The Epic Trans-Mongolian Railway
One of the longest railway networks in The World. Tour the Gobi Desert, Mongolian steppe and endless Siberian landscape on this epic train ride.
For some reason I have always loved traveling by train. I do not know if it’s because my father used to work for the French train company or simply because journeying by train feels more adventurous; whatever the reason, I am grateful. I can remember traveling through France in the sleeping wagon and being content just laying with my eyes closed, listening to the sound of wheel on rail. That is when I began to imagine how thrilling it would be to travel across vast spaces, in foreign lands, on a train. When I began traveling in my 20s I was excited to learn of all the possibilities and it didn’t take long for me to set my sights on one train journey in particular: the Trans-Mongolian. This is where dream became reality.
Starting in Beijing and ending in Moscow, or vice versa, the Trans-Mongolian is one of the longest railway networks in the World. This overland journey of nearly 8,000 kilometers has become a popular trip for travelers.
If starting in Beijing the trip begins in the evening with a crossing of the mountains of northern China where you can catch a glimpse of the Great Wall in distance which is followed by a stop in Erlian, China where the train crosses the Chinese – Mongolian border. Customs and Immigration checks happen here as does something more unusual; this is where the bogies of the train are changed as the Chinese railway network has a different track gauge than the Mongolian / Russian railways.
The following day the train crosses the vast and open Gobi Desert of Mongolia so upon waking a very different landscape surrounds you. Mountain, steppe, plain, desert, lake – these are just a few of the landscapes you will enjoy from your seat. A highlight of the trip is skirting the southeast portion of Lake Baikal which takes many hours as this is the largest freshwater lake in the World.
The Trans-Mongolian follows what is believed to be the longest overland trade route in history, the Ancient Tea Caravan (also known as the Great Tea Road), whereby tea reached Russia and Europe for many centuries.
Station stops are made every few hours and last 5-20 minutes which allows enough time for a short stroll to stretch your legs and/or buy some goods from a nearby store. If time requirements on your visa permit it, you can also get on and off the train along the way to explore towns and cities of interest.
Two other variations of this trip are also popular: the Trans-Siberian (between Moscow and Vladivostok ) and the Trans-Manchurian (between Moscow and Beijing, bypassing Mongolia). All three routes take roughly the same amount of time, 6–7 days of non-stop travel. Regardless of the choice you make, it will definitely be the most epic train journey you do!
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