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Grand Trans Siberian Railway

Departing: Tokyo, Japan - 30 days
Countries visited: Japan, Russia & Mongolia

This extraordinary rail journey spans a third of the globe. Experience traditional Japan and remote Mongolia, and ride the grand Trans Siberian Railway from Vladivostok to the old Tatar capital of Kazan, en route to Moscow. Graceful imperial St. Petersburg is the perfect climax to this historic journey.

  

 

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Tokyo An exhilarating city at the start of your adventure and this afternoon you will join your Tour Leader and fellow travellers to learn about the journey ahead of you and perhaps to sample your first foray into Japanese cuisine. 


Day 2: Tokyo and depart to Takayama We take in a highlights tour of Tokyo, a modern city of awe inspiring skyscrapers, an impressive modern metro system and limitless technology. We also visit the Meiji Shrine and Asakusa Kannon Temple before boarding our bullet train that will take us on a swift, smooth ride to Nagoya and from there an express train through breathtaking mountain scenery to the tranquility of Takayama or ‘Little Kyoto’ as  it is known. After the hustle and bustle of Tokyo take the time to relax in this town of wooden houses and have the opportunity to stay in a traditional ryokan where samurai would have stayed. We wander the streets and the lattice bayed windows entice us in to sample some sake or view the wooden and Japanese handicrafts traditional of the region. You will perhaps catch a glimpse of one of the many colourful festival floats that are paraded through the streets in spring and autumn.


Days 3: Takayama to Kanazawa We visit the Hida Heritage Folk Village full of hand thatched farmhouses and step back in time. Later, we board a train for Kanazawa to visit Kenrokuen, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan and once the outer garden of the city’s castle. Here we have the opportunity to marvel at the horticultural creativity which renders the garden beautiful in all seasons.


Days 4-5: Kyoto and day trip to Nara In the morning we travel to Kyoto -  where one of Japan’s oldest capitals unlocks her treasures of the Golden Temple, the Geisha district of Gion and Kiyomizudera temple set on a hillside overlooking the city. En route we stop at Nara, the first permanent capital of Japan to visit Todaiji Temple, reputedly the largest wooden building in the world housing the Great Buddha. We have time to explore the surrounding deer filled park before continuing to Kyoto.


Day 6: Kyoto and ferry to Vladivostok After a memorable journey through magnificent Japan we transfer to the terminal at Sakai Minato for the voyage to Vladivostok.

Day 7: Across the Sea of Japan We mingle amongst the guests on board this ferry to Russia, often businessmen travelling between the neighbouring countries and we start to adjust to the change in culture and language allowing time to contemplate what we have already seen and wonder what is still in store on this adventure.


Day 8: Arrive Vladivostok Once a top-secret naval base of the Soviet Union, Vladivostok was sealed off from the outside world. Now its doors are open for business and the city is booming as Russia's gateway to the Far East. For 100 years this has been the legendary eastern terminus of the Trans Siberian Railway, its historic railway station recently restored to its former grandeur. 


Day 9: Vladivostok and depart to Ulan Ude Visit the Fortress and the Local History Museum for a wider perception of the city and its past, before entering the historic railway terminus to board the Trans Siberian Railway as travellers have done for centuries. 


Days 10-11: Trans Siberian Railway There's a feeling of excitement as our Trans Siberian journey begins. During our first three days on board,  you'll get to know fellow passengers before leaving the train in  in the Buryat city of Ulan Ude. 


Day 12: Arrive Ulan Ude Welcome to Buryatiya, centre of Russia’s Buddhist community. Reminiscent of old Siberia, Ulan Ude is located in the middle of the vast Siberian steppes, on the 5640th kilometer of the Trans-Siberian railway. It is a very unusual and charming city. The local open air ethnographic museum tells an interesting story about the life and traditions of the native Siberians (Buryat and Evenks) as well as the colonisers (Cossacks and Old-believers).


Day 13: On board the Trans Mongolian Railway Onwards we travel, enjoying the company of our fellow passengers and a picnic in our cabin. The train arrives at Naushki, the Russian border town where formalities are completed, and then continue across no-man's land to Sukhbaatar where Mongolian officials board the train before we journey on to Ulaanbaatar.


Days 14-17: Ulaanbaatar and Mongolian Steppe Exploring the city's monuments and museums we observe the strong Buddhist culture, years of Soviet alliance, and newer western influences.  The following morning we travel out across the grasslands through the countryside where we spend two nights in a traditional Mongolian ger set amongst spectacular rock formations and wild rolling hills in the breathtaking Terelj National Park. Among nomadic families and their grazing livestock we can explore nearby valleys or just relax and enjoy the area. We return to Ulaanbaatar to meet our northbound train for Siberia. 


Day 18: Aboard the Trans Mongolian Railway Continuing towards Russia, leaving Mongolia at Sukhbaatar and travelling beyond the Russian border town and then head west along the southern shore of the world's deepest freshwater lake — Baikal.


