Upon arrival at Moscow Airport you will be met and transferred to the five-star Ritz-Carlton. Located in Moscow city centre, and within walking distance of Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre, guests will discover a classic and sophisticated ambience within this luxury hotel.
We enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel, whilst you meet your fellow travellers and, together, look forward to the voyage that lies ahead.
Why not extend your stay in Moscow with additional nights to explore more of the city at your leisure or have time to take in a performance at the world-renowned Bolshoi Theatre? Tickets need to be pre-booked and are subject to schedule and availability.
Our touring programme of Moscow today principally takes us to the grandeur of the Kremlin – the spiritual, historical and political heart of Moscow – and to see the treasures of the Tsars in the Armoury Chamber. We also visit Red Square, an iconic symbol of Russia’s former military and political might with its eclectic mix of fascinating architecture, such as the ornate St Basil’s Cathedral’s magnificent onion-domed spires, the beautiful facade of the world-famous GUM department store, constructed in Tsarist times, and the sombre and evocative site of Lenin’s tomb.
On the morning of day 3, we board the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express.
Upon arrival at Moscow Kazansky Station, you will be greeted in the magnificent Imperial Waiting Room with a cold glass of Russian Champagne and canapes as you mix with the other guests and are welcomed by the train staff. The excitement in the waiting room audibly mounts and, 30 minutes before departure, your car attendants will escort you to Platform 1 where the Golden Eagle awaits.
After settling into our modern, stylish cabins we enjoy dinner in one of the beautifully designed restaurant cars as our rail journey to Beijing begins.
Standing on the banks of the Volga, Stalingrad, as the city was known in Soviet times, was the dramatic scene of one of the most important Second World War battles. The Russians heroically turned back the Nazi advance here to alter the course of the war. We visit the poignantly sobering Mamayev Kurgan war memorial, followed by an informative museum visit.
Today, we enjoy a relaxing day on board as we travel across the vast expanses of the Kara Kum desert. As well as experiencing the unique landscape, you can take the opportunity to chat to fellow passengers and maybe take part in a Russian language lesson.
From Urgench we travel to the ancient city of Khiva, founded 2,500 years ago. As one of the Silk Road’s most important trading posts and now a World Heritage Site, it lies at the crossroads of the routes between Mongolia, Russia, China and Persia.
A truly magnificent sight to behold, it rises out of the desert to reveal a wealth of impressive architecture. Stepping back in time, we discover its impressive mosques, madrassas, bazaars and minarets within Khiva’s ancient walls.
Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan is known as the ‘Las Vegas of the Kara Kum’. Situated between the Kara Kum desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range, Ashgabat is a relatively modern city built upon the ruins of the Silk Road city of Konjikala and the Soviet city built after the devastating earthquake of 1948.
The city’s extravagant fountains, golden domes and towering modern buildings appear strangely incongruous in this desert setting. Highlights on our visit include a visit to the National Museum and Kipchak Mosque.
From Mary we transfer to the ancient and mainly unrestored remains of Merv. Once an important stopping point on the Silk Road, it claims to have briefly been the largest city in the world during the 12th century.
1794 saw the demise of Merv, after the Emir of Bukhara destroyed the dam which the population depended on for its water.
Bukhara is quite simply outstanding. Like Khiva, UNESCO sponsored the renovation of much of the city for its 2,500th anniversary in 1999. The highlight of this wonderful tour is a visit to The Ark, a fortified residence of the Emirs of Bukhara – the despotic and ruthless leaders who ruled until Soviet times.
We then travel out of the city to experience the Emir’s enchantingly named, Palace of the Moon and Stars. This evening, weather and time permitting, we will enjoy a barbecue on the station platform before our train departs.
Just the mention of Samarkand instantly conjures up evocative images of the Silk Road, more so than any other town. Founded in the 6th century BC, Samarkand’s stunning architecture hints at its former status as one of the most important cities in Asia and is particularly noted for its architectural remains from the 14th to the 17th century, when it flourished as the fabled capital of the Mongol empire of Timur and his successors.
Today we will visit some of its most significant sites including Registan Square, the refined elegance of the beautifully proportioned Bibi Khanum Mosque and the Ulag Beg observatory, one of the earliest Islamic astronomical observatories built in 1428. Before dinner we will return to the now illuminated and awe-inspiring Registan Square.
Tashkent is the capital city of Uzbekistan and we spend time touring this modern Soviet-style city which was rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1966. Our tour of the city includes the Old Town, where traditional homes and religious buildings line the narrow streets and here in a small library we’ll be privileged to see one of Islam’s most sacred relics – the world’s oldest Koran. This is followed by a visit to the Railway Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts.
Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan and is notable for its wide tree-lined boulevards. Surrounded by the majesty of the Tien Shan Mountains, this beautifully verdant city derives its name from ‘alma’ meaning ‘apple’. Just a short distance from the city, apple orchards thrive in abundance.
Our city tour includes a visit to Panfilov Park where we have the opportunity to visit the Zenkhov Cathedral which was built entirely of wood. We’ll also go out of the city to the Chimbulak resort, where a cable car ride will give you spectacular views of Almaty and the mountains.
