Along the Trans-Siberian Railway to Beijing

For more than a hundred years, the Trans-Siberian Railway has served as Russia’s lifeblood with its reliable west-east train connections. Traveling along the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway between the world metropolises of Moscow and Beijing is a fantastic adventure that will take you to distant places on the Eurasian continent. During the trip you will experience the Russian capital Moscow, the Russian sub-republic of Tatarstan Kazan, Yekaterinburg on the Ural Mountains, Irkutsk on Lake Baikal in Siberia, the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator and the Chinese capital Beijing. The trip is in the spirit of culture and history but also offers fantastic nature experiences. A journey along the world’s longest train line that connects the two continents of Europe and Asia and in total stretches more than 9,000 kilometers provides a travel experience beyond the ordinary!

Along the Trans-Siberian Railway to Beijing 2

Day 1: Stockholm – Moscow
We fly to the Russian capital Moscow. On arrival we are met by our local guide who takes us to our hotel for check-in. Then a city tour awaits during which we will see famous landmarks such as Red Square, Victory Park, the Russian government building Bely dom (“White House”), the Arbat district in Moscow’s historic center, Christ the Savior’s Cathedral, Moscow University and the Sparrow Heights a nice view of the city.

Day 2: Moscow
After breakfast we make a full day excursion to the city of Sergiev Posad just north of Moscow. The city is especially known for its beautiful buildings built in classical Russian architecture and its rich art treasures. Among other things, we visit the World Heritage Site of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, a monastery complex that has been the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church since the 14th century. Here we see, among other things, some of Russia’s most famous icons, painting by medieval masters such as Andrei Rublyov and Daniiil Chyorny. After lunch and back in central Moscow, the afternoon is open to discover the city on your own. In the evening dinner at the hotel. Overnight in Moscow.

Day 3: Moscow
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and head to the western wall of the Kremlin to visit the Alexander Garden, a park and garden area whose oldest parts were laid out in the early 19th century. The Alexander Garden is Moscow’s oldest city park and consists of three separate gardens. We go for a walk in the park area and see the main monuments and admire the park’s beautiful statues and fountains. We also take the opportunity to visit the strange Kutafya tower and the tomb of the unknown soldier which is adjacent to the park. We see the change of guard at the eternal fire and then continue to the adjacent Kremlin, the stronghold of political power with its red brick walls and 20 watchtowers. The Kremlin dates back to the 12th century, when Grand Duke Yuri Dolgoruky had a wooden fortress built on the site. but got its current appearance in the late 15th century when the wall and most of the watchtowers were added under the direction of Italian builders. In the Kremlin we visit, among other things, Cathedral Square with its beautiful 15th century buildings, three of which are cathedrals – here you will find, among other things, the Annunciation Cathedral with its golden onion domes. We then visit the pedestrian street Arbat, which is Moscow’s oldest and historically most interesting street. During the 18th century, Arbat was transformed into a fashionable boulevard along which the Russian nobleman gladly settled. Here is, among other things, the 19th century author and national poet Alexander Pushkin’s house, which today serves as a museum. In the area you will also find many cafes, restaurants and boutiques. We end our stay in Moscow with a visit to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which is Moscow’s largest cathedral. The original cathedral building was erected to commemorate Russia’s victory over France during Napoleon’s Russian campaign in 1812, but was mined and blown up in 1931 by order of Stalin. The new cathedral was inaugurated in 2000 after a long period of reconstruction work. We say goodbye to the Russian capital and head to the train station before the trip to the city of Kazan in the Russian republic of Tatarstan on the river Volga in the western part of central Russia. The journey takes about 12 hours (distance: 800 km). Overnight on board the train.

