Trans-Siberian train Moscow-Irkutsk, 10 nights
Day 1 / Thursday: Moscow (arrival)
Arrival to Moscow.
Transfer to hotel.
Day 2 / Friday: Moscow
Complete panoramic tour of Moscow. Vibrant, modern, and oh-so–fashionable, the Russian capital rivals the world’s best cultural destinations. The thriving metropolis is home to famous Bolshoi Theatre and the impressive Kremlin. Theatres, concert halls, chic stores, hip restaurants, and trendy clubs abound along the Moskva River.
Moscow is the biggest Russian and European city, with more than 12 million inhabitants. It has been the capital of Russia since the 15th century, except from 1712 to 1918, when the capital was transferred to St. Petersburg. The city was founded in the 12th century and the Kremlin, its main fortress, was erected in 1156. Moscow rapidly gained importance and the Duchy of Moscow became the main political centre among the principalities of central Russia before Ivan III, Grand Prince of Moscow, united most of these states under his control. He liberated central Russia from the Mongol and Tatar invaders, expanded the Russian state, and was named Grand Prince of Rus, with Moscow as its capital. The city has been destroyed by invaders several times throughout its history: the Mongols, Crimean Tatars, Poles, and Swedes have all occupied the city, and even Napoleon remained here for six weeks before beginning his catastrophic retreat during the Russian winter. During World War II, the German armies were stopped only 20 kilometres from Moscow. These events have shaped the city’s landscape and architecture, making it extremely eclectic: medieval fortresses neighbour Stalinist skyscrapers and beautiful baroque and neoclassic churches are located next to Art Nouveau buildings. Moscow is therefore a great centre of cultural life and arts, with several monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage List, many first-class museums, and some theatres ranked among the best in the world. It is a dynamic, always-on-the-move city which in the past few years has reinvented itself as a tourist attraction.
The ideal way to get in touch with the city, including its historical centre and major monuments. We will stroll along the broad avenues, making our way through the famous Tverskaya Street to the top of Sparrow Hills, under the imposing stare of Lomonosov University, one of the Stalin-era skyscrapers scattered throughout the city. From there we will admire an impressive panorama of the city, followed by a stop at Victory Park and another in front of Novodevichy Convent and its lake, the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. We will approach the historical centre from the banks of the Moskva River, coming out near the White House, location of the siege of the Russian Government. We will also stop at Arbat Street, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare nicknamed the “Moscow Montmartre” because of the artist that used to live in the area and the painters that nowadays populate the street. We will pass in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Parliament Building (Duma), Bolshoi Theatre, and the imposing facade of Lubyanka, headquarters of the KGB. We will continue through the alleyways of the ancient merchant district Kitai-Gorod, which contains numerous small churches, finally arriving at Red Square, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world and designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It was named Red, or “Krasnaya” in Russian, which in Old Russian was a synonym of “beautiful.” Now the square is surrounded by the famous buildings of the Russian Historical Museum, the Kremlin, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral with its gorgeous onion domes, built by order of Ivan the Terrible. Red Square is also home to Lenin’s Mausoleum and features Russian Army parades on various holidays throughout the year.
Visit to the Tretyakov Gallery. This unrivalled gallery was named after its founder, the famous trader Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898), a major sponsor of 19th century Russian art. Tretyakov’s dream was to build a large museum open to everyone regardless of class or wealth, with a significant collection of exhibits designed to help people understand and admire the history of Russian art. The project materialized in 1881 with the inauguration of the gallery as Tretyakov donated more than 2000 exhibits to the gallery from his own collection in Moscow, beginning the history of what today is an impressive museum featuring more than 130000 works of art created by Russian artists, an overall historical narrative of Russian painting from the 11th century until the present. Its treasure is its collection of icons, while among its best-known pieces are the Byzantine “Virgin of Vladimir”, attributed to St. Luke according to the legend, and the masterpiece of Andrei Rublev called the “Trinity”.
