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MONGOLIA & TRANS-SIBERIAN TOUR

MONGOLIA & TRANS-SIBERIAN 2018 DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY

Day 1 - Saturday 01 September
Arrival Beijing (3 nights)
On arrival at Beijing's International Airport you'll be met by our representative and privately transferred to our hotel. This evening at around 6.30pm we'll rendezvous in the hotel lounge where we'll meet our local Tour Leader for a group briefing before heading out for a welcome dinner where we'll have the chance to get acquainted with our fellow travellers. (D)
Accommodation: Beijing Hotel Park Plaza Wangfujing
Day 2 - Sunday 02 September
Beijing - Sightseeing
Beijing is the nation's political, economic, and cultural centre with a history stretching back 3 millennia. With a population of 21.5 million people, it's the nation's second-largest city after Shanghai. The city has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, with about 140 million Chinese tourists and 4.4 million international visitors each year. This morning, accompanied by our local Tour Leader, we'll start our full day city tour at the central hub of the city - Tiananmen Square. This huge square of 440,000 square metres is visited by thousands of people every day. Next on our agenda is a visit to the beautiful Forbidden City, which is a masterpiece of 5000 years of Chinese civilisation and still vividly displays the power and prestige of the former dynasties. Sprawling over many acres, the City is a magnificent group of palaces, pavilions, courtyards and deep terracotta walls. Ornately furnished palace rooms, priceless artworks and treasures are all now open to the public after 500 years of seclusion. After lunch we'll also visit the Summer Palace situated on Lake Kunming. Construction of the palace started in 1750 as a luxurious royal garden where royal families could rest and entertain and over the years the palace has had great influence on Chinese horticulture and landscape design. This evening we'll attend an acrobatic show followed by dinner where there'll be a chance to sample the delicious Beijing dumplings and other local specialties. (BLD)
Day 3 - Monday 03 September
Beijing - The Great Wall Excursion
We'll make an early morning start today to explore the Great Wall at the Mutianyu section. This is a 1˝ hour drive outside of Beijing, slightly further than the popular and very busy Badaling Gate section. On arrival we'll access this imposing section of the wall by cable car and then enjoy 2-3 hours of walking the wall before descending by chair-lift. Mutianyu is renowned for its Ming Dynasty guard towers and superb views. The scene here is as one would expect with huge steep ramparts zigzagging across this mountainous area. The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is one of the world's most unusual and awesome sites. Commenced 2000 years ago, it was built as a defense line to keep out invaders, along the course of several thousand kilometres. After lunch we return to Beijing mid-afternoon where there'll be time to relax before our evening meal of traditional roast Peking duck. (BLD)
Day 4 - Tuesday 04 September
Beijing - Train (1night) to Ulaanbaatar
This morning we transfer to the train station for our overnight journey to Ulaanbaatar. The train journey takes around 30 hours - two days/one night. This is an ideal way to see a changing countryside from the frenetic pace of Beijing through the great expanse of the Gobi Desert and into downtown Ulaanbaatar. The border crossing from China to Mongolia happens late evening and takes 4-5 hours, due to the changing of the train's bogies and the border formalities. Chinese and Mongolian border officials will board the train so expect a couple of interruptions to our night's sleep. This is all part of the adventure. Keep some Yuan for purchases made on both the train and platforms in China. There is no need to obtain Mongolian tögrög (local currency) prior to arrival in Mongolia as purchases made on the Mongolian train can only be paid in USD. (B)
Overnight: Deluxe Soft Sleeper Compartment
(2 passenger compartment)
Day 5 - Wednesday 05 September
Ulaanbaatar - Terelj National Park (1 night)
The train is expected into Mongolia's capital city Ulaanbaatar by mid-afternoon. On arrival we're met by our Mongolian guide, coach and driver who will stay with us for the next 4 days during our time in Mongolia. We'll head straight out to Terelj National Park. The park is located around 80kms from Ulaanbaatar and is the third biggest protected area in Mongolia. This region is home to beautiful wildflowers, fascinating rock formations and rolling meadows. We spend our night tonight in a ger camp. (D)
Accommodation: Terelj National Park ger camp
(2 people per ger, twin share)
Day 6 - Thursday 06 September
Terelj National Park - Ulaanbaatar (2 nights)
