Tsar's Gold Trans-Siberian Railway Tour by Private Train: Moscow to Beijing

A 16 day trip to China, Mongolia & Russia 
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59 reviews

Travel along the world’s longest railway in complete luxury and privacy, capturing the natural beauty from Moscow to Beijing. Your custom tailored tour takes you through Russia, Mongolia, and China, discovering the marvels of snowcapped peaks and the dreamlike desert horizon. Witness nomads run through the Mongolian Alps on horseback. View the glistening crimson stone of the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square. From the expanse of the Great Wall of China to the blending of European and Asian cultures, your time heading west to east along the Trans-Siberian Railway offers a glimpse of history and an unforgettable journey of a lifetime. 

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General Information

Zaisan Memorial honors allied Mongolian and Soviet soldiers killed in World War II
Kazan cathedral in Irkutsk, Siberia.
Gobi desert dunes, Mongolia.
The Great Wall of China during sunset.
The Great Wall of China on a sunny day.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Moscow, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Siberia, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan-Ude, Ulan Bator, Mongolian Alps, Erlian, Gobi Desert, Beijing, Ming Tombs, Great Walla of China 

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Moscow – City by Night

The Russian capital glints beneath the sunlight with golden domes and red stars. The glass and steel skyscrapers offer a dramatic skyline, continuing the tradition of layering the city with history and grandeur around the banks of the Moskva River. Your flight lands at Sheremetyevo International Airport, where your private transfer greets you upon arrival. Locals zip through the streets in classic cars and along bicycle paths. They linger inside clubs dedicated to table tennis and cafes decorated with contemporary artwork, emanating the aroma of creamy coffee sweetened with a spoonful of sugar.

You take the time to settle into the comforts of your 5-star hotel overlooking the city’s main street of Tverskaya, which leads to the Kremlin. Private terraces offer stunning views of the bustling cityscape and the colors emanating from the marvelous architecture. Your guide meets you in the lavish lobby after dinner, ready to lead you through the unique past, exhibited within the more than 1,600 square feet of Red Square. Cobblestones run to the edges of the plaza and beneath the colorful façade of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Tingles rush up and down your spine from the tangible history on display within the plaza, along with the notable sense of significance emanating from the Russian history that once took place in the square. The Kremlin shines in the spotlight adjacent to the cathedral with Vladimir Lenin’s Mausoleum shimmering with polished, crimson stones beneath brass spires. 

What’s Included: dinner, tour, airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Moscow – Viewing Moscow by Day

In the evening, you sense a spirit in Moscow coursing through the streets and leading to the late-night cafes, clubs, and bars emanating music, vibrancy, and conversation. In the morning, Moscow retains the same sense of movement and immediacy, filling with the aroma of dill drifting out of a café serving a traditional breakfast of sunny-side-up eggs with sausage, tomatoes, and bell pepper garnished with the fragrant herb. After breakfast, your guide meets you at the hotel, eager to lead you through the streets of Moscow to experience the differences of the city by day. The opulent facades of the GUM and TSUM shopping malls glisten in the daylight, with the familiar figure of the GUM facing Red Square.

TSUM stands opposite Karl Marx Place with elegant fountains and neoclassical architecture framing an array of lavish stores, such as Hermés and Moschino. The Patriarch’s Pond offers context to the architecture of Stalinist Russia. The pond retains a square shape surrounded by similarly square-shaped apartment buildings. Your guide leads you on a fascinating tour of the Kremlin, the center of political power in Russia, from the seat of the Tsars to the home of the present-day presidents. The edifice overtakes Borovitsky Hill on the north bank of the Moskva River surrounded by walls spanning a mile and a half. The Patriarch’s Palace was erected in the mid-17th century. The opalescent façade shimmers beneath gilded filigree. The interior of the Twelve Apostles’ Church displays impressive examples of 17th and 18th-century iconoclasts carved from wood and adorned with a gilded exterior. The interior retains subtle hints of spice from the aromas of frankincense and myrrh.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, accommodation

Day 3: Kazan – On the Banks of the Volga River

Wake up in the comforts of your private room to the luxury of the past mixed with contemporary amenities. Velvet seats and curtains frame the doorway. The scent of steeping black tea blends with the aroma of rich, morning coffee. Before reaching Kazan, you can bask in the beauty of the dining room amongst the fragrance of cottage cheese dumplings garnished with powdered sugar. The window offers a view of Russia’s longest river, the Volga, which reaches a length of nearly 2,200 miles.

