Moscow to Beijing via Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

The Princes of Muscovy traded precious furs – sable, ermine and fox – for the silks of China that reached their borders on the backs of swaying camels along the old Silk Road.  Today you can make the epic journey along the Silk Road aboard comfortable private trains instead of, as in the old days, hazarding the wild deserts and fierce tribes of Central Asia with a caravan of well-armed merchants. 

A westbound Beijing to Moscow departure is also available. A shorter version of this trip, The Silk Route ‘Stans by Private Train is also available from Moscow to Almaty as well as westbound, Almaty to Moscow.


Day Trip

Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Why end mights on this Tour
  • Why end might the busy markets and teahouses of Bukhara
    Why end might the timeless character of Bukhara’s UNESCO-listed Old Town with its winding streets, colorful markets, and chaikhana (tea houses)....
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  • Explore the majestic Registan in UNESCO-listed Samarkand
    Applaud the unsurpassed majesty of the Registan and learn about the architectural wonders of fabled Samarkand....
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  • Discover the mixed heritage of Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan
    Discover the heritage of Tashkent, an old Silk Route city that is a jumble of wide tree-lined boulevards, oversized 20th century Soviet buildings and reconstructed...
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  • Inspect the magnificent Terra Cotta Army
    Inspect the magnificent Terra Cotta Army in Xi’an, guarding the tomb of China’s first emperor since the 3rd century BC....
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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • 30 years of Trans-Siberian travel experience
  • Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, recommends MIR as the company to talk to about a Trans-Siberian journey
  • Travel programs such as Northwestern, Harvard and Johns Hopkins have chosen MIR to guide them along the Trans-Siberian line
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-4: Moscow, Volgograd

Check into a five star Moscow hotel. Visit UNESCO-listed Red Square or the world-class Tretyakov Gallery. Board the luxury private train, arriving in Volgograd (Stalingrad during Soviet times), the scene of one of the most important battles of World War II.


  • UNESCO-listed Red Square with its imaginatively decorated St. Basil’s Cathedral
  • Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) with the Mamaev Kurgan memorial and the Panorama Museum

Days 5-8: Khiva, Darvaza, Ashgabat, Merv

The train rolls through Kazakhstan’s Kyzyl Kum Desert, crossing into Uzbekistan. Admire Khiva, among the most important oases on the Silk Road. In Turkmenistan, you can choose to make a foray into the desert for a nighttime glimpse of the "Door to Hell," the burning Darvaza gas crater. In Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, take a tour of this modern city, glittering with gold and marble. Visit the UNESCO-listed ancient ruins of Merv.


  • Kyzyl Kum (Red Sands) Desert, likely a camel or two
  • Original residence of the khans, the Kunya Ark
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Days 9-11: Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent

The highlights of Bukhara are the mud-brick Ark, the fortified residence of the Emirs of Bukhara, and the Lyabi-Hauz Plaza, its atmosphere cooled by the lovely reflecting pool in its center. Spend a day admiring the Bibi Khanum Mosque, Ulug Bek Observatory and Registan Square in Samarkand, Tamerlane’s beautiful capital. Visit Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, a modern city rebuilt in the Soviet style after an earthquake in 1966.


  • Bukhara’s atmospheric Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Ark Citadel, Bukhara’s ancient fortress
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Days 12-13: Almaty, crossing into China

Tour Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, including a visit to the 170-foot wooden Zenkov Cathedral. At the border of Kazakhstan, board the waiting Shangri-La Express private train and cross into China.


  • Almaty, Kazakhstan’s business capital and largest city
  • Lofty Tien Shan Mountain Range
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Days 14-15: Turpan, Dunhuang

Arriving in Turpan, tour the ruined city of Jiaohe, built in the 2nd century. In Dunhuang, explore the UNESCO-listed Mogao Thousand Buddha Caves, containing almost 500 frescoed grottoes carved between 700 and 1,700 years ago.


  • Mogao Thousand Buddha Caves, UNESCO World Heritage Site in Dunhuang
  • Crescent Moon Lake, bubbling up in the midst of desert sand dunes

Days 16-18: En route, Xi’an

Spend a day relaxing and watching the starkly beautiful Gobi Desert landscape unfold outside your window. Inspect the armies of Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an, guarding the grave of an emperor since 200 BC. Or, choose to visit the 2nd century BC Han Yangling Mausoleum and Museum, displaying chariots, weapons and figurines exhumed from the nearby tombs. Enjoy a Tang Dynasty cultural performance.


  • Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Tang Dynasty dinner show with music and dance
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Days 19-22: Beijing

Board the new bullet train for the journey to Beijing, then transfer to a premier hotel for a three-night stay. Take in the classic sights of China’s greatest city, including the imposing Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, enormous Tiananmen Square, and the Great Wall. Alternately, stroll among the beautifully preserved courtyard homes in the ancient village of Cuandixia. Celebrate the epic journey with a farewell dinner.


  • Classic sights of Beijing – Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Great Wall

See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

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Tour Dates & Prices

There are no departures available at this time.

Please contact us for more information and a MIR Destination Specialist will contact you shortly. Thank you!

Please note

This itinerary is currently only available as a custom or independent program.  For a rail journey by private through this region, you might be interested in Jewels of Persia & The Silk Route by Private Train.



What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • Accommodation aboard the Golden Eagle and Shangri-La Western Express private trains.
  • Per the itinerary, 5 nights of shared accommodation in well-located hotels.
  • All meals starting with dinner on Day 1 until breakfast on final tour day, including a generous, though not unlimited, allowance of wine or local beer, soft drinks and water with all lunches and dinners.
  • Arrival/departure transfers, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates and in the tour start/end cities.
  • All guided off-train tours per itinerary.
  • The services of an experienced Train Tour Manager, with local guides for scheduled off-train touring.
  • Complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water round the clock from your car attendant while on board the train.
  • All gratuities.
  • Baggage handling.

Before Your Tour

  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list, reading list, insurance information, visa kit.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
  • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
Download Detailed Itinerary
Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

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Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

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Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

More Info

Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

MIR can arrange for an extended program in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Mongolia or China before or after your tour.  Consider a pre-tour of St. Petersburg, often described as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, or perhaps a post-tour of Shanghai, arguably the most westernized city in China. All of MIR’s destinations are open to you, and all can be attached to this program. Please contact MIR for more details about exciting options for extended travel.

Or, choose from one of these suggested itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

This trip is moderately active, and is rated moderate to rigorous touring due to the daily walking involved and the overall shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure. To reap the full rewards of this adventure, travelers must be able to walk at least a mile a day, keeping up with fellow travelers.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour are explained in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

Read our Travel Journals

MIR's Travel Journals offer first hand accounts of MIR's fascinating destinations.

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Golden Eagle and the Shangri-La Western Express

Shangri-La Express

The perfect combination of remote destinations and comfortable accommodations, rail journeys by private train open a world of discovery to travelers who enjoy comfort and leisure time as well as exciting new vistas.

The exclusive Golden Eagle private train furnishes the dream of Old World rail travel with modern comforts and amenities that make the journey as pleasant as the destination. The luxurious Golden Eagle is a fully en suite train and a restful and satisfying way to experience legendary rail routes. 

Two styles of accommodation are available on board the Shangri-La Western Express for the portion of the journey in China: Diamond Class (en suite) and Heritage Class (shower at one end; WC at both ends of each car).

  • Those traveling in Gold or Imperial Suite Classes on the Golden Eagle train portion will travel in Diamond Class on the Shangri-La Western Express
  • Those traveling in Silver Class on the Golden Eagle portion will travel in Heritage Class on the Shangri-La Western Express.
Train & Hotel Accommodations

Relax and enjoy the panorama rolling past your private window and disembark for guided off-train touring in fascinating towns and cities along the way.

Each sleeping carriage on the Golden Eagle has its own attendants who provide bed turndown service, plus tea, coffee and mineral water 24 hours a day. Attendants keep an eye on everything while guests are away from the train. L’Occitane body products, as well as premium bathrobes, slippers and a hairdryer, are provided in all cabin categories.

After three nights in a Beijing hotel at the start of the journey, travelers spend three nights aboard the Shangri-La Western ExpressDiamond Class cabins feature a large lower bed, while Heritage Class cabins are furnished with two lower twin berths.

  • Imperial Suite

    Imperial Suite

    Imperial Suites are the most beautiful and spacious cabins available onboard the Golden Eagle. Measuring a surprising 120 sq ft (11.1 sq meters), they are furnished with a luxurious king size bed, dedicated seating area, dressing table and private en suite facilities with large power shower and under floor heating. Individual air-conditioning, wardrobe, DVD/CD player with LCD screen and two large picture windows make the cabin a pleasant retreat.

    Additional Information

    Imperial Suite dimensions – 2 suites per departure / 1 suite per carriage:

    Cabin area (total, including bathroom) – 120 sq ft (11.1 sq m)
    Cabin length – 17′ 4″ (5.3 m)
    Cabin width – 6′ 7″ (2 m)
    Bed length – 6′ 2″ (1.9 m)
    Bed width – 5′ (1.5 m)

    (click on photo to see larger version)

  • Gold Class

    Gold Class

    Gold Class cabins are well-proportioned and feature modern en suite amenities including power showers, under floor heating, a DVD/CD player, LCD screen, remote-controlled air-conditioning/heating, recessed lighting and wardrobe and a personal safe. Each cabin is configured with upper and lower berths, and can accommodate double, twin or single occupancy.