Day 3 / Saturday: Moscow – Trans-siberian
Visit to the Kremlin and its cathedrals. The word “Kremlin” in Russian means fortress, and in early Rus every important town had a fortress encircled by a wall where the main buildings, churches, and cathedrals were located and protected. The Moscow fortress, the cradle of the city, is the main fortress in the country and has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Built in the 12th century, it took the form we know today in the 15th century. It is an excellent reflection of the different stages of Russian art; a single monumental centre of architecture, painting, and decorative and applied arts. The best craftsmen and artists worked on its churches, cathedrals, and palaces, bequeathing to us their priceless work framing the power and fame of Russia that is concentrated in its unforgettable alleyways and different sections. The Kremlin is even today the seat of some of the main political and religious government bodies: the President’s Palace, different administrative and military buildings such as the Senate and Armoury, and also numerous churches and cathedrals. Its walls, 19 meters high and 2235 meters long, tower above the Moskva River and Red Square and are made from eight kilogram bricks. We will visit the fortress, enjoying the view of the world’s biggest “tsar bell”, forged in 1733, and the “tsar cannon”, one of the biggest guns ever made in the entire world. Forged in 1586 by Andrew Chokhov, its purpose was to defend the gate of the Spasskaya tower, though it has never been used. The Cathedral Square is an architectural jewel, flanked by the Dormition Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Annunciation, and the Cathedral of the Archangel.
Visit to the Moscow metro. Opened on May 15, 1935, by the Soviet government as a symbol of the technological and industrial prowess of the political system, the Moscow metro was considered to be the “People’s Palace.” The most important artists of the period took part in its decoration, and materials were brought from all corners of the country, representing the union of the Soviet people. The metro is still the city’s main transportation artery and even one of the most important in the world, with its 200 kilometres of railway lines and 145 stations. We will visit the most important stations decorated with luxurious materials: more than 20 types of marble, granite, and onyx, as well as paintings, majolica, glass, mural paintings, mosaics, etc.
Transfer to railway station and departure to Yekaterinburg (2nd class compartments).
Dinner on board.
Night on board.
Day 4 / Sunday: Trans-siberian – Yekaterinburg
Breakfast and lunch on board.
Arrival to Yekaterinburg. Yekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia and is situated slightly east of the Ural Mountains at the edge of Siberia and on the border between Europe and Asia. The city was founded in 1723, just 20 years after St. Petersburg, by order of Tsar Peter the Great, and was named after the Tsar’s wife and future tsarina Catherine I. The city rapidly grew as the centre of the Urals mining region and a major pillar of the metallurgy industry. When the Siberian Route was built beginning in 1761 to deliver Chinese goods to Europe through Russia, Yekaterinburg became a major hub in the transit of minerals from Siberia to European Russia, taking on its nickname of the “Window to Asia.” After the Russian revolution, the last tsar and his family were arrested and transferred to several locations, ending up at the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. When the White troops, who were loyal to the Tsar, approached the city and were about to free the prisoners, the Bolsheviks assassinated the tsar and his family on Lenin’s orders. The scene of the murder was razed in 1977 by Boris Yeltsin, who was at the time the governor of the city and would become the president of Russia. Nowadays, Yekaterinburg is the major cultural and industrial centre of the Ural Region, a prosperous and dynamic city.
Transfer to hotel.
Day 5 / Monday: Yekaterinburg
Visit to Ganina Yama. Situated 15 km north of Yekaterinburg, this place is a memorial of the Romanov’s assassination at the hands of the Bolsheviks. After the killings at the Ipatiev House, the bodies were sprayed with acid in order to disfigure them and then transported to Ganina Yama, where they were burned and buried by the killers. When the White troops, loyal to the Tsar, liberated the city only one week later, they quickly discovered the burial place, but the bodies were no longer there: the Bolsheviks had secretly transferred them to a second burial place very close to Ganina Yama. This place was kept totally secret by the communist authorities until clandestine researchers discovered it much later, during the ‘70s, and only revealed the location in 1989, when the fall of the communist regime was imminent. DNA tests proved the remains belonged to Nicholas II and his family. They were transferred to the Peter and Paul cathedral in St. Petersburg, where they rest next to the other members of the Romanov dynasty. A memorial has been built at Ganina Yama, at the place of the burial, which consists of seven chapels, one for each member of the imperial family.
Visit to the monument on the border between Europe and Asia. We will cross the border between Europe and Asia in Yekaterinburg, where a monument has been erected a bit west of the city. We will celebrate the continent crossing with a glass of Russian sparkling wine.