Kazan was once the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan and retains a deep connection to its roots, along with a tumultuous relationship between the Tatars, Cossacks, and Russians. The city represents a blend of European and Asian culture sprawling beneath the church spires and minarets. The Kazan Kremlin creates a striking, snow-white complex of government offices, parks, museums, and the Kul Sharif Mosque. Your guide points to certain segments of the white limestone wall, which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

The mosque was erected in 2005 and was named for the imam who defended the city against Ivan the Terrible in the mid-16th century. A museum inside the grounds offers insight into Islam in the region, displaying manuscripts and elegant pieces of furniture custom made to perfection. Latticed vaults frame the edges of the mosque, leading to the dome. The blue geometric ceiling imitates the stars in the night sky. The light blue rooftop and spires reflect the morning light.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 4: Yekaterinburg – Amongst the Ural Mountains

You continue along the emerald countryside glowing with lush grass and verdant trees. Homes rise out of the tall plains in the foreground with the foothills rising in the background. The countryside retains an unspoiled nature. The train pulls into the station at Yekaterinburg, the capital of the region spanning the ancient Ural Mountains. The trees are tall and thin, emanating a familiar spearmint aroma amongst the evergreens. The mountains formed the natural border between Europe and Asia.

Your guide escorts you off the train to the sounds of Russian folk music. Locals dressed in traditional garments welcome you, attempting to pull you into motion along the cobbled plaza. The city is known as a place of learning and industry, but also the 1918 overthrow of the Romanovs. The streets of the city become an artwork unto themselves, glowing with a tangible sense of the past. Restaurants fill with locals enjoying the bustling culinary scene. The preserved center of the city is embodied in the marvelous Byzantine-style architecture of the Church upon the Blood.

The edifice was erected over the last site in which Tsar Nicholas II and the Romanov family were seen alive. The church was erected between 2000 and 2003, encompassing 29,700 square feet, commemorating the tragic episode in Russian history. For a spectacular panorama of the city, you can venture to the Vysotsky Viewing Platform. The elevator quickly leads you up 54 floors, reaching a height of nearly 600 feet above the city streets. You can marvel at the mixture of green space and urban living spreading to the horizon within Russia’s fourth largest city.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 5: Novosibirsk – A Taste of Bread and Salt

In the morning, you crave the flavors of blini (thin pancake) and caviar, a decadent dish you enjoy the previous night. At breakfast, you sip a refreshing cup of freshly brewed coffee while watching the lupines and endless forests reaching towards central Siberia. The train stops in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia. The relaxed pace welcomes you to the daytime streets as the night pulses with clubs, restaurants, and popular local bars spanning the banks of the Ob River. Wood-laced structures retain their historical significance as a testament to the Siberian spirit, which now adds a layer of beauty to Russia’s third largest city. A local family welcomes you into their home with a traditional ceremony involving bread and salt. The aroma of freshly risen dough fills the room.

The family offers friendly smiles and a sense of tradition bringing you a deeper connection to Russia and your time on the Trans-Siberian Railway. An embroidered towel rests over a tray filled with bread and salt. The bread symbolizes wealth. The salt offers protection from evil spirits. You break a piece of the loaf and dip it into the salt, warding off the evil forces, and welcoming the fortune of money and friendship. You venture around the center of the city located on Lenina Plaza, with the main artery of Krasny pr, connecting much of city’s monuments, beginning with the redbrick shimmer of the late 19th-century edifice of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 6: Siberia – Luxuries of the Train

Wake to the splendors of Siberia overtaking the view outside the window. The evergreen trees glisten with jade leaves. Marvelous lakes shimmer with cobalt blues. The scent of steeping black tea accompanies the aroma of blinis (thin pancakes) garnished with fresh raspberry jam. The comforts and accommodating wonders of the train are at your leisure today, allowing you to relax in the vintage styling of your room, linger in the dining car with the scent of fresh-baked pastries, or take part in the various lectures offered within the train cars. The rushing waters of passing rivers splash against meandering rocks. The rhythm of the train wheels offers a soothing, continuous movement to the day.

