This fascinating rail journey retraces the legendary Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes on the Asian continent. Aboard the private luxury train Golden Eagle, you’ll venture from the spiritual, historical, and political heart of Moscow through the intriguing “’Stans”—Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, with their glorious outposts of Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand. The Golden Eagle combines first-class customer service with a romantic exploration of some of the world’s most remarkable sites. Unpack just once and experience a fantastic adventure!
Arrive at Moscow Airport, where you are met and transferred the five-star Ritz-Carlton, located in the city center within a short walking distance of Red Square and the Bolshoi Theater. Enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel, while you meet your fellow travelers and, together, look forward to the 13-day voyage that lies ahead.
Your touring program of Moscow takes you to the grandeur of the Kremlin—the spiritual, historical and political heart of Moscow—and to see the treasures of the Tsars in the Armory Chamber. Visit Red Square, the iconic symbol of Russia’s former military and political might, with its eclectic mix of fascinating architecture, such as the ornate St Basil’s Cathedral’s magnificent onion-domed spires, the beautiful façade of the world famous GUM department store that was constructed in Tsarist times, is also the sombre and evocative site of Lenin’s tomb.
Lunch at Café Pushkin, a legendary Moscow restaurant with a décor that revives the atmosphere of an early 19th century mansion and serves traditional Russian cuisine. You’ll end the day with a tour of the opulent and unique stations of the Moscow metro, showpieces of Socialist art furnished with statues, frescoes, and mosaics, unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Your first evening in Moscow you will be invited to a champagne drinks reception before our exclusive welcome dinner. Specially selected international wines are included with dinner, as with all meals during the tour.
Note: If you have been to Moscow before there is included Freedom of Choice touring where you can visit other sights of Moscow such as the famous State Tretyakov Gallery (National Museum of Fine Art) or the Space Museum. You can also extend your stay in Moscow with additional nights to explore more of the city at your leisure or have time to take in a performance at the world-renowned Bolshoi Theater. Tickets need to be pre-booked and are subject to schedule and availability.
Board the Golden Eagle
In the morning, board the Golden Eagle at Moscow's Kazansky Station. After settling into your modern, stylish cabins, enjoy dinner in one of the beautifully designed restaurant cars as the rail journey to Almaty in Kazakhstan begins.
Standing on the banks of the Volga, Stalingrad, as the city was known in Soviet times, was the dramatic scene of one of the most important World War II battles. The Russians heroically turned back the Nazi advance here to alter the course of the war. Explore the poignantly sobering Mamayev Kurgan war memorial, followed by an informative museum visit.
Kara Kum, Kazakhstan
Enjoy a relaxing day onboard the Golden Eagle as you travel across the vast expanses of the Kara Kum desert. Your rail journey has a number of days or half days onboard while traveling to the next destination. This time offers the opportunity to unwind and reflect on the many sights and sounds you have experienced or are about to experience on the rail journey so far. You can chat with your fellow passengers, listen to a talk on the history of the Silk Road and its people along the route, simply relax with a good book, or enjoy the ever-changing landscape outside your window as it unfolds before you.
From Urgench, travel to the ancient city of Khiva, founded 2,500 years ago. As one of the Silk Road’s most important trading posts and now a World Heritage Site, it lies at the crossroads of the routes between Mongolia, Russia, China and Persia. A truly magnificent sight to behold, it rises out of the desert to reveal a wealth of impressive architecture. Stepping back in time, you'll discover the impressive mosques, madrassas, bazaars, and minarets within Khiva’s ancient walls.
Westbound Itinerary (Almaty-Moscow) only: The Golden Eagle makes a brief scheduled stop at Ichoguz, where you have the opportunity to leave the train and make a short journey to Darvaza’s famous burning gas crater, a spectacular sight best seen at night. Located in the middle of the Kara Kum desert where the area is rich in natural gas, the 70-meter-wide crater is known by the locals as the “Door to Hell,” and has been burning for over 40 years.
Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, is known as the “Las Vegas of the Kara Kum.” Situated between the Kara Kum desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range, Ashgabat is a relatively modern city built upon the ruins of the Silk Road city of Konjikala and the Soviet city built after the devastating earthquake of 1948. The city's extravagant fountains, golden domes and towering modern buildings appear strangely incongruous in this desert setting. Highlights of your visit include a visit to the National Museum and Kipchak Mosque.
From Mary, transfer to the ancient and mainly unrestored remains of Merv. Once an important stopping point on the Silk Road, it claims to have briefly been the largest city in the world during the 12th century. In 1794, the Emir of Bukhara destroyed the dam that the population depended on for its water, and the town perished.
Bukhara is quite simply outstanding. Like Khiva, UNESCO sponsored the renovation of much of the city for its 2,500th anniversary in 1999. The highlight of this wonderful tour is a visit to The Ark, a fortified residence of the Emirs of Bukhara, the despotic and ruthless leaders who ruled until Soviet times. You'll then travel out of the city to experience the Emir’s enchantingly named Palace of the Moon and Stars. This evening, weather and time permitting, enjoy a barbecue on the station platform before the train departs.
Just the mention of Samarkand instantly conjures up evocative images of the Silk Road, more so than any other town. Founded in the 6th century BC, Samarkand’s stunning architecture hints at its former status as one of the most important cities in Asia. It’s particularly noted for its architectural remains from the 14th to the 17th century, when it flourished as the fabled capital of the Mongol empire of Timur and his successors. Today you will visit some of its most significant sites including Registan Square, the refined elegance of the beautifully proportioned Bibi Khanum Mosque, and the Ulag Beg observatory, one of the earliest Islamic astronomical observatories built in 1428. Before dinner, you'll return to the now illuminated and awe-inspiring Registan Square.
Tashkent is the capital city of Uzbekistan and you'll spend time touring this modern Soviet-style city that was rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1966. Your tour of the city includes the Old Town, where traditional homes and religious buildings line the narrow streets, and here in a small library you’ll be privileged to see one of Islam’s most sacred relics—the world’s oldest Koran. This is followed by a visit to the Railway Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts.
Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan and is notable for its wide tree-lined boulevards. Surrounded by the majesty of the Tien Shan Mountains, this beautifully verdant city derives its name from “alma,” meaning “apple.” Just a short distance from the city, apple orchards thrive in abundance. Your city tour includes a visit to Panfilov Park, where we have the opportunity to visit the Zenkhov Cathedral, built entirely of wood. You’ll also go outside the city to the Chimbulak resort, where a cable car ride will give you spectacular views of Almaty and the mountains.
After breakfast, transfer to the Almaty International Airport for your flight home.
Westbound Itinerary-in-Brief (Almaty-Moscow)
Day 1, Arrive Almaty
Day 2, Almaty
Day 3, Tashkent
Day 4, Samarkand
Day 5, Bukhara
Day 6, Merv
Day 7, Ashgabat
Day 8, Khiva
Day 9, Kara Kum
Day 10, Volgograd
Day 11, Arrive in Moscow
Day 12, Explore Moscow
Day 13, Depart Moscow