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TS-W-B-01 Winter Circle & Harbin

BEIJING ► HARBIN ► IRKUTSK ► ULAANBAATAR ► BEIJING

14 nights from UK £ 2,610 per person

*Price based on 2 people travelling in a shared 4 berth second class cabin. Upgrade to your own cabin from UK £ 580 per person. These prices are based on 2019 rates and are here to give guidance. Final quotes vary by date, exchange rates and are subject to availability.

A neat winter circle starting and finishing in BEIJING and incorporating the stunning Harbin Ice Festival.

From Beijing train to HARBIN for 2 nights of snow and ice splendour before taking the Trans-Manchurian train to IRKUTSK and frozen Lake Baikal.

Cross into Mongolia stopping at ULAANBAATAR to experience a night in a ger before a final train takes you back to Beijing.

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Route Map & Destinations Visited

TS-W-B-01 tour map

Day by Day Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival Beijing

Arrival Beijing With Time to Relax at the Hotel

Welcome to Beijing, China’s cultural and political capital and a real highlight with it’s extraordinary blend of ancient and modern sights. Your guide will greet you at the airport with a transfer by private car to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax from the long flight or start to explore the city with the help of your personalised and exclusive Trip Guidebook we send you before the trip. The area around your centrally located hotel is perfect for an introductory walk.

Meals Included: None today.

Day 2 - Beijing

The Great Wall at Stunning Mutianyu & One of Beijing’s Markets or Ice Skating on Ho Hai Lake

Today we will be showing you one of China’s most famous sights – the Great Wall. We visit the dramatic and less crowded Mutianyu section 70 km from Beijing set amongst spectacular mountain scenery. Dating back to the 6th Century and largely rebuilt in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty, it is one of the best preserved sections of the wall largely due to the high standard of construction.

Also today, if you wish, we can take you to one of Beijing’s many markets. Favourites are the Silk Market, Pearl Market and Panjiayuan antique market. If souvenir shopping isn’t for you other options are the Hutong street of Nanluoguxiang, the 798 Dashanzhi contemporary art area or a quick look at the impressive 2008 Olympic Stadium. Alternatively you can see and perhaps participate in the ice skating on Ho Hai Lake. You can discuss which is right for you with us in advance or your guide on the day.

Return to your hotel with the rest of the evening free or just ask us for suggestions of shows or cultural activities.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 3 - Depart Beijing

Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Summer Palace Before Departure

Today you will see the main highlights of Beijing starting with the Temple of Heaven, considered by many to be the most beautiful building in China. On to vast Tiananmen Square, home to the Mao Mausoleum (it may be possible to visit if open) and Monument to the People’s Heroes before walking to the huge palace complex of the Forbidden City. We’ll walk up the middle axis from South to North taking in the splendour of the most important central buildings before finishing in a small and ancient garden by the north gate.

The last stop today is at the Summer Palace to the west of Beijing. Dominated by Kunming lake it is as popular an escape from the city for todays Beijingers as it was for the Imperial court over the centuries.

Transfer to the station for a late evening departure on the overnight train to Harbin.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 4 - Arrive Harbin

Visit Both the Snow Sculpture Exhibition & Beautifully Lit Evening Ice Festival

Morning arrival in Harbin with a transfer to your hotel. Note that check-in time is after 12 noon so there is unlikely to be a room available until then but luggage can be stored and we have booked a breakfast for you.

Wrap up warm to start a full day tour to the Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Exposition and Ice Festival venues. Here you will see huge sculptures made entirely from snow. Early warming dinner before an evening visit to the spectacularly lit Ice and Snow World, the centre piece of the festival. This time the sculptures are made entirely of ice blocks and are on a vast scale. Return to the hotel to overnight.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch & Dinner.

