Days 1-2: Moscow
Meet your fellow adventurers and let the journey begin! For the immediate WOW factor, begin in Red Square. Visit the fantastical St. Basils, part fairytale palace, part gingerbread creation. Napoleon tried to blow it up, as the psychedelic masterpiece offended the Frenchman's architectural sensibilities. From here, walk in any direction, and you'll discover more jaw-dropping wonders, including, the Kremlin, Lenin's Tomb, the State Museum and the GUM department store.
Witness the dazzling underground palaces that they call the metro and chill out in Zaryadye or Gorky Park before partying Russian style. You'll find interesting cuisine, from traditional dishes to those with Georgian and Asian influence. Sample a serving of vodka and pickles a classic aperitive to an evening out. There's plenty to keep you up all night with live music, wine bars and sweaty dance clubs.
Days 3-4: To Suzdal
Climb aboard for your first Russian train experience. Get to know your group and enjoy a moment's rest before hopping off in Suzdal. The picturesque town was Russia's capital long before Moscow was conceived. Wander around the fabulous architecture before relaxing in a banya (a traditional sauna with an optional birch branch bashing). Sample the local cuisine including a golden drop of Medovukha a sweet mead made from honey.
Day 5: To Kazan
Drive to the medieval town of Murom to meet your onward train to the capital of Tatarstan. Study up on some Russian words and plan what you'd like to do when you arrive in Kazan. Don't be afraid to say hello to the locals; it's amazing how a little inventive sign language can foster new friendships.
Day 6: Kazan
Encounter a different side of Russia. Kazan is the home of the Tatars a Turkic people native to the region and Russia's second largest ethnicity. Experience the cultural differences through the architecture, food and faces in this vibrant city. Visit the central market to people watch and taste some local produce. Take a stroll down bustling Bauman Street to feast on Tatar cuisine or chill in one of the many cafes and bars. Remember, your Honcho is a young local, whatever you fancy, they'll be able to show you the best entertainment; from cosy coffee houses, live music venues, electro clubs to wild party bars (seriously, Coyote Ugly is a real place here).
Days 7-9: Trans Siberian Railway
Back on board and this time we traverse Siberia. Settle into life on board as you watch the stunning scenery transform outside your window. Hang with your group in the dining car and plan what activities you might want to do once you arrive at Lake Baikal. Brush up on some Russian and try it out on unsuspecting locals. The train will make minor stops along the way, ask how long it's staying before you hop off and devour homecooked delights from babushkas (basically, your nan).
Days 10-11: Lake Baikal
Welcome to the heartland of Siberia and home of another diverse culture, the Buryats. Soak up the sensational scenery, Baikal is renowned for having the clearest water in the world. Hike around the shores and try the local delicacy, Omul. You can try the delicious whitefish raw, smoked or barbequed. Ask your Honcho to help organise water sports or ice activities. Depending on the time of year, you can sail, fish, kayak, swim, ride or race over the frozen surface on snowmobiles.
Day 12: Irkutsk and to Ulan Ude
A town of two tales, Irkutsk began life as a trading outpost and underwent its own revolution when nobility from St. Petersburg were exiled here for their part in the Decembrist Revolt of 1825. The influx of artists, academics and elites created a thriving cultural hub. Today, it's a bustling uni town with a unique style of wooden architecture, well worth a wander before you take an evening train to Ulan Ude.
Day 13: Ulan Ude
Welcome to the Republic of Buryatia, the original home of the Buryats. Cossacks settled here in the 17th Century, and it became a bustling trade centre connecting Russia with China and Mongolia. During Soviet times, Buddhism suffered more than other religions. Many were forced to flee or risked being accusations of being a Japanese spy.
Ask your Honcho about organising a trip to the Old Believers Village. See the wonderful colourful houses, traditional dress and enjoy a hearty meal with your hilarious hosts. The singing, dancing and infectious joy of the people will leave you grinning from ear to ear. Fancy something free? Take in the giant Lenin head in the centre of town; it's a popular meeting place for locals and a great spot to soak up Ulan Ude's different pace of life.
