Day 1 – London - Zurich
Take a morning Eurostar to Paris. Upon arrival at Gare du Nord make your own way to Gare de Lyon. As you will be travelling with luggage we would recommend a taxi, rather than taking the metro. Or for peace of mind we can pre-arrange a private car transfer. Just let us know at the time of booking. And make sure you allow plenty of time to travel across Paris; we would suggest a minimum of 1½ hours. Or allow a bit longer and why not break your journey for lunch at the fabulous Train Bleu restaurant inside the Gare de Lyon. Opened in 1900, it is decorated in a sumptuous art nouveau style. A great start to your adventure. Be sure to book a table in advance. Continue from Paris to Zurich on a TGV-Lyria train, a journey of just over 4 hours. Arrive in the late afternoon or early evening and stay overnight. We have chosen a hotel that is in close proximity to the station. Overnight Hotel St.Gotthard or similar.
Day 2 – Zurich - Vienna
Leave Zurich mid-morning for Vienna by a slick Austrian Railjet train via the fabulous Arlberg Pass through the Alps and into the Austrian Tirol. The train runs along the Zürichsee and Walensee lakes, and then hugs the mountainside, before it snakes through a huge valley, past Swiss and Austrian scenery taken straight from the Sound of Music. Sit back, relax and perhaps enjoy lunch served at your first class seat. Arrive in Vienna and check-in to your hotel, located very close to the station. Overnight Novotel Wien Hauptbahnhof or similar. (B)
Day 3 – Vienna
Austria’s Imperial capital offers a unique blend of imperial traditions and stunning modern architecture. It is famous for its cultural events, imperial sights, coffee houses, cosy wine taverns, and the very special Viennese charm. Enjoy the day at your own pace, or if you prefer we can pre-book you a guided tour so you can be sure not to miss any of the key sights. Alternatively, ask at your hotel about taking a popular hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Overnight Novotel Wien Hauptbahnhof or similar. (B)
Day 4 – Vienna - Lviv
Late afternoon head back to the station for the next part of your adventure. Board the sleeper for the beautiful city of Lviv. For good reason it is often referred to as the new Prague, so now is the time to visit, before it becomes too discovered. Your accommodation will be in a Ukrainian sleeping-car with private compartments. And be prepared for something quite unusual. At the town of Chop on the Ukrainian border the carriage is jacked up to have its wheelsets changed from European standard gauge (4’8½”) to Russian gauge used in Ukraine (5′). Unfortunately this does take place in the early hours, so you might want to bring some earplugs.
During the evening a Hungarian restaurant car is normally attached to the train, so enjoy dinner before retiring to your cabin. We can recommend you try a glass of Hungarian rose. However, as with all overnight journeys, it is a good idea that you take some provisions. This includes water and perhaps some items to have for breakfast the next morning. Overnight sleeper train (2 berth compartment). (B)
Day 5 – Lviv
Arrive Lviv mid-morning where you will be met by our local partner and transferred to your hotel. We have kept the rest of the day free for you to relax after your journey from the UK. Or have a wander around as the city can easily be explored on foot. Overnight George Hotel or similar.
Day 6 – Lviv
Lviv is renowned as one of the prettiest towns in Ukraine and its historic centre has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the morning take in some of its highlights on a guided tour including the Opera House, the Dominican Church and Lviv High Castle, located at the highest point in the city at 413m above sea level. Spend the afternoon at leisure. Overnight George Hotel or similar (B)
Day 7 – Lviv - Kiev
Today you will continue by train, taking a late morning departure to Kiev. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel, where you can expect to arrive in time for dinner. Overnight Hotel Rus or similar. (B)
Day 8 – Kiev to Moscow
After breakfast meet your guide and explore some of the key sights of Kiev, including the ancient ‘onion-domed’ St Sophia Cathedral, its bustling main boulevard Kreschatyk, and the Golden Gates, the only remaining section of ancient Kiev’s original fortifications. After lunch visit the Pyrohovo Museum of Rural Life and Architecture, a recreated village which contains excellent examples of traditional Ukrainian buildings in an open-air setting. After stocking up on some provisions for the next leg of your journey, your guide will take you back to the station where you will board the overnight sleeper for Moscow. Overnight sleeper train (2 berth compartment). (BL)
Day 9 - Moscow
Arrive in Moscow at around 10am. You will be met at the station and transferred to your hotel. Your room will probably not be available right away so relax in the hotel’s lounge or explore the local area on foot. After you have been able to check-in and had time to freshen up, your guide will return to the hotel and take you on a short city tour. You will proceed to Red Square – one of Russia’s most iconic landmarks, filled with history. You will see traditional Russian churches with their onion domes and go inside some of them. Later walk through the 130 year old GUM shopping mall. Then see the famous tomb of the first Russian communist leader – Lenin followed by Saint Basil’s cathedral. Overnight Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya.
