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GRBS - Great Rail Explorer

From Beijing, it's just over 12,000 kilometres to St Petersburg. Along the way, walk on China's Great Wall, enjoy Almaty in the shadow of the mighty Tien Shan Mountains and follow the great Silk Road to the ancient cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.


Group size
Tour Provider Sundowners Overland
Number of Days
Price From
AUD $10,950
Start Location
Beijing, China
End Location
St Petersburg, China
Age Range
Avg. 40+
Group Size
1 to 15
Tour Style
Tour Themes
Physical Rating
Tour departure dates
16 Jun 201919 Jul 2019guaranteedAUD $10,950
14 Jul 201916 Aug 2019availableAUD $11,200
18 Aug 201920 Sep 2019guaranteedAUD $11,320
22 Sep 201925 Oct 2019guaranteedAUD $11,450
14 Jun 202017 Jul 2020availableAUD $11,450
12 Jul 202014 Aug 2020availableAUD $11,450
16 Aug 202018 Sep 2020availableAUD $11,450
20 Sep 202023 Oct 2020availableAUD $11,450
Days 1-3: Beijing
In Beijing you can use your free time to walk through the hutongs to see a traditional lifestyle which is fast disappearing. There's Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven; as well as the Great Wall beyond the capital which we will visit on your first full day.
Day 4: All aboard the Trans Mongolian Railway
Beyond Beijing and the Great Wall lies Asia's largest desert, the Gobi and to cross it by train is a great rail adventure in itself. After views of northern China, the train changes bogies at Erlian to cater for the wider rail gauge used in Mongolia and Russia. Dawn aboard the train reveals the wilderness of the Gobi, later merging into the ger-dotted steppe, home of the hardy Mongolian nomads whose lives have changed little since the legendary Genghis Khan.
Day 5: Ulaanbaatar
We arrive in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. This quirky city is a clash of the old and new, where modern life comfortably cxists with traditional culture. A night in Ulaanbaatar will allow you to sample some of the country's most intriguing cuisine and perhaps take in a performance showcasing the traditional Horse and Hair Fiddle.
Day 6: Terelj National Park
We spend tonight beyond the city amongst what was once the homeland of the brilliant, tough, well-drilled horsemen who, for over 500 years in the 13th century, plundered and occupied lands from the Yellow River to the Danube. Here we can enjoy aspects of Mongolian nomadic life when we stay in traditional gers.
Day 7: Return to Ulaanbaatar and Trans Mongolian Railway
Day 7: Return to Ulaanbaatar and Trans Mongolian RailwayReturning to Ulaanbaatar we visit the gigantic Genghis Khan Statue Museum, before our afternoon departure aboard the Trans Mongolian Railway.
Day 8: To Irkutsk and Lake Baikal
Arriving into Irkutsk mid-afternoon you continue your journey out to Lake Baikal, reputedly the world's deepest lake, where you will be amazed by its vastness being over 600km long and almost 80km wide. A stay at the local holiday village of Listvyanka, is an ideal way to relax by the lakeshore and take in the local museums.
Day 9: Irkutsk
Over 300 rivers flow into Lake Baikal, the world's largest and deepest freshwater lake, but only the Angara flows out and on its banks is the city of Irkutsk. Founded as a Cossack garrison in the 1600's, Irkutsk flourished on the trade route from China and was known as the 'Paris of Siberia'. Today, some of the gloss may have faded but Irkutsk remains a welcoming city.
Days 10-11: Irkutsk and to Novosibirsk
Late afternoon of Day 10 we join the Trans Siberian Railway and skirt massive Lake Baikal en route to Novosibirsk.
Day 12: Arrive Novosibirsk
Late in the evening your train pulls into Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia and junction for the Trans Siberian and Turkestan Siberia Railway lines, connecting the city to Central Asia and the Caspian Sea ports.
