Grand Trans Siberian Railway

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    Experience traditional Japan and remote Mongolia, and ride the grand Trans Siberian Railway from Vladivostok to the old Tartar capital of Kazan, en route to Moscow. Graceful imperial St. Petersburg is the perfect climax to this historic journey.


    Day 1: Arrive Tokyo
    Tokyo, a city of awe-inspiring skyscrapers, an impressive modern metro system and limitless technology – this is where we start our Grand Trans Siberian Railway Journey.

    Day 2: Tokyo and to Takayama
    This morning we embark on a city tour of this dynamic city. We visit the Meijii Shrine and Asakuna Kannon Temple before a Shinkansen ‘Bullet Train’ takes us on a swift smooth ride to Nagoya and from there an express train to the tranquility of Takayama, or ‘Little Kyoto’. We stay overnight in a ryokan – a traditional Japanese Inn. (B, D)

    Day 3: Takayama to Kanazawa
    Take the time to relax in this town of wooden houses, wander the streets where the lattice-bay windows entice us to sample some sake or view the traditional handicrafts of the region before boarding the train to Kanazawa. Kanazawa is one of the jewels of Japan, where the Samurai, merchants, geisha and lords have left an everlasting mark. Here we will visit the city’s best-known attraction, the beautiful Kenrokuen, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. (B)

    Days 4-5: Kyoto via Nara
    After breakfast we continue our journey south where we will visit Nara, the first permanent capital of Japan, and Todaiji Temple, reputedly the largest wooden building in the world, housing the Great Buddha. Next stop Kyoto, one of Japan’s oldest capitals. Quiet temples, sublime gardens, colourful shrines and scurrying geishas – traditional Japan still lingers in this fascinating city. Today Kyoto unlocks for us her treasures of the Golden Temple, the Geisha district or Gion and Kiyomizudera Temple set on a hillside overlooking the city. (B x2)

    Days 6-7: Across the Sea of Japan
    Our final destination in Japan is Sakai Minato where we board our two-night ferry to Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East. (B, L, D x2)

    Day 8: Welcome to Russia!
    Once a top-secret naval base of the Soviet Union, Vladivostok and its 19 century buildings are now revitalised. Spend the afternoon at your leisure. Hop on ferries to remote beaches on former navy-only islands or head to higher ground for spectacular views of Golden Horn Bay. (B)

    Days 9-11: Vladivostok to Ulan Ude
    We spend the morning discovering the fascinating history of the city and port with a visit to the Local History Museum and the Vladivostok Fortress Museum before entering the historic railway terminus to board the Trans Siberian Railway as travellers have done for over a century. There is a feeling of excitement as our Trans Siberian journey begins. During our time on board you will get to know fellow passengers as we relax in the comfortable four-berth compartment that is our home for this leg of the journey across eastern Siberia to the Buryat city of Ulan Ude. (B day 9)

    Day 12: Ulan Ude
    Located in the middle of the vast Siberian steppe, Ulan Ude is a centre of Buddhism in Russia, evoking a relaxed and peaceful city vibe. Here you will see the world’s largest statue of Lenin’s head, and have the opportunity to meander around the 18th -19th century merchant houses that line the main street, locals refer to as ‘Arbat Street’. Later we make our way to the outskirts of the city to one of Russia’s spiritual highlights, the picturesque Ivolginsky Datsan.

