Retracing one of the most important trading routes of ancient civilisation, this remarkable tour follows in the footsteps of such legendary figures as Alexander the Great and Marco Polo.
Crossing both Russia and China as well as some of the remotest former Soviet republics – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – our journey will take in some of the most magnificent yet little-visited sights from the ancient world. Eastbound trips start in Russia’s capital Moscow (westbound trips end here), where we have plenty of time to explore. We travel on to Volgograd – better known as Stalingrad – where the Soviets turned the course of the Second World War, before heading to far remoter places that owe their importance to a time much further back in history.
The Kara Kum desert is followed by the amazing 2,500 year-old cities of Khiva and Bukhara – considered so important by UNESCO that it supported their restoration – as well as Samarkand, the ‘Rome of the East’. Much admired by Alexander the Great, Samarkand is home to Registan Square, a spectacular open space surrounded by beautiful Islamic buildings and considered one of the most inspirational sights in central Asia. In between Khiva and Bukhara we take a two-day excursion into Turkmenistan and visit the capital city of Ashgabat, a huge modern folly in the desert and a monument to the recently deceased President Sapamurat Turkmenbashi. We also visit the ancient city of Merv before returning to Uzbekistan.
After crossing the border into China, our tour takes in the fascinating Magao Thousand Buddha cave complex (a network of almost 500 grottoes containing over 2,000 statues and 45,000 murals created up to 1,700 years ago), the Jiayuguan fortress at the end of the Great Wall (considered one of northern China’s most spectacular sights) and the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, an army of almost 6,000 statues recognised as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th Century. We end our journey in Beijing, the vibrant capital of modern, confident China… where the latest architecture rubs shoulders with Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
|Tour Duration||:||22 days|
|Min. Tour Size||:||N/A|
|Max. Tour Size||:||N/A|
|Includes international air|
|Tour Price (from)||:||US$|
Day 01: Arrive Moscow (RUSSIA)
Upon arrival at Moscow Airport you will be met and transferred to the five-star Marriott Royal Aurora hotel (or similar). Located in Moscow city centre, and within walking distance of Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre, this luxury hotel offers spacious accommodation with butler service for each guest room – the only hotel in Moscow to offer this fine service. We enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel, whilst you meet your fellow travellers and, together, look forward to the 21 day voyage that lies ahead. Why not extend your stay in Moscow with additional nights to explore more of the city at your leisure or have time to take in a performance at the world-renowned Bolshoi Theatre? Tickets need to be pre-booked and are subject to schedule and availability.
Day 02: Moscow – Freedom of Choice Touring
Our touring programme of Moscow today principally takes us to the grandeur of the Kremlin – the spiritual, historical and political heart of Moscow – and to see the treasures of the Tsars in the Armoury Chamber. We also visit Red Square, an iconic symbol of Russia’s former military and political might with its eclectic mix of fascinating architecture, such as the ornate St Basil’s Cathedral’s magnificent onion-domed spires, the beautiful fac?ade of the world famous GUM department store, constructed in Tsarist times, and the sombre and evocative site of Lenin’s tomb. With our Freedom of Choice touring option you may instead wish to travel out of the city centre to Sergiev Posad, home to one of the most beautiful monasteries in Russia and the historical and spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church or visit the famous State Tretyakov Gallery (National Museum of Fine Art).
Day 03: On Board
On the morning of Day 3, we board the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express. Upon arrival at Moscow Kazansky Station, you will be greeted in the magnificent Imperial Waiting Room with a cold glass of Russian Champagne and canapes as you mix with the other guests and are welcomed by the train staff. The excitement in the waiting room audibly mounts and, 30 minutes before departure, yuor car attendants will escort you to Platform 1 where a military brass band is playing and the Golden Eagle awaits. Our Golden Eagle train, on selected departures, will be hauled by a Russian steam locomotive for the first section of the journey. With the opportunity to photograph the locomotive in Moscow Kazansky Station it makes for an unforgettable way to start your journey onboard Russia’s premier train, the Golden Eagle. After settling into our modern, stylish cabins we enjoy dinner in one of the beautifully designed restaurant cars as our rail journey to Beijing begins.
Day 04: Volgograd
Standing on the banks of the Volga, Stalingrad, as the city was known in Soviet times, was the dramatic scene of some the most important Second World War battles. The Russians heroically turned back the Nazi advance here to alter the course of the war. We visit the poignantly sobering Mamayev Kurgan war memorial, followed by the informative 3D diorama and absorbing museum visit. In the evening we enjoy a beautifully prepared dinner on board our private train.
Day 05: Kara Kum (KAZAKHSTAN)
Today, we enjoy a relaxing day onboard as we travel across the vast expanses of the Kara Kum desert. As well as experiencing the unique landscape, we can take the opportunity to chat to fellow passengers and maybe take our first Russian language lesson.
