from $1999.20

The Silk Road of China

Tour Map

Tour style - Active & Adrenaline, Wildlife & Nature, Culture & History

18 days

Geographically and culturally, Northwest China is about as far away from “traditional China” as you can get without crossing the border. The source of the Silk Road – the ancient trade route that helped create the modern world – is unlike anything you’ll find in Beijing or Xi'an, and this 18-day adventure crossing the country via rail takes you deep into the China few ever see. Otherworldly experiences abound, both on train and off: watch the sun rise over the dunes outside Dunhuang, explore the world of the Muslim Uyghurs, spend the night in traditional yurts near Urumqi, and venture into the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar. There’s more, of course, but we’ve got to keep a few secrets, right?
  • Day 1 Beijing

    Arrive at any time. Meet your CEO and fellow group members at a welcome meeting around 6pm, followed by an optional 'Beijing Duck' dinner.

  • Days 2-3 Beijing (2B)

    Enjoy a guided tour to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. In the afternoon options include shopping, taking a hutong tour or visiting some of the remaining sights in the city- the Summer Palace, Lama Temple, Bell and Drum towers and more. Opt to take in a Kung Fu show, Chinese acrobats show or a Chinese opera. Visit the Great Wall of China. One of the greatest structures ever built by humans, the Great Wall was constructed in stages over 2000 years and stretches 6000 kilometres from the sea to western China. The section we visit is called Mutianyu and is one of the best preserved Ming Dynasty sections reachable from Beijing. At the wall, we'll be able to climb to the top and explore a stretch by foot while taking in views as it winds along the mountain ridges. This section also boasts a cable car and a luge slide. In the evening, take an overnight sleeper train to Xi'An. Taking an overnight train in China is an experience in itself. Enjoy the chaos of the train station and rush to get on board. You will likely have locals for bunk-neighbours who will have varying levels of interest in getting to know you. Some might want to practice their English with you, some may just be curious observers. Just remember the journey is half the experience. Sleeping on a train can take some getting used to– earplugs are recommended! Approximate distance: 1200 km Estimated travel time: 12.5 hrs

  • Days 4-5 Xi'an (1B)

    Arrive in Xi'an in the early morning and, after checking into the hotel, grab some breakfast and take an orientation walk. After, take an guided trip out to the Terracotta Warriors, situated a short drive away (approximately 1 hour). The warriors were re-discovered in 1974, having been buried for over 2000 years. All face east in battle formation, complete with horses and chariots to guard the tomb of the emperor Shi Huang Di. After, enjoy a local lunch at a farmhouse nearby. In the evening or on Day 5, head to one of Xi’an’s most fascinating areas – the Muslim Quarter. Tour the lovely and unusual Great Mosque (a wonderfully serene place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city), great souvenir stalls and enjoy some of the best street food in China. The remaining city walls are a great place to watch the sunset or join the locals for ballroom dancing or tai chi in the early morning. Enjoy a free day in Xi'an. Opt to visit the Muslim Quarter, ride a bike around the city walls, visit the Big Goose Pagoda or do some shopping. In the evening, board a sleeper train for the overnight journey to Jiayuguan. Approximate distance: 1450 km Estimated travel time: 16 hrs

  • Day 6 Jiayuguan

    Visit the westernmost section of the Great Wall in Jiayuguan. Located in the Gansu Province, Jiayuguan is famous for its location on the Silk Road and also for its post on the Great Wall. The westernmost section of the great Wall, the Jiayuguan Pass was built during the Ming Dynasty, along with the Overhanging Great Wall section.

  • Days 7-8 Dunhuang (2B)

