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Dunhuang, China

The Silk Road – Moscow to Beijing

22-day luxury rail journey from £15,395 pp

Summary

Short description

From endless deserts to city icons, this epic rail journey traces an ancient trading network in utter luxury

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Highlights

  • Travel through six countries aboard two of the world’s most luxurious trains
  • Pause at desert ruins, vibrant market towns and some of Asia’s greatest cities
  • Explore with included touring throughout, from cultural performances to camel rides
  • Indulge with full-board, drinks-accompanied fine dining
  • Enjoy luxury stays in Moscow, Xian and Beijing

In Brief

  • 2 Nights Moscow
  • 10 Nights The Golden Eagle
  • 2 Nights The Shangri-La Express
  • 1 Night Dunhuang
  • 1 Night The Shangri-La Express
  • 1 Night Xian
  • 3 Nights Beijing

About

Recommended for:
City | History & culture | Honeymoon | Rail journey | Summer

While Chinese merchants and Islamic traders struggled through deserts and over red sandstone mountains, this luxury rail journey showcases it all in style. Not only will you be treated to gourmet, full-board dining washed down with complimentary drinks, but you’ll enjoy expert-led touring throughout. Stopping everywhere from Soviet towns to ruined desert cities, you’ll marvel at cultural performances, cycle atop ancient city walls and trek through the Gobi Desert on a camel. And, either side of taking in four Central Asian countries, you’ll enjoy luxury stays in Moscow, Xian and Beijing to compare the Kremlin to the Great Wall and Terracotta Army.

Day by day itinerary

Day 1
UK/Moscow

Beginning with complimentary airport lounge access, you’ll fly out to Moscow, where you’ll be met by an included transfer for the short journey to your luxury hotel. A neoclassical belle resplendent in fine crystal, its lavish rooms and rooftop terrace host pretty views over Red Square and even the Kremlin. You’ll also have some time meet your fellow travellers with a welcome dinner, hosted at your hotel.

Stay: The Ritz Carlton (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 2
Moscow

Today marks the start of your included touring. You’ll begin with the Kremlin’s grandeur, the Armoury Chamber’s Tsar treasures and the city’s Red-Square icon. The St. Basil’s Cathedral is a particular highlight for its stunning, multi-coloured domes, while the famed GUM department store impresses with a gorgeous façade – a relic of Tsarist extravagance. If you’ve visited Moscow before, alternative touring can bring you to the delightful State Tretyakov Gallery – the national museum of fine art.

Stay: The Ritz Carlton (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 3
Onboard

After breakfast today, an included transfer will see you to the grand, Kazansky Station, where you’ll be greeted in the Imperial Waiting Room by a champagne and canapés. You’ll then be escorted aboard the Golden Eagle by your personal attendant, settling in to your en-suite cabin to picture-window views of the city. You’ll also be treated to the first of your full-board dining. Expect the likes of caviar and just-caught seafood washed down with complimentary drinks.

Stay: The Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 4
Volgograd

Your first pause is Volgograd, although you might know it by its Soviet name – Stalingrad. It’s the site of one of the most important WWII battles; something remembered by a spread of superb museums and an enormous victory monument, the tallest statue in the world. Your touring here will also give you a taste of this most Russian of cities, bringing you along wide boulevards to take in the Stalinesque grandeur of its public buildings.

Stay: The Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 5
Onboard

Travelling across the vast expanse of Kazakhstan’s Karakum desert, you’ll have a day onboard to really appreciate the scenery and your luxury hotel. In between indulging with the full-board dining or taking a Russian language lesson, perhaps retire to your cabin. Here, you can relax with a good book – or a movie on the LCD screen – while enjoying complimentary tea and coffee served by your carriage attendant. They’re on call around the clock. Then, come the evening, perhaps head to the bar car for a piano-accompanied drink.