Day 06: Khiva (UZBEKISTAN)
Crossing into Uzbekistan, our train travels towards Urgench, where we transfer to the ancient city of Khiva, founded 2,500 years ago. As one of the Silk Road’s most important trading posts and now a World Heritage Site, it lies at the crossroads of the routes between Mongolia, Russia, China and Persia. A truly magnificent sight to behold, it rises out of the desert to reveal a wealth of impressive architecture. Stepping back in time, we discover its impressive mosques, bazaars and minarets within Khiva’s ancient walls, restored with support from UNESCO. Lunch and dinner are served onboard our train.
Day 07: Ashgabat (TURKMENISTAN)
Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan is known as the ‘Las Vegas of the Kara Kum’. Situated between the Kara Kum desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range, Ashgabat is a relatively modern city built upon the ruins of the Silk Road city of Konjikala and the Soviet city built after the devastating earthquake of 1948. The city’s extravagant fountains, golden domes and towering modern buildings appear strangely incongruous in this desert setting. Highlights on our visit include a visit to the National Museum and Kipchak Mosque.
Day 08: Merv
Early morning sees us arrive in Mary, where we transfer to the ancient city of Merv. Once an important stopping point on the Silk Road, it claims to have briefly been the largest city in the world during the twelfth century. 1794 saw the demise of Merv, after the Emir of Bukhara destroyed the dam which the population depended on for its water. After our fascinating exploration we return to our train for dinner.
Day 09: Bukhara (UZBEKISTAN)
Bukhara is quite simply outstanding. Like Khiva, UNESCO funded the renovation of much of the city for its 2,500th anniversary in 1999. The highlight of this wonderful tour is a visit to The Ark, a fortified residence of the Emirs of Bukhara - the despotic and ruthless leaders who ruled until Soviet times. Lunch is taken within a stunningly ornate medresseh (beautifully tiled Islamic school). We then travel out of the city to experience the Emir’s enchantingly named, Palace of the Moon and Stars.
Day 10: Samarkand
Just the mention of Samarkand instantly conjures up evocative images of the Silk Road, more so than any other town. Founded in the 6th century BC, Samarkand’s stunning architecture hints at its former status as one of the most important cities in Asia and is particularly noted for its architectural remains from the 14th to the 17th century, when it flourished as the fabled capital of the Mongol empire of Timur and his successors. Today we will visit some of its most significant sites including Registan Square, the refined elegance of the beautifully proportioned Bibi Khanum Mosque and the Ulag Beg observatory, one of the earliest Islamic astronomical observatories built in 1428. Before dinner we will return to the now illuminated and awe-inspiring Registan Square.
Day 11: Tashkent
Tashkent is the capital city of Uzbekistan and we spend time touring this modern Soviet-style city, which was rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1966. Our tour of the city includes the Old Town, where traditional homes and religious buildings line the narrow streets and here in a small library we’ll be privileged to see one of Islam’s most sacred relics – the world’s oldest Koran. This is followed by a visit to the Railway Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts.
Day 12: Almaty (KAZAKHSTAN)
Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan and is notable for its wide tree-lined boulevards. Surrounded by the majesty of the Tien Shan Mountains, this beautifully verdant city derives its name from ‘alma’ meaning ‘apple’. Just a short distance from the city, apple orchards thrive in abundance. Our city tour includes a visit to Panfilov Park where we have the opportunity to visit the Zenkhov Cathedral, which was built entirely of wood. We’ll also go out of the city to the Chimbulak resort, where a cable car ride will give you spectacular views of Almaty and the mountains.
Day 13: Crossing into CHINA
As we arrive at the Kazakh border of Druzhba, we bid the Golden Eagle a final farewell. The border crossing takes 5 hours but our patience is rewarded as the Shangri-La Express private train awaits us in Alanshankou. We are now at liberty to settle into our comfortable cabins as we head further into the intriguing landscape of China. A welcome dinner is served in the restaurant cars, giving us our first taste of authentic Chinese cuisine.
Day 14: Turpan
Turpan is the location where the Flaming Mountains create a magnificent backdrop. We take a fascinating tour to the ancient underground irrigation system that has successfully fed the rich orchards and vineyards for centuries. We will also visit the Museum of Turpan with its 5,000 artefacts detailing the rich history of the area and includes the Ancient Mummy exhibition with exhibits dating back 3,200 years. Our final destination is the elegantly decaying sand fortress city of Jiaohe that was founded in 108 BC and became an important trading route along the Silk Road until it was abandoned in the 13th century following a raid by Genghis Khan.