Day 4: Kazan
Upon arrival in Kazan, we are met by our local guide on the platform. After breakfast, a city tour of the Kazakh capital Kazan awaits. The city dates from the 1000s and was in the 15th century the capital of the Muslim Kazankhanate which, however, collapsed when Ivan IV of Russia (Ivan the Terrible) in the middle of the 16th century incorporated the territory into the Russian empire and had wiped out or forced Christians a large part of the population. For a few years after the Russian Revolution, Kazan was the capital of an independent Tatarstan, which, however, was soon incorporated into the Soviet Union as an autonomous Soviet republic. Today, both the Tatar and Russian cultural heritage are evident in Kazan and both Russian and Turkish Tatar are spoken in the city. Among the many historically and culturally interesting places to be found in the city is the world heritage Kazan Kremlin, a main citadel behind whose walls you will find buildings from the 16th century, including a beautiful cathedral. The Swedish Armed Forces was built by Ivan IV over the ruins of the Kazankhanate Palace. During our stay in the city, we get an insight into the Tartars’ cultural heritage and traditions and get to know more about the region’s history. After lunch, we visit the Museum of Islamic Culture adjacent to the Qolsharif Mosque, before heading to the train station to continue our journey to the next stop, the city of Yekaterinburg east of the Ural Mountains. The travel time is about 13 hours and we spend the night on board the train (distance: 1000 km).

Day 5: Yekaterinburg
We have breakfast on the train and look out over the huge Russian empire that passes outside the window of the cabin. Upon arrival, we are met by our local guide who takes us on a city tour during which we get to experience the city’s main sights. The city of millions founded by Peter the Great in 1723 is located in the middle of the Eurasian continent on the border between Europe and Asia and is known as the city where the last tsar of the Romanov house, Nikolai II, was executed with his family in 1918. During the tour visit We include the city’s historic center, “The Church on the Blood”, built on the site where the tsarist family met its fate, as well as a museum with collections of the minerals and precious metals mined in the Ural Mountains. In the city you can trace the development of Russian architecture, from 18th century buildings to Soviet monumental buildings and modern architecture. The afternoon is open for your own explorations of the city with its picturesque streets and interesting museums. We spend the night in Yekaterinburg where we have dinner at the hotel during the evening.

Day 6: Yekaterinburg
After breakfast, we head to the Ganina Yama Monastery just north of the city, built on the site where the bodies of Nicholas II and his family were secretly taken after the execution. The place is today a popular place of pilgrimage with pilgrims from all over Russia because the Russian Orthodox Church regards the tsarist family as martyrs and therefore canonized them. In the area you will find seven beautiful wooden churches, one for each member of the executed family. After lunch we visit one of the obelisks that mark the border between Europe and Asia. The obelisks are popular excursion destinations, not only for tourists, but also for newlyweds from the locals who like to take their wedding photographs in front of the monuments. After dinner at the hotel we head to the train station before the trip to the remote Irkutsk on Lake Baikal in southern Siberia (distance: 3450 km).

Day 7: Yekaterinburg – Irkutsk The
journey from Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk goes over endless expanses and is estimated to take about 53 hours. Overnight on board.

Day 8: Irkutsk
When we arrive in Irkutsk, we are met by our local guide on the platform for a half-day sightseeing tour of the city. Irkutsk is an ancient trading city dating back to the 17th century that historically played a significant role as a trading hub along the route to long-distance China. During the first half of the 19th century, parts of Russian society were deported to Siberia for participating in the Decabrist uprising of 1825 and thus fell into disfavor with Tsar Nikolai I. Noblessen brought influences from the fine salons of Russian cities, and Irkutsk soon gained a rich and lively cultural life. The city is still today an important center for culture, education and science and many of the exquisite wooden houses that the new residents had built still remain. During the tour we take a walk along Karl Marx Street, Irkutsk Main Street and the oldest boulevard, where much of the older architecture is preserved and where one finds many of the city’s main sights. We also visit the historical museum to learn more about the lives of the many Russians who were sent to Irkutsk in the 19th century. Dinner at the hotel. Overnight in Irkutsk.

Day 9: Irkutsk
After breakfast we head to the town of Listvyanka on the shores of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. Listvyanka is known for its fine wooden architecture and at the wooden architecture museum we get a good picture of what life looked like in Siberian villages in the past. Among the outdoor museum’s 78 wooden houses are also traditional buildings that follow the architectural styles that used to be common among the region’s ethnic minorities. After lunch we visit Baikal’s Limnological Museum with exhibitions about the lake’s aquatic ecosystem. We then go to the height of Chersky’s stone from where we get a nice view of Lake Baikal, the Angara River and the mythical Shaman Rock. We end the day with a boat trip on the lake. Back in Irkutsk, there is time to go exploring the city on your own before we have dinner together at the hotel in the evening. Overnight in Irkutsk.

