Go to the end of the line on the Baikal-Amur Railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway, while epic and exciting, is ultra-familiar to seasoned travellers. Our friends have done it. Dozens of posh tour operators offer it. You can do it when you retire. To impress even the coolest trainspotter, head to Irkutsk to ride the Baikal-Amur line (often referred to as the BAM). Construction of the 4,324-kilometre-long broad-gauge track, laid on top of Siberian permafrost, was begun in the 1930s by Gulag workers but only completed in 1991. It connects Irkutsk with the empty wastes north of Lake Baikal, passing through dozens of remote villages before arriving at the Pacific Ocean in Vladivostok. Highlights of the trip include Irkutsk, the ‘Paris of Siberia’, a giant sculpture of a Worker with a Sledge Hammer and the ruins of deserted Gulags – and, of course, before you get on you should toast your trip with a finger of neat vodka beside beautiful Baikal.