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China's Silk Road

Beijing - Xi'an - Zhangye - Dunhuang - Turpan - Urumqi

Gaochang ruined city

Follow the route of China's fabled Silk Road, travelling westward on high-speed trains into the far western deserts of China, stopping en route to see the remains of the ancient civilisations that flourished here. Combination of private guide arrangements and joining regular coach tours.

Day 1  Depart London Heathrow or regional airports.

Day 2  Arrive in Beijing. Met on arrival and transfer to your hotel. Rest of the day free.

Day 3  Today join a seat-in-coach day tour to see Tiananmen Square followed by the Forbidden City - the huge palace that was the centre of power and home of China's emperors for five centuries. After lunch visit the Temple of Heaven where emperors prayed for good harvests, and the beautiful Summer Palace (B, L)

Day 4  After breakfast join a seat-in-coach tour to the Great Wall at Badaling. This is followed by a visit to the tombs of the Ming emperors. (B, L)

Day 7 After breakfast, take the metro, accompanied by your guide, to the railway station for the high-speed train to Zhangye (about 6 hour journey). On arrival you will be greeted by a guide and taken to your hotel. (B)

Day 8  After breakfast join your local guide and car and driver to visit the Mati Temple (Horse Hoof Temple). A series of caves dug into the cliffs were made into Buddhist temples. Then continue to the Danxia Geological National Park. Here different coloured layers of sandstone, and the effects of erosion, have created a dramatic and beautiful landscape. Drive onward to Jiayuguan and overnight at hotel. (B, L)

Day 9  Today visit the famous Jiayuguan Pass - the western end of the Great Wall. Here, behind a backdrop of snow-covered mountains, a powerful fortress marked the limit of Ming Dynasty China and the wilderness beyond it. Drive to Dunhuang in the afternoon. (B, L)

Day 10  Today your guide will accompany you on a visit to the Mogao Caves, one of the great treasure houses of Chinese art. The walls of the caves, created over many centuries, are lined with Buddhist frescoes and sculptures, said to be the finest Buddhist art in the world. Also visit the natural wonders of the Crescent-shaped Lake and the Mingsha Sand dunes. (B, L)

Day 11  In the morning visit the Dunhuang Museum, which houses the relics excavated from the Dunhuang area. These reflect the flourishing development that existed along the trading route in ancient times. After lunch, transfer to railway station for high-speed train to Turpan (about 3- to 4-hour journey). Check-in to hotel. (B, L)

Day 12 Today tour some of the many historical sites around Turpan, starting with the ruined city of Gaochang, once a large settlement on the Silk Road, and the Astana Graves where the city's elite were buried. Then visit the Flaming Mountains, that appear red in the setting sun, and the Bezelik Caves, another system of Buddhist grottoes. (B, L)

Visit the Emin Minaret, one of the landmarks of Turpan, and the ingenious Karez underground irrigation system, before travelling onward to Urumqi by road in the late afternoon (B, L)

Day 13 From Urumqi, the capital of the western Xingiang region, travel about one and a half hours out of the city to Heaven Lake - a vivid blue lake set among the high slopes of pine forests and alpine meadows some 2000 metres above sea level, and settled by Kazhak nomads. Return to the city to visit the Regional Museum and the exotic Uighur bazaar. (B, L)

Day 14 Transfer to airport for flight to Beijing for your connection to flight to UK, arriving the following morning (B)


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