Day 14: To Ulaanbaatar
Climb on board and get ready for your first border crossing. Contemplate what you've already discovered in Russia - the diverse cultures, the fascinating architecture, the complex history and the wonderful people. Relax on board as you leave the silvery light of Siberia for the green and gold grasslands of Mongolia. Plan what activities you might like to do once on the wide-open steppe, and brush up on a brand-new language.
Day 15: Ulaanbaatar
Enjoy a day exploring the capital before heading into the wilderness. Start at the Zaisan Memorial to get a great view over the sprawling city; a skyline of Soviet blocks, Buddhist temples and ger suburbs ringed by empty grasslands for hundreds of miles in every direction. You could visit the National History Museum to get acquainted with the region's history and culture or visit the ruby-robed monks at Gandantegchinlen Monastery. Get a taste of Khan life with a wander around the Winter Palace of Bogd Khan.
Day 16: Bayangobi
Experience your first night as a nomad as we travel out to the Gobi Desert. Settle into your ger camp and enjoy a night under a twinkling canopy of stars. Surrounded by mountains, rivers and grasslands, keep your eyes peeled for foxes, deer, wolves and eagles as you hike part of the Mongol Els, an 80km stretch of colossal dunes.
Days 17-18: Kharkhorin
As we visit the ground where Genghis Khan was chosen as the next great leader, it's possible you could walk in his actual footsteps. One of the biggest drawcards to the region is the earliest surviving Buddhist Monastery in Mongolia. Erdene Zuu was constructed in 1585 after a meeting with the 3rd Dalai Lama, beginning a declaration of Tibetan Buddhism as the state religion. Between Mongol wars and Soviet purges, it's a shadow of its former self, yet still an impressive sight.
Enjoy another night in a ger camp, this time, learn how to build one yourself. Mongols are a roving race and may move their homes up to four times a year, in search of greener pastures for their animals. With a collection of wood, felt and tarp, you'll have it up in no time.
Day 19: Ulaanbaatar
We make our way back to the city lights, for a final day to soak up the local culture. Head out to the enormous statue of Genghis Khan before celebrating your final night with a feast of traditional cuisine and a tasty brew, like Crazy Shaman IPA at Hop & Rocks Brewery Mongolia's first ever producer of craft beer. Night owls will find plenty to keep them up; from live music venues, beer gardens and chill bars, to pulsing clubs and luxury lounges, or if you have the cash, experience Mongolian Throat Singing at the Tumen-Ekh Ensemble - regarded as the best theatre to catch an authentic folk performance in Ulaanbaatar.
Day 20: Ulaanbaatar to Beijing
Travel over the steppe of Mongolia, then south across the fringes of the Gobi Desert where nomadic settlements, yaks and camels dot the landscape. As you glide along the Trans Mongolian line, contemplate what you've learned about modern Mongolians a rich cultural heritage that's endured for centuries, yet on the cusp of being lost as nomadic families descend upon the capital in search of contemporary opportunities. Prep yourself with a third language and get ready to feel the pulse of an immense city.
Days 21-23: Beijing
You've done it! You've just travelled 7,865 km across three diverse countries. We'd say that's worth celebrating. You've got 2 nights and 3 days to explore Beijing's concoction of ancient, imperial and modern culture as well as taste your way around the eight national cuisines. Perhaps begin in a different era and explore the Forbidden City, then thrust forward again in Tiananmen Square and the many colourful markets especially those steaming and sizzling with tasty flavours and peculiar treats. Jump on a rickshaw or bicycle to the Hutong district; these ancient alleyways have been here since Kublai Khan established his capital here, yup Beijing used to be Mongolian.
Spend one day exploring the Great Wall. It's massive so pick your spot normally the further you go, the less tourists you'll see, but each part offers something unique. Ask yourself what you'd prefer; cable cars and toboggans (Mutianyu), ancient battle sites (Gubeikou), the steepest incline (Jiankou), the most picturesque section (Jinshanling or Huangyaguan), lit up at night (Simatai), or where the wall meets the sea (Shanhai Pass). Decisions, decisions.
Note: Upon your arrival in Beijing, please meet your Honcho outside the first ticket-checking point, not on the platform.
Extend your experience: Visit historic Xian for Taoist temples, Terracotta Warriors and a taste of the Silk Road.