Stay: The Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 6
Khiva, Uzbekistan

You’ll arrive into Uzbekistan with Urgench, where you’ll be brought on to the ancient city of Khiva. Founded over two millennia ago, it’s one of the Silk Road’s most important trading posts, forming a crossroad between Mongolia, Russia, China and Persia. And, its diverse heritage lives on today in a spread of architecture, with everything from tilting minarets to vibrant markets wrapped up in imposing mud walls.

Stay: The Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 7
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

It’s then on to Turkmenistan and its capital – Ashgabat. With the Karakum desert to the north and the Kopet Dag Mountains to the south, it’s a flash of civilisation in among a desolate environment. And, it’s shrugged off its Soviet past with a collection of extravagant fountains, golden domes and towering modern museums. The Kipchak Mosque is a special favourite for its gilded spires and great, white-marble towers. You’ll also visit the National Museum, whose 500,000 exhibits range from ancient art and paintings to carpets, weapons and jewellery.

Stay: The Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 8
Merv

Arriving into Mary, you’ll be brought on to the ancient remains of Merv. An important stopping point on the Silk Road, many believe that it was once the largest city in the world during the 12th century. It all came to a close in 1794, when the Emir of Bukhara destroyed its dam, leaving the city without water. And, left unrestored, Merv’s ruins are delightfully evocative, with mausoleums, mosques and even Buddhist stupas brought to life by your expert guide.

Stay: The Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 9
Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Continuing on to Uzbekistan, you’ll arrive into Bukhara. Like Khiva before it, this 2,500-year-old city was exquisitely restored with UNESCO sponsorship. Its architecture remembers all of its rich past, with medressas, minarets and a colossal royal fortress competing for your attention. It’s all beautified by delicately carved sandstone and capped by pretty blue domes. After visiting The Ark – a fortified residence that hosted the Bukhara’s despotic emirs – you’ll also be brought out of the city to take in the Palace of the Moon and Stars and its exquisite arches. Before the train departs this evening, you’ll be treated to a barbecue on the station platform.

Stay: Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 10
Samarkand

It’s your stop today, Samarkand, that perhaps best captures the essence of the Silk Road. Founded back in the 6th century BC, it was once one of Asia’s most important cities, its expansive squares watched over by giant mosaicked façades and monolithic mosques piercing blue skies with bluer domes. Your touring will also bring you between one of the earliest Islamic observatories and the archaeological remains of the Timurid Empire’s 14th-century capital.

Stay: Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 11
Tashkent

Arriving into the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, you’ll have an opportunity to take in a modern, Soviet-style city. Your touring here will centre on its Old Town, where traditional, narrow streets are lined with flat-roofed buildings and religious buildings. Here, in a small library, you’ll have the privilege of seeing one of Islam’s most sacred relics – the world’s oldest Koran. Then, before ending with city’s superb Railway Museum, you’ll call into Museum of Applied Arts. Expect brilliant mosaics and impossibly intricate carvings.

Stay: Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 12
Almaty, Kazakhstan

Leaving Uzbekistan behind you’ll arrive into Kazakhstan with the country’s largest city – Almaty. With its name deriving from the Kazakh for ‘apple’, its surrounded not only by the majestic Tien Shan Mountains but a near-endless spread of gorgeous orchards. And, the verdure is invited in to the city, with pretty parks and wide, tree-lined boulevards. Your touring will also take in the entirely wooden Zenkov Cathedral before brining you out of the city for a cable-car ride. Expect sweeping views of Almaty and its mountain frame.

Stay: Golden Eagle (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 13
Crossing into China

Today, you’ll wind your way on to the Kazakh border of Druzhba, leaving the Golden Eagle behind to complete China’s visa formalities. Your reward on the other side? The Shangri-La Express. It’s the country’s most luxurious train, complete with wood-panelled cabins host to picture windows and complimentary robes. Then, outside your berth, there’s a bar car resplendent in opulent carpets and a baby grand piano before you get your first taste of authentic Chinese cuisine in the restaurant car.