Day 5 - Harbin

Free Day at the Ice & Snow Festival to Revel in This Unique Event

Today is free and we recommend visiting the ice sculptures on the banks of the Songhua river and to spectate and participate in the huge variety of ice related activities the locals and visitors alike enjoy throughout the long winter. If you have time a visit to the smaller but more intricate ice sculptures in Stalin Park is well worth it and give a taste of what the original ice festivals were all about.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 6 - Depart Harbin

Free Time to Explore the Ice Related Activities Along the Frozen Riverside

A free morning, perhaps to visit the smaller but more intricate ice sculptures in Stalin Park that gives a taste of what the original ice festival was all about. Late morning transfer to the station to join one of Russia’s best trains, the “Vostok”, also known as the Trans-Manchurian, that runs all the way to Moscow.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 7 - On the Train

Cross Into Russia & Much Wilder and Remote Scenery

Reach the border with Russia at Manzhouli. Immigration and customs procedures are quick on the China side but take time on the Russian side of Zabaikalsk as the train’s bogies need to be changed to fit Russia’s wider gauge. Note that train timetables are now in Moscow time. The first thing you notice is the lack of people compared to China as the scenery opens up and looks much wilder.

Meals Included: None today – however the train does have a dining car.

Day 8 - Arrive Irkutsk

Ulan Ude, the Southern Shore of Lake Baikal & Irkutsk

Today is usually the scenic highlight of the journey, a day of lake, forest and mountain views. Pass Ulan Ude before the train rumbles around the Southern shore of stunning Lake Baikal often passing within a matter of meters of the lake. Irkutsk is reached early evening.

Irkutsk is regarded as the modern day cultural capital of Siberia, famed for its traditional wooden architecture and a vibrant cafe and restaurant culture. Transfer from the station to your hotel to overnight.

Meals Included: None today – however the train does have a dining car.

Day 9 - Lake Baikal

Transfer to Listvyanka Village on the Shores of Baikal

After breakfast transfer from the station the 1 hour drive following the route of the Angara River down to the village of Listvyanka located close to where the river meets beautiful Lake Baikal. The lake is among the deepest in the world at 1,642 meters and has exceptionally clear water – or perhaps ice when you are here!

Once settled into your accommodation your guide will take you on a 4 hour walking tour of the village. You will see the beautiful church and visit the Limnological Museum to learn about the Lake itself and its unique flora and fauna. We will also take chairlift up to a view point for some of the best lake vistas. The afternoon is free or we can arrange snowmobiling or dogsledding or, if the lake is frozen enough, you may want to venture out onto the surface by foot or by hiring a bike.

The village also has a banya (Russian sauna) you can arrange to visit and which we heartily recommend as the quintessential Siberian experience!

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 10 - Lake Baikal & Irkutsk

Return to Irkutsk With a City Tour and Free Time to Relax at Your Hotel

After breakfast drive the 1 hour back to Irkutsk arriving late morning at your hotel. Once settled in you will have a 2 hour walking tour of the city centre including the park and War Memorial, some of the beautiful churches along the Angara river, the main city centre streets and the statue of Alexander III – the Tzar responsible for the Trans-Siberian railway.

Return to your hotel with free time for the rest of the day.

Meals Included: Breakfast at the Guesthouse.

Day 11 - Depart Irkutsk

Journey Along the Shore Lake Baikal Into Buryatia & Mongolia

Early morning transfer to the station to catch your onward train. Today is usually the scenic highlight of the journey – a day of lake, forest and mountain views. After Irkutsk the train rumbles around the Southern shore of the stunning Lake Baikal often passing within a matter of meters of the lake and providing endlessly changing vistas. You will also notice a change in the people with many more Asian faces as you enter Buryatia which has strong cultural ties to Mongolia. This is a remote and pretty section of the trip with a hint of an old Asian culture ever present. Eventually you arrive at the Russia-Mongolia border at Naushki passing through the border formalities before continuing into the grasslands of Mongolia.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 12 - Arrive Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar City Tour & Comfortable Elstei Ger Camp

Early morning arrival in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia and a truly unique destination. Before heading out to Elstei ger camp you have breakfast and a chance to shower as well as a city tour. Mongolia’s capital is home to around a third of the entire population and there is much of cultural interest here and the tour includes Gandan Lama Monastery, impressive Sukhbaatar square and the views and Soviet monuments of Zaisan Hill.

