First you take the Trans-Siberian Railways deep into Siberia, and then you take the Trans-Mongolian Railways from Ulan-Ude. This is an adventurous train journey of around 10.000 kilometre, through seven time zones.
The train follows ancient trade routes, and the Trans-Mongolian part of the railways is laid along the old trade routes of tea traders. In the 19th century, tea was transported from Beijing to Ulan-Ude. In those days, Mongolia was part of China.
The amenities on the train are good, linen is included, and the Samovar (a Russian-Turkish water boiler) is always full of hot water for tea. The carriages are serviced by the provodnik (male) or provodnitsa (female), the train’s attendants.
A few stops along the way:
Moscow: The point of departure, and home of the Red Square, which is worth a visit.
Irkutsk: Also known as the Paris of Siberia.
Taltsy Open-Air Museum: Famous museum near Irkutsk.
Lake Baikal: This world-famous lake is definitely worth a stop. You can walk around here, or take a boat onto the lake. You can also visit the Baikal Open-Air Museum showcasing the traditional wooden houses of Siberia.
Crossing into Mongolia…
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park: A great place to spend the night in a yurt, also known as a ger. You’ll meet the locals here, which is a special experience. This national park is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscapes and fields full of the famous edelweiss flowers. It’s also a great place to go horse riding.
Ulaanbaatar: This is the capital of Mongolia. The Gandantegchinlen Monastery and the museum of natural history with many dinosaur skeletons are two famous places to visit.
Over the border into China…
Datong: Interesting places to visit are the famous Yingxian Wooden Pagoda (Pagoda of Fogong Temple) and the hanging temple. Also worth a visit are the Yungang Grottoes, Shanhua Temple, and Nine-Dragon Wall.
Beijing: Besides Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, you must really see the Great Wall. You will have seen it and crossed over it a few times during your train journey.
This journey takes you from Moscow to Beijing, via Irkutsk, Ulaanbaatar and Datong in around three weeks. You can get off at many different stops along the way and spend a few days. Make sure you’ve got lots of time, in Mongolia especially.