TRAVEL IN STYLE ON A 6,000-MILE JOURNEY ACROSS RUSSIA ABOARD THE TRANS-SIBERIAN EXPRESS
MOSCOW, RUSSIA â€“ If youâ€™ve ever considered becoming a world traveler, consider the Trans-Siberian Express rail tour. Arguably the worldâ€™s greatest railway journey, it runs from Moscow over the Urals, across the magnificent Russian steppes and along the shores of Lake Baikal, the worldâ€™s largest freshwater lake.
By the time it arrives at the Pacific port of Vladivostok, on the Sea of Japan, it will have traveled more than 6,000 miles and passed through eight time zones. And it will have transported you one-third of the way around the world.
Begun in 1880 by Czar Alexander III and continued by his son Nicholas, the Trans-Siberian Railway was completed in 1905. It provided an essential link to Vladivostok, a major international trading port and headquarters of the Russian Pacific fleet.
Todayâ€™s journey may recall some of the luxury of the czars. Passage is via comfortable private train carsâ€”classic Russian rolling stock. Itâ€™s a 14-day journey that operates in both directions and offers an incredible, rare perspective of this vast, beautiful country, taking passengers through Europe and Asia, crossing the storied Steppes and the vast taiga of Siberia, the worldâ€™s largest forest.
It is offered by The Great Canadian Travel Company, North Americaâ€™s foremost experts in travel to some of the worldâ€™s least-traveled regions and a specialist in travel to northern destinations. This two-week adventure, which includes all meals and tours, is priced from $10,995 per person. Prices are based on double occupancy and offer first-class or deluxe travel. Included are accommodations aboard the train, most meals and drinks, services of a tour manager throughout, English-speaking Russian interpreters, porterage services, a comprehensive off-train sightseeing program and all gratuities.
Youâ€™ll be met at Moscow airport and transferred to a five-star hotel, where youâ€™ll enjoy a welcome reception and dinner. A city tour includes a visit to Red Square and the Kremlin. In the late afternoon of your second day, youâ€™ll board the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express private train and have time to settle into your modern, stylish cabin. Then youâ€™ll enjoy dinner on the train, in one of its beautifully designed restaurants cars.
Thereâ€™s a half-day to discover Kazan, the picturesque capital of Tatarstan on the Volga River. One of the highlights there is a visit to the Kremlin Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing a stunning mosque and Russian orthodox cathedral.
Next comes Yekaterinburg, capital of the Urals, founded in 1721 by Catherine the Great (and a unique photo op at the monument to the Europe/Asia divide, where you can stand with one foot in each continent). In Novosibirsk, a modern â€œSovietâ€ city, youâ€™ll see the worldâ€™s largest Opera House and visit Lenin Square.
Traveling deeper into Siberia, the train takes you to Irkutsk, dubbed â€œParis of Siberiaâ€, where youâ€™ll see the classic wooden architecture for which the area is renowned. Youâ€™ll also be treated to a private concert at a museum dedicated to the memory of the exiled aristocrats who were forced to make this remote outpost their home after a failed revolution in 1825.
Traveling the shoreline of Lake Baikal youâ€™ll pass fabulous scenery with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. Stopping at one of the bays, youâ€™ll join a barbecue on the beach (weather permitting)â€”with the option of a swim (strictly for the bold).
From here, the journey continues close to the Chinese border through Siberiaâ€™s remote and desolate wilderness to the beautiful Russian Far East. Vast distances combine with a forbidding climate and daunting geography to make this an awesome tripâ€”but one that you truly will appreciate experiencing from the comfort of a private rail car.
Part of the journey takes you into Mongolia, with a visit to the capital, Ulaan Baatar. Youâ€™ll experience local hospitality and entertainment at its best as you eat in a Ger (Yurt) restaurant. A Ger is a traditional tent dwelling for approximately one-third of this nomadic nation.
At Vladivostok your journey is complete. You will tour this formerly closed city and stay overnight at the four-star Hotel Hyundai before your flight home.
Departures in 2009 (some with itineraries operated in reverse) are February 15, May 3, 17 & 31, June 12 & 30, July 12 & 26, August 7 & 23 and September 4.
Reservations and additional information are available from the Great Canadian Travel Company, 333 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 712, Chicago, Illinois 60601, 800-661-3830, www.greatcanadiantravel.com.