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Trans-Mongolian Express - Naadam Festival (Westbound)


Ulaan Baatar - Ulan Ude - Lake Baikal - Irkutsk - Novosibirsk - Yekaterinburg - Kazan - Moskau (13 Tage)


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.




Arrive at Ulaan Baatar airport, where you will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel for a three nights stay. We will enjoy a welcome reception dinner at our hotel, whilst you meet your fellow travellers.



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.



Away from the Naadam Festival we will also get the opportunity to explore Ulaan Baatar and the surrounding area. 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, followed by a drive to Terelj National Park. Here we will have some time to enjoy the beautiful scenery of wild Mongolia and experience a visit to a traditional Mongolian Ger (Yurt). Early evening we board the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express to begin our journey towards Moscow.



This afternoon we arrive in Ulan Ude, capital of the Buryat Republic.  The ethnic and cultural diversity of this area offers a unique insight into its Mongol heritage.  As we tour the area you will notice the different faces and dress styles of these welcoming people.  During our exploration of the Old Believers Village we have the opportunity to learn about the culture and history of these communities as we are treated to a traditional meal and enjoy a concert featuring local dancers and musicians.



Few natural sights can surpass the beauty and grandeur of Lake Baikal.  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.  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 which we will be serving in the dining car for some of our meals. Weather permitting, we stop at one of Baikal’s picturesque and secluded bays to enjoy a delicious BBQ including freshly smoked fish prepared by our own chefs.  For the brave hearted, there is even time for a refreshing swim in the crystal clear waters before we visit Listvyanka, a small Baikal settlement nestling at the base of the surrounding hills.



We arrive in Irkutsk, the ‘Paris of Siberia’, and our visit today 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 waiting train for dinner.



A day to unwind and reflect on the many sights and sounds we have experienced on our journey so far.  Chat to your fellow passengers, perhaps learn a few more words of Russian or simply enjoy the ever changing landscape outside your window.



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. 



Founded in 1723 by Peter the Great, Yekaterinburg is the third largest Russian city and the capital of the Urals.  The cultural and architectural influences of European and Asian civilisations come together in this fascinating and cosmopolitan landscape.  Our city tour takes us to the poignant site where the Romanov, Nicholas II of Russia was executed with his family 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. We cross the Europe/Asia divide after we leave Yekaterinburg.


Day 11, KAZAN

We spend our last full day on board the Golden Eagle today.  We arrive at the picturesque and historic city of Kazan by mid-morning.  Situated on the River Volga, Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan.  Here we have the opportunity to see for ourselves its rich tapestry of history and culture.  One of the highlights of this city 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 magnificent onion-domed cathedral. 


Day 12, MOSCOW

After travelling along this epic route we arrive in Moscow.  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 wish instead to visit, for example, the Tretyakov Gallery or travel out of the city centre to Sergiev Posad, home to one of the most beautiful monasteries in Russia and the historical and spritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church.


At the conclusion of the day's touring, we transfer to the luxurious five-star Marriott Royal Aurora hotel (or similar) located in the heart of this vibrant city.  Our final evening is spent saying our goodbyes to our fellow travelling companions and friends at the Farewell Dinner.


Day 13, MOSCOW         

Following breakfast, you will be transferred to Moscow airport to begin your journey home. 

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