Day 10 – Moscow
After a leisurely breakfast enjoy a tour of Moscow’s famous metro system. With your guide ride the metro like a local and enjoy a personalised itinerary. Learn about the history of the system and admire the intricate design, including the futurist architecture at the Mayakovskaya station. Hear stories about each station and choose to add additional stations to your tour. After lunch return to your hotel where you will have some free time to relax before you are escorted to Leningradskaya Station, located a short walk from the hotel. Board a modern overnight sleeper train for the 650 mile journey south to the city of Samara located on the Volga River. Overnight sleeper train (2 berth compartment). (BL)
Day 11 – Samara
Arrive in Samara late morning. You will be met at the station and transferred to your hotel. Rooms will be available for an early check-in. After you have had time to freshen up, your guide will return to the hotel and take you for lunch. In the afternoon enjoy a walking tour followed by a boat trip on the Volga River, upon which the city is located. Samara was officially founded in 1586 when a fortress was built on the site due to its great vantage point along the river. It became a popular port and developed into an important trade route with the East. Probably due to its economic and industrial stability Stalin chose Samara as the capital of the Soviet Union if Moscow was to fall during WWII. Many government ministries and government workers were evacuated to the city at the beginning of the war. Evidence of this decision is the bunker that Stalin had built under the Academy of Art and Culture, which is untouched as it was never used. After the city tour you will leave Samara and travel about 40km to the shore of Mastryukovski Lake where you will have dinner at the Eco-Hotel Mayak, which weather permitting will be served on the hotel’s outdoor terrace. Return to Samara where you will stay overnight. Overnight Hampton by Hilton or similar. (LD)
Day 12 – Samara to Aralsk
After breakfast at the hotel join your guide for a morning excursion which will be on foot. Visit Stalin’s bunker and later stop at Zhiguli Brewery where you will take a tour, followed by lunch. Return to the hotel where you will collect your luggage before being transferred to the station. At around 5pm join the twice weekly Uzbekistan train for the long journey south to Kazakhstan, taking you through wide open plains, alongside mountains, and into the heart of central Asia. You should expect plenty of checking of passports so it is essential that your visas are in order, but such formalities will only add to the sense of adventure, and that this is no ordinary journey. As with the other trains used on this tour, your accommodation on-board will be comfortable and fairly spacious 2-berth sleeper compartments. Dining facilities on the train can be limited so be sure to come prepared. Perhaps ask your hotel to provide some food or a picnic for the long journey. Overnight sleeper train (2 berth compartment). (BL)
Day 13 - Aralsk
After crossing the Russian/Uzbek border in the morning you spend a full day on-board the Uzbekistan passing through Kazakhstan, with plenty of time to meet your fellow passengers. Expect little English to be spoken but no doubt you will make new friends over a few beers or a little vodka in the train’s restaurant car. This is what long distance rail travel is all about; watching the world go by, chatting to other passengers and all of the time discovering a new country and its culture. Although the train is not as famous as the legendary Trans-Siberian, your journey will be just as exciting and there is a good chance that you will be the only western travellers on-board. You will reach your destination, the small city of Aralsk at around 10pm, where you will be met at the station and transferred to your hotel. Overnight Keruen Saraiy or similar.
Day 14 – Aralsk to Baikonur
Early breakfast at the hotel followed by a full day exploring Aralsk, which used to be the main fishing port on the Aral Sea, before the latter began drying up. The first stop will be at the Fishermen Museum and then head out of the city, about 120km to the village of Aqespe where you will take lunch. In the afternoon visit one of the iconic ship cemeteries. You may have seen some of those famous images of camels roaming between stranded fishing trawlers. They have become something of a symbol of the whole Aral Sea tragedy. Later return to Aralsk via the Karasandyk Canyon and through some impressive dunes. Stop along the way for a dinner at a local restaurant before reaching Aralsk, in time for a late evening train south to Baikonur. Overnight sleeper train (4 berth compartment – for exclusive use of 2 passengers). (BLD)
Day 15 - Baikonur
Very early morning arrival in Baikonur where you will be met at the station and transferred to your hotel. After check-in, freshen-up and get some rest, before taking breakfast. Later join your guide and leave for the famous Baikonur Cosmodrome, one of only two places on earth where humans are regularly thrust into outer space and the sole launch site for manned missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Previously known as Leninsky and then ‘Star City’, Baikonur was selected in 1955 as the prime location for the USSR Space programme on account of its wide open steppe and lack of population under the rockets trajectories. Since then it has seen the launch of Sputnik (the first man-made satellite), Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space), Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman in space), and more recently British astronaut Tim Peake’s mission to the ISS. After completing passport checks and formalities, obtaining your special permits and exchanging some Russian roubles, you effectively pass into Russian territory as you set out to explore the Cosmodrome and learn about the fascinating history that has been made here. Visit the house of Yuri Gagarin before continuing onto the Space Museum which details the history of the Soviet and now Russian space programmes. One of the highlights of Baikonur is a visit to the decommissioned Buran spacecraft where you will have the chance to sit in a cosmonaut’s seat. Return to the town of Baikonur and visit the Baikonur museum. It houses an extensive collection of all things space, documenting the city’s conception, the construction of the Cosmodrome and the rockets, the history of the space-race and how the Kazakh culture has influenced Baikonur. Later move onto the lane of cosmonauts, a green park where a ceremonial tree is planted for each rocket launch. In the evening enjoy a traditional Kazakh dinner with a local family before returning to your hotel where you will have time for a rest before being transferred back to the station for your onward train to Tashkent which leaves at around midnight. Overnight sleeper train (2 berth compartment). (BLD)
Day 16 - Tashkent
The train continues travelling through Kazakhstan until it reaches the Uzbek border in the afternoon. And finally the Uzbekistan is due to arrive in Tashkent at around 6pm, and considering the sheer distance covered is generally fairly punctual. To offer you a warm Uzbek greeting at the station will be our local guide. Head straight to your hotel, where after two nights on the train a hot shower will be very welcome. Overnight Shodlik Palace or similar.
