Silk Road Adventure

15 days along China’s ancient trade routes

The Silk Road Adventure

Xinjiang

  • Themed Trips
  • Asian Delights
  • Food
  • Culture
15 Days
2 Flights
Not Child Friendly

Recommended dates for the trip: June to September, though July and August might be a bit more crowded (please refer to trip rates during Chinese national holidays below)

Itinerary

For centuries Westerners have been intrigued by the Silk Road, which was the first connection between the East and the West, conveying goods, knowledge, and messages of peace and war across Eurasia. Traders’ camel caravansladen with silk, tea, porcelain, and other goods from China and other parts of Asiamade their way westwards to the Middle East. From there, goods were taken on by sea and other forms of transportation to Europe and beyond. Crossing vast open plains, mysterious deserts, high mountain passes, and foreignsometimes hostileterritories, these traders put their lives in the hands of the gods, hoping to bring prosperity to their families. We shall explore these ancient trade routes the old wayoverland. Starting from Xi’an, the then Chinese capital, we travel all the way to Kashgar in the far west near the borders with central Asian republics, meeting different cultures and religions, and exploring the diversified landscapes of this remote region.



Day 1. ARRIVAL IN BEIJING

  • Dinner

We arrive in Beijing, the fascinating capital of the world’s most populous country. This city mirrors the whole of China’s fast-growing economy, some of its inhabitants are benefiting, and yet there are still people in the cities and rural areas who have to struggle to make it through another day. Skyscrapers rise up only a few steps away from the ancient hutongs; the latest cars glide past rickshaws; and thousands of years old traditions continue to be observed alongside new market rules and a new way of life. All these, and much more, make Beijing one of the world’s most impressive cities to visit. From the airport, we drive to the Summer Palace. Built during the Qing Dynasty as an exclusive resort for the Imperial Family, this enormous site comprises various temples and has the world’s longest decorated corridor. Today the palace offers Beijingers a place where they can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. We tour the site on foot and enjoy a boat ride on the man-made Kunming Lake. We then drive to the heart of the city and take a stroll through Wangfujing Pedestrian Street, where, behind some of the world’s largest shopping malls, we visit the night food market. For the brave at heart, a delicious meal of various insects cooked in several ways awaits. After checking in at our hotel, we enjoy a traditional Beijing roast duck dinner. Overnight in Beijing.We arrive in Beijing, the fascinating capital of the world’s most populous country. This city mirrors the whole of China’s fast-growing economy, some of its inhabitants are benefiting, and yet there are still people in the cities and rural areas who have to struggle to make it through another day. Skyscrapers rise up only a few steps away from the ancient hutongs; the latest cars glide past rickshaws; and thousands of years old traditions continue to be observed alongside new market rules and a new way of life. All these, and much more, make Beijing one of the world’s most impressive cities to visit. From the airport, we drive to the Summer Palace. Built during the Qing Dynasty as an exclusive resort for the Imperial Family, this enormous site comprises various temples and has the world’s longest decorated corridor. Today the palace offers Beijingers a place where they can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. We tour the site on foot and enjoy a boat ride on the man-made Kunming Lake. We then drive to the heart of the city and take a stroll through Wangfujing Pedestrian Street, where, behind some of the world’s largest shopping malls, we visit the night food market. For the brave at heart, a delicious meal of various insects cooked in several ways awaits. After checking in at our hotel, we enjoy a traditional Beijing roast duck dinner. Overnight in Beijing.

DAY 2. BEIJING

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

After breakfast at the hotel, we drive out of the city to the famous Great Wall, probably China’s most prominent landmark. What we in the West know as the Wall is actually a system of walls that was built over centuries by different emperors. The Wall is considered to be some 2700 kilometers in length, but if we include all the sections that were built throughout its history, there are some 10,000 kilometers of this enormous man-made structure. We walk on part of the Wall, and hear about its history and how it failed to fulfill its main goal of stopping the Mongols from invading the country. We then continue to the Sacred Road where the Imperial Families were given their last resting place. The name derives from the fact that the Chinese believed that a road with several gates, leads the souls of the ‘heavenly families’ back to the sky. On our way back to the city we pause for a view over the famous Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, the two main venues of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. In the evening we attend the Golden Mask Show, which like anything Chinese is greater than life. This ancient love story of the queen and king who fell in love, and the queen that sacrifice herself and her love to the king for the sake of her people is being performed by a troop of more than 200 dancers and actors in the magnificent OCT theater which was built specifically for this show prior to the 2008 Olympic Games. Overnight in Beijing.

