Day 1 – London to Munich
Take a morning Eurostar to Paris. Upon arrival at Gare du Nord make your own way to Gare de l’Est. It takes just 10 minutes to walk between the two stations, or if you prefer a short taxi ride. From Paris take a double-decker TGV high-speed train to Munich. Sit back and relax as the train speeds across a vast wide open plateau of woods and farmland at up to 200mph and past picturesque French villages of the Champagne region. After a stop in Strasbourg the train continues over the Rhine into Germany, before heading on to Stuttgart and Munich where you will arrive at around 9.30pm. Make your own way to your hotel conveniently located very close to the station. Overnight InterCity Hotel or similar.
Day 2 – Munich to Budapest
After a leisurely breakfast take a late morning Austrian Railjet train for the 6½ hour journey to Budapest. After departure from Munich the train travels through pretty Bavarian countryside, then via the Alps, before heading on through Austria to Budapest. Perhaps enjoy lunch served in the train’s bistro car as you take in the wonderful scenery. Upon arrival in the Hungarian capital you will be met at the station and transferred to your centrally located hotel for an overnight stay. Overnight Mercure Budapest City Centre or similar. (B)
Day 3 – Budapest to Bucharest
After breakfast meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and enjoy an in depth look at Budapest’s attractions and contemporary culture on a four-hour walking tour. Set off to visit the city’s most popular sights. During the tour stop for traditional cake and coffee (included in the price of your tour), before pre-paid public transportation takes you to Castle Hill. Being a private tour you set the pace and decide how much time you want to spend at each location. After the tour enjoy some free time in the afternoon. And perhaps before your transfer back to the station stock-up on some provisions ahead of the long journey to Bucharest. This is important as on-train catering is unlikely to be available, certainly not until the next morning. At the station board the Ister sleeper service for Bucharest which departs just after 7pm. Overnight sleeper train (2 berth compartment). (B)
Day 4 – Bucharest
Wake up as the train meanders through Transylvania and then the Carpathian Mountains as it heads towards Bucharest. You may be lucky and find that a bistro car has been attached to the train where you can buy some breakfast, otherwise you will need to depend on the provisions that you brought with you. Arrival at Bucharest’s imposing Gara de Nord station will be around lunchtime. You will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel where you will stay for two nights. Overnight Hotel K+K Hotel Elisabeta or similar.
Day 5 – Bucharest
After breakfast meet your guide in the hotel for a private morning city tour. Discover Bucharest’s key sights including the grandiose Palace of Parliament and explore the city centre including the Royal Palace, Revolution Square, and Calea Victoriei. Later return to your hotel, with time to rest before leaving the next day for Istanbul. Overnight Hotel K+K Hotel Elisabeta or similar. (B)
Day 6 – Bucharest to Istanbul
After breakfast, make sure that you stock-up on plenty of provisions for the next leg of your adventure, as there are no catering facilities available on the Bosfor train to Istanbul. The train is scheduled to leave in the late morning and in the afternoon travels across Romania and over the Danube into Bulgaria on the world’s longest steel girder bridge, 2.5km long. It then takes a steady pace through the lovely scenic valleys of Bulgaria into Turkey. At the Bulgarian town of Dimitrovgrad the direct Bucharest to Istanbul carriages are detached and joined to the Sofia to Istanbul Express train. In the late evening the train will reach the Bulgarian / Turkish border, and passengers must get off to have their passport checked. Your luggage will also be examined and possibly put through an x-ray machine. After a stop of about an hour or so the Bosfor continues its journey to Istanbul arriving early the next morning. Overnight train (4 berth couchette compartment booked for exclusive use). (B)
Please note that the direct Bucharest to Istanbul Bosfor train operates from early June to early October only. Outside of this period it is still possible to travel via this route by train, but it will be necessary to take a series of connecting trains (two connections required) firstly to Dimitrovgrad in Bulgaria, from where it is possible to join an onward train to Istanbul.
An alternative option to the above, and one that should be considered if you are planning to travel before June or after the beginning of October, is a route that will take you from the UK via Germany, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria to Istanbul. Please contact us for further details.
Day 7 – Istanbul
Arrive in Istanbul early in the morning. At the time of writing because of construction work, the Sofia/Bucharest to Istanbul train terminates at Halkali, a suburban station 25km west of central Istanbul. Rather than taking a local train into the city, you will be met at Halkali station and transferred by private car or pre-arranged taxi directly to your centrally located hotel. Early check-in will be subject to availability so you will have the option to leave your luggage at the hotel should you want to explore the local area on foot. Alternatively relax in the hotel’s lounge or take breakfast in the restaurant (not included in the price of your tour) whilst you wait for your room to become available. Later meet your guide at the hotel and set-off for a private afternoon city tour. Marvel at Istanbul’s best Ottoman sites taking in the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. This tour captures the essence of why the Sultanahmet district, which you will visit, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You will learn about the history of Istanbul dating back to its former Ottoman days as Constantinople. Plus, hear old stories about the reign of sultans from your expert guide and admire architecture and ancient relics within each famous attraction. Later return to your hotel. Overnight Mercure Istanbul Sirkeci Hotel or similar.
