Our last journey by train – Ulaanbaatar to Beijing! This time we traveled through the beautiful Gobi Desert. We had great timing because it was cold and rainy when we woke up in our ger. And after spending almost a week in nature, we were ready to be back in a big city!
The downside to this part of the trip was border control. I really think we were busy almost 6 hours. First our train was checked by Mongolian border control and then again by the Chinese. That means checking passports and visas, as well as checking our room and luggage to make sure nothing was leaving or entering another border illegally. And to top it all off, the wheels had to be changed before we could enter China (our train car was literally lifted with us inside to take the wheels off and put new ones on). All of this in the middle of the night…
How we wound up in a ger in Ulaanbaatar is something I still don’t completely understand, but we tried our best to make the most of it. We decided to book a more authentic Mongolian experience by booking a ger, along with a guide and cook for our stay. The photos on the site showed a farm a few hours outside of Ulaanbaatar where we could experience the nomadic lifestyle, with more than 50 yaks and a few horses which we could ride. The advertisement stated that we could relax on the farm, visit the watering hole, ride horses, help out etc. We were looking forward to our nomadic Mongolian experience!
The train ride from Irkutsk in Siberia, Russia to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia offered the most beautiful scenery. So I will already warn you that this is an image-heavy post filled with photos of the breathtaking landscape of Russia and Mongolia. We were lucky to be traveling when the colors were beginning to change, so we could see the gorgeous foliage.
If you plan on taking the Trans-Siberian or Trans-Mongolian Express and plan to stop in Siberia, Irkutsk is the city most recommended. Irkutsk is full of history and is just an hour away from Lake Baikal. It’s also nicknamed the “Paris of Siberia”.
When Koen and I decided to make a stop in Siberia, Irkutsk was the obvious destination to spend a few days because of its proximity to Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake, containing 23% of the world’s fresh surface water (also the world’s deepest lake, the world’s clearest lake, and the world’s oldest lake)! There were a few options of which city to visit to see Lake Baikal, and in the end we chose Listvyanka, the ‘French Riveria of Siberia’.
At 23:55 Tuesday night, our train was set to depart – next stop Irkutsk in Siberia!
The train ride from Moscow to Irkutsk was the longest leg of our train trip, leaving Tuesday evening and arriving Saturday morning. We were sure to pack plenty of snacks, download a lot of books for our Kindles, and bring the tripod for our camera to take plenty of photos of the Russian countryside.