Seasons and Weather
In European Russia, summer days from late May to early September are warm and very long. At midsummer in St Petersburg there is no real darkness. Average temperatures range from 18-25 C. Autumn is brief and by the end of October, winter sets in, bringing with it lots of snow. Spring arrives, heralding the great thaw, in late March and April.
Mongolia experiences four very distinct seasons with winter lasting from November to February. Spring from March to May. Summer until August and autumn during September and October. Summer is peak travel season when the weather is fine. The sunshine can be intense with almost zero humidity and occasional cloud cover. August is the wettest month of the year. Though by September and October the temperatures are cool. The rain eases up and the changing colours make for spectacular scenery. November sees the onset of the incredibly cold but dry winter months when snow often blankets the ground.
The autumn months of September to early November are a wonderful time to visit Beijing and northern China when the skies are clear and the days breezy. The winter months of late November to February are cold and windy. The occasional snows can make the city look beautiful when it settles over the Great Wall and other historical monuments. Spring is dry, warm and hazy, and temperatures surge from May onwards. Late summer sees heavy rainstorms with July and August the wettest months of the year.
Best Time to Travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway
During the summer months
The various trains that make up the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railway journey depart throughout the year so you can plan your journey for any month. Travelling in the summer months mean hotter weather and longer days of sunshine. The trains do have air-conditioning that is handled by the train attendants with small window openings along the corridors so temperature control on board is not a problem. Travelling between April and September is also a better option for those who prefer to travel light.
During the winter months
For many travellers, the quintessential Trans-Siberian railway journey wouldn’t be complete without frost on the windows while huddling down with a shot of vodka to warm you up. Temperatures drop below freezing in the winter months and snow is common throughout Russia, Mongolia and northern China. The trains are heated and bedding provided so the train journey itself will be nice and comfortable. In winter, you can try your hand at dog sledding or ice skate on Lake Baikal.
During autumn and spring
The spring and autumn months have plenty to offer also with flowers coming into bloom and decorating the countryside while the leaves turn golden hues after the height of summer. Outdoor activities abound during these months with trekking particularly popular.
Festivals and Events
Stretching almost 10,000km across some of the most extreme landscapes in the world, the Trans-Siberian railway is an experience unlike any other. Yet, what makes the journey so special isn’t just riding the train – the rest comes from what you can see and do along the way. With each city, you stop off in comes new cultures and what better way to explore these than by witnessing or taking part in one of their festivals. Here is our round up of the top festivals and events that take place along the route of this epic voyage.
Festivals and events in Russia
Roughly translating as ‘Butter Week’, this festival is celebrated all over Russia and involves all kinds of festivities. Traditionally, pancakes are consumed while citizens throw street parties, go sleigh-riding and take to the frozen lakes for a bit of ice skating. The festival finds its roots in religion as it was originally a time for people to prepare for Lent but nowadays it is celebrated by everyone regardless of faith. The event also was originally meat-free but fewer people every year adhere to this rule.
Maslenitsa – February 19th-25th 2017
New Year’s Eve
The fireworks display held at Moscow’s Red Square every new year has become legendary and it’s the best place along the Trans-Siberian route to celebrate the occasion. It’s also one of the most important events on the calendar for Russian families with people coming together for large feasts and many of the traditions we normally associate with Christmas are a common feature of the day.
New Year’s Eve – December 31st, 2017
Festivals and events in Mongolia
The Nadaam Festival is the number one event of the year in Mongolia and sees the entire country erupt into celebration for 3 days. The word Nadaam literally translates as “three manly games” and these three games are wrestling, archery and horse riding. The participants in the horse racing are usually children between the ages of about five and twelve who ride with the skill and grace of a professional jockey. It is quite a sight to behold. In recent years, women have been allowed to enter all events bar wrestling. The official opening and closing ceremonies are held in the capital of Ulaan Bataar.
Nadaam Festival – July 11th-13th 2017
Festivals and events in China
Chinese New Year
Also referred to as the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year is the most important celebration of the year in China with festivities taking place for 15 days. During this time, families are reunited as workers take a week off and children also get a month off school. Traditional red decorations, which symbolise prosperity in the coming year, are put up and fireworks explode across the sky. People in Beijing usually eat dumplings during the festival as, again, they signify prosperity.
Chinese New Year – January 27th to February 11th, 2017
Harbin Ice Festival
Those planning a Trans-Siberian adventure in the winter months should consider timing their departure from Beijing, or arrival into Beijing, during the Harbin Ice Festival. An easy train ride from the capital. The city of Harbin becomes a winter wonderland as Zhaolin Park is filled with incredible ice sculptures created by some of the world’s most talented sculptors. It’s the largest of its kind with the cold weather perfect for maintaining the hundreds of neon-lit exhibits as well as fun slides made entirely out of ice.
Harbin Ice Festival – January 5th to February 25th, 2017
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