After breakfast in our ger camp we'll spend the morning exploring this delightful national park. We'll climb up to the Buddhist Aryabal temple of meditation nestled in the park's hills, where, from this high vantage point, we'll have a wonderful view of the surrounding area. Around lunch time we'll visit a nomadic family to learn about their way of life and taste their local specialty drink - fermented mares milk. On our way back to Ulaanbaatar we'll stop at the Genghis Khan Monument, located on the banks of the Tuul River at Tsonjin Boldog (54 km east of Ulaanbaatar), where, according to legend, Genghis found a golden whip. The complex has a statue of the man himself on horseback that is 40 metres tall and wrapped in 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel. This is the biggest equestrian statue in the world and is symbolically pointed east towards his birthplace. We're able to climb (via stairs and a lift) to the head of the horse through its chest and neck, where we have panoramic views across Mongolia. On our arrival in Ulaanbaatar there's time to freshen up at our hotel before we enjoy dinner at a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant. (BLD)
Accommodation: Best Western Tuushin Hotel
Day 7 - Friday 07 September
Ulaanbaatar - Sightseeing
Today we'll take in the remarkable sights of Mongolia's capital. Founded in 1639 as a nomadic Buddhist monastic centre it settled permanently at its present location at the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers in 1778. Our first stop this morning is at the Gandan Monastery which is the city's main Buddhist monastery currently housing approximately 150 monks. In the 1930's many of the country's monasteries were destroyed by the communist government. However, the Gandan Monastery survived but it was closed in 1938 and didn't reopen until 1944 with a skeleton staff. When the communist regime lost power in 1990 the restrictions on worship were lifted and the Monastery and the Avalokiteśvara Temple were restored in 1996, funded by donations from the Mongolian people. This temple is the biggest temple in Mongolia and was originally built in 1809 by Djibouti Danba IV, specifically to study the sutra. It now houses the tallest indoor statue in the world, a rebuilt 26.5 - metre-high Buddha completely gilded with gold-leaf and studded with 2286 precious stones. Next we'll visit the fascinating Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs followed by the National Museum which depicts the history of Mongolia from Neolithic times to the present day. It also contains a great display of national costumes from Mongolia's ethnic groups as well as enlightening information on the proliferation of the Mongolian empire. Later this afternoon our local guide will point us in the right direction for the purchase of souvenirs and the very reasonably priced local cashmere products. Early this evening we'll attend a lively folkloric concert, including Mongolian throat singing, before dining in a local restaurant close to our hotel. (BLD)
Day 8 - Saturday 08 September
Ulaanbaatar - Train (1 night) to Irkustk
This morning we have the whole morning to do as we wish. Why not take the opportunity to have a leisurely breakfast before further exploring Ulaanbaatar, completing the souvenir shopping, purchasing snacks for our forthcoming train journey or just do some people-watching from a café in Sukhbaatar Square? Around mid-day our local guide will collect us from our hotel and take us to lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch we'll be transferred to Ulaanbaatar Railway Station where we'll bid farewell to our Mongolian friends and board the train for our 24 hour journey to Irkutsk in Siberia. The train is scheduled to leave mid-afternoon and the border crossing from Mongolia to Russia commences around 9:00pm. The procedure takes approximately 7˝ hours and, as in China, officials will board the train at both sides of the crossing. We'll be able to catch some rest in our compartments as this takes place, however, again we should expect some interruptions to our night's sleep. Please keep a small to reasonable amount of Mongolian tögrög for any purchases on the station platforms prior to crossing the border as USD and Euros are not accepted by the local Mongolians. The dining car is not usually added to the train until it crosses into Russia but this is also unfortunately not guaranteed. If the dining car is attached breakfast and lunch will be available on Sunday but it's wise to have a back-up supply of snacks, purchased in Ulaanbaatar before departure, just in case the dining car is not connected! (BL)
Overnight: 4 berth compartments reserved for 2 people per compartment
Day 9 - Sunday 09 September
Arrival Irkutsk (2 nights)
While we're on the train this morning we'll be rewarded with great views of Lake Baikal as we skirt around its edges. Located in the southern part of Siberia, the UNESCO heritage-listed Lake Baikal is the oldest, largest and deepest lake on earth, reaching a depth of 1650 metres at its deepest point and holding one-fifth of all the fresh water on the planet. Since times long past, the indigenous people living on its shores have revered this beautiful body of water. The Buryat-Mongols tell of Baikal's creation in stories and legends, of the spirits and gods who inhabit its waters and of the mighty conqueror, Genghis Khan who roamed the area. Russian writers, who came to the area more recently, celebrate the lake in poetry, fiction, and song. National parks and nature reserves line the east and west shores of this sparsely populated region, encompassing a landscape of dense forests, snow-capped mountains, grassy steppes, lush wetlands, harsh deserts, rocky islands and rugged cliffs. We'll arrive into Irkutsk in the mid-afternoon where we'll be met by our Siberian Tour Leader who'll escort us to our hotel in the centre of the city. After checking in to our hotel there'll be time for us to relax or perhaps explore the area surrounding the hotel before enjoying dinner in its restaurant. (D)
