Trans-Mongolian Railway
map & highlights

A Trans Mongolian journey weaves a tapestry of captivating history, spectacular architecture, enriching cultural experiences and landscapes that never cease to amaze.
Between Moscow and Beijing lies almost 8,000km of track, and alongside it you’ll find the world’s deepest lake; goats with cashmere wool roaming the desert, watched over by nomadic herders from their gers; the birthplace of Rudolf Nureyev; hands-on lessons in making traditional Mongolian or Siberian cuisine; one of Central Asia’s most exciting national festivals; and the city where Russia’s line of tsars came to an abrupt and bloody end. The cultural and historic significance of each place is strengthened by the presence of local guides waiting for you at every stop, ready to enthusiastically convey you into their world.

1. Beijing

In this teeming metropolis, ancient landmarks coexist precariously alongside much more modern architecture. The Chinese capital is home to the vast Forbidden City, ancient citadel of China’s last emperors, the UNESCO-listed cluster of religious structures making up the Temple of Heaven complex, and nearby, the most popular stretch of the Great Wall. From Beijing you can connect by rail to Xian, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

2. Irkutsk

Siberia’s largest city is perhaps best known as the gateway to Lake Baikal, 70km to the south, but its 19th century architecture and prestigious museums make it an attractive place to spend a day in itself. The open-air Museum of Wooden Architecture on the road to Baikal is particularly noteworthy for an insight into Siberian life over the centuries. Legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev was born on a Trans Siberian train just outside the city.
Khustai National Park

3. Khustai National Park

West of Ulaanbaatar, Khustai National Park is a mountainous expanse where nomadic families graze livestock, and where takhi, said to be the world’s last truly wild horses, were reintroduced in the 1990s. Tourist camps here allow for overnight stays in the circular felt tents known as gers, where you can get a feel for nomadic lifestyles while exploring the park’s rugged hills and valleys.
Lake Baikal

4. Lake Baikal

A must-visit along the railway, Lake Baikal is reckoned to be the deepest in the world. Homestays introduce you to Siberian life, including the chance to enjoy a traditional banya (sauna). Between late winter and early summer the lake freezes over, and you can ice skate or walk on top of it. In the summer, it’s a popular location for swimming, boat trips and barbecues, with the aroma of fresh fish from the lake drifting on the breeze.

5. Moscow

Moscow is especially beautiful in winter, when the candy-cane turrets of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square are dusted with snow. A Trans Mongolian trip will often include a tour of the Kremlin and its museums, most notably the Armoury which bursts at the seams with priceless antiquities and works of art. From Moscow it’s a few hours further by train to the stunning city of St. Petersburg, a popular extension to the Trans Mongolian route.
Terelj National Park

6. Terelj National Park

Many travelers pause in Terelj, sleeping in a nomadic ger, learning about local customs, and sharing plates of yak cheese or ‘Five Snout’ barbecued meat (horse, yak, camel, sheep and goat), washed down with horse milk or Chinggis vodka. Brown bears can occasionally be seen amid the alpine scenery, which is dotted with interesting rock formations and hot springs. If you have the nerve you can take a dip in the park’s glacial lake.

7. Ulaanbaatar

Among the Mongolian capital’s many highlights are the national museum, Buddhist monasteries, the winter palace and the charming if incongruous Beatles statue that commemorates the era when the young people here listened to the band on smuggled records. Catch a display of traditional Mongolian throat singing that mimics the sounds of nature, and in July Ulaanbaataar hosts the colourful Naadam Festival.

8. Yekaterinburg

Named for the wife of Emperor Peter the Great, the city of Yekaterinburg is one of Russia’s most successful economic powerhouses, but it’s more infamously known as the place where the Romanov family, headed by Tsar Nicholas II, was murdered by their Bolshevik guards following the Russian Revolution. A Russian Orthodox church now stands on the site, and is a major place of pilgrimage.
“The most memorable parts of my vacation were, firstly, Moscow that I absolutely loved and where I would like to spend more time, secondly, the Great Wall of China and, thirdly, the cultural show in Ulaanbaatar. The most exciting part was seeing the snow!” – Barbara Shaw in a review of her Trans Mongolian vacation
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.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Marko Mikkonen] [Intro: Deglee Degi] [Beijing: Tom Winckels] [Irkutsk: Baikalsky] [Khustai National Park: Laika ac] [Lake Baikal: W0zny] [Moscow: Nikita Karimov] [Terelj National Park: Vidor] [Ulaanbaatar: Francisco Anzola] [Yekaterinburg: Peggy Lohse]