Trans-Siberian and Mongolia tour, westbound
Description of Trans-Siberian and Mongolia tour, westbound
Forget the morning commute, this is a train journey that is ambitious, exciting and thoroughly out of the ordinary. This 16-day journey will cross continents and time zones, beginning in Beijing, then travelling through the wild, untamed wildernesses of Mongolia, to meet its historically nomadic people. Leave Asia behind as you cross into Siberia for some traditional hospitality and extraordinary natural landscapes in Lake Baikal and then on into Russia, ending your journey in its capital Moscow.
Travelling out of Beijing, watch the scenery change from urban to rocky desert, and then rolling green meadows as you enter the relative time warp of Mongolia. Discover the capital Ulaanbaatar, where you’ll find elderly Mongolians in traditional dress, business suit-clad entrepreneurs and young monks. Explore the city before discovering the unique Mongolian countryside in Terelj National Park. Think rolling meadows dotted with munching yaks, forested hills and imposing rock formations. Sleep in a ger camp here, and learn to cook buuz – traditional Mongolian dumplings!
Ulan Ude is another highlight, surrounded by vast, boundless steppes and alpine forests. The city is an ethnic and spiritual mix of Euro-Russian, Mongolian, and Buryat cultures. At the Old Believers Village here, established by orthodox Christians who fled European Russia centuries ago, you’ll discover a way of life that has changed very little since the 18th century. From here you drive to Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world and a new destination on the tourist map, where you can hike, swim or take a boat trip.
Obviously, you need to be ready for long days of travelling, both on and off the train, since you’re covering a vast landscape. You’ll spend three nights on the Trans-Siberian Railway, from Ulan Ude to Kungur, a pretty, provincial Russian town with lovely architecture. Simply settle into the rhythm and enjoy the ever-changing scenery, your book, or chatting with your fellow travellers. You travel in 2nd class carriages, where conditions are simple but comfortable, providing an authentic experience and a chance to meet, and travel like, the locals. On overnight trains, four people from your group share compartments, and there is a bathroom in every carriage with a sink and cold water. Off the train, accommodation is basic, staying in ger camps, local guesthouses and homestays with simple facilities. This is a real and authentic adventure, crossing continents and revealing vast, unchanged landscapes and fascinating history.
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1 Reviews of Trans-Siberian and Mongolia tour, westbound
Reviewed on 14 May 2017 by Rachel Guinee
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The Mongolian ger camp was wonderful. ...the local guides Tuya and
Nimo were terrific and made the Mongolian stop off great. Lake Baikal was also amazing...great fun with the sauna and jumping in the freezing river..standing on the frozen lake...beautiful and memorable. The entire train journey was special and being escorted by a brilliant guide was just the best way to feel safe yet given every opportunity to meet and interact with travellers from everywhere, learn new languages and it made for a fascinating insight into these less travelled places.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Read some online information on travelling the trans siberian express. I got some good tips there on what to take, what to eat, what type of bags to take (wheelie suitcase actually ) plus small ruck sack as train corridors are tight and steps to platforms steep so need to be able to manage your own stuff. Be prepared for some hard beds but all linen and bedding was lovely. Be prepared for the toilets in China and along the way..it's not pretty but you'll manage and all part of a real adventure.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
All inclusive parts of the trip were very local and superb. Local guides and even cafes opened just for us on request so we were able to use small local places much of the time. It was a 2 way experience for us and all we met along the way..we were not just tourists.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Excellent. ..loved it all!
PlanetThis trip is an epic journey traversing 3 national and through areas that area rarely visited by tourists. In particular this trip exposes the outer reaches of rural Mongolia and the vast taiga of Siberia, as well as the grandness of the huge cities of Beijing, Moscow and St Petersburg.
We provide all travellers with reusable bags in order to avoid waste and encourage use of “tea flasks” for drinking water (or tea, like the locals do!) so as not to purchase multiple plastic bottles.
There are a lot of small things that we can do to make a difference for the region we travel through. While we are at Lake Baikal, the deepest fresh water lake in the world, we’ll go and pick up the garbage along the shore of the lake to help protect this amazingly beautiful nature. While on the train, the train attendant can provide glass cups (coming with beautiful Russian style cup holder, a great souvenir) for you to drink tea and coffee so we can avoid using paper or plastic cups. In Mongolia, we should only leave our footprint behind when we visit Terelj National Park and stay overnight in the Ger camp by taking out our garbage.
There are quite a few trains that we’ll take on this journey, and it’s encouraged to share the snacks/food we buy so that we don’t created as much wasted packaging.
We include informal local language lessons to give our travellers a head start into understanding the culture and communicating with the people we meet along the way.
When taking trains we travel 2nd or 3rd class (kupe or platzkart) which is the way the majority of locals travel - this gives us maximum chance to meet and share stories, food, games and the journey with local travellers.
You are accompanied by a leader for the duration of the tour who will be able to help you understand more about the realities of living and travelling in Russia and help to facilitate your interaction with locals along the way. The local guides who take you on excursions and walking tours in each of the places we visit are passionate about their country and allow you to get a real insight into places significant to the history, culture and development of the nation.
During the journey there are numerous opportunities for local interaction and getting to know people. In Mongolia the itinerary takes in the beautiful Terelj National Park for 2 days in this grassland wilderness. The group stays in a traditional Ger camp, where they can experience the lives of nomadic families. The gers sleep up to 4 people with comfy beds and plenty of blankets. In the colder months you might want to stoke up the wood heater in the centre of the ger and you'll be toasty warm in no time!
You'll have the opportunity to support local industries by shopping for food at local farmers markets, buying direct from the babushka's who sell their home produce on the streets or visiting local handicraft stalls; talk to our hosts in our Guesthouse near Lake Baikal to learn about their life the far reaches in Siberia, or learn ginger bread making from our wonderful host family in Kungur.
Through staying in these local guesthouses/camps, we establish a true connection with the locals who welcome us into their life and it’s a very heart-warming experience to get to know these people and their community.
There are also some great projects that you have the option to support through our foundation – Nochlezhka, a local charity that helps the homeless people in St Petersburg (you can donate unwanted clothes or toiletries), Lotus Children’s Home which provides housing and schooling for orphans from the city in Ulaanbaatar, or Huiling school in Beijing, a local NGO that supports the reintegration of mentally challenged people into society.