Day 10: Irkutsk
After breakfast we check out from the hotel and go to the train station where we board the train that takes us to Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator, a journey that is estimated to take about 22 hours (distance: 1000 km).

Day 11: Ulan Bator
We arrive at Ulan Bator, which has over one million residents, which makes up a large part of the country’s population of three million. We meet on the platform of our local guide and after breakfast a city tour awaits to the city’s main landmarks. Mongolia has a long and exciting history with proud ancestry and rich traditions with deep roots in the nomadic shepherd culture that still dominates large parts of the country outside the few cities. During the Mongol Empire, the fast Mongol riders, equipped with their effective bows, managed to subjugate large parts of the known world. During the latter half of the 13th century, the Mongols even succeeded in overthrowing the vast China, where the great Mongol chief Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan was proclaimed emperor with a seat in Khanbalik (today China’s capital Beijing). During the tour of Ulan Bator, we visit Sukhe-Bator Square in the heart of Ulan Bator, where you will find the Government Palace and monuments of national heroes such as Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan. After lunch we visit the Gandantegchinlen Monastery which is the headquarters of the form of Tibetan Buddhism practiced in Mongolia since the roosters on the dragon throne in China converted to this form of Buddhism under the influence of Tibetan lamas. The monastery has a large number of monks and is known for its tall statue of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, consecrated by the Dalai Lama in 1996, and its rich book treasure of Buddhist sutras and other sacred writings. Adjacent to the monastery is the Zanabazar Buddhist University and universities with a focus on teaching Buddhist philosophy. Dinner at the hotel. Overnight in Ulan Bator.

Day 12: Ulan Bator
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and head to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park just outside the capital. Along the way, we take the opportunity to visit the huge statue of Genghis Khan on horseback that was erected in 2008, two years after the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Mongol Empire. The statue is 40 meters high and stands on top of a ten meter high visitor center. It is possible to enter the statue from where you get a nice panoramic view of the surroundings. In the adjacent museum exhibitions, you get to know more about the history of Mongolia and Genghis Khan, who is thus perceived as something of a father of the country. Arriving in Gorkhi-Terelj, which is the third largest nature reserve in the country, we make an easier hike and enjoy Mongolia’s wild nature and beautiful landscapes. Then we visit a nomadic family that lives in a traditional yurt.

Day 13: Ulan Bator – Beijing
In the morning we return to Ulan Bator where we have breakfast before heading to the airport before the trip to Beijing (the flight takes a little more than 2 hours). When we arrive in Beijing, we head to the heart of the Chinese capital, where we begin our stay in the world’s most populous country by visiting Tiananmen Square, which with its huge areas is the world’s largest square. We then head to our hotel for check in. Overnight in Beijing.

Day 14: Beijing
After breakfast, a full day excursion awaits in Beijing’s surroundings. At Minggravarna we follow the processional path Andarnas väg, lined with marble statues depicting officials, military, elephants and camels. This was the way in which the bodies of the emperors were taken towards the final rest. Gradually we reach the scenic burial ground where most of the emperors who ruled during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) are buried. The journey continues north and up among the mountains where the Great Wall of China winds its way along the steep ridges. We walk along the wall and feel the wings of history before returning to central Beijing in the afternoon. Overnight in Beijing.

Day 15: Beijing
After breakfast we visit the Forbidden City which is the world’s largest palace complex and dates back to the early 15th century. We go on a guided tour of the area and get to know more about what life was like for emperors, empresses, eunuchs and concubines behind the walls to which only courtiers had access. During the day we also visit the delightful Summer Palace where the imperial family with hoofs sought themselves during the hot summer months to cool off. In the evening, a farewell dinner with local specialties awaits. Overnight in Beijing.

Day 16: Beijing – Stockholm
After breakfast we go to the airport before the trip home.

Along the Trans-Siberian Railway to Beijing