Complete panoramic tour of Yekaterinburg. The panoramic tour will introduce the historical city centre, which features several buildings typical of 19th century Russian architecture. We will see the Monument to the City Founders, Tatishchev and De Genin, and among the many cathedrals and monasteries that we will see, the Chapel of St. Catherine, the patron of the city, in particular bears mentioning. We will also see the former Mining Office, the first stone building in Yekaterinburg and today the State Conservatory; the oldest Opera House in Russia, which has been in operation since 1912; and many merchant houses, palaces, and manor houses from the 19th century situated next to the city pond. We will discover the main Square of 1905 and October Square where the buildings of the City Parliament and Regional Government are located.
Visit to Nevsky Cathedral in Yekaterinburg. This bright and majestic cathedral was founded in 1838 on the grounds of Novo-Tikhvinsky Monastery and built in the style of late Classicism, turning into one of the largest and most beautiful cathedrals in pre-revolutionary Russia. When the Soviet regime came to power it was decided to close the cathedral, though it remained active longer than any other city churches, closing only in 1930. During World War II it was used as a military depot and later the funds of the Regional Museum were kept there. Only in 1991 was the cathedral returned to the Russian Orthodox Church, and a complete renovation was completely recently, resulting in a 6000-person capacity.
Visit to the Church on the Blood in Yekaterinburg. The Church on the Blood was built between 2000 and 2003 in order to commemorate the location of the murder of the last tsar, Nicholas II, along with his family and closest servants. After his abdication, the tsar and his family were arrested and, after being held captive in Alexander’s Palace in Pushkin, near St. Petersburg, and later in the Siberian city of Tobolsk, the whole group of prisoners was moved by the Bolsheviks to the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, where they stayed for several months under close surveillance. During the Russian Civil War, as troops loyal to the tsar were approaching, Lenin ordered the murder of the tsar and his family, along with their doctor, maid, valet, and butler. Eleven people in total were killed at midnight in a room in the house’s basement. Loyal troops liberated the city just one week later, but it was too late. The house was demolished in 1977 by order of the governor of the city, Boris Yeltsin, future president of Russia, and once the Soviet Union fell, this orthodox cathedral was built at the scene of the crime.
Transfer to railway station and departure to Novosibirsk (2nd class compartments).
Night on board.
Day 6 / Tuesday: Trans-siberian – Novosibirsk
Breakfast and lunch on board.
Arrival to Novosibirsk. Russia’s third largest city and the most important in Siberia, Novosibirsk sprawls out on the banks of the Ob River, the seventh largest in the world. The city was founded in 1893 as a small settlement to lodge the workers building the Trans-Siberian Railway Bridge across the Ob River and was first named Novonikolayevsk, in honour of then Tsar Nicolas II. The city developed quickly in the beginning of the 20th century as a junction between the Trans-Siberian and Turkestan-Siberian railways, the latter connecting Russia with Central Asia and the Caspian Sea. After the Russian revolution in 1926, the city changed its name to the present one and now boasts almost a million and a half inhabitants and one of the best universities in Russia.
Transfer to hotel.
Day 7 / Wednesday: Novosibirsk
We will discover two imposing engineering works: The Metro Bridge over the Ob River and the Novosibirsk Dam in the Ob River, very near the city, which forms the so-called “Siberian Sea.” Close by is located the Railway Museum, in which we will appreciate several locomotives and carriages from different periods, and discover the historical evolution of transportation on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Our visit will end in Akademgorodok, the University City and research centre of Siberia.
Visit to Akademgorodok. Situated 20 km south of Novosibirsk, among fir and birch forests and very near the “Siberian Sea,” Akademgorodok is translated as “Academy Town.” It was founded in 1950 as a centre of excellence in education and research and it hosts the University of Novosibirsk, almost 40 research centres, a medical institute, and many facilities for its inhabitants, from residential complexes to recreational and leisure venues, hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, cinemas, sport facilities, etc. The most remarkable building is the House of Scientists, whose surprising architecture hosts a library with more than 100,000 volumes. Today Akademgorodok is the main scientific and educational centre of Siberia and one of the most important in Russia, making up part of the Russian Academy of Science.
