Which stopovers are recommended on the Trans-Siberian Railway?
This page is about the cities which lie en route. I don’t intend to list the number of inhabitants or other uninteresting facts here. That is the purpose of Wikipedia. This is exclusively about which cities a traveler should or should not visit. Since I was able to visit only a few cities on my trip I’d, of course, very much appreciate any feedback on own your experiences via my contact form.
You can’t avoid using Moscow as a starting point for the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is an imposing city, but not for long. The buildings around the Kremlin and the Red Square are really impressive. After visiting them, you feel you’ve really arrived in Russia. But once you’ve done that you ask yourself what else there is to do? A boat trip on the Moscva River which runs through the town is also very nice and the metro system is certainly remarkable, but spending all day in the Metro is not my idea of fun .
Conclusion: For Moscow I would recommend scheduling two whole days plus one day each for arrival and departure.
Yekaterinburgis about a 24 hour train ride from Moscow so it is suitable as a first stop to get you used to life on the Trans-Siberian Railway and to gain some experience as to how things will develop. Apart from the cathedral, there was nothing of real interest. The city has not yet been developed for tourists; only one hostel was listed on the internet. There is a beautiful lake with a river in the town. You can read and relax at the riverside, but not much else.
Conclusion: If you want to keep the first stage of your journey short, stay here for a day but no longer than that.
Find out more about Yekaterinburg at the guest post from Luba.
Novosibirsk is the capital of Siberia so I felt it should be a mandatory stop on my journey. The city is a good day’s drive away from Ekaterinburg. There were no hostels when I made the trip. Apart from a street with cafes and bars Novosibirsk has only dust and noise to offer. I experienced the city as a gray hole. Maybe I was there at the wrong time or visited the wrong places. If your experiences have been different please let me know.
Conclusion: Don’t necessarily stop here
Irkutsk is located near Lake Baikal and is the starting point for trips around the lake. This city is the best developed tourist city in Russia and rightly so. Almost everyone who travels on the Trans-Siberian railway stops here. There are many reasonably priced hostels in Irkutsk. A good hostel which also offers moderately priced tours is the Baikal Hostel. If you want to do an organized tour, you can hire a taxi at very low cost to Listvyanka village which is located directly on Lake Baikal. There is also plenty of accommodation here. The area in and around the lake is incredibly beautiful. You can hike, just relax by the lake or go swimming in the summer. In Irkutsk an adventurous journey feels more like a proper holiday.
Conclusion: You should stay at least a week and really relax.
Ulan Bator is the capital city of Mongolia and also the only major stop in this country. On one’s arrival it is quite clear that in Mongolia there is a completely different mentality to that in Russia. Whereas you had to search for hostels in Russia, here numerous tourist guides drive visitors to the hostels free of charge. I recommend Guest House Ulan Bator, where we booked our tour. Mongolia is one of the poorest countries in the world so you can stay somewhere overnight for as little as 4 €. Ulan Bator itself hasn’t much to offer, but it is a good starting point for various tours across Mongolia. I did an amazing one-week tour through the Gobi desert. It was also extremely cheap.
Conclusion: You should definitely stopover here and do a tour, this was the absolute highlight of my Trans-Siberian Railway trip.
Beijing marks the end of the Trans-Mongolian version of the Trans-Siberian Railway and is definitely worth a visit. Absolute must-sees are Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. The Emperor’s Summer Palace is also worth a visit. In Beijing you can just walk around aimlessly and be absolutely amazed. It is incredible how many impressive buildings have been constructed there. But the best thing about Beijing and China in general is the food. You can put together a restaurant meal for just 3 € but you will manage to eat only half of it. A decent hostel in Tiananmen Square is the Leo Hostel.
Conclusion: A one week stay is appropriate to explore the city.