Stay: The Shangri-La Express (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 14
Turpan

Your first station stop in China is Turpan, a city set among a coarse desert and the great red sandstone of the Flaming Mountains. You’ll learn how locals have carved out a way of life in this inhospitable environment with a visit to its ancient underground irrigation system. For centuries, it’s successfully fed rich orchards and vineyards. Then, after a stop at the Turpan’s mummy exhibition, you’ll arrive into the fortress city of Jiaohe. Founded in 108 BC, it’s an elegantly crumbling relic of ancient times and both the largest and oldest earthen city in the world. Expect everything from rock gates to diminutive temples.

Stay: The Shangri-La Express (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 15
Dunhuang

Continuing through the desert, you’ll arrive at a slice of oasis – Dunhuang. Here, you’ll visit the fascinating Mogao Cave Complex, whose 500 grottoes were carved between 700 and 1,700 years ago. Heading in, you’ll discover everything from sculptures to murals that depict the evolution of Buddhist religious art over this 1,000-year period. You’ll spend tonight at a delightfully traditional hotel, where you’ll enjoy a dinner feast and a local folk performance.

Stay: Silk Road Dunhuang (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 16
Dunhuang

No oasis would be complete without bright-blue waters. Dunhuang is no exception, its glassy lake ringed by giant sand dunes and watched over by a towering pavilion. Its curves point skywards in a series of sweeping tiers. You’ll take it all in with a camel trek into the Gobi Desert – surely the most evocative way of experiencing the region’s vast natural beauty.

Stay: The Shangri-La Express (Deluxe)

Day 17
Xian

Xian is one of China’s city greats. And, in the Terracotta Warriors, it’s host to a true world wonder. It’s hard to believe that these 6,000 terracotta figures and horses were only discovered by peasants 40 years ago. There’s also the alternative of visiting the Han Yangling Museum. It’s a vast, 2,000-year-old mausoleum complex that hosts everything from emperors’ tombs to ancestral temple sites. However, whichever you choose, you’ll be treated to an evening of song, dance and local delicacies with a Tang Dynasty Dinner. You’ll then end the day with one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, where spa treatments are paired with skyline views.

Stay: Sofitel Xian Hotel (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 18
Xian/Beijing

Following breakfast this morning, you’ll continue your tour of Xian with a cycle ride along its ancient city walls. It’s the chance to admire the city’s Ming-era architecture from a different perspective. You’ll also take in the vibrant laneways of the warren-like Muslim Quarter before a pause at the Great Mosque sees you on to the station. This time boarding the ultra-modern high-speed railway, you’ll sweep on to Beijing at speeds of nearly 200mph. Your base here is a five-star jewel, complete with spa, gourmet restaurants and floor-to-ceiling views from its luxurious rooms.

Stay: Regent Beijing (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 19
Beijing

Today’s touring will focus on the Imperial City – the Chinese capital’s historic heart. After taking in the Tiananmen Square’s Soviet buildings and chequered past, you’ll move into the Forbidden City itself. Built in the 14th century for the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties, it’s China’s largest and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings. There’s even the largest palace complex in the world among its 900-strong collection of tiered buildings. You’ll then continue to the Temple of Heaven, the grandest of Beijing’s four great temples. Here, you’ll be treated to displays of traditional dancing, singing and calligraphy before a rickshaw ride brings you among the historic hutong laneways of old Beijing. End the day with a visit to a local family in a traditional courtyard house.

Stay: Regent Beijing (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 20
Beijing

On your last day in Beijing, you’ll experience one of the highlights of world travel – the Great Wall. It’s an icon of Chinese engineering, originally built to protect the empire from raids by nomadic tribes. To this day, it’s the longest man-made structure in the world. After a chance to walk along the wall itself, you’ll conclude your trip with a farewell banquet in an authentic Peking duck restaurant. While your dinner will be complemented by a selection of fine wines as usual, you’ll also be treated to a glass of the local firewater rice wine.

Stay: Regent Beijing (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Days 21-22
Beijing/UK

After a final breakfast, an included transfer will see you to the airport for your flight home.

Meals: B

Map

Pricing

Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.

22-day luxury rail journey from £15,395

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