Accommodation: Hotel Courtyard by Marriott Irkutsk (or similar)
Day 10 - Monday 10 September
Irkutsk - Sightseeing
Irkutsk is located on the banks of the Angara River, which has its source 80km upstream at Lake Baikal. Irkutsk is easily one of the most attractive cities in Siberia. It was founded in 1651 as a Cossack garrison to keep the local Buryat population in line. The Cossacks were a rough lot sent as the official representatives of the Tsars to establish many remote outposts across Siberia and they included trappers, fur and gold traders along with criminals and vagabonds. Later, in the 19th century, Irkutsk was used as an exile post and received some illustrious aristocratic exiles, giving the city a rich cultural heritage. The city's location, near Mongolia and China means that strong Asiatic influences abound. The architecture of Irkutsk includes some of the classic wooden Siberian cottages with beautifully painted and carved shutters which keep evil spirits from entering homes. Other features are the onion-shaped domed churches. During the Soviet-era planning Irkutsk suffered the same fate as many other Siberian cities with the building of rows upon rows of ugly white, apartment blocks - still prevalent in the city today. This morning with our Siberian Tour Leader we'll take a coach tour of the city known as the 'Paris of Siberia'. We'll stroll along the Angara embankment to view the monuments to the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the Founders of Irkutsk along with a visit to both the Cathedral of the Epiphany and the very informative Irkutsk Regional Museum of Local Lore. After a lunch at one of our favourite restaurants the rest of the afternoon enables us to further explore Irkutsk at our own pace and to find a local eating place for our evening meal. (BL)



Day 11 - Tuesday 11 September
Listvyanka - Irkutsk (1 night)
After a short drive this morning our first stop is at the open-air Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture and Ethnography where a traditional Siberian village has been recreated on the actual site where the real 'Taltsy' village was once located. With our Siberian Tour Leader we'll step into the everyday life and culture of Siberians from past centuries when we enter into their wooden houses and visit the Tower of the Saviour and the Kazanskaya Chapel, parts of the former fortress of Ilimsk. The two latter wooden buildings were built nearly 350 years ago without using nails and were moved to their current site when the waters of Lake Baikal rose due to the creation of a hydro-electric scheme in the area. Another short drive brings us to the picturesque town of Listvyanka which sits right on the edge of Lake Baikal, where the Angara River reaches the shores of the lake at Port Baikal. On arrival we'll take lunch in a local restaurant and afterwards we'll visit the Baikal Limnological Museum, where the flora and fauna exhibition, along with our local guide's knowledge, enlighten us to the ecological mysteries of this unique lake. We'll check into our waterfront hotel later in the afternoon and there'll be time to explore Listvyanka before enjoying dinner in our hotel. (BLD)
Accommodation: Hotel Mayak
Day 12 - Wednesday 12 September
Listvyanka - Irkutsk - Train (2 nights) to Yekaterinburg
This morning is ours today to enjoy Listvyanka at our own pace. After a leisurely breakfast perhaps wander the streets lined with houses built in the traditional Siberian wooden style. Nowadays many of these houses have become holiday homes and this has contributed to Listvyanka earning the local nickname of the 'Baikal Riviera'. A visit to the colourful fish bazaar is a must, as vendors here sell all sorts of souvenirs and local trinkets along with the Omul lake fish (a delicacy which is salted, baked or smoked). A walk to the old wooden church of St Nikolai followed by a short hike along one of the lake trails is also a possibility. We'll join our Siberian Tour Leader for lunch in a local restaurant before returning to Irkutsk Railway Station to board our train to Yekaterinburg. Before boarding we'll have time to stock up on supplies of snacks and drinks for our journey. (BL)
Overnights: 4 berth compartments reserved for 2 people per compartment
Day 13 - Thursday 13 September
Irkustk - Yekaterinburg - On train
During these few days spent on one of the greatest train journeys in the world, we'll be able to watch the changing landscapes of Siberia. Our travelling companions could be foreign tourists or locals alike and we should make the most of our journey by absorbing the scenery, or by just relaxing and talking to our fellow travellers. This section of the trip is all about the journey. Settle into the rhythm and enjoy the simplicity of having very little to do. We'll have many stops, some from a short 5 minutes and others up to 30 minutes where we'll have the opportunity to stretch our legs and replenish supplies with purchases made on the different station platforms.