DAY 3. BEIJING - XI’AN

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

We check-out of our hotel, and drive to the train station, from there we take a fantastic bullet-train ride at 300 km/h (186 mph) to Xian. Known as ‘The Eternal Peace’ during the Tang Dynasty, Xi’an was the center of the ‘old world’ and also the center of the first Chinese Empire, after the first Qin emperor conquered the nearby feudal kingdoms and laid the foundations of the great united Chinese empire. Here in historic Chang-An, which was later renamed Xi’an, convoys of traders formed to embark on the first leg of the long trek along the Silk Road. Merchandise from all parts of the ‘Middle Kingdom’ was brought here, packed on camels, and sent overland for thousands of miles, taking silk, tea, porcelain, and other Chinese commodities to the West. On arriving in the city, we drive directly to the City Wall, which dates from the Ming Dynasty. We walk on the wall and stop at the City Wall Museum, with its permanent display of the wall’s rich history. Leaving the wall, we proceed into the bustling Muslim Quarter. The Muslims settled in Xi’an during the glory days of the Silk Road. Originating in central Asia, the Muslims arrived to trade in the exotic goods they brought to the city when it was the capital of the Chinese Empire. Over time, a huge community of Muslims became assimilated into the population and they recreated their traditional way of life. They brought with them their delicious food, their clothes and customs, and built a beautiful Mosque in the heart of the once cosmopolitan capital. We roam the colorful market and visit the Great Mosque, which is a blend of Chinese style and Muslim architecture. In the evening we enjoy a traditional Tang Dynasty concert of dancing and singing, followed by a traditional dumpling dinner. Overnight in Xi’an.

DAY 4. XI’AN ✈ ZHANGYE

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

Driving out of the city center, we head towards the Terracotta Army site. Discovered accidentally in 1974 by two farmers plowing their plot, this site is one of the most amazing historical finds of our time. An entire army made of terracotta, each of the soldiers with different characteristics and fully armored, was created to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor. We explore this breathtaking site and then visit the nearby museum to see the permanent exhibition displaying the rare artifacts found in the site, and also describing its discovery, excavation, and the restoration works. Leaving the Terracotta Army site, we drive to the heart of Xi’an to visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Built in AD 647, it was originally constructed to house holy scripts brought from India, which contributed to the adoption of Buddhism as the main religion in China many years later. We then drive to Xian airport, for our evening flight to Zhangye. Upon arrival, we met our guide, drive to our hotel, and then continue on for dinner in a local restaurant.

DAY 5. ZHANGYE – BADAIN JARAN DESERT

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

This morning we depart Zhangye as we drive north. Badain Jaran Desert is home to the world’s highest sand dune, rising to some 500 meters, and offers challenging drives as well as marvelous landscapes of sand seas extending to the horizon. Surprisingly, this seemingly endless sea of sands is dotted with nothing but beautiful blue lakes. No one knows for certain what the source of these lakes is, but it is assumed the water comes all the way from the Qilian Mountains through underground rivers. The drive through the dunes and among the lakes would bring us to Soumin Jaran, a beautiful lake with a beautiful Mongolian temple beside it. We visit the temple, now inhabited by only one monk, and stroll along the lake shore. Overnight in a simple guesthouse at Soumin Jaran.

DAY 6. BADAIN JARAN - ZHANGYE

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We leave SouminJaran and drive almost to the top of one of the highest dunes in the area for a spectacular view of the lakes and the sand dunes. From here we take a 2½-hour hike to Nuritu Lake. After a quick lunch there, we take to the vehicles to drive out of the desert. En route we visit the wall of singing sand and the brave can have a quick bathe in BorTulguu Lake. We leave the dunes and stop at the small local museum to learn more about the desert and its surroundings. Back on a solid asphalt road after two days of driving through the dunes, we reach the small settlement of Alxa Youqi. Here we leave our jeeps and return back to Zhangye, arriving there in the evening. Overnight in Zhangye.

DAY 7. ZHANGYE- BINGGOU - DAN XIA – JIAYUGUAN

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

We leave Zhangye and drive to Bing Guo. Located at the foot of the Qilian Mountains, this lovely park consists of marvelous sandstone formations. We take a short hike down a valley and climb up to an observation point for a breathtaking view over this unique landscape. We then continue to Dan Xia, a spectacular mountain with somewhat psychedelic patterns of colors in the rock. In the afternoon we ebark on the approximately 5-6 hours’ drive to Jiayuguan, to which we arrive rather late in the evening, and where we spend the night.

