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The Silk Road

Beijing - Xi'an - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang - Turpan - Urumqi - Kashgar - Beijing

Silk Road scene

A tour following the Silk Road - the historic trade route linking China and the West across the vast expanses of Central Asia. Visit the ancient towns scattered in the desert wilderness between Xi'an and Kashgar, with the relics of the ancient civilisations and peoples who lived and traded with the caravans of merchants making their way along this road. Also experience the region today, with its Uigur inhabitants holding lively markets selling local produce and crafts.

Day 1  Depart UK

Day 2  Arrive Beijing. Transfer to 4-star hotel. Rest of the day free.

Day 3  Full day tour to visit Tiananmen Square, and Forbidden City - the centre of power for China's rulers for 500 years. In the afternoon visit the Temple of Heaven where emperors performed rituals to ensure good harvests. (B, L)

Day 4  Visit Great Wall at Mutianyu, including cable car up to the wall. Transfer to airport for late afternoon flight to Xi'an. Transfer to 4- to 5-star hotel (B, L)

Day 5  Excursion to the famous Terracotta Army, created by China's first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, to guard his tomb for eternity. Then return to Xi'an city to visit the Grand Mosque and atmospheric streets of the surrounding Muslim Quarter. (B, L)

Day 6  Morning visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and Xi'an's impressive medieval city wall. Transfer to airport for flight to Jiayuguan. Transfer to 4-star hotel. (B, L)

Day 7  Jiayuguan was the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall and an impressive fort marked the edge of Chinese territory as the desert stretched out beyond it, ringed by mountains. Visit the fort, western end of the Great Wall, and the Great Wall Museum. (B, L, D)

Day 8  Travel across the desert from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang, stopping en route at Qiaowan, the ruins of a Qing dynasty garrison town abandoned during a Muslim uprising in the 19th century and never inhabited again. Stay at 4-star hotel. (B, L)

Day 9  Visit the Mogao Caves, one of the great treasures of Chinese art and sculpture, located in Buddhist caves and grottoes. Visit Dunhuang museum in the afternoon. (B, L)

Day 10  Morning visit the famous Mingsha (Humming Sand) Desert and Crescent Moon Lake, a freshwater lake hemmed in by towering sand dunes. Transfer to Liuyuan station for the overnight train to Turpan. (soft sleeper) (B, L)

Day 11  Arrive Turpan in the morning. Transfer to 3-star Turpan Hotel. Visit the ancient city of Gaochang, which flourished between the 2nd and 13th centuries and which today has been reduced to mud-brick ruins. The visit the Astana Graves which served as the cemetery for the elite of the city. Travel back to Turpan via Flaming Mountains, where the sandstone cliffs turn rich colours in the setting sun. (B, )

Day 12   Travel by coach to Urumqi, the capital of Xingiang province. In the afternoon visit the Heavenly Lake, a beautiful forest-fringed lake fed by glacial waters from the surrounding snow-capped mountains. Stay at 4-star hotel (B, L)

Day 13  Visit Xinjiang Museum, famous for its 'mummies' from ancient tombs preserved in the desert, and the Uigur bazaar. Transfer to the airport for the afternoon flight to Kashgar. Transfer to 4-star hotel (B, L)

Day 14  A stay in Kashgar on Sundays allows you to experience the amazing Sunday market when numerous Uigur villagers pour into the city and its bazaars and markets to buy and sell. Also visit the Id Kah Mosque and the tomb of Akbar Hoja, two superb examples of Central Asian architecture (B, L)

Day 15  Transfer to airport for flight to Urumqi. Transfer to hotel (B)

Day 16  Transfer to airport for flight to Beijing. Transfer to hotel (B)

Day 17  Transfer to airport for flight back to UK. (B)