The Golden Eagle Takes Up The Mantle In Iran With A Remarkable New Journey Combining The Silk Road And Persia For 2016
In late August, Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, the world’s leading provider of luxury long-distance railway journeys, were dealt a blow when they were informed by Turkish Railways that a section of the railway network in the Kurdish area of Eastern Turkey would be closed for the foreseeable future, putting their popular Iran holidays in jeopardy.
The closure left their luxury private train, the Golden Eagle Danube Express, unable to access its route eastwards to Iran. However their flagship train, the Golden Eagle, which is based in Moscow, will take up the mantle in 2016, journeying from Russia, via the Silk Road, to the ancient lands of Persia for an unforgettable, and unique, new adventure.
Since the withdrawal of the service, Golden Eagle Luxury Trains had been busy investigating a series of alternative options to circumvent the situation including the addition of flights and touring by coach, or the use of an Iranian pilgrimage train. When the use of the Golden Eagle was initially investigated, it was thought that it would not be possible due to the incompatibility of Iranian bogies (wheelsets) with the Russian carriages, which would have meant transporting suitable bogies from Belarus – an incredibly costly exercise. However, a solution was found when a set of compatible bogies were sourced in Turkmenistan, enabling the Golden Eagle to enter Iran.
With the lifting of economic sanctions and the FCO relaxing its advice against travel to most parts of the country, Iran is set to be a popular travel hotspot for 2016. Having offered their first journey to Iran in 2014 (which sold out within weeks of launch), Golden Eagle Luxury Trains were trailblazers to this mystical and culturally fascinating destination. They are thrilled to continue to offer it for 2016 with a fascinating new route and a revamped Heart of Persia trip combining the Golden Eagle and an Iranian pilgrimage train, neither of which are offered by any other operator.
Step aboard the Golden Eagle in Moscow to begin this epic 18-day voyage along the Silk Road and through Persia to Iran’s capital, Tehran. Passing through Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan en route to Iran, this pioneering trip reaches areas only accessible by train and rarely experienced by the Western traveller. Expect to see some of the most magnificent, yet rarely visited, sites from the ancient world as well as more modern scenes such as the space station at Baikonur, famous for launching the first human into space in 1961. On the Silk Road, highlights include viewing the world’s oldest Koran at Tashkent; Samarkand, once one of the most important cities in Asia; the ancient cities of Bukhara and Khiva, both UNESCO sites, the latter of which was a significant trading post at the crossroads of Mongolia, Russia, China and Persia; the modern city of Ashgabat, known as the Las Vegas of the Kara Kum desert, built on the ruins of the Silk Road city of Konjikala; and the remains of Merv, thought to have briefly been the world’s largest city in the 12th century.
After a change to the bogies at the border town of Sarakhs, the Golden Eagle crosses onto the standard gauge tracks of Iran for the second leg of the adventure to trace the legacies of the Persian Empires. Visit the sacred city of Mashhad, home to the largest mosque in the world, before viewing the well-preserved mud brick citadel at Rayen, considered one of the most interesting sites in Iran. Alight in Yazd, one of the oldest cities in the world, and discover the enchanting city of Isfahan, once Persia’s capital. The final stops ahead of Tehran, the journey’s end, are Persia’s cultural capital, Shiraz, and the nearby ruins of Persepolis, perhaps Iran’s most important archaeological site dating back to the 6th century B.C.
This fully escorted rail cruise allows passengers to access these off the beaten track destinations from the comfort of a luxury hotel-on-wheels. From the moment they step onboard the Golden Eagle they can relax in the knowledge that everything will be taken care of from cabin attendants on hand 24 hours a day to fine dining menus and even an onboard doctor. Private en suite cabins provide a comfortable haven while the elegant Bar Car is the social hub. A variety of on-board activities are available too.
Price: from $20,995, including 14 nights onboard the Golden Eagle in an en suite cabin in Silver Class, 3 nights’ 5-star hotel accommodation (1 in Moscow, 2 in Tehran), and all meals and drinks. Departures in 2016: Southbound (as above) – 10 Nov; Northbound (Tehran to Moscow) – 10 April or 5 Dec.
This pioneering 14-day adventure, starting and finishing in Tehran, and visiting Sari, Mashhad, Rayen, Mahan, Yazd, Isfahan, Shiraz, Persepolis, Kashan, Shustar, Choghazanbil and Susa, will continue to be offered in 2016, albeit aboard the Golden Eagle. However an additional highlight will be the opportunity to travel on an Iranian pilgrimage train for two sections of the journey on the spectacular mountain railways, including one overnight. This grand tour, focussing wholly on Iran, allows passengers to immerse themselves fully in this fascinating country.
Price: from $16,495, including 9 nights onboard the Golden Eagle in an en suite cabin in Silver Class, 1 night on an Iranian train, 3 nights’ 5-star hotel accommodation in Tehran, and all meals and drinks. Departure: 24 Nov 2016.
*Prices are per person based on two sharing and additionally include a fully guided off-train excursions programme, porterage, arrival and departure transfers, the services of a Tour Manager and all gratuities. Upgrades to Gold or Imperial class are available. Flights are extra.*