Day 8 – Istanbul
A full day in Istanbul for you to explore the city on your own. Or if you want to arrange extra guided sightseeing just ask at your hotel. Overnight Mercure Istanbul Sirkeci Hotel or similar. (B)
Day 9 – Istanbul to Ankara
After a leisurely breakfast you will be transferred to Söğütlüçeşme station which is located on the eastern side of the Bosphorus. Formerly trains would head east from Istanbul’s old Haydarpaşa station but it is currently closed for major renovation work and when it re-opens it will be part of the city’s suburban rail network. Sadly it will no longer have the status it once did, as the gateway to Asia, with trains bound for such exotic destinations as Baghdad, Aleppo and Madinah. Located close to Haydarpaşa you will take an air-conditioned 250 km/h high-speed YHT train (Yüksek Hızlı Treni) from Söğütlüçeşme to the Turkish capital, Ankara, a scenic journey of about 4½ hours. Upon arrival in Ankara you will be met at the station and taken to your hotel where you will stay overnight. Overnight Holiday Inn Ankara-Cukurambar or similar. (B)
Day 10 – Ankara and Departure on the Trans-Asia Express
After pick-up from your hotel, set-off with your private guide for a morning city tour. Visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, home to displays of remnants such as jewellery, dishes, and sculptures – all thousands of years old and from the Stone Age and Neolithic Age as well as the Hittite, Urartian, and Phrygian periods. With your guide, take in a view of the Ankara Castle, also known as the Ankara Citadel. The hilltop castle was controlled by the Romans, Byzantines, Seljuq Turks, crusaders, and again by Seljuqs in the 1200s before the citadel had extensive repairs under the order of Ibrahim Pasa in the 1800s. Next admire Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the leader of the Turkish War of Independence and first president of the Republic of Turkey. Return to your hotel and perhaps take the opportunity to stock-up on provisions for your long journey ahead. Alternatively ask your guide to stop at a grocery store before you are dropped back at the hotel. Later you will be transferred to the railway station where you will board the weekly Trans-Asian Express train. The first leg of your epic adventure will be a comfortable Turkish train that will take you to the shores of Lake Van, a journey of about 24 hours. En-route you will travel through remote East Anatolia and pass some stunning landscapes and you will see the Kızılırmak River, known for its reddish colour. You will also pass the 2km long Firat Bridge which was built on Keban Dam – the fourth largest lake in Turkey. Overnight train (4 berth couchette compartment booked for exclusive use). (B)
Day 11 – Lake Van
After a morning travelling through some amazing scenery and chatting with your fellow passengers the train will arrive at Tatvan where you will get off and board the connecting ferry for the 3½ hour crossing of Lake Van. The Lake is famous for a small island called Akdamar where an ancient Armenian church is located. Weather permitting you should be able to see the island during the crossing and before you disembark in Van, the terminus for the Iranian Railways operated train to Tehran. From Van to the Turkish/Iranian border the journey normally takes about a couple of hours or so, with arrival expected at around 11pm. At this point everyone will be asked to leave the train at the border station. The passports of all passengers will be stamped, and the luggage will be checked. Generally it can take a couple of hours before all the procedures are completed and then the train will set-off again bound for Tehran. Overnight train (4 berth couchette compartment booked for exclusive use).
Day 12 – Tehran
After the border formalities the night before hopefully you will have managed to get some sleep as the train continues its journey. At around 9am the train will pass the northern shore of Urmia Salt Lake – the sixth-largest saltwater lake on Earth, with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km2 and a length of 140km. A little later the train will stop at the busy city of Tabriz, capital of East Azerbaijan Province, and once the location of a major Silk Road market. No doubt some passengers will leave the train here, whilst others will board for the all day journey south to the capital. Almost certainly your fellow passengers will be keen to practise their English, so spend the day chatting and making new friends. You will find that the Iranian people are incredibly hospitable and keen to offer you a warm welcome. Finally, at around 11pm the Trans-Asia will pull into Tehran’s main station where you will be greeted by a driver and taken to your hotel. Overnight Hoveyzeh Hotel or similar.
Day 13 – Tehran
After a good night’s sleep and a leisurely breakfast meet your guide for a private half day city tour. Highlights include Golestan Palace, the city’s main bazaar, the Treasury of National Jewels, known for the Darya-e-Nur, the world’s largest pink diamond. Later return to your hotel. Overnight Hoveyzeh Hotel or similar.(B)
Day 14 – Depart Tehran
Check-out from your hotel before midday. A private transferred will be arranged to take you to the airport to coincide with your departure. (B)
- All accommodation
- Transfers as per itinerary with a private car or minibus
- Rail travel based on 2nd class seats for day time journeys and private sleeping compartments for overnight journeys. Please contact us for details of first class upgrades
- Guided sightseeing tours as per itinerary, with the services of a private English-speaking guide or driver/guide
- Daily breakfast except on days 1, 4, 7, 11 and 12
- Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
- International flights
- Any airport taxes
- Travel Insurance
- Meals not stated in the itinerary
- Items of a personal nature
- Tips – at own discretion