The train will visit ancient cities in three countries: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The luxuriously decorated and comfortably designed train will proceed along the route: Moscow — Baikonur — Tashkent — Samarkand — Bukhara — Khiva — Ashgabat — Merv — Mashhad — Mahan — Kerman — Yazd — Isfahan — Persepolis — Shiraz — Tehran.
The Golden Eagle Luxury Trains Limited is a British company and Sputnik Persian spoke with the executive director of the company, Marina Linke, in an exclusive interview.
“Golden Eagle Company in the United Kingdom (Manchester) specializes in selling and creating tours by train to a number of countries, but Russia is a priority business area. We have been working in Russia since 1992,” Linke said.
She further said that this train has been running in Russia since 2007. The main route of this train was always through Russia, the Trans-Siberian route, as well as the Silk Road through Central Asia.
“For the last 3 years we went through the South Caucasus — Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are our usual routes.”
“However, the route to Iran, we discovered just two years ago with our second European train which is located in Budapest, because Iran has another gauge of railways, so initially this train (Trans-Siberian Express) could not go to Iran,” Linke said.
She further said that in the past year, as there were problems in Turkey in its Kurdish part, the train could not go through that area and enter Iran. “We began to consider other routes and selected this one, which seems ideal.”
On the border between Iran and Turkmenistan, we will change all the cars and truck wheels, so they fit the Iranian track.
Starting the tour with a program in Moscow, the next stop will be Kazakhstan’s Baikonur where tourists will witness the launch of a space rocket from the launch site with the same name.
Talking about the passengers, Linke said that it is the elderly in 60+ age categories, looking for new experiences.
“Our clients are people who are quite elderly, 63 and above. These are the people who have time and money to embark on such a journey, as well as those who want to travel to distant places which are rarely visited by many tourists.”
She added that the passengers making such a journey are mostly those who have traveled a lot in life, they have been almost everywhere, so they need to visit an unusual place.
“Among the passengers, unfortunately, we do not have any Russians. Our passengers are mainly from the UK, the US, Australia, South Africa, France, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong. There are a total of 50 people. From Moscow 20 passengers get on board whereas, the remaining 30 join in Tashkent,” Linke explained.
The cost of this railway cruise starts at £ 13.595 per person ($21.273). Passengers are accommodated in coupes; they will spend 14 nights on board the Golden Eagle in silver class coupes which has a bathroom.
The tourists will stay 3 nights in 5 star hotels (1 night in Moscow, 2 nights in Tehran). For those who like privacy and comfort, the train has a super-luxury coupe called the Golden and Imperial class.
The passengers will need visas in order to travel on the train, however considering that there are people from many different countries taking this trip; Linke said that they have an office in London which deals with visas for tourists. However, that is a separate cost; it is not included in the total cost of the tour.
There were those who had difficulties in receiving entry documents, including the Iranian visas. However, the President of the Golden Eagle Luxury Trains Limited, Tim Littler, noted the high level of support from the Iranian side in this matter.
In an interview with Sputnik Persian, Littler said, “In fact, we have a very good partnership with the Iranian railway company. Iran is very interested in developing tourism and showing its splendors and antiquities to the world.”
He further said that there is a system of operational activities providing services for the citizens of almost all countries. The exception is journalists. For them obtaining an Iranian visa is a more complicated procedure.
Yet, in general, obtaining an Iranian visa is not a problem. Iranians are very sympathetic people and always support in this matter, according to the company’s president.
The luxurious rail cruise is not a one-time trip. “This is a real active project that will have a permanent schedule of tours,” he said.
“The luxury train from Moscow to the Persian Odyssey will run on a continuous basis. They will go twice a year. In Iran, the best time to go is in spring and autumn. At other times of the year, it is virtually impossible to conduct tours, as it is either very hot or cold. Therefore, we will travel in October and November and in March and April.”
He further said that the partnership between Russia and Iran was formed quite easily. In particular, with the Russian Railway Tour Company which is the official partner and representative of this tour. According to Littler, the Russian railway played a vital part in making this journey possible.
“With our Iranian partners (Iranian railway company), we agreed on the routes that our train will take and explained where exactly we will stop to get necessary refill of water and diesel fuel. With the Iranians we have no problems. Iranian Railways are showing great interest in us too,” Littler said.
It must be noted that the Golden Eagle train in addition to passenger cars includes a diesel generator wagon, two dining cars, bar car, kitchen, service car and staff car.
The train is completely self-contained; it is self-sufficient in electricity and can take a month's supply of drinking water and supplies. Inside the train there is always a doctor on duty. There is always live music at the bar. In the car there are various quizzes, lessons of Russian history and even Russian language courses.
Right before the start of the journey from Moscow to Tehran, the passengers traveling on the luxury train were sent off with live music and popular Russian songs were being played by musicians on various instruments.