Days 1-2: St. Petersburg
This unique journey begins in St. Petersburg, Russia's imperial capital, founded by Peter the Great. In the clear winter days, the pastel palaces and frozen canals convey a special charm with their white frosting. St. Petersburg is indeed a unique treasure house of 18th century architecture and the city that best displays the Russian genius for museums.
Join your Tour Leader and fellow travellers on Day 1 at 5:00pm for your Welcome Meeting as detailed on your joining instructions.
Day 3: St. Petersburg and to Moscow
Beyond the city, we find the summer playground of the Tsar's at Pushkin, home to the elaborate Catherine's Palace, famous for its Russian baroque architecture and lavish, gilded interiors. Returning later in the afternoon, we visit the Faberge Museum, housed in the newly-restored Shuvalov Palace, and witness its stunning collection of Imperial eggs firsthand.
Late evening we make our way to the railway station to board our overnight train, and ride the silver ribbons of steel onto Moscow.
Days 4-5: Moscow
At this time of year Moscow is like a page straight out of a fairy tale - the famous Red Square ablaze with bright festive lights and the splendid twirled cupolas of St. Basil's covered in a soft layer of snow, while the imposing face of the Kremlin looks on. Inside the Kremlin walls we will see the impressive Armoury Chamber and two beautiful cathedrals. With the chance to explore the relatively empty streets, full of shimmering ice crystals, seasonal ice rinks and tinsel-cladded birch trees, this truly is the most magical time to explore Russia's capital.2
Days 6-9: Moscow and to Irkutsk
After a day to further explore the city, we join the Trains Siberian Railway for the four-night journey across the Ural Mountains, the divide between Europe and Asia, and over the steel bridges spanning Siberia's nerve system of five thousand rivers, venturing deep into Siberia then onto Irkutsk.4
Day 10: Irkutsk
Old buildings and timeworn mansions lend a beauty to this remote but flourishing city of Irkutsk, sometimes called "The Paris of Siberia". Once the home to exiled aristocrats who participated in the St. Petersburg Decembrists revolt in 1825, Irkutsk became a significant port of call for traders making their way with silks, furs, tea and spices between China, India and European Russia.
Days 11-12: Lake Baikal
Today, we drive to the picturesque village of Listvyanka, right in the heart of a Siberian winter wonderland. Here, beside the shores of the vast Lake Baikal we breathe in the crisp, fresh air in this unspoilt, snow covered haven, exploring the shores of the lake, as well as a traditional troika ride (horse sleigh) and a shot or two of vodka to warm the cockles of the heart.
Day 13: Irkutsk
Return to Irkutsk and see its historic buildings adorned with brightly painted shutters and intricate wooden lace work, from the days when Russian and Polish exiles were banished here, far from Moscow.
Day 14: To Ulaanbaatar
Early this morning we board the Trans Mongolian Railway that will carry us to the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Gaze out your train window to watch the snow-dusted taiga transform into endless rolling steppe. You might even spot your first woolly yak!
Day 15: Ulaanbaatar
Arriving into Ulaanbaatar early this morning, we explore the city, mingle with monks at Gandan Khiid and gain an insight into the history of the city, and the Mongolian people, at the National History Museum. Later, in the evening we have the opportunity to listen to the unique Mongolian Throat singing and enjoy a cultural performance.
Days 16-18: Christmas with the nomads of Terelj National Park
From Ulaanbaatar, we head to the countryside to spend time in warm traditional Mongolian gers, set among spectacular rock formations and wild rolling snow-covered hills in the Terelj National Park. We are privileged to spend Christmas with the Mongolian nomads and their families amongst the pristine snow-covered steppe, preparing a Christmas feast and learning how to make traditional dishes ourselves.
During our stay we will also visit the 13th Century National Park, a living museum that provides a glimpse of life as an ancient Mongol during the time of Genghis Khan. We warm ourselves by the potbelly stoves as we learn about the fascinating nomadic culture.
Days 19: Return to Ulaanbaatar
We return to the bright lights of the city, stopping at Bogd Khan's Summer Palace for a walk through Mongolia's imperial history and a world of puzzles at the fascinating Intellectual Museum, before we spend our final night in Mongolia's capital.
Day 20: Aboard the Trans Mongolian Railway
Rise and shine! It's an early start this morning as you board your final train to China.
Cut through the vast Gobi Desert to the south before pausing for border formalities where the train's bogies are changed and continue onto Beijing
Days 21-25: New Year's in Beijing
What a way to celebrate Christmas and New Year!