DAY 8. JIAYUGUAN – DUNHUANG

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

Jiayuguan is known as the ‘last station of the great wall’. Before the Qing Dynasty took over what is now Xinjiang Province, Gansu Province was China’s westernmost frontier. Here in Jiayuguan, in western Gansu, the traders used to gather into large convoys before leaving the protection of Chinese sovereignty, entering the Taklamakan Desert, and continuing to an alien land. We begin the day with a visit to the ‘Overhanging Wall’, a fortification of part of Jiayuguan, and a part of the historic Great Wall. We then drive to the Jiayuguan Pass, an ancient yet well preserved fortress, and the headquarters of the battalion that was stationed in this region. After lunch we embark on a long drive to reach Dunhuang. In the evening we visit Dunhuang’s busy Night Market before attending a cultural show of traditional dancing and singing. Overnight in Dunhuang.

DAY 9. DUNHUANG - BULLET TRAIN TO TURPAN

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

In the morning we drive to the ‘Sea of Sand’, a huge sand dune just outside Dunhuang. Here we take a walk through the sand to the Crescent Lake, where we visit the old monastery that has been converted into a leisure center in recent years. We then return to our vehicle as we take to the Mogao Caves. These magnificent caves are considered to be a most important site in Chinese Buddhism. The construction of these grottoes was sponsored by rich traders, as an offering to the gods before embarking on the dangerous journey to the unknown. The grottoes then turned into a place of worship for traders and the rich families who ruled this area for hundreds of years. Some of the most ancient artwork, dated to the 4th century AD, has an unmistakable Indian influence, a clear indication of the caves being one of the first sites of Buddhist worship in China, when Buddhism extended from India into China’s heartland. The site comprises some 2000 statues carved into the rock, 490+ man-made caves and niches, and more than 45,000 square meters of murals. In the afternoon we drive to the town of Liu Yuan where we embark on yet another bullet-train ride, this time to Turpan. We arrive in Turpan late in the evening, and drive to our hotel in the city center, where we spend the night.

DAY 10. TURPAN

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

Today we explore Turpan, which unlike most cities in the region, and especially, most trading centers along the ancient Silk Road, is not an oasis, but receives its water supply through underground channels stretching from the Tian Shan mountain range. We first visit Imam Minaret, the largest and most important mosque in Turpan. We then drive out of Turpan to a traditional ancient Uyghur village perched on a mountain side, offering marvelous views over the Turpan Basin. Here not only can we appreciate the traditional architecture but also visit a local family and join them for a traditional lunch. Our next visit is to a small local museum dedicated to the Karez, the famous irrigation system that has maintained Turpan as an agriculture center in the heart of the desert. We then return to our hotel for a second night in Turpan.

DAY 11. TURPAN – KORLA – NIGHT TRAIN TO KASHGAR

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

We begin our day at Turpan new museum. This recently opened museum showcases the region’s rich history, with archaeological findings that were dug around Turpan Basin. Some of the artifacts go back to the Tang Dynasty, the first dynasty to develop the trade routes commonly known today as the Silk Road. As well as these, the museum also features dinosaurs’ relics, and even few of the famous ‘Taklamakan Mummies’, which have effectively been baked in the hot, dry climate of the Taklamakan Desert. We then leave Tupran, and drive toJiahoe ancient city, remarkably well preserved by the extremely dry climate of the Turpan Depression, the third lowest area on the surface of the earth, and the hottest and driest place in China. Late in the afternoon we board the train where we spend the night in a 4-berth Soft Sleeper compartment.

Note: Meals aboard trains are not provided. You are welcome to enjoy the restaurant car, or alternatively, ask your guide to take you to a local shop to get some provisions for the train ride.

DAY 12. KASHGAR

  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We arrive in Kashgar, near China’s westernmost border, at the late morning hours. After checking in at our hotel (early check-in is subject to room availability) and having a refreshing lunch, we set off to explore this colorful and diverse town. On our way towards Id Kah Mosque we walk through a narrow ancient street, where local craftsmen display their handmade wares. The Id Kah Mosque is the largest and most important mosque of Kashgar, and is right in the vibrant center of town. The construction of the mosque was started in the mid-15th century but it has been expanded several times to its current size, and it now covers well over 16.5 square kilometers, to accommodate the increase in the city’s Muslim population. We visit the main prayer hall and the surrounding grounds, which are all crowded during major Muslim holidays. We then drive to the town’s outskirts to visit the Abakh Khoja Tomb. This private burial site belongs to the Muslim family who once ruled over this part of China. The best known descendant of this family is Xiang Fei, the only Muslim concubine of a Chinese emperor of the Qing Dynasty. The complex consists of various prayer halls, vast gardens, and, of course, the tomb, the last resting place of all the members of Abakh Khoja’s family. We go on a walking tour of Kashgar’s old town. The narrow streets between mud and brick buildings, together with the continual sounds of children playing, take us back through time to a simpler way of life. We visit some of the courtyards and see for ourselves the unique and well-preserved architecture. In the afternoon we visit Kashgar’s main bazaar, where traditional local goods, as well as goods imported from neighboring countries such as Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, can be bought. In the evening we head back to town for a traditional Muslim dinner. Overnight in Kashgar.

