Days 1-2: Moscow
Arrive in Moscow and meet your fellow adventurers. Get acquainted with Russia as you take in iconic sights like the Kremlin, St Basils Cathedral, and Red Square. Hop on the dazzling metro system to visit an embalmed Lenin or head to Zarayade Park for a sweet view over the city's impressive skyline. Take a stroll through the city to marvel at the extraordinary architecture or ask your Honcho for help organising a Soviet tour. It's one way to get into the Russian psyche before you board the Trans Siberian. Discover a buzzing nightlife, from live music to underground dance parties to casual ping-pong bars. Whatever your niche, you'll find it in Moscow.
Days 3-5: Trans Siberian Railway
Welcome aboard, it's time to enjoy your first taste of life on the rails. This is a good opportunity to make friends with your group and plan what you'd like to see and do at Lake Baikal and beyond. Grab your phrasebook and try out some new words on locals. With a little inventive sign language over shared provisions, you'll make friends in no time. Watch out the window as you pass the Ural Mountains and over the vast expanse of Siberia and imagine what life is like for those that call it home. The train will pull in at rural stations along the way, check how long it's staying then hop off and sample homecooked delights from burly babushkas that line the station platform.
Day 6: Lake Baikal
Welcome to the heartland of Siberia. Settle into your shore-side home at Lake Baikal, take a stroll around the water's edge and soak up the scenery. As the largest freshwater lake in the world, it holds 20% of Earth's freshwater and seems to stretch on to an infinite horizon. Take a dip if you're feeling brave, and taste the local cuisine. Omul is a fish endemic to the lake and served up in many ways; smoked, raw and barbequed. Bon Appetit.
Day 7: Irkutsk
Return to Irkutsk. Originally, a winter fur trading post, it became home for revolutionaries and the intelligentsia who were exiled here after the Decembrist Revolt. Today, Irkutsk oozes history and is filled with universities, museums and a signature style of intricately carved wooden architecture.
Day 8: Trans Mongolian Railway
Back on board for your journey to Mongolia; a great chance to contemplate what you've already discovered ahead of the next culture switch. Brush up on some Mongolian words and plan your Terelj activities over a hearty meal from the dining car. Watch out the window as the silvery Siberian light gives way to the verdant steppe, look out for hairy yaks, Bactrian camels and nomadic herders whose settlements dot the landscape.
Day 9: Terelj National Park
Head out to a traditional ger camp in a protected nature reserve. Meet real nomads and see how they live. Their roving traditions haven't changed for hundreds of years, except for the introduction of solar power to light their gers at night. Soak up the stunning surroundings and enjoy a hike in the wilderness. If you want to horse ride across the open steppe or try your hand at archery, your Honcho can help organise this. If a local offers you a drink, it's culturally rude not to accept at least one; this could be homemade vodka, or it could be the local delicacy, fermented mare's milk. Bottoms up!
Day 10: Ulaanbaatar
We return to the bustling city to spend our final night in Mongolia, pausing en route to see the giant statue of the mighty Genghis Khan. See the ruby-robed monks going about their daily lives at Gandan Khiid Monastery, take in the panoramic views from Zaisan Memorial or listen to some traditional Mongolian throat singing a unique sound that has been practised across Mongolia for centuries.
Day 11: Across Mongolia
Say goodbye to marvellous Mongolia as you reboard the train, cutting across the legendary Gobi Desert and on to the Chinese frontier. Take a moment to relax and brace yourself for bustling Beijing. Plan your hit list of must-dos and get ready to taste the eight cuisines of China on one street.
Days 12-13: Beijing
Welcome to China! Check out the Forbidden City for a window into Imperial times, sink your teeth into Chinese culture as you people watch in Tiananmen Square and explore the hutong neighbourhoods. Many of these ancient alleys have been around since the 13th Century a time when Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty. Test out your haggling skills and try local delicacies at colourful markets you'll find a mind-boggling array of options speared on sticks or squished in buns - from deep fried insects to candied fruits and everything in between!
Note: Upon your arrival in Beijing, please meet your Honcho outside the first ticket-checking point, not on the platform.
Extend your experience: Spend a couple more days immersing yourself in Beijing, take a bike ride around the city, and marvel at the perfect patchwork of old and new, visit the Arts District and feel a bit of Berlin in Beijing. And of course, no visit would be complete without a wander along the Great Wall.