Day 17 - Tashkent
Morning at leisure to relax after your long journey. In the afternoon join your local guide to explore the city. Visit Old Tashkent, the impressive Khast Imam Square, the holy heart of the city where the Telyashayakh Mosque houses the Uthman Koran, said to be the world’s oldest. Afterwards there will be time to wander through Chorsu Bazaar, the largest farmer’s market in Tashkent, filled with the heady smell of spices. Later enjoy an early dinner before a transfer to the railway station where you will board the overnight sleeper to Khiva, a stunning city with a wealth of ancient monuments. Overnight sleeper train (2 berth compartment). (BD)
Day 18 - Khiva
Arrive in Khiva in the late morning where you will be met at the station and transferred to your hotel. Take the rest of the day to relax, or wander around on your own and soak up the atmosphere of this most remote of Central Asia’s Silk Road cities. Overnight Malika Khiva Hotel or similar.
Day 19 - Khiva
Meet your guide for a full day city tour including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ichan Kala, or inner town. Highlights include the 18th century Juma Mosque where 213 black elm pillars support the prayer hall’s roof, and the late 20th century Islam Khoja Minaret whose colourful stripes reach almost 57 metres. Afterwards we explore the 12th century Kunya Ark, a fortified residence of Khiva’s khans, and its watchtower. Elsewhere, in the tiled courtyard of the 18th century Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum, there will be time to appreciate what must be one of the city’s most beautiful retreats. After lunch at a private house we visit the bazaar and one of Khiva’s many historic caravanserais. Overnight Malika Khiva Hotel or similar. (BL)
Day 20 - Khiva - Bukhara
Today you will be transferred back to Khiva’s railway station to board the train south to Bukhara, where the city’s historic centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Overnight Caravan Hotel or similar. (B)
Day 21 - Bukhara
Bukhara is one of the region’s most spectacular cities, where a superbly preserved old quarter lends itself to exploration on foot. Highlights of today’s city tour include the spectacular 12th century Kalyan Minaret, one of the defining symbols of Bukhara and once the tallest building in Central Asia, and the three domed bazaars; the Jewellers’ Bazaar, the Cap Makers’ Bazaar and the Moneychangers’ Bazaar. Take a break for lunch at a local restaurant and afterwards head to the emphatic bastions of the Ark fortress, a royal town within a town and home to the city’s khans for over a millennium. Finally, just outside the historic centre you will have time to see the Samanid Mausoleum, an exceptional example of early Islamic architecture, completed in 905 AD. Overnight Caravan Hotel or similar. (BL)
Day 22 - Bukhara to Samarkand
After a morning at leisure and perhaps a final opportunity to explore one of the region’s true gems, board a mid-afternoon Afrosiyob high-speed train to the legendary city of Samarkand. Built in Spain by the Talgo Company these trains are the flagship of Uzbekistan Railways. The journey will take around an hour and half. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Overnight Malika Hotel or similar. (B)
Day 23 - Samarkand
Join your guide for a tour of Samarkand’s spectacular collection of architecture, the most famous of which are found at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Registan. Early western travellers wrote extensively of Samarkand’s remarkable mosques, madrassas and mausoleums, all elaborately decorated by blue ceramic tiles and traditional Islamic art. Nearby, at Gur-e-Amire, lies the 15th century tomb of Amir Timur, also known a Tamerlane, one of the most effective military leaders in history, and his grandson, Ulugh Beg a visionary astronomer. Elsewhere, after admiring the impressive Bibi Khanym mosque continue to the extensive Siab Market, before taking lunch. In the afternoon visit Shakhi Zinda, a collection of richly tiled mausoleums for rulers and nobles of Samarkand. The site’s name translates to Living King and refers to an original shrine thought to be the grave of Qusam ibn- Abbas, a cousin of the prophet Muhammad. Overnight Malika Hotel or similar. (BL)
Day 24 - Samarkand to Tashkent
After a free day set aside for you to explore Samarkand on your own, you will be transferred to the railway station to re-join the Afrosiyob high-speed train for the very final leg of your epic adventure to Tashkent. Arrive in the evening, and after a transfer to your hotel celebrate what has been an amazing journey. Overnight at Shodlik Palace or similar.
Day 25 - Depart Tashkent
The tour ends with a transfer to the airport to connect with your onward flight. (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 for details of first class upgrades
Private guided sightseeing tours as per itinerary, with the services of an English-speaking guide or driver/guide
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
- International flights
- Any airport taxes
- Travel Insurance
- Meals not stated in the itinerary