Day 15: Dunhuang
In the small oasis city of Dunhuang we will visit the fascinating Magao Thousand Buddha Cave Complex. This impressive site contains almost 500 grottoes, carved between 700 and 1,700 years ago. Inside we will see an amazing collection of beautiful sculptures and murals depicting the evolution of Buddhist religious art over this 1,000 year period. We stay for one night at the Silk Road Dunhuang hotel and tonight we experience dinner and a local folk performance in this magical setting.
Day 16: Dunhuang
We wake early this morning to experience sunrise over the magnificent sand dunes, followed by breakfast. Today we will explore the vast natural beauty of the Gobi desert by camel. Here we discover Crescent Lake. Hidden amongst towering sand dunes, it has sustained life in this region for millennia.
Day 17: Xian
Our fascinating journey of discovery takes us to Xian. We will have several hours to explore the world famous Terracotta Warriors, discovered by peasants only 40 years ago. The 6,000 terracotta figures and their horses are one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. Alternatively, as part of our Freedom of Choice programme we will offer a visit to the Han Yangling Museum. This tomb, dating back 2,000 years with its adjoining museum, is one of China’s best kept secrets. Tonight we stay overnight at the centrally located Sofitel Xian and enjoy the Tang Dynasty Dinner, Music and Dance Show, a wonderful performance of ancient entertainment.
Day 18: Xian
Following breakfast at the hotel we will admire the city’s historical architecture on a cycle along the ancient city walls and experience the bustling street culture of the Muslim Quarter with a visit to the Great Mosque. Later this afternoon we depart Xian onboard the Shangri-La Express headed for our final destination, Beijing.
Day 19: Beijing
Spending the last day onboard the Shangri-La Express we wind our way northwards towards the capital of China, Beijing. Having travelled a mammoth 7,000 miles (11,250kms) from Moscow we bid farewell to our train crew and transfer to the five-star Regent Hotel for a three-night stay. This luxurious Beijing hotel is minutes from the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing shopping street, the Oriental Plaza and picturesque hutongs (old lanes).
Day 20: Beijing
In our extensive touring program of the Imperial City, we visit Tiananmen Square and explore the magnificently restored Forbidden City which was built in the early 14th century and was home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Our cultural exploration continues at the Temple of Heaven, built during the Ming Dynasty to offer sacrifices to the heavens, which is the grandest of the four great temples situated in Beijing. Here we experience enchanting displays of traditional dancing, singing and the delicately precise ancient art of calligraphy. We’ll also explore the small ‘hutong’lanes of old Beijing by rickshaw and visit a local family in a traditional courtyard house. Alternatively, with our Freedom of Choice touring programme we provide a number of options including a tour to Cuandixia ancient village, nestled in the mountains 90kms (56 miles) west of Beijing. Cuandixia is known for its architecture and the natural beauty of the area. It is home to more than 500 well preserved courtyard houses dating to the Ming and Qing dynasties. We also offer the fantastic opportunity to visit a Hutong Chinese Cooking School where you can learn the art of cooking authentic Chinese cuisine in a traditional courtyard home.
Day 21: Beijing
During our three-night stay in Beijing we devote one whole day to the most awe-inspiring site in the whole of China – The Great Wall. This amazing edifice is perhaps the most evocative symbol of Chinese skill and precision. Originally built to protect the Chinese Empire from raids by nomadic tribes, it is the longest man-made structure in the world and part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. We have the privilege of walking along a portion of the wall – the perfect opportunity to take some memorable photographs with your fellow guests. We host our exclusive farewell dinner in an authentic Peking Duck restaurant. The banquet will be complemented by specially selected international wines, as with all our meals, as well as a glass of local rice wine also known as ‘firewater’ as befitting this special occasion.
Day 22: Beijing/Departure
Following breakfast, you will be transferred to Beijing Airport for international departures.
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
English Speaking Departures (Please contact us for information on French, German, Italian and Spanish speaking departures).
EASTBOUND: Moscow to Beijing
WESTBOUND: Beijing to Moscow
Tour PriceWe accept payment in US $ (US Dollars), CA $ (Canadian Dollars) or equivalent EURO (for clients outside North America). Bestway Tours & Safaris offers conversion rate protection. Once full payment has been received, and no modification has been made to the tour itinerary, we will honour that rate. For complete payment procedures, please click here
|Category||Per Person on Twin Sharing||Single Rate|
|Silver Class||US$ 24,595||US$ 35,895|
|Gold Class||US$ 30,795||US$ 44,595|
|Imperial Suite||US$ 43,995||On request|
Estimated International Airfare (International airfare is NOT included in this tour)
Please note that this is NOT part of our small group tours.
If you would like to have a tour on dates other than the above ones or with a customised itinerary, please contact us and we will be happy to work out an exclusive program for you.
You may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-604-264-7378. Residents of U.S.A./Canada may call us toll free at 1-800-663-0844.