Days 13-14: Novosibirsk to Almaty
After our time in Novosibirsk, travel via the Turkestan Siberia Railway through spectacular mountains and the Dzungarian Gate, south across the Kazak steppe 1700km to Almaty, in the foothills of the Zailisky Alatau mountains.
Days 29-30: Welcome to Moscow!
Moscow is an exciting city, which has shed its dour, secretive and suspicious past. Today, stores with expensive designer-label goods and prestige cars are everywhere. Take time to see Red Square with St. Basil's Cathedral, the GUM department store and the Kremlin just steps away.
Days 26-28: Farewell Uzbekistan, Hello Russia!
This evening it's time to leave Central Asia and board your train which will carry you 3800 kilometres across the Kazak steppe, through cotton crops, desert and grasslands to Moscow's Kazan Station. Sit back and enjoy the ever-changing landscapes flicker past your train window.
Day 25: Tashkent
Day 25: TashkentArriving into the capital early this morning allows us ample time to explore old and new Tashkent. We make our way beyond the city to Chigman Mountains. This is an outdoor haven where you can enjoy hiking, adventure sports or just relax and breathe in the fresh air.
Day 24: Return to Tashkent
Today we visit Sitoria Mokhi-Khosa Palace the residence of the last Emir of Bukhara, and Nashbandi Memorial Complex before boarding our overnight train returning to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.
Day 15: Almaty
Situated at the crossroads of Central Asia, today in Almaty modern skyscrapers, glitzy shopping malls, mosques, Soviet-style official buildings and traditional Russian Orthodox churches vie for attention with the Islamic-inspired Kok Tobe communications tower, and the majestic snow covered Tien Shan Mountains in the background.
Days 18-20: Samarkand
Leaving Tashkent you will be whisked off to the fabled city of Samarkand, the great Silk Road town at the crossroads from China, India and Persia. Conquered by Alexander the Great and razed by Genghis Khan, the city was rebuilt by Tamerlane and his grandson Ulug Bek. No city is so evocative of the Silk Road as 'golden' Samarkand and the Registan is simply the most spectacular architectural ensemble in Central Asia. Made up of three madrassas (place of learning) and a mosque, this beautiful square is inspiring. Other highlights include the Shah-i-Zinda, with its narrow alleys of tombs and mausoleums, Bibi Khanym Mosque and the Ulug Bek Observatory.
Day 17: Tashkent
Welcome to the capital of Uzbekistan, the gateway to Central Asia. A city that cleverly juggles its cultural and historical past, the Soviet era's impact and modern day lifestyles.
Day 16: Almaty and to Tashkent
After a full day to explore Almaty you farewell Kazakhstan to travel overland to Tashkent.
Day 31: Moscow and to St. Petersburg
See the Kremlin itself visiting the Armoury Chamber with its incredible collection of amazing pieces including over fifty Faberge eggs! Late evening, we board our final train bound for the stunning 'Venice of the North', St. Petersburg.
Days 21-23: To Bukhara via Shahrizabz
After a morning of further exploration, a spectacular drive through the Zerafshan Mountains takes us to Shakhrisabz, the birthplace of Tamerlane. Beside the ruined entrance towers of his Ak-Serai palace, the pretty market town offers a relaxed atmosphere with traditional homes, tea houses and mosques. Ancient Bukhara offers you a taste of old Turkestan with its 1000 year old monuments and historic centre. Explore the old city and bazaar, the Ark Fortress, Kalyan Minaret and the Samanid Mausoleum before relaxing in the Chaikhanas (tea-houses) around the refreshing pool of Lyabi-Hauz.
Days 32-34: St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg was Russia's capital from its founding by Peter the Great in 1712 until the revolution in 1917, it flourished under the reign of Catherine the Great and today is resplendent with wide boulevards and attractive canals. Be sure to see St. Isaac's Cathedral, lavishly decorated palaces from opulent tsarist times and wonderful museums allow plenty of time for the Hermitage. It's a perfect end to enjoy a journey of a lifetime.