The Trans-Siberian is a legendary railway stretching from Moscow all the way to Vladivostok. Here we concentrate on the stretch between Moscow and Beijing, and take a look at a few of the best things to look forward to (and prepare for) when planning to cross a third of the globe by train. All aboard!
On the Trans-Siberian you’ll be travelling between some incredible capital cities with a load of things to do, places to see and great food to sample in each. A tour to the main sites is well worth it, especially in Moscow and Beijing.
2. Spend two nights in a ger camp.
If you’re going in summer time, staying in a ger is a great way to experience traditional living. Also known as a yurt, the ger is a collapsible structure ideally suited to the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolian people. The basic structural design has barely changed since the days of Genghis Khan, but you’ll be pleased to know that modern gers are equipped with modern luxuries like stoves and doors! (As opposed to the open fires and canvas flaps that would have been preferred in Genghis’ times.)
3. See Lake Baikal
You may recognise the name from the BBC’s Planet Earth series narrated by David Attenborough. Lake Baikal is the largest and oldest body of water on the planet, with a maximum depth of 1500 meters. And you’ll be travelling right past it! It’ll be hard to miss, with around 20% of the earth’s unfrozen fresh water. And that’s a lot. Also, 80% of the creatures that live in it are unique, making it a fascinating place for nature lovers.
4. Check out Ulaan Baatar
Ulaan Baatar is an eclectic capital city, contrasting sharply with the pristine countryside of the rest of Mongolia. This is a city of bohemian counter-culture and a certain degree of chaos (with occasional islands of serenity in the form of monastaries and public squares) but it is certainly worth exploring the museums, sampling the restaurants and appreciating the eclectic vibe. There are definitely some surprises in store for you in Ulaan Baatar!
5. Drink vodka
Any why not – there will be a lot of it around, and it is rather a long train ride. (Be responsible though!)
6. Go birding
Word on the street is that Mongolia is a great place to go birding. It’s home to over 400 species of birds, including the desert warbler, houbara bustard, saxaul sparrow, sand grouse, finch and the cinerous vulture. Special excursions can be arranged, so bring your binoculars!
7. Eat Mongolian
The most popular traditional food in Mongolia is buuz or khuushuur – a kind of meat pastry or dumpling. The only difference between the two is the size, shape and method of cooking – buuz is typically steamed, while khuushuur is fried. Mutton is probably the most popular meat around, and be aware that fattier meat is considered to be of higher quality in Mongolia.
The Museum of Natural History in Ulaan Baataar features a huge range of dinosaur fossils found in the area. Since the 1920s, the Gobi Desert has been known as a hugely popular place to find dinosaur fossils. Check out the Saksaul Forest in the desert, where complete dinosaur bones are still being found.
9. Try your hand at Russian
It isn’t unheard of for Mongolian tradesmen to sell their wares from the train when it stops at the station. A member of our team was even enlisted to help sell their wares! Regardless of the extent of your entrepreneurial spirit, it is a good idea to learn a few phrases in the local lingo – very few people around here speak English.
10. Enjoy the side …. and take snacks!
You’ll be on the train for extended periods and your tummy will definitely start to grumble. There is a restaurant carriage and a cart – but it’s best to also get snacks before you board. And good luck trying to decipher all the foreign food labels! Think of it as part of the experience.
Visit our website for more details on the adventures we offer on the Trans-Siberian.