Imagining we are aboard a magic carpet (Persian of course) intricately woven with silken threads, we wing our way across the star-studded sky to Russia’s capital.
Arriving on a spring afternoon, we approach the city’s imperial skyline. Onion domed roofs and gilded turrets are a welcome decoration in our sights.
Making our way to The Ritz-Carlton, our resplendent home for the next three nights, we may find time to take a sneak peak of our dazzling new neighbourhood from the roof-top terrace, which overlooks Red Square and the Kremlin. A Welcome Dinner in the hotel’s restaurant sets the scene for the pleasures that lie ahead.
In Moscow, all roads lead to Red Square. This legendary plaza is where we begin our full day of exploration, paying respects at Lenin’s Mausoleum before seeking Russia’s artistic soul at the Tretyakov Gallery. Deep in pursuit of the aesthetically pleasing, venture underground on the Moscow Metro where each station is bedecked with marble and chandeliers.
Seeds of brilliance and dissent have germinated at Moscow State University since the 18th century. Answer the call for higher learning before taking time out for contemplation at Peace and Gorky parks. The afternoon takes us back towards the splendid spires of St Basil’s Cathedral, where, like true Muscovites, we partake in a vodka and caviar tasting.
A collection of 10 of the world’s most exquisite Faberge Eggs is housed in the Kremlin Armoury. Before the popular museum opens to the public, the ornate creations along with countless artistic and military treasures of the Tsars are available exclusively to us for a private viewing.
This afternoon is free for you to enjoy at leisure, or choose from a Your World experience.
We are introduced to the trappings of luxury rail travel before we even board the Golden Eagle. The scene for the next leg of our journey is set in the Imperial Waiting Room in Kazansky Station, where our departure is celebrated with canapes and a glass of Russian bubbly.
Soon we are greeting the Golden Eagle, smoke billowing from the steam locomotive in a most romantic fashion. Board amidst much fanfare and become acquainted with the timeless ambience of this grand dame of the tracks, our rolling residence for the following fortnight.
Ahead of us lies a journey of almost 10,000 kilometres across seldom travelled realms. Venturing towards Tehran, the history and civilisations that exist along this ancient trade route will be revealed to us.
We spend our first full day aboard Golden Eagle indulging in fine dining and discovering the splendid facilities and experiences available. It’s tempting to simply gaze wistfully out the windows, for mile after mesmerising mile reveals the arid landscape of the Aral Karakum Desert.
The Golden Eagle rolls to a halt today in the Kazakhstan town of Baikonur. The Baikonur Cosmodrome continues to be leased from Kazakhstan by the Russian Federation, and gaining access is tricky for the average visitor. Captain’s Choice, however, have secured a special pass to tour the Soviet-era space launch facility. Prepare for lift off.
The scholarly secrets of the Silk Road will be articulated this morning during an onboard history lecture. Having learned about the origins and importance of some of the trading posts we visit during this epic journey, our minds are abuzz with fresh facts and newfound knowledge.
After lunch, our train arrives into the Uzbekistan city, Tashkent, where we disembark for further enlightenment with a visit to the Museum of Applied Arts and the Railway Museum. Further explorations will reveal how Tashkent has evolved from its Soviet-style roots into a thriving, modern metropolis.
One of Central Asia’s longest inhabited cities, Samarkand, marks the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures. These days described as the Paris of the Muslim World, the city’s grand mosques reflect its tradition as a mecca of ancient arts and craft.
We explore the grand architecture at 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, the oasis city of Bukhara awaits us early this morning. The World Heritage-listed city dates back more than 2,500 years.
Appreciate the city’s history and grandeur with a visit to The Ark, the fortified residence of the Emirs of Bukhara who ruled in earlier times. Just outside the city, the Palace of the Moon and Stars (the last Emir’s summer residence), holds magnificent celestial significance.
We arrive at an ancient intersection of the Silk Road where pre-Christian travellers from Mongolia, Russia, China and Persia would have greeted each other, rested and traded curious wares.
Some stayed on, and the dusty desert crossroads became a camp, a village, then emerged as the prosperous walled town of Khiva. In the ornate mosques, bazaars and minarets, the remnants of its former glory prevail. The rustic beauty and unattainable air of mystery that remains today is simply spellbinding.
Our journey through the Stans continues, delivering us to the shimmering town of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. Located between the desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range, Ashgabat was completely redesigned in 1948 after being levelled by an earthquake.
Today’s Ashhgabat glows, particularly at dawn and dusk, as it lays claim to having the largest number of marble buildings of any city in the world – 543 to be exact. We discover cultural curiosities with a visit to the National Museum before a trip to the Kipchak Mosque.