As we arrive at the Kazakh border of Druzhba, we bid the Golden Eagle a final farewell. The border crossing takes approximately 5 hours but our patience is rewarded as the Shangri-La Express awaits us in Alashankou, the Chinese border station.
Imperial Suite and Gold Class passengers will be accommodated in the private en-suite Diamond Class cabins on board the Shangri-La Express, whilst Silver Class will be allocated Heritage Class cabins, which have shared shower and toilet facilities. Upgrades for Silver Class passengers to Diamond Class are available at an extra charge and subject to availability. A waitlist will be in operation for upgrades based on 'date of booking' order. Ask the Reservations Department for details.
We are now at liberty to settle into our comfortable cabins as we begin our journey across China. A welcome dinner is served in the Restaurant Car, giving us our first taste of authentic Chinese cuisine.
Turpan is the location where the Flaming Mountains create a magnificent backdrop. We take a fascinating tour to the ancient underground irrigation system that has successfully fed the rich orchards and vineyards for centuries. We will also visit the Museum of Turpan with its 5,000 artefacts detailing the rich history of the area and includes the Ancient Mummy exhibition with exhibits dating back 3,200 years. Our final destination is the elegantly decaying sand fortress city of Jiaohe that was founded in 108 BC and became an important trading route along the Silk Road until it was abandoned in the 13th century following a raid by Genghis Khan.
In the small oasis city of Dunhuang we will visit the fascinating Magao Thousand Buddha Cave Complex. This impressive site contains almost 500 grottoes, carved between 700 and 1,700 years ago. Inside we will see an amazing collection of beautiful sculptures and murals depicting the evolution of Buddhist religious art over this 1,000 year period.
We stay for one night at the Silk Road Dunhuang hotel and tonight we experience dinner and a local folk performance in this magical setting.
We wake early this morning to experience sunrise over the magnificent sand dunes, followed by breakfast. Today we will explore the vast natural beauty of the Gobi Desert by camel. Here we discover Crescent Lake. Hidden amongst towering sand dunes, it has sustained life in this region for millennia.
Our fascinating journey of discovery takes us to Xian. We will have several hours to explore the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, discovered by peasants only 40 years ago. The 6,000 terracotta figures and their horses are one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.
Early evening, we depart Xian and head towards Golmud.
Today is spent travelling across the Chinese countryside, before a late evening arrival into Golmud, where we transfer to the contemporary DoubleTree Qinghai Hilton (or similar) in the city for a two-night stay.
A day at leisure in Golmud to rest and enjoy the hotel’s facilities and prepare for an early start the following morning as we get ready to make the ascent to Lhasa over the Tangula Pass.
Early morning at Golmud we board the high-altitude train (where we have reserved seats) that will take us on an extraordinary and unforgettable 14-hour daylight journey along the 1,142km ‘Roof of the World’ line to Golmud, cresting the 16,640ft (5,072m) Tangula Pass. This is the world’s highest railway pass, reaching an unbelievable 3 miles (5km) above sea level.
Due to the high altitude, supplementary oxygen is pumped in through the ventilation system. Personal oxygen masks are available if required.
Upon arrival into Lhasa we are transferred to the centrally located luxurious five-star The St Regis Lhasa Resort for a three-night stay. Located in the eastern part of Lhasa, The St. Regis Lhasa Resort is this unique city’s most coveted address conveniently located in the famed Barkhor area. The sweeping landscapes surrounding this exclusive resort provide a timeless, inviting setting for contemplation as well as exploration.
The St. Regis Lhasa Resort faces the World Heritage Site, the Potala Palace, once the chief residence of the Dalai Lama. A mere six minutes by car from the resort, the palace has been converted into a museum. Jokhang Temple, another iconic structure and Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s former Summer Palace, are also close by. A Welcome Dinner will be served in the hotel this evening.
Lhasa is located in a small basin surrounded by mountains, and it literally means "place of the gods". At an altitude of around 11,975ft (3,650m) it is one of the highest cities in the world; it is also the traditional seat of the Dalai Lama and the holiest centre of Tibet with over a thousand years of cultural and spiritual history. Today we visit Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace, it was built in the 1740’s as a retreat from which to escape the heat of the summer. Meaning either ‘jewel garden’ or ‘precious garden’ it is still a tranquil haven from the noise of the city and a wonderful place to explore.
There will also be free time to wander through Lhasa and soak up the atmosphere of this picturesque city or to take an optional drive 30 minutes outside Lhasa to visit a local village and see the life of farmers there.
On our second full day here, we visit the 13th century Jokhang Temple, Tibet’s holiest shrine and the spiritual home for almost all Tibetans. Next we explore the adjacent Barkhor market, the oldest market in the capital and a well-trodden route for the many pilgrims who make their way to the temple. A local lunch is accompanied by traditional folk music.
This afternoon we visit the 17th century Potala Palace, former seat of the Tibetan Government and the Dalai Lama’s winter residence before he fled to India in 1959. It contains thousands of rooms, dominates the city skyline. Perched upon Marpo Ri hill, 130 metres above the Lhasa valley, the Potala Palace rises a further 170 metres, is the greatest monumental structure in Tibet and one of the architectural wonders of the world.
Following breakfast in the hotel, you will be transferred to Lhasa airport for your onward flight departure.