Rumbling through unfamiliar terrain on a sleeper train never loses its nostalgic appeal, evoking a sense of adventure as you relax into the rhythm of the rails. This epic 40-hour trip from Beijing to Lhasa takes you through vast open country peppered with bustling towns. Share your journey with other travellers across the language divide, and feel yourself shift from one world into another…
As you slide back the doors of your rather retro compartment and survey its compact comforts, the sense of excitement really kicks in. This isn’t Orient Express-levels of opulence, but something far more tangible and connected to the everyday experience; an unglamourous simplicity which allows the scenery to take centre stage unchallenged.
Once on the move, Beijing’s urban landscape quickly thins out, allowing the rural scenery to come to the fore. As dusk turns to darkness, draw the curtains of your soft sleeper and settle into an evening of noodles and gentle companionship with your fellow travellers. When drowsiness hits, snuggle down in your bunk and let the thrum of the rails send you to sleep. Covering over 2,330 miles and climbing 5,000m in just three days, the increasing altitude can be literally breathtaking, and oxygen is piped through when you reach 4,000m.
The vast landscape of rural Gansu Province fills the windows as the train makes its way along the path of the old Silk Road. Break the journey with a stopover, or do the entire thing in one go (as our founder, Nick, did). Hundreds of miles fly past, with the occasional flash of a town’s vertical lines to disturb the expansive horizon, and a handful of stops along the way. Dustings of snow begin to appear on the craggy peaks, and herds of yak wander over the uneven terrain. Just after midday on day three, you pull into Lhasa. Stretch your legs and navigate the stark, concrete-filled station quarter, then make your way to the evocative Old Town, with its winding streets full of delicately decorated temples and bustling scent-filled markets.