Join in with other passengers as you learn about the vodkas crafted across Russia, with each drink containing a particular character unique to the region in which it is made. Your guide leads you on a fabulous tour of the country through the contents of the national drink, first explaining the process of distilling and the important properties needed to make vodka. After your guide leads you through the history and process of the drink, you can enjoy a sample of vodkas following your path through the country, beginning with Moscow. You learn, first and foremost, that anyone drinking vodka must have a reason, bringing everyone in the train car together to relish the flavor.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 7: Irkutsk – Colors and History

Today you exit the train at the Irkutsk rail station and step out into a city capturing the 19th-century ambiance of eastern Siberia mixed with the elegance of contemporary eateries and informative museums. The station contains vibrant colors of green, yellow, and white. In 130 Kvartal (Block 130), a restoration project immerses visitors in the quintessential timber buildings of Siberia revitalized with fabulous restaurants, vibrant bars, and charming cafes, ushering in new life to the traditional structures framed by the colorful window shutters and embellishments. You venture to the open-air market to traverse the aisles that locals favor. Fish caught in nearby Lake Baikal are on display amongst the sound of folk music emanating from a smiling vendor selling CDs and DVDs. The fishmongers grab the fish desired by passersby, and weigh the selection accordingly.

Fruits, such as forest berries, provide vibrant, enticing color to the market overtaking Chekhova Street set beside the Central Department Store. Another stand offers wool socks and furry, comfortable hats to protect locals and visitors from the ever-present winter.  The spices from central Asia provide a stunning aroma to the marketplace. The Regional Museum is located inside a 19th-century brick structure. You enter into the former home of the Siberian Geographical Society and follow the stairs downward to view the exhibitions on local ethnography before viewing the flickering light cast by the remarkable jewelry crafted from local minerals and stones.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 8: Lake Baikal – On the Freshwater

You reach the shores of Lake Baikal in the morning, located less than 185 miles from the wooden homes and bustling market of Irkutsk. You have the entire day to enjoy the splendors of the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake, which contains a shoreline spanning more than 1,500 miles. The waters reach a depth of 5,370 feet and shimmer with a mixture of turquoise and cobalt hues. Slightly pink and transparent fish, known as golomyanka, enjoy the cold, oxygen-rich waters. The world’s only freshwater seal linger on the pebbled and rocky shores of the lake, basking in the passing sunlight. Snowcapped mountains roll across the horizon beyond the lush jade forest. Board a ferry to traverse the cool waters of the lake.

A mist splashes upwards from the hull, spreading through the air for a refreshing spritz. You reach Port Baikal, a village of atmosphere Siberian cottages. The relaxed ambiance and small crowds offer you an immersive look at village life. The village once connected passengers on the Trans-Siberian Railway to the tracks across the lake, using tugboats and ferries. The rarely used line retains coveted scenery and remains connected to the quiet village streets. The scent of fresh water blends with the herbaceous trees. Cows graze on the wildflowers growing near the edges of the rarely used tracks. The wood cottages provide ample historical ambiance and charm of the countryside. Step aboard the train traversing the Circum-Baikal Railway for unforgettable views of the lakeshores, mountainsides, and intricate network of tunnels. Enjoy the views and the breeze from the front of the train, capturing the scenery from the locomotive.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 9: Ulan-Ude – Capital Republic

The aroma of sweet coffee fills the dining car in the morning. You cross through the Republic of Buryatia, passing the lush landscape along the Selenga River. The waterway flows for more than 600 miles before feeding into Lake Baikal. Grass tufts and evergreen trees fill your view amongst sporadic wood-clad villages. The mountains and river valleys lead you to the city of Ulan-Ude, your last stop within the borders of Russia. The Russian city retains a variety of Asian features embodied in the Mongol-Buddhist culture.

The ambiance features an exotic and pleasant charm after the Russian cities you have traveled through along the way. The city was founded as a Cossack fortress in the 17th century and prospered as a stop along the tea-caravan route from China. A large statue of Lenin’s head rises above the main square at the center of the city. The bronze figure reaches a height of more than 25 feet and was erected in the 1970s to celebrate the communist leader’s 100th birthday. The scent of ginger and spice emanates from the celebrated Chinese restaurants across the city.