Day 14 - Friday 14 September
Arrival Yekaterinburg (2 nights)
With a population of 1.4 million people, Yekaterinburg is the 4th most populous city in Russia after Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Novosibirsk. The city was founded in 1723, as a metallurgical factory, by Peter the Great who named it after his wife Yekaterina. It lies on the Iset River on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains and on our arrival here we'll be met by our local Tour Leader and transferred to our hotel. After time to settle in we'll enjoy dinner in our hotel with a chance to share our train stories to date. (D)
Accommodation: Hotel Double Tree by Hilton
Day 15 - Saturday 15 September
Yekaterinburg - Sightseeing
Today, with our local guide, we embark on a city tour of Yekaterinburg, a metropolis packed with art and history. In the past it has witnessed the gem rush, miners' mythology, the execution of the Romanovs, the rise of Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, and the legendary gangster feuds of the 1990s, but today it's a largely industrial and administrative city. On our tour we'll visit Plotinka, the site where the dam was constructed for the metallurgical factory, the modern Yeltsin-Centre, a museum dedicated to Boris Yeltsin, and the Church on the Blood which stands on the site where the last tsar of Russia, Emperor Nicholas II, and his family were executed on the night of 17 July 1918. We'll drive past the Square of the Soviet Army which embodies the atmosphere of the Communist era in the gloomy heavy stone Palace of Officers. The two monuments that are situated here commemorate the victims of the first War in Afghanistan (the Black Tulip), and then the War in Chechnya. They bear witness to the devastating results of the totalitarian Soviet regime. We'll have lunch in a local restaurant and then on a lighter note we'll end our tour on the border of Asia-Europe where we may encounter some entertaining locals. On our return to our hotel there'll be time to relax before venturing forth to find an eating place for tonight's evening meal. (BL)
Day 16 - Sunday 16 September
Yekaterinburg - Train (1 night) to Moscow
Following breakfast this morning, we'll check out of our hotel and be transferred to the railway station in good time to board our train for a mid-morning departure bound for Moscow. The train will take us over the Ural Mountains which separate Russian Asia from Russian Europe. Please ensure that you have what you need for the overnight train journey to Russia's capital.
Overnight: 1st class compartment
Day 17 - Monday 17 September
Arrival Moscow (2 nights)
This morning we'll arrive into Moscow Railway Station at around 9:30am. Here we're met by our private coach and local Tour Leader who'll accompany us on an introductory city tour of the many sights of this 870 year-old capital of Russia. First we'll drive out to Sparrow Hills to view the imposing Moscow State University and enjoy the impressive panorama viewed from one of the highest points in the city. We'll then drive back into the centre to visit the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, recently rebuilt (1995-2000) on a site near the Kremlin. Our next stop will be in the historical Arbat District where there's time for lunch and an opportunity to stroll through the market stalls which line the famous Old Arbat pedestrian street. A visit to Moscow wouldn't be complete without going underground to visit the city's elaborate Metro. Along with our local guide we'll ride the Metro to our hotel for our check in and en-route we'll stop off to visit 3 or 4 of the most interesting stations. The rest of the afternoon is ours to use as we wish before we enjoy a typical dinner of Russian specialties at our favourite Moscow restaurant. (D)
Accommodation: Hotel Peking (or similar)
Day 18 - Tuesday 18 September
Moscow - Sightseeing
Over the last couple of decades Moscow has been catapulted into an era of post communism which has brought with it a wealth of improvements and problems. Whilst the essence of this great city is still evident, the shopping and nightlife have brought an entirely new layer of complexity to the capital. Our tour this morning starts with a walk through Red Square where we're likely be somewhat overwhelmed by the view of St. Basil's Cathedral. Then we'll enter the Kremlin where we'll first visit the Armoury, a treasure house of priceless artefacts including Russian state regalia, arms & armour and some very ornate royal carriages. We'll also visit the Assumption and Archangel Cathedrals in the Kremlin's Cathedral Square before returning to Red Square where we'll have the opportunity to visit St Basil's Cathedral and perhaps Lenin's Mausoleum located at the base of the Kremlin wall. For those of us wishing to visit the Mausoleum (entrance is free), we can expect to queue for up to two hours and perhaps more. This afternoon is ours to use as we see fit. Perhaps shop in the GUM store while in Red Square, or return to our hotel to relax before venturing out this evening to find somewhere interesting to eat. (B)