Transfer on to Elstei Ger camp located 35 km outside of the city in the open steppe stopping on the way at the 40 meter high Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue that sees that most famous of Mongols survey the grasslands. Elstei offers comfortable, spacious and cosy ger accommodation. Click here to learn more about ger camps in Mongolia.

A range of options are available including visits to local nomads to learn about their way of life and hiking the snow covered grasslands. Note that horse riding is not available in the winter months. Of course, you can simply relax in your ger which is kept toasty warm by its own burner.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner at the Ger Camp.

Day 13 - Depart Ulaanbaatar

Continue by Train Through the Gobi Towards the Chinese Border

Early morning transfer to the station to catch the train on to Beijing. The day is firstly spent in the steppe but that gradually gives way to the stoney Gobi desert – keep an eye out for camels! Evening arrival at the Mongolia-China border at Zamyn-Ude. The Mongolian exit formalities are completed on the train before a much longer stop is on the Chinese side where the train is taken to the sheds where the carriages are raised up (with you still in them!) and the new bogies of the narrower Chinese gauge fitted. A unique experience but do remember that the toilets are locked throughout!

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 14 - Arrive Beijing

Arrive Back in Beijing With a Free Afternoon

Wake up in China’s Inner Mongolian grasslands before a series of tunnels and impressive views lead you through the mountains that shield Beijing. Late morning arrival in China’s capital. Beijing has it all – history, imperial majesty, modern masterpieces, delicious cuisine, and a vibrant local culture. Your guide will meet you at the station exit and transfer to your hotel by private car and English speaking guide.

The rest of the day is free to explore Beijing. Besides the must sees the city offers ample opportunity to shop in markets such as Hongqiao, the Silk Market or our favourite, the vast Panjiayuan antique market. For something a bit more sedate we recommend Ho Hai lake and its ancient residential Hutongs which offer a great opportunity to absorb local culture combined with many small cafes, bars and restaurants. For a more contemporary experience the 798 district to the east of the city offers an impressive array of galleries, cafes and restaurants.

Meals Included: None today – however the train does have a dining car.

Day 15 - Depart Beijing

Depart China With a Wealth of Memories of Your Trip

Free time for any final sightseeing or last minute shopping for souvenirs if time. Your local guide will have arranged a time to meet you in the hotel lobby for a transfer to the airport in good time for your flight out of China. We sincerely hope that you have had a fantastic Trans-Siberian experience!

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Add More to This Trip

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Hand-picked Accommodation for this Trip

The hotels & accommodation used for this trip are from our hand picked selection and all are excellent for their class. We also offer upgraded hotels in most locations. If you would like to explore additional hotel options please the button below and let us know of any changes you wish to make.

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Trains Used for this Trip

Details of the trains used on this trip are below. All trains are subject to change without notice and are for guidance only. Please download the trip dossier to see the train times.

Inclusions & Exclusions For This Trip

What is included?

Train tickets in second class – ask us about upgrades.

All accommodation as specified above.

All private transfers and any other transportation as described.

All meals as specified in the itinerary.

All tours as specified in the itinerary including relevant entrance fees.

24 hour emergency assistance

Visa Paperwork you need in order to obtain the visas

Financial Peace of Mind as your trip is protected

Our exclusive 200+ page trip guidebook, personalised to your trip

What is not included?

International Airfare to / from the start / finish of your trip – we can book these flights on request

The Russian, Mongolian and Chinese visas – we can advise and partner with VisaCentral

Travel insurance to cover any medical treatment – we recommend ABTASure (UK residents only)

Discretionary gratuities to drivers and guides

Possible Start Dates

The calendars below show the possible start dates for this trip in red for the stopovers described in the itinerary. Other dates may also be possible using different trains or longer or shorter stops. Ask us if you need to tailor this tour.

What Our Clients say

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