EMBrace the cold!

NEWS & VIEWS FROM THE RAILS

THE TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILWAY IN WINTER

The high season for Trans-Siberian railway travel is the summer months from July to early Autumn which is usually around mid-September. Winter, on the other hand is definitely the low season for tourism but why is this? Many, including us, think that Russia in particular looks at its best when covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. The trains are warms and cosy, run on time seemingly whatever the weather and Siberia actually looks like the picture conjured up in the mind.

Adapting your trip to the cold

Of course, the cold is one good reason travellers are put off and it is true that it can get very cold! The way around this is to structure the trip so that a smaller amount of time is spent outside than if travelling in a warmer season. Shorter stops in Moscow and St Petersburg more focused on the interiors of the magnificent museums are a good idea. The same idea can be applied across the stops along the route either making less of them or keeping them short and to the point.

Some destinations have good winter activities available which also help to keep you warm despite being outdoors. Dog sledging is a great example as it is physical enough to keep you warm and exciting enough to forget you are cold! Ekaterinburg is a particularly good stop for this activity although it is also available in Irkutsk. Other options include skiing and snowmobiling and there is also ice fishing although you do need really warm clothing for that.
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Take the Trans-Manchurian to visit the Harbin Ice Festival

A highlight of winter can be found along the Trans-Manchurian route at the Chinese city of Harbin which holds a huge ice and snow festival each January into February. Giant sculptures internally lit look spectacular and if it all gets too cold there are ice bars or the city’s justly famous hot pot restaurants to warm up in.

Another favourite is to spend a night in a ger in Mongolia if following the Trans-Mongolian railway route. Despite Mongolia being exceptionally cold in winter the gers are nice and warm and the frozen landscape very special. There are few more unique experiences in travel we think.

Winter is also the perfect time to take a direct trip with no stops just hunkering down in your well heated cabin and watching the winter pass by from the train window. The choice here has to be the Moscow to Vladivostok route - the longest single train ride in the world.
All in all winter should not be so readily overlooked and we look forward ourselves to making many more winter trips.

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