DAY 13. KASHGAR ✈ BEIJING

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Today we leave the center again to visit Sunday’s cattle market. Farmers from small villages surrounding Kashgar meet here every weekend to sell, buy and swap horses, donkeys, cows, sheep, goats, and practically every other kind of animal that can thrive in this rugged land. Amidst constant dust clouds, people of different ethnic groups arrive on camels and in donkey carts from all over the region, not only to trade but also to meet old friends, hear the latest gossip, and sit down to share a meal with complete strangers. We have reached the end of our journey out west and start our long flight back to Beijing. Our flight may or may not stop in Urumqi, but late in the evening we reach Beijing, where we enjoy a dinner in one of the city’s finest restaurants, if time permits of course. Overnight in Beijing.

DAY 14. BEIJING

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

We have an early start and leave for the Temple of Heaven. This used to be where the Emperor, considered to be directly descended from heaven and representing the heavenly spirit on earth, asked for blessings for the Imperial Family and for the entire nation. He asked for good crops, good weather, and prosperity for all. The ceremony lasted three days, during which he did not leave the compound. Nowadays the grounds surrounding the temple are filled with Beijingers of all ages, who come to practice t’ai chi and dancing, and take part in all kinds of recreational activities. We join them for morning exercise before proceeding on a tour of the temple itself. From there we drive to Tiananmen Square. This is the world’s largest central city square and it is said that no one could rule China without first gaining control of the square. It is surrounded by important buildings, among them the National Museum and the Great Hall of the People (the Chinese parliament). In the center of the square there is the mausoleum of Chairman Mao, who reshaped the country, leading the People’s Republic of China from its foundation in 1949 until his death in 1976. We then proceed on foot to the Forbidden City. A common belief in China is that the ancestral spirits in heaven use 10,000 halls on different occasions, so to show his recognition of the superiority of heaven over earth, the emperor had only 9999 halls built in the Forbidden City for his own use. The compound was forbidden to all but the Imperial Family and their servants, and has been the place from which the emperors of China ruled the country for hundreds of years. We stroll between the halls and in the gardens surrounding them, and stop at some of the more significant halls. Leaving the Forbidden City, we continue to Coal Hill. Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, this used to be the highest observation point in the centre of the restless city, offering the emperor a great view over the Forbidden City and the whole of Beijing. From there we visit the hutongs, which are living evidence of how Beijing looked during imperial times. With families living around central courtyards, sharing their toilets, water, and other facilities, a way of life dating back hundreds of years. We take a rickshaw ride through the calm streets of the hutongs and get a glimpse of the life of ordinary Beijingers. In the late afternoon we enjoy strolling through one of the city’s busy markets, where traditional Chinese artifacts are sold next to knockoffs of the world’s most well-known brands. Overnight in Beijing.

DAY 15. DEPARTURE FROM BEIJING

  • Breakfast

After breakfast at the hotel, we drive to Beijing airport for our international departure flight.

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Dates & Pricing

Trip rates valid for two confirmed travelers and above. If you are booking this trip for a party of four travelers or more, please contact us for our special rates.

[email protected] reserves the right to change tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.

Prices are based on twin share occupancy.

Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$4827/ person
6 travelers- US$4352/ person
8 travelers- US$4092/ person

  • Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.

30th May, 2020–13th June, 2020

  • $5,891 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $757 Single Room Supplement

Additional Information


Inclusions
  • Accommodation at hotels selected including breakfast
  • 2 domestic flights- Xian/Zhangye and Kashgar/Beijing by economy class
  • Bullet trains Beijing-Xian and Liuyuan (Dunhuang)-Turpan by 2nd class seats
  • Overnight train Turpan-Kashgar in shared 4 berth soft-sleeper
  • Transfer by private A/C vehicle
  • Meals as indicated in the program
  • Bottled drinking water
  • English speaking guide for each area as per program
  • Entry fees for all sightseeing as mentioned on the program

Exclusions
  • International travel to and from China
  • Travel insurance
  • Chinese tourist visa
  • Excess luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)

Accomodation
  • Beijing- Jianguo Garden Hotel 5-star
  • Xian – Titan Times Hotel 4-star
  • Zhangye – Dinghe International Hotel 4-star
  • Badain Jaran – Simple Local Guesthouse
  • Jiayuguan – Holiday Plaza Hotel 4-star
  • Dunhuang – The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel 4-star
  • Turpan – Huozhou Hotel 4-star
  • Kashgar – Tianyuan Hotel 4-star

Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.

This trip's accommodation will be at hotels of minimum 4-star, apart from the 1 night in Badain Jaran in a very simple guesthouse, with no en-suite toilet and shower.


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