If your eyes light up at the mere mention of legendary travel destinations, then read on! Take a moment to imagine yourself in a comfortable seat, staring down over the breathtaking landscapes rushing past the window. Feel yourself relaxing as you listen to the gentle purring of the mythical train’s engine. Welcome aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway…
Moscow-Vladivostok or Saint Petersburg-Beijing?
Let us begin with a small yet important detail. The words “Trans-Siberian” do not refer to the name of the train, but in fact to the transcontinental Russian railway network used by a number of different trains. You may also not know that this line is the longest in the world, stretching almost 6,000 miles across Russia from east to west. The Trans-Siberian Railway is also a destination in itself, with travelers crossing space (and time) through seven time zones and 900 stations. A total change of scenery guaranteed!
Passengers can choose from a range of trains and levels of comfort, as well as a vast number of stops. Regular and special trains share the same rail network, and all offer bunks due to the length of the journeys between stops. The first category is mostly used by Russians – offering visitors an immersive experience of the local culture – while the second is aimed more at tourists. In the Russian trains, each carriage is managed by one of the railway’s emblematic attendants, a provodnitsa, who ensures the journey runs smoothly. Passengers also have access to a samovar and an unlimited supply of hot water. In the tourist trains, the decoration is often very intricate and typical, and your compartment will look a lot like a miniature hotel room!
The start of the line is located in Moscow, but there’s nothing stopping you from beginning your adventure with a trip to Saint Petersburg – the birthplace of Kusmi Tea – a few days before. Many voyagers also choose to change tack and head to Beijing (without necessarily having to start in Vladivostok), using this incredible journey as a way to explore the Chinese capital and its surrounding area. Passengers will also have to make a difficult choice between crossing Mongolia (where the Trans-Mongolian Railway takes over) and traveling around it via the east through Manchuria (aboard… you guessed it, the Trans-Manchurian Railway!).
Key stops for tailor-made travel
Regardless of the route chosen, the unique landscapes admired from the windows are sure to leave you speechless. Expect hundreds of miles of pine and birch forests, steppes, deserts, and lush green countryside. Nature is so authentic here that anyone would believe that humankind had never set foot in these exotic lands… You won’t catch sight of a single car or even a road sign on certain stretches! Here are just a few suggestions of some key stops to make, with one particular highlight: the renowned, must-see Lake Baikal.
Ekaterinburg is located at the foot of the Ural Mountains that separate Europe and Asia, and is teeming with cultural sites and historic landmarks such as monuments erected in honor of Tsar Nicholas II. Irkutsk is the capital of Eastern Siberia and Ulan-Ude is Russia’s main Buddhist city, and both offer access to Lake Baikal. This stretch of water created 25 million years ago is the world’s biggest freshwater lake. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, it boasts an astounding variety of landscapes and settings. And between the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, and Beijing and the Great Wall of China, the Trans-Mongolian Railway speeds effortlessly through the stunning Gobi Desert as passengers look on in wonder.
Traveling on these trains is a truly unique and unforgettable experience. An authentic break from the outside world, defined by exciting encounters, the discovery of other cultures, customs, and languages, and new ways of living, learning, and enjoying your time… All this and more will change the way you see the world after a trip on Trans-Siberian Railway.
So, when are you booking your ticket?