concert at the Decembrist House Museum, one of the best maintained historic homes in Irkutsk
- Taking a banya, one of Russia’s classic winter experiences
Days 8: 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. Being here in winter is a special experience: a hovercraft takes you across the transparent ice to a spot where you can join locals in ice-fishing, riding snowmobiles, and running dogsleds.
- The rail line along the water, one of the most scenic stretches of the Trans-Siberian trip
- Winter sports on the vast, beautiful Lake Baikal
Days 9: Ulan Ude
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 10: Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)
Fly from Russia to Mongolia for a daylong visit to the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Here you’ll learn about nomadic life at the National History Museum, tour the Gandan Monastery, and experience Mongolian cuisine in a nomadic ger (a traditional yurt). Because of unpredictable winter rail schedules, travel to and from Ulaanbaatar may be by private charter flight.
- The National History Museum’s extensive collection, ranging from petroglyphs to traditional costumes to correspondence between the pope and Genghis Khan
- The main temple of the Gandan Monastery, which houses an 85-foot-tall, 20-ton, gold-gilded statue of Migjid Janraisig, a Buddhist bodhisattva
- A Mongolian-style lunch served in a ger
Day 11-13: Aboard Train (Russia)
The Golden Eagle barrels through vast, unfathomable eastern Siberia, sometimes tracing the Chinese border and at points passing due north of Seoul and Osaka.
- The vast and mysterious eastern Siberian taiga, a subarctic region of permafrost made up largely of dense coniferous forests
- On-board activities, including lectures and Russian language lessons
Days 14-15: Vladivostok
Disembark in the Pacific Rim naval port of Vladivostok, the Trans-Siberian line’s eastern terminus, and tour the city, which was once off limits to foreign visitors. Transfer to a four-star hotel for a one-night stay and a farewell dinner.
- Vladivostok’s 1912 train station, built in classic Russian style that resembles the station in Moscow, eight time zones away, where the Trans-Siberian journey began
- The observation platform on Eagle’s Nest Hill, which provides an expansive view of Vladivostok and Golden Horn Bay
- A tour of the S-56, a restored Soviet submarine that saw extensive action in WWII, at the Pacific Navy Military History Museum
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, and will feature cold weather and icy and/or wet walking surfaces. Walking during touring days will be on a variety of base surfaces as well, 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 weather will be cold and likely wet and icy when off the train. 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.