Complete panoramic tour of Novosibirsk. During our panoramic tour we will visit Oktyabrskaya port, the square where the city was founded; Lenin Square and Krasny Prospect, the main avenue. The House of 100 Apartments, which was constructed by the famous architect Kryachkov, won the Grand Prix award and the Golden Medal at the International Exhibition of Art and Technology in Paris in 1937, while the Monument to the Glory, dedicated to the soldiers fallen in the Second World War, is also a significant example of Soviet-inspired architecture. We will also admire the exterior views of the Ascension Cathedral and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the first stone building in Novosibirsk. On the Lenin Square we will see the small chapel of St. Nicholas the Miracle Maker, considered the geographical centre of Russia. In front of it is the Opera and Ballet Theatre.
Transfer to railway station and departure to Irkutsk (2nd class compartments).
Night on board.
Day 8 / Thursday: Trans-siberian
Breakfast and lunch on board.
The train continues its route to Siberia towards the East, in the direction of Irkutsk, following Michel Strogoff’s adventure in Jules Verne’s famous novel. In the city of Krasnoyarsk, we will cross the majestic Yenisei, the second major river in Russia.
Dinner on board.
Night on board.
Day 9 / Friday: Trans-siberian – Irkutsk – Baikal Lake (Listvianka)
Arrival to Irkutsk. Irkutsk is the main city in eastern Siberia. It was founded in 1651 as a point for gold mining and trade, as well as a centre for collecting fur taxes from the local Buryats. The city is located on the banks of the Angara River, which originates 60 km east from one of the wonders of the world: the great Lake Baikal. Irkutsk was a destination for political exiles from the tsarist times, including the famous Decembrists. These exiles, generally from the intelligentsia and with a high cultural acumen, contributed greatly to the public life of Irkutsk and the improvement of the city. The origin of the city population is a rich mix, such as those found throughout Siberia, of Cossacks, pioneers, soldiers, hunters, rich merchants, missionaries, prisoners, functionaries, deportees, and scientists. Nowadays Irkutsk is the region’s commercial, cultural, and scientific centre, a modern and charming city with brick embankments, theatres, museums, and typical Russian architecture.
Departure towards Lake Baikal, greater fresh water reserve of the world. It is just a magical place with gorgeous landscapes, nature of incomparable beauty and numerous legends.
Complete panoramic tour of Listvianka. Listvianka is a small town with no more than 2000 people situated on the south-western shore of Lake Baikal, 65 km from Irkutsk at the source of the Angara River. Its name comes from the larch trees (“listvennitsa” in Russian) that grow close to the town. Listvianka is one of the oldest settlements on Lake Baikal, as it was founded at the very beginning of the 18th century. The town lived off trade, fishing, and shipbuilding, and was a base for scientific research and expeditions. Today Listvianka is mostly a tourist location: during the summer months Listvianka is the starting point for most boat tours and tourist trips and expeditions on Lake Baikal. During our short tour we will visit the orthodox wooden church of Saint-Nicolas and the small market, where the local babushkas sell smoked fish from the lake and some locally produced handicrafts. On the other side of the Angara River, which flows from Lake Baikal at Listvianka to the Yenisei River, we can see Tolsty Cape and the Lighthouse.
Visit to the Baikal Ecology Museum. Here we can discover many facts about the stunning fauna and flora that populate the unique Baikal ecosystem. In the museum’s aquariums we will see many of its endemic fishes and we will even admire a Nerpa, the Baikal Seal, one of the few in the world living in fresh water. A virtual submarine will show us the depths of the lake and the life inhabiting it.
Barbecue lunch on the shores of Lake Baikal. We will have the opportunity to taste some of the local fish and eat lunch surrounded by the beauty of this unique landscape.
Chairlift to Mount Chersky. We will take a chairlift up Mount Chersky (755 m) where a beautiful view looks out over the peaks of the Khamar-Daban Mountains. From there we can discover the village of Port Baikal and landmarks such as Shaman Rock, the source of the Angara River, the Astrophysical Observatory, and the endless Siberian taiga.
Boat trip on Lake Baikal and lakeside hike. If weather permits, we will cross the lake by boat, allowing us to appreciate its beauty and the surrounding landscapes. We will be able to stop near one of the beautiful sandy beaches and brave the cold, crystal Baikal waters for a swim. We will also take a short hike on its shores and discover some typical objects of the local culture.
Accommodation in a typical wooden house on a lakeshore.
