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The Silk Road (Moscow - Beijing)

 GoldEagSilMoBe

Moskau - Volgograd - Kara Kum - Khiva - Ashgabat - Merv - Bukhara - Samarkand - Tashkent - Almaty - Urumchi - Turpan - Dunhuang - Jiayuguan - Xian - Beijing (21 Tage)

Programm

Day 1, MOSCOW, RUSSIA
Arrive at Moscow airport, where you are met and transferred to the luxurious five-star Marriott Royal Aurora hotel (or similar) located in the heart of this vibrant city for a two-night stay.  We enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel, whilst you meet your fellow travellers and, together, look forward to the 21 day voyage that lies ahead.

Day 2, MOSCOW - FREEDOM OF CHOICE TOURING
Our city tour of Moscow principally takes us to Red Square, an iconic symbol of Russia’s former military and political might. Here we see an eclectic mix of fascinating architecture, such as the ornate St Basil’s Cathedral with its magnificent onion-domed spires, the grandeur of The Kremlin and the sombre and evocative site of Lenin’s tomb. With our Freedom of Choice touring options you may instead wish to visit, for example, the Tretyakov Gallery. 

Day 3, ONBOARD
In the morning of Day 3, we board the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express.  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. 

Day 4, VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA
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 the informative diorama and absorbing museum visit.  In the evening we enjoy a beautifully prepared dinner on board our private train. 

Day 5, KARA KUM DESERT, KAZAKHSTAN
Today, we enjoy a relaxing day onboard as we travel across the vast expanses of the Kara Kum desert.  As well as experiencing the unique landscape, we can take the opportunity to chat to fellow passengers and maybe take our first Russian language lesson.

Day 6, KHIVA, UZBEKISTAN
Crossing into Uzbekistan, our train travels towards Urgench, where we transfer 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, bazaars and minarets within Khiva’s ancient walls.  

Day 7, ASHGABAT, TURKMENISTAN
In dramatic contrast to Khiva, we arrive in Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan - the ‘Las Vegas of the Kara Kum’.  Situated between the Kara Kum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range, its fountains, golden domes and towering modern buildings appear strangely incongruous in this desert setting. 

Day 8, MERV, TURKMENISTAN
Early morning sees us arrive in Mary, where we transfer to the ancient and mainly unrestored city 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 twelfth century.  1794 saw the demise of Merv, after the Emir of Bukhara destroyed the dam which the population depended on for its water.  After our fascinating exploration we return to our train for dinner. 

Day 9, BUKHARA, UZBEKISTAN
Bukhara is quite simply outstanding. Like Khiva, UNESCO backed 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.

Day 10, SAMARKAND, UZBEKISTAN
Founded in the 6th Century BC, Samarkand’s stunning architecture hints at its former status as one of the most important cities in Asia.  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. After dinner we will visit the illuminated and awe-inspiring Registan Square before returning to our train for a late evening departure. 

Day 11, TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN
Today we arrive in the capital city of Uzbekistan and spend the morning touring this modern Soviet-style city which was rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1966.  We re-board the train for lunch as we head towards Kazakhstan and Almaty.  This afternoon gives us the opportunity to relax with friends or listen to one of the informative lectures designed to give us a greater insight into this fascinating region.

Day 12, ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN
Just before lunch we arrive in Almaty – the largest city in Kazakhstan. 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. Tonight is our final evening onboard the Golden Eagle and will be marked by a farewell banquet. 

Day 13, CROSSING INTO CHINA
As we arrive at the Kazakh border of Druzhba, we bid the Golden Eagle a final farewell. The border crossing takes 5 hours but our patience is rewarded as the Shangri-La Express private train awaits us in Alanshankou, the Chinese border station.  We are now at liberty to settle into our comfortable cabins as we head further into the intriguing landscape of China.  A welcome dinner is served in the restaurant cars, giving us our first taste of authentic Chinese cuisine. 

Day 14, URUMCHI & TURPAN
Urumchi is located in a verdant oasis between the lofty ice capped Bogda Peak, the vast Salt Lake, the pine covered Southern Hill and the alternating fields and sand dunes of the Zunggar Basin.  Urumchi boasts an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for being the city furthest from any sea in the world – a staggering 1,400 miles (2,500km) from the nearest coastline. This morning we visit the renowned mummy exhibition at the Provincial Museum.  After lunch we travel to Turpan, where the Flaming Mountains create a magnificent backdrop. We then take a fascinating tour to the ancient underground irrigation system that has successfully fed the rich orchards and vineyards for centuries.  Our final destination is the elegantly decaying sand city of Jiaohe that was founded in 108 BC.

Day 15, DUNHUANG
Before lunch we arrive in the small oasis-city of Dunhuang, where 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 a 1,000 year period.  In the afternoon we 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.  Tonight we experience dinner and a local folk performance in this magical setting.

Day 16, JIAYUGUAN
This morning our private train arrives in Jiayuguan.  Famous for being the first pass at the most westerly point of the Great Wall of China, it was given the rather poetic name:  ‘The first and greatest pass under Heaven’.  Our tour takes us to the perfectly restored fortress at the end of the Great Wall which dates back to 1372.  Considered one of the greatest sites in northwest China, we spend time here and visit its excellent museum. This afternoon we spend time in the Bar Car either attending a lecture on the Great Wall or simply relax as the landscape unfolds before us. 

Day 17, XIAN – FREEDOM OF CHOICE TOURING
Our fascinating journey of discovery takes us to Xian.  Our morning arrival gives us several hours to explore the world famous Terracotta Warriors, discovered by peasants only 30 years ago.  The 6,000 terracotta figures and their horses are one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th Century. Alternatively, we will offer a visit to the Han Yangling Museum. This timb dating back 2,000 years with its adjoining museum is one of China's finest undiscovered secrets. This evening we enjoy the Tang Dynasty Dinner, Music and Dance Show, a wonderful performance of ancient entertainment.

Day 18, BEIJING
Spending our last day onboard the Shangri-La Express we wind our way northwards towards the capital of China, Beijing.  Having travelled a mammoth 7,000 miles (11,250km) from Moscow, we bid farewell to our train crew and transfer to the five-star Regent Hotel (or similar) for a three-night stay. 

Day 19, BEIJING - FREEDOM OF CHOICE TOURING
Today we visit Tiananmen Square and then explore the magnificently restored Forbidden City. Our cultural exploration continues at the Temple of Heaven, the grandest of the four great temples situated in Beijing.  Here we experience enchanting displays of traditional dancing, singing and the delicately precise ancient art of calligraphy. Alternatively, take a tour looking at Beijing's modern architecture with visits to the Olympic Village including the Bird's Nest stadium, the National Centre for Performing Arts, colloquially known as The Egg, the CCTV Tower and the National Museum.

Day 20, BEIJING – THE GREAT WALL
We devote our final full day in Beijing to the most awe-inspiring site in the whole of China - The Great Wall.  This amazing edifice is one of the few man-made structures visible from outer space and perhaps the most evocative symbol of Chinese skill and precision. At Badaling we have the privilege of walking along a portion of the wall – the perfect opportunity to take some memorable photographs with your fellow guests. Our farewell banquet is hosted in an authentic Peking Duck restaurant, where we say goodbye to our fellow travelling companions.

Day 21, BEIJING
Following breakfast, you will be transferred to Beijing airport for international departures.

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