Day 1: Moscow. Arrive at Moscow airport, where you are met and transferred to the luxurious five-star Marriott Royal Aurora hotel located in the heart of this vibrant city for a two-night stay. Enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel, meet your fellow travelers and, together, look forward to the 21-day voyage that lies ahead.
Day 2: Moscow. Our city tour of Moscow principally takes us to Red Square, an iconic symbol of Russia’s former military and political might. Here we see an eclectic mix of fascinating architecture, such as the ornate St. Basil’s Cathedral with its magnificent onion-domed spires, the grandeur of The Kremlin and the somber and evocative site of Lenin’s tomb.
Day 3: On board. This morning we board the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express. After settling into your modern, stylish cabins, enjoy dinner in one of the beautifully designed restaurant cars as our rail journey to Beijing begins.
Day 4: Volgograd. Standing on the banks of the Volga, Stalingrad—as the city was known in Soviet times—was the dramatic scene of some the most important World War II battles. The Russians heroically turned back the Nazi advance here to alter the course of the war. We visit the poignantly sobering Mamayev Kurgan war memorial, followed by the informative 3D diorama and absorbing museum visit. In the evening we enjoy a beautifully prepared dinner on board our private train.
Day 5: Kara Kum. Today, we enjoy a relaxing day onboard as we travel across the vast expanses of the Kara Kum desert. Enjoy a drink with your fellow travelers in the bar car, or perhaps take a Russian language lesson while experiencing the unique landscape.
Day 6: Khiva. Crossing into Uzbekistan, our train travels towards Urgench, where we transfer to the ancient city of Khiva, founded 2,500 years ago. As one of the Silk Road’s most important trading posts and now a World Heritage Site, it lies at the crossroads of the routes between Mongolia, Russia, China and Persia. A truly magnificent sight to behold, it rises out of the desert to reveal a wealth of impressive architecture. Stepping back in time, we discover its impressive mosques, bazaars and minarets within Khiva’s ancient walls, restored with support from UNESCO. Lunch and dinner are served onboard our train.
Day 7: Ashgabat. In dramatic contrast to Khiva, we arrive in Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan - the "Las Vegas of the Kara Kum". Situated between the Kara Kum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range, its golden domes and towering modern buildings appear strangely incongruous in this almost biblical setting.
Day 8: Merv. Early morning sees us arrive in Mary, where we transfer to the ancient city of Merv. Once an important stopping point on the Silk Road, it claims to have briefly been the largest city in the world during the twelfth century. In 1794 the Emir of Bukhara destroyed the dam which the population depended on for its water, thus causing the demise of Merv. After our fascinating exploration we return to our train for dinner.
Day 9: Bukhara. Bukhara is quite simply outstanding. Like Khiva, UNESCO funded the renovation of much of the city for its 2,500th anniversary in 1999. The highlight of this wonderful tour is a visit to The Ark, a fortified residence of the Emirs of Bukhara—the despotic and ruthless leaders who ruled until Soviet times. Lunch is taken within a stunningly ornate medresseh (beautifully tiled Islamic school). We then travel out of the city to experience the Emir’s enchantingly named “Palace of the Moon and Stars.”
Day 10: Samarkand. Founded in the 6th Century BC, Samarkand’s stunning architecture hints at its former status as one of the most important cities in Asia. Today we will visit some of its most significant sites including the refined elegance of the beautifully proportioned Bibi Khanum Mosque and the Ulag Beg observatory, one of the earliest Islamic astronomical observatories built in 1428. After dinner we will visit the illuminated awe-inspiring Registan Square before returning to our train for a late evening departure.
Day 11: Tashkent. Today we arrive in the capital city of Uzbekistan and spend the morning touring this modern Soviet-style city, which was rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1966. We re-board the train for lunch as we head towards Kazakhstan and Almaty. This afternoon gives us the opportunity to relax with friends or listen to one of the informative lectures designed to give us a greater insight into this fascinating region.
