Best time to go on a Trans
Mongolian railway vacation

Winter evokes scenes from Dr. Zhivago in Siberia with fields of glittering snow, while the summer promises skies of endless blue in Mongolia.
The Trans Mongolian departs all year round, since for many Russians, Mongolians and Chinese it’s an everyday form of transport. The best time to take a Trans Mongolian railway vacation is autumn or winter, with moderate temperatures and relatively low rainfall. At the turn of the seasons, while the landscapes are kaleidoscopically beautiful, the train can be either a little too stuffy or cold. Summer, while busy, is blissful, especially around Lake Baikal and the deep green Mongolian steppe. Winter sees much of the landscape, especially in the east, draped in snow, thin wisps of smoke curling from the stoves of gers and wooden shacks.

Moscow Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
-13
-6
41
FEB
-12
-4
35
MAR
-6
1
33
APR
2
10
43
MAY
8
19
51
JUN
12
22
74
JUL
13
23
93
AUG
12
22
76
SEP
7
16
64
OCT
2
8
58
NOV
-3
1
57
DEC
-9
-3
54

The Trans-Mongolian railway,
month by month

Winter

Snow falls in Siberia from late November, and while it warms up the further west you travel, even the Gobi Desert sees a thin covering. Moscow and St. Petersburg are absolutely gorgeous in winter, though by December temperatures are well below freezing. Christmas on the Trans Mongolian can be a wonderful experience: troika (three-horsed sleigh rides) through the pine forests of Siberia, ice-skating on Lake Baikal and warming up in a banya. The Mongolian gers in Terlj National Park, heated by stoves, are remarkably cosy. January and February are very cold months, but correspondingly less busy.

Spring

Moscow is still -2°C in March, and in April and May Siberia can be very cold. Train windows are usually sealed shut until late in the season, so on sunny days it can be quite close. The Mongolian steppe is lush and green, scattered with rhododendrons, edelweiss and delphiniums, but the dry winter means there is a risk of wildfires. By mid spring, you’ll find the temperatures at each stop far more manageable, and there is less chance of rain, too. Spring is a short but wonderful season to see Beijing, the landscapes around the nearby Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China at their most radiant. In spring and summer there tend to be more daily train departures, usually two, between destinations than you will get in winter.

Summer

By summer the temperatures in Siberia are more or less stable, and Moscow reaches 19°C in July. Lake Baikal freezes late in winter, and usually only begins to thaw around June, when it becomes a lovely spot for picnics, boat trips and scenic walks. There is plenty of daylight, ideal for excursions, while July sees the thrilling Naadam Festival take place across Mongolia. July and August are the most popular months on the Trans Mongolian, with Russian vacationmakers and foreign travelers alike; tickets can be trickier to attain. There are also a lot of ticks around, and even with air conditioning and open windows, train compartments can be stuffy making sleep more difficult.

Autumn

In Mongolia, where it’s not unusual to experience four seasons in one day, the climate is even more unpredictable from September onwards, and while daytime temperatures can hit 15°C, after nightfall they plummet to just above zero. By October, the Siberian forests and Mongolian pastures are taking on wonderful hues. It’s getting colder, but the heating’s still off in train compartments, so bring warm clothing in early autumn. From November onwards you can really get the sense of winter approaching, the days growing shorter and snow beginning to fall. Cities such as Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk see fewer visitors, so it’s a good time of year to explore attractions such as the Church on the Blood.

Our top Trans Mongolian Railway Vacation

Trans Mongolian railway vacation

Trans Mongolian railway vacation

Ride the Iconic Trans-Mongolian Railway in all it's glory.

From £2785 to £2880 16 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 2 May, 18 Jul
2021: 1 May, 17 Jul, 18 Sep
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Trans Mongolian Railway or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Dan Mozley, from our supplier Sundowners Overland, on the best time of year to take a Trans Mongolian vacation: “People naturally gravitate towards summertime. As well as a busy event schedule, summer lets you pack lighter, head to the hills, horse ride across the steppe, and relax under rose tinted skies. Winter journeys are spectacular, pushing you out of your comfort zone to see the world with fresh eyes. Pack effectively and try exhilarating activities, and celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas with a traditional feast and a drop of vodka to warm the cockles in Lake Baikal, Siberia. But you can go at any time of year; there’s nothing like watching the seasons change across three countries. Leafy avenues blaze with vibrancy, pale icy streams rush between rusty foothills, and jagged mountain peaks sharpen under a lashing of snow. The eyes of yaks and Bactrian camels are hidden under new winter coats. Explore outdoors during dewy mornings and amber afternoons, the mild weather is the perfect chance to reconnect with nature, so head to the Gobi Desert, and see cultural sites without summer crowds.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Marko Mikkonen] [Intro: JP Bennett] [Dan Mosley Quote: AwOiSoAk KaOsIoWa]
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