If these crenellated walls could end their ghostly silence, they would whisper a centuries old tale of hardship, of lucrative slave trade and of weary desert travellers. The ancient fortress stands unfaltering under the relentless Middle Eastern sun, defying the near cloudless blue sky and lamenting to wanderers of an inexistent world.
I have recommended this tour to several friends and associates. We have the happiest of memories and wish your company continued success.
J & R Sunderland, Roof of Europe
The path before us is among of the oldest in history - the Silk Road. We cosy in and wing our way to Russia with Emirates this evening.
Anticipation spikes as we descend into Moscow this afternoon.
We transfer directly to the resplendent Ritz-Carlton in time for a Welcome Dinner, before settling in for a good night's sleep.
Will your dreams tell of whimsical spires and artistic treasure troves? Or are you fixated on what lies further afield along the rails?
It’s time to explore and there's no place better to start than Red Square and Lenin’s Tomb. Dripping with Russian fine art, the Tretyakov Gallery captures our attention before we venture deep underground on the Moscow Metro, where each station is bedecked with marble and chandeliers. After visiting Moscow State University as well as the Peace and Gorky parks, the afternoon takes us back towards the spires of St Basil’s Cathedral for a private vodka and caviar tasting.
Bold stories of the Tsars will unfurl on a private tour of the Kremlin Armoury Museum before it opens to the public. Then it’s off we go to the manicured gardens and glittering golden domes of the Moscow Kremlin, enjoying glimpses of the Moskva River below.
Join Golden Eagle
At the Imperial Waiting Room in Kazansky Station, we celebrate our departure with canapés and a glass of Russian bubbly. Soon we’re greeting the Golden Eagle for the first time, smoke billowing from the steam locomotive in a most romantic fashion. Ahead of us lies a journey that will bring together seldom travelled realms and paint a vivid portrait of the history and civilisations that exist along this ancient trade route.
Chugging through Kazakhstan’s Aral Karakum Desert, we enjoy the great facilities of the Golden Eagle while glancing wistfully out the window at mile upon mile of scorched earth. During the day, brush up on your Russian with a language lesson or chat with travelling companions in the Bar Car.
Perhaps you can recall the start of the Space Age when the USSR successfully launched Sputnik. Did you ever imagine you’d stand in that very lift off spot? Nostalgic childhood fantasies of astronauts and outer space are roused today as we tour the space launch facility, Baikonur Cosmodrome. Leased from Kazakhstan by the Russian Federation, access to the facility is tricky for tourists, so this is certainly a day to cherish.
Find the answers to your burning Silk Road questions in this morning’s onboard history lecture. After lunch, we roll into the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. As we explore the Museum of Applied Arts, and the Railway Museum, we’ll soon discover how the city has evolved from its Soviet style roots into a more modern metropolis.
At the intersection of European and Asian cultures, we enter Samarkand, described as the 'Paris of the Muslim World’. Feel the grandeur embedded in the architecture as we explore Bibi Khanym Mosque, Ulugh Beg Observatory and The Registan, where a dinner of traditional cuisine is accompanied by views of the illuminated square.
Having followed the tracks through the Kyzylkum Desert, we awake in Bukhara. Beautifully restored by UNESCO for its 2,500th anniversary in 1999, this oasis city offers several highlights. Among them is a visit to The Ark, the fortified residence of the Emirs of Bukhara, who ruled in earlier times. Just outside the city, we admire the Palace of the Moon and Stars, the last Emir’s summer residence, before returning to the train.
Picture the crossroads of the paths from Mongolia, Russia, China and Persia - it’s Khiva, a once prosperous 2,500-year-old city. We see the remnants of its wealth in the buildings, mosques, bazaars and minarets within the walled city. To say it’s easy on the eyes is an understatement - the rustic beauty and air of mystery is spellbinding.
Located between the desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range, Ashgabat was completely redesigned in 1948 after being levelled by an earthquake. The city of today glows, laying claim to the largest number of marble buildings of any city in the world - 543 to be exact. We’re dazzled by a visit to the National Museum before a trip to Kipchak Mosque.
Imagine the might of Merv, briefly the largest city in the world before its downfall in 1794, when the Emir of Bukhara destroyed the people’s major water source. The impact of conflict in earlier days is evident as we visit one of the five walled cities within the 130-square kilometre area. This evening we arrive at the town of Sarakhs and pause as the Golden Eagle is prepared for the standard gauge tracks of Iran.
Departing Sarakhs before another burning sunrise ensures that we have an entire day to indulge our curiosity in Mashhad, Iran’s holiest city. Our first stop is the Imam Reza Shrine complex, considered the heart and soul of Iran. After exploring, we leave the pilgrims behind and continue on to the Mausoleum of Nadir Shah before learning about the life and works of the father of Persian Literature, Ferdowsi, during a visit to his splendid tomb.