    Additional Information

    Gold Class cabin dimensions – 5 cabins/carriage:

    Cabin area (total, including bathroom) – 77 sq ft (7 sq m)
    Cabin length – 11′ 8″ (3.6 m)
    Cabin width – 6′ 7″ (2 m)
    Size of bathroom – 6′ 6″ x 4′  (2.4 sq m)
    Bed length – 6′ 2″ (1.9 m)
    Lower bed width – 4′ 5″ (1.35 m)
    Upper bed width – 2′ 9″ (85 cm)

    Lower bed converts to a sofa for daytime use.

    Note: The 5th compartment is of a slightly different layout (68 sq ft), and will normally be allocated to single guests.

    (click on photo to see larger version)

  • Silver Class

    Silver Class

    Silver Class cabins are more compact than Gold Class cabins with similar facilities. Silver Class cabins feature the same amenities as Gold Class cabins but in a smaller space and with a smaller, wet room-style shower area.

    Additional Information

    Silver Class cabin dimensions – 6 cabins/carriage:

    Cabin area (total, including bathroom) – 11 sq ft (5.5 sq m)
    Cabin length – 8′ 8″ (2.6 m)
    Cabin width – 6′ 7″ (2 m)
    Size of bathroom – 4′ 6″ x 3′ (1.25 sq m)
    Bed length (upper & lower) – 6′ 2″ (190 cm)
    Lower bed width – 3′ 6″ (1.1 m)
    Upper bed width – 2′ 9″ (85 cm)

    (click on photo to see larger version)

  • Diamond Class

    Diamond Class

    Diamond Class cabins are the more comfortable and spacious cabins available onboard the Shangri-La Western Express private train. Measuring 75 sq ft (7 sq meters), each cabin is furnished with a large double bed, window table and chair, wardrobe, and DVD/CD player with LCD screen. They are outfitted with private en suite facilities, including a WC, sink and wet-room-type shower.

    Additional Information

  • Heritage Class

    Heritage Class

    Heritage Class cabins are more compact than Diamond Class cabins, offering comfortable accommodation with twin-berth compartments featuring two lower berths. Beds convert to comfortable sofas for daytime travel and there is storage space under the berths and above the door in each cabin. A WC is found at each end of the car, and each car has a shower compartment at one end as well.

    Additional Information

  • Hotel Accommodations

    Hotel Accommodations

    The first and last nights of most tours are spent in well-appointed four and five star hotels. Some tours feature additional hotel nights. Please review the detailed itinerary for specifics pertaining to each tour and departure. Additional nights before and after any tour can be arranged on request.

Life Aboard the Train
Shangri-La Express

The Golden Eagle and Shangri-La Express private trains provide everything you need for a pleasurable journey. Join travelers from around the world to enjoy the relaxed and casual environment onboard, with no need to wear formal attire on excursions or while dining.

Train formations are not fixed, as the composition varies to suit the number of passengers on a given departure. Group sizes on winter trips are generally more intimate than spring, summer or fall departures. The exact configuration of the train on any particular journey may not be determined until close to departure. 

Please note that a variety of cabins styles are in use aboard the train. Decor, layout, type and number of dining, bar and sleeping cars on your journey may differ from the sample images depicted in our brochures/websites.

  • Bar/Lounge Car

    Bar/Lounge Car

    A Bar/Lounge Car is a favorite destination in the train formation and is typically included on most departures. The lounge offers a relaxing and comfortable area where you can enjoy a drink, take language lessons, and gather around the piano with other passengers.

    Additional Information

    (click on photo to see larger version)

  • Dining Cars

    Dining Cars

    Dining Cars feature local and European cuisine complemented by a selection of local and European wines (except on trips in Iran). Dining cars are multi-purpose, used for on-board lectures and viewing documentaries. One or more dining cars may be included in the train formation of any given departure depending on the number of passengers.

    Additional Information

    (click on photo to see larger version)

  • Off-Train Tours

    Off-Train Tours

    Rail journeys feature an extensive selection of educational city tours in the various stops on our routes. Private coaches and local guides whisk you away from your private train for fascinating half- or full-day forays into the principal towns and cities, sometimes including an in-city dining opportunity. Read through this tour’s itinerary for more information (found on the Itinerary & Map tab of this page).