As the Golden Eagle rolls in to outskirts of the once-mighty city of Merv, our thoughts are taken back to the late 18th century, when, for a brief moment in history, this was the largest city in the world. Whilst London, Paris and New York continued to prosper, Merv met its downfall in 1794, when the Emir of Bukhara destroyed the people’s major water source. Arriving in the town of Sarakhs this evening, the Golden Eagle pauses in preparation for the standard gauge tracks of Iran.
Our arrival into the Persian realm is heralded by a call to prayer floating on a burnished sunrise. In Iran’s holiest, and second most populous city, Mashhad, we alight our carriages eagerly knowing the entire day is set aside for us to indulge our whims and curiosities.
Our first stop is the Imman Reza Shrine complex, considered the heart and soul of Iran. After exploring, 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. Take to the gardens and courtyards before arriving in Rayen, set under the gaze of Mt Hexar. 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.
Rolling on, we reach the ancient desert city of Yazd where Persian architecture has withstood the ages and the elements. Sometimes Yazd is referred to as the city of windcatchers because of a design feature of the buildings’ roofs which traps even the smallest of drafts and directs the cooler air into the dwellings below.
We visit the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, where the flame has been burning for almost 1,500 years. Next stop is the Amir Chakhmaq complex which curiously combines a mosque, a bathhouse and a confectioners. A defining feature of Iranian mosques is the tall and intricately embellished entryway, known as pishtaq. With lace-like mosaics spiralling around twin minarets, the Friday Mosque is no exception.
This morning is spent discovering Isfahan’s shrines and other holy sites including Chehel Sotoun Palace and Vank Cathedral. The impressive expanse of Naghsh-e Jahan is second in size only to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. A stroll here takes us through the shadows of the Ali Qapu Palace, among other buildings. Our day concludes with a visit to Qeisarieh Bazaar where exotic trinkets may be bargained for.
The might of the First Persian Empire is on display at Persepolis, one of the most important sites of the ancient world. The ruins seen here today provide incredible insight into what the city would have been like under Darius the Great back in 522BC. Carved into a tall cliff face, the royal tombs of Naqsh-e Rstam are so large they can be seen them rising from the horizon as we travel north. On arrival in Shiraz, a tour will breathe life into the Hafez Tomb and Quran Gate.
Disembarking the Golden Eagle in Tehran, farewell the crew and head off for the five-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 explore this city of startling contrasts.
After the museum closures and looting of the 1979 revolution, Tehran, Iran’s cultural hub, set out to rebuild its former glory. A tour through the city takes us to the Treasury of National Jewels. Later, the World Heritage-listed Golestan Palace complex represents a vastly different kind of elegance to the royal residences of Europe.
Transferring to the airport this morning, our minds are a patchwork of deserts, bazaars and the sounds of Iran.
We touch down in Australia this morning.
Sometimes travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the fascinating places you are in. That’s why everything mundane has been moved behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map, luggage, small change for tips or bargain for a taxi fare.
There are no hidden costs. Everything is included – flights and other travel arrangements, luxurious accommodation, travel insurance, all dining and drinks, and even sightseeing trips. Even the Your World experiences within your itinerary and internet access when available.
Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.
The Ritz-Carlton perfectly captures the essence of this vastly beautiful nation. Fresh off our flight, we are welcomed into the regal nature of Russia on a scale we could not have imagined. Look out from the roof-top terrace to the iconic Red Square and Kremlin as you savour this quintessentially Russian residence.
Renowned world-wide for unparalleled service and amenities, be welcomed aboard the Golden Eagle for 14 nights. Devour the cinematic landscapes from your picture window and puzzle over the lives of those who roamed these towns before you. Traverse cities known for their fascinating histories in the comfort of your personal air-conditioned cabin.
After weeks following the footsteps of traders gone by, we find blissful comfort in the Espinas International Hotel. Ideally located in the heart of Tehran, there’s hardly a more appropriate location from which to discover the local life and customs of Iran.
Fares are based on a Silver Class Cabin on board the Golden Eagle. Per Person, Twin Share.
Fares are in Australian dollars and include Emirates Airlines flights from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Prices from other cities available on request.
Land Only Guests join the tour in Moscow for dinner on Day 2 and depart Tehran after breakfast on Day 21.
Rail Upgrades, add per person, twin share
Gold Class Cabin $5,000
Imperial Suite $26,000
Solo Supplements.add per person
Silver Class Cabin $13,500
Gold Class Cabin $18,700
Solo availability at the above prices are limited.
Trip notes: While the countries visited on this tour are incredible to visit, hotels, coaches and restaurants won’t always meet a luxurious standard. Captain’s Choice uses the best available options, but understand that things won’t be like they are in Australia or Western Europe.
This journey is reserved for a group of just 24 guests.