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Trans-Mongolian Express - Naadam Festival (Eastbound)


Moscow - Kazan - Yekaterinburg - Novosibirsk - Irkutsk - Lake Baikal - Ulan Ude - Ulaan Baatar (13 days)


The Naadam Festival – An Overview


For a full insight to life in Mongolia, why not experience one of our Naadam Festival Trans-Siberian departures – a journey across Russia onboard the Golden Eagle combined with a visit to the lively Mongolian national festival.


Naadam means ‘three manly games’. Known as the world’s second oldest Olympics, it celebrates what defined civilisation in the Steppes eight centuries ago; archery, wrestling and horse riding. It is held in the Mongolian capital, Ulaan Baatar, during the National Holiday from July 11 – 13 in the National Sports Stadium. The festival now commemorates the 1921 revolution when Mongolia declared itself a free country.


Other cities and towns across Mongolia and those with significant Mongolian populations in China have their own smaller-scale Naadam celebrations. The festival begins with an elaborate introduction ceremony featuring dancers, athletes, horse riders and musicians which we attend. After the ceremony, the competitions begin of archery, wrestling and horse riding begin. Another popular Naadam activity is the playing of games using ‘shagai’ - sheep knuckles - that serve as game pieces and tokens of both divination and friendship.


This is a unique opportunity to be among the few non-Mongolians to experience this spectacular but little known festival and soak up the exciting atmosphere of this national holiday.



Days 1-2, MOSCOW

Arrive at Moscow airport, where you are met and transferred to the five-star Marriott Royal Aurora hotel (or similar).  We enjoy a welcome reception dinner at our hotel. The following morning our tour of Moscow takes us to Red Square, an iconic symbol of Russia’s military and political might.  Here we see a mix of fascinating architecture, such as 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.


Early afternoon sees us boarding the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express. After settling into our cabins, we enjoy dinner as our rail adventure begins.


Day 3, KAZAN

We arrive at the picturesque and historic city of Kazan by mid-morning. One of the highlights of this tour is our exploration of the Kremlin Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the walls of this ancient citadel we will explore its stunning mosque and onion-domed cathedral.



We cross the Europe/Asia divide before arriving in the historic city of Yekaterinburg. Founded in 1723 by Peter the Great, the third largest Russian city is also the capital of the Urals.  The cultural and architectural influences of European and Asian civilisations come together in this cosmopolitan landscape.  Our tour takes us to the poignant site where Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Now a church dedicated to their memory, this site provides us with a powerful insight into the turmoil of the Russian Revolution.



A modern ‘Soviet’ city, we experience the life and character of Novosibirsk’s rich culture where the arts, science and literature predominate.  Our city tour takes us to the Opera House.  An architectural marvel, it houses two permanent ballet and opera companies and is the largest opera house in the world.  In front of the Opera House, we visit an imposing statue of Lenin – a marvellous opportunity to have your photograph taken with this iconic political leader. 



A day to unwind and enjoy the ever-changing landscape as we pass through the Abakan Mountains.



We arrive in Irkutsk, the ‘Paris of Siberia’, and our visit takes in the most significant sites and museums in this fascinating city, including an exploration of the classic wooden architecture that has given many of this region’s buildings such a distinctive and unique appearance. Next, we visit the Decembrist House museum which is dedicated to the memory of the exiled aristocrats who were forced to flee to this remote outpost after the failed revolution of 1825.  Here we enjoy a private concert before returning to our train for dinner.



Few natural sights can surpass the beauty and grandeur of Lake Baikal and is a major highlight on our Trans-Siberian journey. For five hours we wind our way through tunnels along cliff hugging tracks above the lake with a vista of snow capped peaks along the far shore forming a picture-perfect backdrop.  Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world and holds 20% of the world’s freshwater.  Also known as the ‘Pearl of Siberia’ it is home to a unique breed of freshwater seal and over fifty species of fish including omul.


Weather permitting, we stop in an extremely picturesque location by the lake for photographic opportunities and for the brave hearted there is time for refreshing swim in the crystal clea waters of Baikal. Travelling onwards to the end of the Baikal branch line, we leave the train and travel by boat across the lake to Listvyanka, a small Baikal settlement nestling at the base of the surrounding hills. Following a visit to a local museum we enjoy a delicious barbecue, including freshly smkoed omul, prepared by our own chefs on the banks of the Angara River.   



This morning we arrive in Ulan Ude, capital of the Buryat Republic.  The ethnic and cultural diversity of this area offers a unique insight into its heritage. During our exploration of the Old Believers Village we have the opportunity to learn about the culture and history of these religious people as we are treated to a traditional meal and enjoy a concert featuring local dancers and musicians.



Mongolia, once the very centre of an enormous empire led by Genghis Khan, is a country of beautiful landscapes, nomadic people and rich in culture and history. Mongolia is famous for its endless Steppes, grazing livestock and white, nomadic Gers (Yurts) dotted all across the countryside.


Our Trans-Siberian adventure takes us to Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia and our final destination where we spend the next three nights. We will tour the city, with highlights including a visit to the Buddhist Monastery Gandan, Sukh Baatar Square and the Museum of the Mongolian National History. During our time in Mongolia we will also visit Terelj National Park where we can enjoy the scenery of wild Mongolia and experience a visit to a traditional Mongolian Ger (Yurt).  



Today we spend a full day at the Naadam Festival. We get to observe the elaborate opening ceremony which consists of local dancers, athletes, horse riders and musicians, before watching the national horse race.



This is the day for all main competitions. In the morning we’ll attend archery, wrestling and ankle bone shooting.



Breakfast is served in the hotel and transfers are provided to the airport for departing flights.


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