The Buddhist school of Ivolginsky Datsan is situated 30 minutes outside of town, taking you to a charming dale encircled by scenic mountains. The temple has ornate embellishments in the form of gilded spires and a decorative Buddha sculptures. Vibrant mandalas flutter in the breeze around a seat reserved for the Dalai Lama. Young monks dress in dark red robes, arriving in the school to study philosophy or Tantrism, Buddhist art or the Tibetan language. The aroma of sandalwood drifts through the main shrine, offering a herbaceous welcome as you arrive and farewell as you return to the city streets.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 10: Ulan Bator – Adventure into Mongolia

Today you cross the Russian border into Mongolia, following the tracks into the capital city, Ulan Bator. Horses graze on the short grass bordering the outskirts of the city. The rustic hues of the soil swirl with the emerald colors for a kaleidoscopic effect. The city pulses with life and bohemian culture, filling visitors with endless excitement, blending the contemporary luxury with tradition. You can hear the unique, deep guttural sounds of Buddhist monks throat-singing around the Gandan Khiid. The 19th-century monastery survived the religious purge of 1937. The structure maintains daily religious ceremonies with more than 600 monks belonging to the specific monastery.

The main entrance at the south leads to a courtyard. The pilgrim’s trail leads clockwise around the Ochidara Temple to a glass statue of the founder of the Gelugpa sect. You enter into the lily-white structure of the Migjid Janraisig Süm; a temple adorned with hundreds of Buddha icons representing longevity. The main statue stands more than 85 feet tall and is filled with 27 tons of medicinal herbs. Chinggis Square embodies the independent spirit of the country, as it is the place in which Damdin Sukhbaatar declared the country’s liberation from China in the 1920s.

A bronze monument to the liberator stands atop a platform crowning the square. The glass façade of the Parliament building captures the light and shimmers against the large statue of Genghis Khan. The scent of grilled onions and simmering oils emanates from traditional Mongolian barbecue restaurants, creating an enticing scent drifting through the bustling streets of the city. You have the option to stay within the comforts a luxury hotel in Ulan Bator or venture into the Mongolian Alps to enjoy the ambiance and comfort of a traditional yurt, providing a unique experience to your time traveling the Trans-Siberian Railway.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 11: Mongolian Alps – Taking to the Great Outdoors

In the morning, you set out into the countryside less than 90 minutes from the heart of Ulan Bator. The landscape of the lush green hills sweeps into the dramatic snowcapped mountains of the Mongolian Alps. The tallest peak reaches of Chapchandaban reaches a height of more than 10,550 feet above sea level. Horses traipse across the landscape with nomadic herders watching their group. The mountains encircle the plain on which you find a local clan setting up their yurt. They welcome you with wide smiles as you help them tend to the structure, setting up the frame and fabric of the tent. The matriarch builds a fire to heat the center of the tent. The aroma of charred wood fills the room before being carried out through the thin chimney.

The sheep’s wool blankets and clothing offer soft warmth along the edges of the yurt. The locals you sit with prepare a drink of fermented milk taken from the mares of their herd. The drink is referred to as the beer of the Mongolian nomads. They pass around the drink, and you take a sip to enjoy their customary hospitality. The milk has a warm, sour flavor. Yaks graze on the meadows near the neighboring cliffs. Their long horns stand out from their long fur. You step outside the yurt to view a display of the Mongolian tradition of their mastery of horsemanship. The riders traverse the hills around the Alps, showing off their skill to visitors and family, with riders as young as eight speeding across the countryside.  

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 12: Gobi Desert – Changing in the Desert

The landscape outside the window slowly transitions from the grass-filled steppe to the arid plains of the Gobi Desert. The familiar scent of steeping black tea accompanies the golden hues of the dunes and vegetation feeding off the hardy atmosphere. Colorful lizards take to the shade beneath the sporadic tufts of grass. Herds of camels traverse the dry flatlands. Their double humps sway as they prance over the tuft-filled expanse. The Gobi encompasses more than 500,000 square miles spreading across Mongolia and China.

The train stops in the town of Erlian, an authentic border market town filled with historical riches from merchants passing through the area along the original caravan routes between China and Mongolia. A Dinosaur Museum presents artifacts discovered in the desert landscape, including fossilized eggs. Shops fill the contemporary arcades of the Personal Market. Vendors offer camping gear and various styles of clothing in tradition with cultural garments from Mongolia and modern fashions popular in Beijing. You cross the border into China and change trains, entering into the comforts of your private room, taking you through the countryside and onto China’s capital city.     