Day 10 / Saturday: Baikal Lake (Listvianka) – Irkutsk
Transfer back to Irkutsk.
Stop at Shaman’s Rock. Rising out of the Angara River and very near Lake Baikal, where the river originates, Shaman Rock holds intense spiritual meaning for locals. Here the Angara River Master, Ama Sagaan Noyon, is believed to have lived, and this was a place where many shamanistic ceremonies, such as rituals, oath, prayers, and punishments, took place.
Visit to Taltsy Ethnographic Museum. Situated between Irkutsk and Lake Baikal, Taltsy is a village 47 km southeast of Irkutsk. The open air museum of wooden architecture has collected 17th-20th century landmarks of defensive, civil, and religious wooden architecture from the Irkutsk Region, the most notable of which are the Spasskaya Tower of the Ilimsk Ostrog (Fort) (1667) and the Chapel of Our Lady of Kazan (1679), which is still an active church. Here we will also find numerous ethnographic collections, unique examples of Russian, Buryat, Evenk and Tofalar culture.
Complete panoramic tour of Irkutsk. Irkutsk is rightly considered to be a city-museum, with more than a hundred significant monuments. In its most important streets, Karl Marx Street and Lenin Street, the original wooden architecture, burned down by a great fire in 1879, was replaced by majestic stone buildings, the inspiration for which was drawn directly from the streets of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Many theatres are situated nearby, such as the Musical Theatre and the Drama Theatre. The Church of Our Saviour is the oldest building brick in the city, having been erected in the 17th century, while the Polish Cathedral is the only gothic construction in Siberia. This Roman Catholic temple was built for the Polish minority that was made up of political exiles and their descendants. Other religious buildings of interest are the Epiphany Cathedral and Holy Cross Cathedral. We will pass through Kirov Square, where the Cossack Pokhabov built the first fortress in 1661, and then stroll along the beautiful embankment along the Angara River: green Gagarinsky Boulevard is the best place for a promenade, featuring many cafes and terraces. We will then visit Uritskogo Street for some shopping as well as the neighbouring market place, also called a bazaar, and its fish stalls loaded with catches from Lake Baikal. Behind the busy market begins the calmest part of the city: Irkutsk is particularly known for its typical Russian architecture, including traditional Russian wooden houses with carvings on the shutters and windows that are spread all over the city. We will spend some time in Irkutskaya Sloboda, a recently restored area that includes dozens of historical architectural gems.
Visit to Znamensky Convent. Founded in 1693, it is one of the oldest monasteries in Siberia. The convent’s architecture was inspired by medieval Russian constructions and also integrates some elements of “Siberian Baroque.” Its interior is richly decorated, especially the famous baroque carved iconostasis, featuring icons built into the old silver framework. A necropolis is located within the monastery grounds, which is the final resting place of Grigori Shelekhov, the founder of the Russian-American Company and the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska. Next to the monastery we will see the monument to Alexander Kolchak, a Russian admiral and one of the White leaders during the Russian Civil War, who was shot within the monastery walls by the Bolsheviks in 1920.
Visit to the Decembrists’ Museum. On December 1st, 1825, Tsar Alexander I died. During his reign, Napoleon and the liberal ideas of the French Revolution were militarily defeated, but liberal feelings entered Russia, where many people of different social classes started asking for political reforms. A group of dissidents organized an armed revolt in St. Petersburg, Russia’s capital, protesting the crowning of Nicholas I, Alexander’s heir. They criticized Nicholas’ conservatism, refused the oath to the new tsar, and demanded the abolition of serfdom. The revolt was violently suppressed and many participants were sentenced to exile in Siberia, where they went along with their wives. Given that they were cultured and enlightened, they greatly contributed to the development of Irkutsk, spreading reformist and progressive ideas throughout Siberia. The museum consists of the ancient estates of two of the Decembrists, princes Trubetskoy and Volkonsky, and the collection includes their personal belongings, documents, and home furnishings.
Day 11 / Sunday: Irkutsk (departure)
Transfer to airport.
4*: Marriott, Radisson, Holiday Inn, Novotel, Borodino, or similar
4*: Park Inn, Novotel, or similar
4*: Doubletree, Marriott, River Park, Azimut, or similar
4*: Marriott, Zvezda, or similar
3* Sup.: Krestovaya Pad’, Baikalskie Terema, or similar