Days 19-21: Irkutsk and Lake Baikal (Siberia) On arrival in Irkutsk we transfer to Lake Baikal to enjoy a few restful days at the nearby lakeside village of Listvyanka with its traditional houses, beautiful wooden church and nearby Limnological Museum. We leave the shores to Lake Baikal to return to Irkutsk . Here, modern administrative blocks and soaring bridges reach out across the Angara River in this beautiful town known as the "Paris of Siberia". On our walking tour you will discover the city’s wonderful historic sights - 18th century churches and beautiful log houses decorated with brightly painted shutters and intricate wooden lacework.  Late evening we board the train for our departure to Kazan.


Days 22-23: Aboard the Trans Siberian Railway We join the Trans Siberian Railway and travel west through the vast Russian interior, via Novosibirsk, Omsk and Yekaterinburg booming over the steel bridges spanning Siberia's nerve system of 5,000 rivers. Continue through the Ural Mountains, Russia's great dividing range, and onto Kazan. 


Day 24: Afternoon arrival into Kazan Welcome to Kazan! The Capital of the Tatarstan Republic and the Muslim capital of Russia. 


Day 25: Kazan The fusion of of Islamic and Russian architecture conveys and exotic feel. We visit the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Kazan Kremlin and spend the day e
xploring this fascinating city, before we hop back on the train bound for Moscow.


Days 26-27: Moscow We arrive into the capital at daybreak. Moscow will amaze you, its palaces and public buildings restored to their former glory as well as its palatial underground rail system adorned with chandeliers, mosaics and baroque-bas reliefs are simply spectacular. The echoing vastness of Red Square, the splendid twirled cupolas of St. Basil's across the cobblestones, and the Kremlin itself — that fabled palace-fort of gilded domes where we marvel at the exquisite collection of royal treasures in the stunning Armoury Chamber. 


Day 28: Moscow to St. Petersburg This morning we farewell Moscow and travel to the former capital of Imperial Russia. Home of the Tsars and one of the most beautiful cities in the world — St. Petersburg. 


Day 29: St. Petersburg It is the city on the water, the "Venice of the North", standing resplendent on the delta of the Neva River. St Isaac's Cathedral, richly filled palaces and museums, wide boulevards and canals. The gilded halls of the Hermitage Museum hung with the works of Da Vinci, Rembrandt and many other great masters, and beyond the city lie the incomparable summer palaces of the tsars at Petrodvorets. Yet for all this, St. Petersburg remains one of Europe's best kept secrets. 


Day 30: Depart St. Petersburg The last day has arrived to soon. The perfect end to an amazing journey spanning two continents and a distance a third of the way around the world.

 

Essentials

Group Size
15 maximum, plus Tour Leader.

Accommodation
Hotels - 12 nights (twin share)
Mongolian Ger - 2 night (shared)
Siberian Guesthouse - 2 nights (twin share)
Trains - 10 nights (4 berth)
Ferry - 2 nights (8 berth/shared)
Ryokan - 1 night (traditional Japanese Inn dating from the Edo period (1603-1868))

Meals
32 in total. Breakfasts (20), lunches (4), dinners (8)

Travel by
Train: Comfortable 4 berth sleepers
There are 6 rail sectors on this journey
- Vladivostok to Ulan Ude (3 nights)
- Ulan Ude to Ulaanbaatar (1 night)
- Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk (2 nights)
- Irkutsk to Kazan (3 nights)
- Kazan to Moscow (1 nights)
- Moscow to St. Petersburg (day train)
Other: For ‘Scheduled Sightseeing’ we generally use a small minibus, and for ‘City Exploring’ we use local taxis, public transport, underground metro and go on foot.

2 Berth Rail (Optional)
Available for a supplementary price only when two people book and travel together. Available on all rail sectors between Vladivostok and Moscow.

Sightseeing
Scheduled Sightseeing is part of the itinerary and includes all transport, entrance fees and English speaking local guide. This journey enjoys a greater number of included sights than others.

Tokyo: City tour including Meiji Shrine, Asakusa Kannon Temple & Nakamise Shopping Arcade

Takayama: Walking Tour & Hida Folk Village

Kanazawa: Nomura House & Kenrokuen Garden

Nara: Todaiji & Kasuga Jinjya

Kyoto: City Tour - Kiyiomizudera, Sanjusangendo, Kinkakuji, Nijo Castle, Ninenzaka 7 Sannenzaka  & walk of Gion.

Vladivostok: City Tour including the Local History Museum and Vladivostok Fortress Museum.

Ulan Ude: City Tour 

Ulaanbaatar: Zaisan Memorial, National History Museum, Gandan Hiid Monastery, Terelj National Park.

Irkutsk (Siberia): Walking tour of Irkutsk including the Local History Museum.

Listvyanka (Lake Baikal):  Museum of Wooden Architecture and Limnological Museum

Kazan: City Tour including Kazan Kremlin. 

Moscow: City Tour including Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral, Kremlin & Armoury Chamber

St.Petersburg: City tour, Palace Square, Hermitage Museum

City Exploring is further sightseeing outside the itinerary guideline but with the Group Leader

Visas
Required for Japan (depends on nationality), Mongolia & Russia. Sundowners Overland will provide all required invitation letters and full visa support including detailed visa guidelines.