    Day 13: To Mongolia
    Leaving the Trans Siberian Railway for the Trans Mongolian Railway we now head south, across the border and into Mongolia, bound for Ulaanbaatar. (B)

    Day 14: Ulaanbaatar
    Arriving into the capital in the early hours of the morning we have the day to explore the city’s monuments and museums, reflecting on the different cultures and people that make up this quirky city. (B)

    Day 15: To Terelj National Park
    After breakfast, we visit the Zaisan Memorial from which the entire city is visible, as well as the country’s largest remaining monastery, Gaandan Khiid, where you can mingle with Buddhist monks. Later in the day we travel out across the grasslands, through the countryside that was once the home to Genghis Khan and his Golden Horde, to the pristine Terelj National Park. Here we spend the night in a Mongolian nomad ger (felt tent), amongst spectacular rock formations and wild rolling hills. Living among nomadic families and their grazing livestock we can explore nearby valleys or just relax and enjoy the area. (B, L, D)

    Day 16: Ulaanbaatar to Russia
    Leaving the verdant steppe, we return to the city stopping en route at the mammoth statue of Mongolia’s National hero – Genghis Khan. Standing at forty metres high and made from two hundred and fifty tonnes of shiny stainless steel you certainly won’t miss it! Mid-afternoon we return to the railway station to re-join the Trans Mongolian Railway and roll along the iron tracks into Siberia. Leaving Mongolia at Sukhbaatar and travelling beyond the Russian border town we continue west along the southern shore of the world’s deepest freshwater lake – Baikal. (B)

    Days 17-18: Irkutsk and Lake Baikal
    After an afternoon arrival into Irkutsk transfer to the shores of Lake Baikal for a two-night stay in the lakeside village of Listvyanka. Enjoy a full day at the lake exploring the landscapes as well as Listvyanka with its traditional houses and beautiful wooden church. You also have the opportunity to gain an insight into the lake and its inhabitants with a visit to the Limnological Museum. (Day 17 – Dinner, Day 18 – Breakfast)

    Days 19-21: Irkutsk and the Trans Siberian Railway
    Almost in the centre of Asia, Irkutsk is home to beautiful 18th century churches, brightly painted shutters, log houses decorated with intricate wooden lacework as well as a captivating story of high society exile. Modern administrative blocks and soaring bridges reach out across the Angara River in this beautiful town known as the ‘Paris of Siberia’. Tonight we join the Trans Siberian Railway and travel via Novosibirsk, Omsk and Yekaterinburg booming over the steel bridges spanning Siberia’s nerve system of five thousand rivers to Kazan. (Day 19 – Breakfast & dinner)

    Days 22-23: Kazan
    Welcome to the picturesque and historic city of Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan Republic and the Muslim Capital of Russia. Built on the intersection of two rivers, Kazan has endured a tumultuous history. Today, Tatars, the descendants of the Golden Horde and the occupants of the city before the Russians, make up about 43{03e17260731feebda54b271abff347b773c0107003202e8eeba7d379e6644aef} of the population, maintain their own language as well as culture and are extremely proud of their history. The fusion of Islamic and Russian architecture conveys an exotic feel. We visit Kazan’s magnificent Kremlin Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Meals – Day 23 – Breakfast)

    Day 24: Kazan and to Moscow
    This morning we make our way to the serene settlement of Sviyazhsk, an island on the Volga. However, this tranquil setting has a violent past, inflicted by Ivan the Terrible and enabling the conquering of Kazan. We visit the Assumption Cathedral and Monastery that contains some of the rarest examples of Eastern Orthodox frescoes, and learn of the villages significant history, before climbing aboard our evening train bound for Moscow. (B)

    Days 25-26: Moscow
    Early morning brings us into the capital. With its palatial underground rail system draped with chandeliers and palaces and public buildings restored to their former glory – this city will amaze you! Here you will have ample time to explore 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. (Meals – Day 26 – Breakfast)

    Day 27-30: St. Petersburg
    St. Petersburg is the perfect end to this astonishing journey and offers a treasure trove of wonders for you to take in during our final days, including the world-renowned Hermitage Museum, housed in the Winter Palace as well as the beautiful Peter and Paul Cathedral, the final resting place of the Russian Tsar’s. (Meals – Day 27 – Breakfast, Day 28 – Breakfast, Day 29 –Breakfast & dinner, Day 30 – Breakfast.)

    Sundowners – TSGT