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Great Rail Explorer

Departing: Beijing, China - 34 days
Countries visited: China, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan

From Beijing it's just over 12,000 kilometres to St. Petersburg. Along the way, walk on China's Great Wall, enjoy Almaty in the shadow of the mighty Tien Shan Mountains and follow the great Silk Road to the ancient cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.

  

 

Itinerary

Beijing, Gobi Desert and Mongolia
In Beijing you can use your time to walk through the hutongs to see a traditional lifestyle which is fast disappearing. There's Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven; as well as the Great Wall & the Ming Tombs beyond the capital.

Board the Trans Mongolian Express, after views of northern China, the train changes bogies at Erlian to cater for the wider rail gauge used in Mongolia and Russia. You travel through vast expanses of the Gobi Desert and visit Kharkhorin National Park with its majestic Buddhist temple Erdene Zuu before venturing to Ulaanbaatar. Observe nomadic herdsmen tend their animals in much the same way that their forefathers did in days of Genghis Khan. In Ulaanbaatar, see its Buddhist Monastery and admire the views from the Zaisan Memorial.


Siberia and the Kazakh Steppe
Your train continues to Irkutsk. This city has a colourful history dating from early times as a frontier outpost where Mongolian and Chinese traders bartered with local Buryats, and Russians over tea and furs. Later Russians and Poles were exiled here and did much to refine the city. You join the Trans Siberian Railway and skirt massive Lake Baikal en route to Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia and junction for the Trans Siberian and Turkestan railway lines. 

After time in Novosibirsk, travel via the Turkestan Siberia Railway through the spectacular mountains and the Dzungarian Gate, into Kazakhstan for Almaty, situated on the plains at the crossroads of Central Asia. Today modern skyscrapers, glitzy shopping malls, mosques, Soviet-style official buildings and traditional Russian Orthodox churches vie for attention with the Islamic-inspired Kok Tobe communications tower, and the majestic snow covered Tien Shan Mountains in the background. An overnight train brings you to Tashkent. 


Uzbekistan's magical Samarkand and Bukhara
While Tashkent may well be Uzbekistan's thriving capital, its Samarkand and Bukhara that overland travellers want to see above almost anything else. The beautiful Turkic-style architecture in Samarkand's Registan Square is unsurpassed, but other magnificent turquoise-domed mosques and holy places are serious contenders. Bukhara adds even more mosques, and a delightful old town so typical of both cities. And, the Kaylan Minaret has a few interesting stories to tell as well. Later, you travel back to Tashkent to change trains for Moscow. 


Across Russia - Moscow and St. Petersburg await...
It's 3,800 kilometres across the Kazakh steppe past vast cotton crops, deserts and grasslands to Moscow's Kazan station. Moscow is an exciting city, which has shed is dour, secretive and suspicious past. Today, stores with expensive designer-label goods and prestige cars are everywhere. Take time to see Red Square with St. Basil's Cathedral, the GUM Department Store and the Kremlin just steps away. 

An overnight train is a convenient way to reach St. Petersburg, resplendent with wide boulevards and attractive canals. Be sure to see St. Issac's Cathedral, lavishly decorated palaces from opulent tsarist times and wonderful museums - allow plenty of time for the Hermitage. It's a perfect end to the journey of a lifetime! 

 

Essentials

Transfers
All arrival transfers are included once you have begun this journey. See the Journey Itinerary for more details.

Hotels 
Choose from ‘Classic’ or ‘Traveller’.

Sightseeing
The suggested sightseeing in these itineraries is not included in the prices shown. 

Meals
Many breakfasts (21) are included. 

Visas
Required for China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Russia. Sundowners Overland will provide all required visa invitation letters and full visa support including detailed visa guidelines. 

From Beijing
Travel & Accommodation 
Hotels - 19 nights. Twin share
Ger - 2 nights (shared)
Train - 12 nights. Comfortable 4 berth sleepers. Optional 2 berth rail is available upon request.