Day 19 - Wednesday 19 September
Moscow - Fast train to St Petersburg (3 nights)
Today we have the whole morning and part of the afternoon to pursue our own interests before we're transferred to Moscow Railway Station late this afternoon to board our fast train to St Petersburg where we'll arrive around 9:30pm. On arrival we'll be met by our local St Petersburg Tour Leader who will escort us to our centrally located hotel, our home for the next 3 nights. (B)
Train: Business Class seats
Accommodation: Hotel Ambassador (or similar)
Day 20 - Thursday 20 September
St Petersburg - Sightseeing
The city was founded by Peter the Great as a gateway to Europe, and as we commence our city tour this morning we'll immediately feel that we've arrived in a European city with its well-planned avenues and its elegant buildings lining the Neva River and nearby canals. Our tour of the 'Venice of the North' will include a visit to the Peter & Paul Fortress, which is the oldest building in the city and was built in 1703 to protect the city against invasion from Sweden. It is, however, most famous for being a political prison up until 1917 and inmates such as Gorky and Trotsky spent time imprisoned here. After time for lunch, we'll visit the Winter Palace which houses The Hermitage, one of the world's greatest museums. During our tour of the Palace and the Museum we'll marvel at the rich art work on display including porcelain and tapestry, the amazing Peacock Clock and a collection of masterpieces by such great painters as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, El Greco, Gainsborough, Picasso, Van Gogh and Kandinsky, to name but a few! The Hermitage has more than 3 million exhibits so at the conclusion of our guided tour some of us may wish to further explore the vast rooms of this incredible museum before we return to our hotel. This evening we'll enjoy dinner in one of our favourite family-run restaurants. (BD)
Day 21 - Friday 21 September
St Petersburg - Excursion to Petergof
This morning our local guide will accompany us to the town of Petergof (known as Petrodvorets during the Soviet era), which is home to one of St. Petersburg's most famous and popular visitor attractions, Peterhof , or 'Peter's Court'. Peter the Great was fascinated by the West and took on many of its customs in his court. He played an active role in the layout and design of the Palace and Gardens, which he started in 1714, so western European influence abounds in the complex, often referred to as the 'Russian Versailles'. We'll tour the Palace and then we'll have time to view the fountains and explore the magnificent gardens at our own pace before using a Meteor hydrofoil to cruise back to St Petersburg via the waterways of the Gulf of Finland and the River Neva. Later this afternoon there'll be time to further enjoy this beautiful city at our leisure.
Perhaps complete some last minute shopping, take in some more historic sites, simply stroll around and admire the beautiful architecture, or just relax in our hotel. As tonight is our last night together, we'll enjoy a farewell dinner, with lively entertainment, at a renowned St Petersburg restaurant! (BD)
Day 22 - Saturday 22 September
Departure St Petersburg
All good things must come to an end and after 22 wonderful days, it's time to bid farewell to this amazing journey. Our tour ends after breakfast with private transfers to St Petersburg International Airport for onward journeys. Those of us joining EuroVista's 'The Baltic States and the Essence of Central Europe' 16-Day tour will be transferred as a group to St Petersburg International Airport for our flight to Tallinn. Guests who remain in St Petersburg and stay at the EuroVista hotel will receive a complimentary transfer to the Airport on the day of their departure. (B)




Note: The above itinerary is subject to change necessitated by any change in Community regulations as well as changes by Government and/or local operators and natural circumstances beyond our control.