    Travel by public express bus to Dunhuang, a major stop on the Silk Road. As the controller of the narrow Hexi Corridor, Dunhang was the main entrance into China for Western traders and the main exit from China onto the rest of the Silk Road. Enjoy a guided visit of the famous Mogao Grottoes, filled with Buddha statues. These caves have inspired a whole school of study called Dunhuangology. According to the Tang Dynasty records, a monk witnessed a vision of 1000 Buddhas with golden rays. Inspired, he started the construction of the caves, which ended up spanning ten dynasties. There are 750 caves, all filled with different types of art depicting Buddhas, Apsaras and daily life. Enjoy a free time to wander the town centre, shop in the market or visit sights further afield. This is one of the loveliest cities in the region. On Day 8, enjoy a free day in Dunhuang. Opt to visit the unique Mingsha Sand Dunes in the morning. Mingsha means "Singing or echoing sands", named for the sound of the wind blowing through the dunes. Arrive before sunrise to climb the massive dunes and watch the sun come up over the "desert". The sands turn from white to golden as the sun rises. Opt for a camel ride in the early morning sun or a sled ride down one of the dunes. Head back to town for breakfast and a rest. In the afternoon, opt to visit a local village and learn more about the way of life here before boarding a sleeper train to Turpan. Don't forget to try the local specialty here- donkey! Dip it in chilis and garlic. Tastes just like chicken! Approximate distance: 370 km Estimated travel time: 5-6 hrs

  • Days 9-10 Turpan (1B)

    Arrive to the train station and drive by private van (about 1 hr) to Turpan, the lowest point in Asia, and the first stop in the Xinjiang Region. Here, the culture, food and language are quite different from the other Chinese provinces. The Uyghur minority people speak Uyghur, a Turkic language with an arabic script. Food is more similar to Central Asian cuisine and includes rice, kebabs and handmade noodle dishes– the original spaghetti and meatballs brought to Europe along the Silk Road. Enjoy a city tour with a local guide and learn about this interesting desert city, the ancient Karez water system and the culture of the Uyghur minority people. Day 10 is a free day to continue your exploration. Sights in Turpan include the Emin minaret, the city mosque, the Turpan museum and outside the city centre offers Jiaohe ruins, Tuyoq, a traditional village, and the Flaming Mountains. Learn what makes this area tick with things like local time versus Beijing time, learning to tie a local headscarf in the distinct Uyghur way and indulge in all the grapes grown in this region. Train from Dunhuang to the station near Turpan Approximate distance: 1000 km Estimated travel time: 13.5 hrs

  • Day 11 Urumqi/Heavenly Lake (2B, 1L, 1D)

    In the morning take a private van to Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Province. From here, drive into the Tian Shan Mountains (Heavenly Mountains) for an overnight in a yurt with the local Kazakh minority people. The area in the Heavenly Mountains looks more like the Swiss Alps, with towering snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes, than somewhere in the middle of China. Spend the day hiking, horseback riding or just relaxing and soaking in the views. In the evening, tuck into the multi-share circular felt hut (yurt) and sleep like a local. Keep in mind this area will have basic accommodations, meals and bathroom facilities. Expect to share your yurt with other members of the group, all sleeping on mats and blankets around a central fireplace. Bathrooms are likely to be basic outhouses. The experience of staying in this beautiful location with these welcoming people will be well-worth the lack of amenities. Approximate distance to Urumqi: 200 km Estimated travel time: 3 hrs Approximate distance Urumqi to Heavenly Lake: 100 km Estimated travel time: 2 hrs

  • Days 12-13 Train to Hotan (1B)

    Drive back to Urumqi to board a train to Hotan, a small town in the Taklamakan Desert. Follow the route of the Silk Road explorers (by train instead of camel) and enjoy the desert landscape as you journey further west.

  • Days 14-15 Hotan (1B)

    Arrive in the morning on Day 14. Enjoy a village tour by donkey cart to visit local workshops and artisans. This will include visiting a silk factory, paper-making workshop and a jade carving workshop. Free time in the afternoon to tour the market or check out some abandoned ancient towns, the Yoktan or Melikawat ruins. Hotan is also known for their jade.

  • Day 16 Kashgar (1B)

    Hop a train to Kashgar for the last leg of this journey. Reach Kashgar in the afternoon and get your bearings with an orientation walk.

  • Day 17 Kashgar

    Enjoy the Sunday markets in Kashgar, including the famous Sunday bazaar and fascinating animal market. Use free time in the afternoon to explore the old town or sampling some local delicacies.

  • Day 18 Kashgar

    Depart at any time. From Kashgar, there are flights to different regions of China. You can return to Beijing, continue on to Shanghai, Chengdu or Hong Kong. Most flights connect through the capital of the province, Urumqi. The local Chinese name for Kashgar is Kashi.

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