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 13: Beijing – Reaching the End of the Railway

The stretch of the golden sand of the Gobi Desert has faded away, replaced by the stunning mixture of ambitious skyscrapers and the innovative stadiums of the 2008 Olympics. The modern architecture of the towering edifices cast shadows over the temples and palaces of the city’s wealthy past. The train arrives at Beijing Railway Station, settling into the bustling streets of the city of 11.5 million people. Restaurants filling chic havens and romantic niches create lavish ambiances while traditional stalls hiding in alleyways fill the streets with the aroma of fresh dumplings and succulent noodles.

Your private transfer escorts you from the train station to the luxurious lobby of your hotel. The dangling chandeliers reflect in the elegant, polished floors. You can relax in the luxury of your private room with the remainder of the day at your leisure to traverse the streets, squares, and hidden charms of Beijing at your preferred pace. Locals venture to the waterways of the Houhai Lakes. Men and women exercise in the morning along the scattered shores of the three lakes. Children send kites soaring into the air, filling the sky with colorful designs swirling in graceful streaks. In the evening, the restaurants, bars, and cafes fill with chic and youthful ambiance amongst the flashing neon lights and the enticing sounds of karaoke.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 14: Beijing – From Heaven to the Forbidden City

The splendors of Beijing return with the morning light. After breakfast, your guide meets you in the hotel lobby, eager to lead you through the marvels of the city, from the hidden historical temples to the lavish grounds of the Forbidden City. You begin the day at the Temple of Heaven Park, an oasis amongst the city’s endless bustling. The park covers nearly 660 acres and once served as the ceremonial home for the emperor to pray. The Confucian architecture offers a harmonious arrangement between the natural world and human-made symmetry.

Birds twitter in the ancient cypress trees, offering a skyline different than the high-rises you first saw upon entering the city. The trees offer a spiced aroma similar to spearmint. At the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, you find a blue umbrella mounting the roof above a marble terrace rising along three tiers. The interior contains a wooden pillar supporting the ceiling in a majestic fashion without cement or nails, cradling the roof that reaches a height of nearly 125 feet. You continue to the famed Imperial City, whose origins date back to the 13th century.

The Ming Dynasty in the 15th century expanded the complex to encompass 7,750,015 square feet. A wall reaching more than 32 feet tall circles the palace grounds behind a wide, glistening moat. Follow your guide through the dramatic Meridian Gate, located at the center of the complex. The walkway embodied the center of the city and the heart of the universe. You can imagine the gongs and bells echoing, once filling the air with vibrant echoes with the arrival of the emperor. Within the Hall of Preserving Harmony, you marvel at the absence of support pillars and the glistening imperial carriage shaped from marbled and adorned with dragons and clouds.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 15: Beijing – Following the Great Wall

In the morning, the streets of Beijing fill with the aroma of variations of Chinese pancakes. The crepe-like texture contains sweetness from hoisin sauce and a crisp texture from green onions, which also offer a burst of savory flavor. After breakfast, your guide meets you in the lobby and escorts you out of the heart of Beijing to follow along the Great Wall of China. Chinese emperors erected the structure to protect the empire from Mongolian hoards. The edifice captures the imagination of visitors from around the world, as it meanders over peaks and hills of the Beijing municipality.

The ancient bricks lead you along a trail to Xizhazi Village. The lush greenery brushes against the crenulated walls and sporadic towers edging to precipitous peaks. You continue to the Ming Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the tombs of 13 of the 16 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. The tombs rise along the complex like temples set atop burial mounds. The southern slopes of Tianshou Mountain frame the complex. Wander along the Sacred Way, the main avenue flanked by large statues of dynamic animals. A stone memorial connotes the beginning of the walkway, with the Changling Mausoleum crowning the avenue’s end. Marvel at the 18 statues on either side of the walkway featuring camels, lions, and elephants amongst an array of human characters captured in stone.  

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 16: Beijing – A Farewell to China

In the morning, locals of Beijing enjoy the flavors of fresh made porridge. Different restaurants and stands offer a unique array of accouterments, focused on the diverse preferences of their patrons, from pumpkin to mushroom, taro to pork. The sunlight washes over Beihai Park, the oldest surviving imperial garden in the city. The complex dates back to the 10th century with a white-stone bridge reflecting in the calm waters of the North Lake. A stunning Buddha statue carved from a single block of white jade shimmers in the natural light entering the Hall of Enlightenment. The splendors of Beijing crown your time along the Trans-Siberian Railway, embodying the wonders you discovered daily through your journey. When you are ready, your private transfer meets you in the hotel lobby and escorts you to Beijing Capital International Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: breakfast, airport transfer 



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