Since the 15th century, Mahan has received a steady stream of pilgrims, their sights set on the shrine dedicated to the Iranian poet and mystic, Shah Nematollah Vali. And this is still true today - the turquoise tiled cupola is without question a symbol of the city. We wander the gardens and courtyards before arriving in Rayen, set in the gaze of Mt Hezar. Our eyes are drawn to what looks like a mud maze on the horizon. Arg e Rayen is the town’s ancient adobe citadel and we’ve time to appreciate it during our exploration of the bazaar and governor’s complex. As the sun begins to sink beyond the horizon, we return to the Golden Eagle in time for dinner.
Rolling on, we reach the ancient desert city of Yazd, where buildings have been designed to trap even the smallest of drafts and direct it to the dwellings below for cooling. Yazd became the centre for the country’s small Zoroastrian community, who sought refuge from the invading Arabs. We visit the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, the fire of which has been burning for almost 1,500 years and then head for the Amir Chakhmaq complex. A defining feature of Iranian mosques is the tall and intricately embellished entryway, known as pishtaq. With its lace like mosaics spiralling around twin minarets, the one at Yazd's Friday Mosque is no exception.
The pride of Persia, Isfahan is a city of Islamic magnificence, where blue tiled mosques glitter above 17th-century buildings, and bridges of architectural brilliance span the river. Our morning discovery of Isfahan’s shrines and holy sites includes Chehel Sotoun Palace and Vank Cathedral. After lunch we reach Naghsh e Jahan, a square second in size only to Tiananmen. A stroll here takes us through the shadows of the Ali Qapu Palace, among other buildings. Our day then concludes with a visit to Qeisarieh Bazaar, where you might like to bargain for gifts to take home.
The might of the First Persian Empire is on display at Persepolis, one of the most important sites of the ancient world. The ruins we see here today are amazing: imagine what the city would have been like under Darius the Great back in 515 BC! Carved into a tall cliff face, the royal tombs of Naqsh-e Rustam are so large we can see them rising from the horizon as we travel north. The city of Shiraz evokes so many images of ancient Persia - exotic gardens, mansions, woollen rugs, philosophy and poetry. On arrival, a city tour will breathe life into the many highlights of Shiraz, including Hafez Tomb and the Quran Gate.
Disembark Golden Eagle
Disembarking the Golden Eagle for the final time in Tehran, we say farewell to the crew and head off for the 5-star Espinas International Hotel, where we'll stay the next two nights. The curtain may have closed on our rail adventure but we are keen to settle in and explore this city of startling contrasts and contradictions.
After the museum closures and looting of the famous 1979 revolution, Iran’s cultural hubs set out to rebuild. The result? A curatorial celebration of one of the world’s oldest continuous civilisations. An escorted tour through the city takes us to visit the Treasury of Nation Jewels, which holds the world’s most precious jewellery collection. Later, the UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace complex represents a vastly different kind of elegance to the royal residences of Europe.
At our Farewell Dinner, we spend this evening reflecting on our life-affirming journey along the Silk Road.
We transfer to the airport early this morning and join our Emirates flight home via Dubai.
Touching down on Australian soil this morning, we have a deeper perspective on the far-flung destinations that lie along the Silk Road. Now we’ve the memories, photos and passport stamps to prove our intrepid journey, in what direction will our compass lead us next?
Imagine a trip where you won’t have to lift a finger, or worry about bringing your wallet.
Sightseeing in each destination is included. Select Options even allow you to tailor aspects of the touring to your individual tastes when there are multiple touring options.
Imperial Suites are the most spacious cabins available on the Golden Eagle, measuring 11.1m2 and benefiting from a luxurious king bed as well as a sitting area with dressing table. Suite facilities include an en suite bathroom with power shower and the luxury of underfloor heating, individual air conditioning, wardrobe, DVD/CD player with LCD screen, complimentary fully stocked minibar, safe and two large picture windows. Additionally, guests will enjoy included laundry service.
Located in the heart of the city, this hotel offers world-class service and luxurious amenities. Incredible views of the city can be seen from its 12th-floor restaurant, where you can also enjoy high-quality, delicious meals.
Golden Eagle Train
Take a voyage of a lifetime on this historic rail journey through picturesque landscapes and incredible sights. Upon this train guests are treated to first-class service and a room with an ever-changing view.
Espinas International Hotel
Situated in Tehran’s city centre, this stunning hotel is close to all the main attractions and transport. The distinguished accommodation celebrates its Iranian heritage and is well known for its luxury and attentive service.
Based on per person, twin share in a Silver Class Cabin aboard the Golden Eagle - from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane flying with Emirates. Prices from other cities are available on request.
Land Only guests join in Moscow for dinner on Day 2 and depart Tehran after breakfast on Day 21)
Supplements (add to base tour cost, per person, twin share)
Gold Class Cabin $5,030
Imperial Suite $26,220
Single Supplement including hotels (add to base tour cost)
Silver Class Cabin $13,440
Gold Class Cabin $15,820
For details of other upgrades, please contact one of our Tour Sales Consultants.