Day 12: Almaty. Just before lunch we arrive in Almaty – the largest city in Kazakhstan. This beautifully verdant city derives its name from ‘Alma’ meaning "apple". Just a short distance from the city, apple orchards are abundant. Surrounded by the majesty of the Tien Shen Mountains, we will enjoy a traditional lunch in a Kazak "yurt", a dwelling place of this region’s nomadic people. Tonight is our final evening onboard the Golden Eagle train and will be marked by a farewell banquet.
Day 13: Crossing into China. As we arrive at the Kazakh border of Druzhba, we bid the Golden Eagle a final farewell. The border crossing takes five hours, but our patience will be rewarded, as the Shangri-La Express private train awaits us in Alanshankou. We are now at liberty to settle into our comfortable cabins as we head further into the intriguing landscape of China. A welcome dinner is served in the restaurant cars, giving us our first taste of authentic Chinese cuisine.
Day 14: Urumchi and Turpan. Urumchi is located in a verdant oasis between the lofty ice capped Bogda Peak, the vast Salt Lake, the pine covered Southern Hill and the alternating fields and sand dunes of the Zunggar Basin. Urumchi boasts an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for being the city furthest from any sea in the world – a staggering 1,400 miles (2,500km) from the nearest coastline. This morning we visit the renowned mummy exhibition at the Provincial Museum. After lunch we travel to Turpan, where the Flaming Mountains create a magnificent backdrop. We then take a fascinating tour to the ancient underground irrigation system that has successfully fed the rich orchards and vineyards for centuries. Our final destination is the elegantly decaying sand city of Jiaohe that was founded in 108 BC.
Day 15: Dunhuang. Before lunch we arrive in the small oasis-city of Dunhuang, where we will visit the fascinating Magao Thousand Buddha Cave Complex. This impressive site contains almost 500 grottoes, carved between 700 and 1,700 years ago. Inside we will see an amazing collection of beautiful sculptures and murals depicting the evolution of Buddhist religious art over a 1,000 year period. In the afternoon we explore the vast natural beauty of the Gobi Desert by camel, including Crescent Lake. Hidden amongst towering sand dunes, it has sustained life in this region for millennia. Tonight we experience dinner and a local folk performance in this magical setting.
Day 16: Jiayuguan. This morning our private train arrives in Jiayuguan. Famous for being the first pass at the most westerly point of the Great Wall of China, it was given the rather poetic name: “The first and greatest pass under Heaven”. Our tour takes us to the perfectly restored fortress at the end of the Great Wall, which dates back to 1372. Considered one of the greatest sites in northwest China, we spend time here and visit its excellent museum. This afternoon we spend time in the Bar Car either attending a lecture on the Great Wall or simply relaxing as the landscape unfolds before us.
Day 17: Xian. Our fascinating journey of discovery takes us to Xian today. Our morning arrival gives us several hours to explore the world famous Terracotta Warriors, discovered by peasants only 35 years ago. The 6,000 terracotta figures and their horses are one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. This evening we enjoy the Tang Dynasty Dinner, Music and Dance Show, a wonderful performance of ancient entertainment.
Day 18: On board. Spending our last day onboard the Shangri-La Express we wind our way northward towards the capital of China, Beijing. Having traveled a mammoth 7,000 miles (11,250 km) from Moscow, we bid farewell to our train crew and transfer to the five-star Regent Hotel, or similar, for a three-night stay.
Day 19: Beijing. Today we visit Tiananmen Square and then explore the magnificently restored Forbidden City. Our cultural exploration continues at the Temple of Heaven, the grandest of the four great temples situated in Beijing. Here we experience enchanting displays of traditional dancing, singing and the delicately precise ancient art of calligraphy.
Day 20: Beijing. We devote our final full day in Beijing to the most awe-inspiring site in the whole of China: The Great Wall. This amazing edifice is one of the few man-made structures visible from outer space and perhaps the most evocative symbol of Chinese skill and precision. At Badaling we have the privilege of walking along a portion of the wall – the perfect opportunity to take some memorable photographs. Our farewell banquet is hosted in an authentic Peking Duck restaurant, where we say goodbye to our fellow traveling companions.
Day 21: Departure. Following breakfast, you will be transferred to Beijing airport for international departures.
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Europe Russia China Kazakhstan Local Culture Railway Trips Cultural Journey
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