Silk Road Story
An epic journey along one of the world's greatest trade routes, traversing endless deserts and the mighty Pamir Mountains to the very edge of China.
- 12 nights comfortable hotels on twin-share basis, 1 night overnight trains, 1 night under the stars
- Tour leader
- 3 domestic flights
- Private vehicle and driver throughout
- All entrance fees as listed
- Most meals
Away from the bustling eastern provinces driving the economic powerhouse which is modern China, lies a land of endless deserts, exotic markets, intriguing people and vast snowcapped mountains. One of the world's greatest trade routes, the Silk Road has been a conduit for goods, inventions, religions and people through the ages, but since it was superseded by maritime trade routes in the fifteenth century it has been largely forgotten and now lies just waiting to be explored by those with a taste for adventure.
The Silk Road will take us on a journey from modern China to the huge expanses of its wild west, a land inhabited by peoples as diverse as the landscapes we'll pass through; Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Uighurs and Uzbeks all live here, many doing so in a way which hasn't changed for centuries. We will travel the length of the Chinese Silk Road, starting at the Tang dynasty capital of Xi'an, past the last remnants of the Great Wall, to its very end in the vast Pamir Mountains which fringe Pakistan. We'll hike the wall, ride camels through the dunes, cycle dusty lanes lined by grape trellises, experience the hospitality of the locals at both markets and in their homes, and finish with a horse-ride amidst some of the highest mountains on the planet. You will be introduced to the region by Simon Foster, co-author of the current Frommer's China & The Rough Guide to China, who will show you some of his favorite places from the book, and a host of places not in any guidebooks!
Days 1-2 - Xi'an
Xi'an, at the heart of the traditional Chinese empire, is the start-point of the Silk Road and its captivating combination of old and new, and east and west, lends a few clues as to what's in store for the rest of our journey. We'll meet at our hotel by 6pm and then head out to get to know one another over a delicious dumpling banquet. The following day we'll visit the incredible Terracotta Warriors and also have the chance to experience the city's vibrant streetlife.
Days 3-4 - Jiayuguan
On day 3 we'll take a short flight west to Jiayuguan. Here lies the last grand fortress along the Ming Great Wall, and the town was traditionally seen as the western boundary of Han China, beyond which lay vast deserts and mountain ranges, inhabited only by barbarians and those exiled from the heart of the country. We'll visit the fortress and explore its ochre ramparts, surrounded by desert which stretches away to colossal mountains on the horizon. We'll also take a hike along a section of the Great Wall which snakes its way along the forbidding Black Mountains.
Days 5-7 - Dunhuang
On day 5 we drive through the desert to the charming oasis town of Dunhuang, famous as the site of China's finest Buddhist cave art. At Dunhuang, the old Tibet trade routes meet the Silk Road and, in days of old, camel caravans stopped here to replenish supplies and prepare for the long road west across the harsh desert. We'll follow their tracks, riding camels through the desert to spend a night under the stars. The following day is free to relax in our comfortable hotel which overlooks the sea of dunes. After visiting the incredible grottoes, on the evening of day 7 we'll take an overnight train to Turpan.
Days 8-9 - Turpan
Sitting in a huge desert depression, Turpan is the lowest place in China and offers our first taste of Uighur life in Xinjiang. We'll explore the maze of dusty grape-trellis-lined lanes around the town by bicycle, and venture out into the surrounding desert taking in ancient cities, hidden ravines and even vineyards, not to mention the "Flaming Mountains" made famous by Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Days 10-14 - Kashgar and the Karakoram Highway
On day 10 we'll transfer to the airport for the short but scenic flight across the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar, a crucial trading post along the Silk Road whose bustling Sunday Bazaar still attracts traders from around the region. The proximity to Central Asia gives Kashgar a unique blend of cultures and the old city is alive with Uighurs, Tajiks, Kazaks and Kyrgyz, each distinguishable by their traditional headgear. The old town is scheduled for demolition in the next few years so this is the last time to see the city in its original form. As well as the unmissable Sunday Bazaar we'll also have a chance to explore the warren of narrow lanes which make up the old city and visit a charming mosque on the edge of town.
From Kashgar we'll visit outlying markets seldom seen by foreigners before making the driving the mindblowing final leg of the Chinese Silk Road along the Karakoram Highway to the remote Tajik prefecture of Tashkurgan. En-route we'll drive through multi-colored valleys, past yaks and glaciers and take a high altitude wander around beautiful Lake Karakul, a shimmering turquoise jewel nestled among 7000m plus peaks.
On arrival we'll take a sunset ramble around the imposing ruins of Tashkurgan fort before getting a comfortable night's sleep in the mountains. The following day we'll visit a local Tajik village and take a horse-ride out into the surrounding grasslands before continuing back to Kashgar for a traditional Uighur dinner to celebrate the end of our epic journey.
Day 15 - Urumqi – Tour Ends
This morning we'll take a short flight back to Urumqi where the tour ends. There are flights from Urumqi to all major Chinese cities.