The Silk Road of China
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.
Days 4-5 Xi'an (1B)
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
Day 6 Jiayuguan
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.
Days 7-9 Dunhuang (3B)
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
Days 10-11 Turpan (1B)
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.
Day 12 Urumqi/Heavenly Lake (2B, 1L, 1D)
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 afternoon 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, option 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. Enjoy a camel ride through the dunes in the early morning sun and opt for a sled ride down one of the dunes. Head back to town for breakfast and a rest. In the afternoon, visit a local village and learn more about the way of life here. 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
Day 13 Tian Shan Mountains/Hotan (1B)
Enjoy a relaxed free day before the sleeper train to Turpan, the first stop in the Xinjiang province. 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. Approximate distance: 1000 km Estimated travel time: 13.5 hrs
Day 14 Hotan (1B)
Arrive to the train station and drive by private van (about 1 hr) to Turpan, the lowest point in Asia. 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 11 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 the all the grapes grown in this region.
Days 15-16 Kashgar (2B)
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 similar to 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 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
Day 17 Kashgar (1B)
In the morning drive back to Urumqi and catch a flight to Hotan, a small town in the Taklamakan Desert. Hotan is an oasis in the Tarim Basin, depending on the Black and White Jade rivers. An important stop on the southern route of the Silk Road, Hotan still retains a small town feel with a predominantly Uyghur population. Approximate distance Heavenly Lake to Urumqi: 100 km Estimated travel time: 2 hrs Flight from Urumqi to Hotan: 1.5 hrs