16 days

China's Silk Road

China's Silk Road

Terracotta Warriors of Xian

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Buddhist murals of Mogao Caves

The Forbidden City

Kashgar - the Silk Road capital of the Uyghurs

Walk on remote sections of the Great Wall

Tianchi - Lake of Heaven

Trip rating
  • For centuries, traders have plied the so-called ‘Silk Road’, a long and hazardous adventure linking the markets of western Europe to the ancient Chinese capital of Xian. This tour re-traces part of that epic journey, travelling along the fabled Hexi Corridor, then out across the deserts of western China, with a detour to amazing Xiahe, a place of pilgrimage for Tibetan Lamaism.

    Many spectacular sights are witnessed during this journey, including the awe-inspiring Forbidden City in Beijing, various sections of the Great Wall of China, the renowned Terracotta Warriors and the superb Buddhist paintings at Dunhuang. The scenery is varied and even hostile in places, but always hauntingly beautiful. Most of all, this tour represents a cultural odyssey. From the heart of the Han Chinese homeland, you travel west, meeting numerous ethnic groups such as Tibetans and the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs of Central Asia, en route to the remote oasis city of Kashgar.

    Why we love it

    • For centuries, traders have traversed the so-called ‘Silk Road’, a long and hazardous adventure linking the markets of western Europe to the ancient Chinese capital of Xian. This tour re-traces part of that epic journey.
    • Many spectacular sights are witnessed during this journey, including the Forbidden City, sections Great Wall of China, the renowned Terracotta Warriors and the superb Buddhist paintings at Dunhuang.
    • The scenery is varied and even hostile in places, but often hauntingly beautiful. Most of all, this tour represents a cultural odyssey.
    • From the heart of the China, you travel west, meeting numerous ethnic groups such as Tibetans and the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs of Central Asia, en route to the remote oasis city of Kashgar.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Beijing

    • On arrival in Beijing you will be transferred to your hotel. In the early evening you will meet your tour leader and the other group members for a pre-tour briefing. This is generally followed by an optional group dinner at a local restaurant - Peking Duck is a popular choice.

    Dong Fang Hotel or similar

    Day 2-3 - Beijing - Overnight Train

    • Beijing offers endless opportunities for exploration. The enormous Forbidden City, built more than 500 years ago and off limits to commoners for almost all of that time, is a truly amazing place. Its size might surprise you (it is huge!), but what makes it fascinating is that every square metre is carefully detailed, ranging from intricately carved walkways to colourful, painted ceilings.

    • The Temple of Heaven is another fine example of extraordinary workmanship which we also visit on Day 2.
    • You will travel to Mutianyu on Day 3, one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall. This section used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience.
    • There is also ample free time built in to the itinerary, allowing you to make your own discoveries.
    • In the evening, you will have the chance to enjoy a performance of the unique Beijing Opera (optional).
    • You will leave Beijing on an overnight train, travelling in soft sleeper class (four-berth compartments). The approx 14-hour trip is a great opportunity for your group to get to know each other and meet local travellers.

    Dong Fang Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 4-5 - Xian - Overnight Train

    • Xian is a wonderful place to explore. Food options are excellent here, ranging from delicious Muslim fare to dumplings and street food. Widely regarded as the first capital of a united China in 221 BC, the city is rich in history.

    • A tour to the renowned Terracotta Warriors with a local guide introduces you to these entombed statues, considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century. Over 6000 of them were individually sculpted from clay, each with a different costume, height, and even facial expression. They are standing in battle formation, facing east in order to protect the tomb of China's first emperor, the great Qin Shihuang. In 1974, farmers digging a well discovered the underground vault, which was home to this army for two millennium.
    • Xian also has a wonderful Muslim Quarter. Free time can be spent wandering the narrow streets where you can find quaint shops, lively markets, groups of white-bearded men in skull caps sipping tea in little cafes, and the Great Mosque, one of the most unique and important in China.
    • In the late afternoon of Day 5, you will catch the overnight sleeper train to Lanzhou.

    Union Alliance Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 6-8 - Lanzhou - Xiahe - Overnight Train

    • After an early arrival (approx 6:30 am) in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, you will be transferred by bus and travel to Bingling Temple to view some fascinating Buddhist caves.

    • Your journey continues on to Xiahe, a major centre for Tibetan Lamaism. You will spend two nights in this amazing remote town set in a beautiful mountain valley, with the highlight being a visit to the impressive 18th century Labrang Monastery. There are many monks walking around the streets, some of who are on pilgrimage from Greater Tibet.
    • You will travel back to Lanzhou by bus and board another overnight sleeper train bound for Jiayuguan.

    Overseas Tibetan Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 9 - Jiayuguan

    • Upon entering the Hexi Corridor, you will travel on a strip of desert surrounded by mountains on both sides.

    • You will arrive in the early afternoon at Jiayuguan (Jiayu Pass), the last outpost on the edge of the ancient Han Chinese Empire, and visit Jiayuguan Fort, which marks the end of the Great Wall. The heavily industrialised modern town stands in stark contrast to the desert scenery.
    • You will also visit the Hanging Wall (another section of the Great Wall) and the Wei-Jin Dynasty Tombs.

    Tiandong Hotel or similar

    Day 10-11 - Dunhuang - Overnight Train

    • You will journey across the desert landscape by bus to the oasis of Dunhuang, another important stop on the Silk Road. After a night in Dunhuang, you will get up to experience the sunrise over desert sand dunes and see Crescent Lake. Nearby are the stunning Mogao Caves, which house some of the best Buddhist murals in the world. The first cave was carved out and painted in 366 AD, but they had been largely forgotten until a Taoist monk stumbled upon them in 1907. Currently there are more than 492 caves, most containing murals, and over 2,415 coloured statues, in an area covering more than 45,000 square metres. Central in every cave are the painted mural.

    • After Mogao, you will catch a bus to Liuyuan and transfer to another overnight sleeper train.

    Feitian Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 12 - Turpan

    • After arriving in Daheyan, the closest train station to Turpan, you will travel by road for 50 minutes to the delightful oasis city of Turpan.

    • The Turpan Depression is second only to the Dead Sea in Jordan as the lowest point on earth. The temperature soars here to an average of as much as 40C during summer. It is a small city by Chinese standards, but the surrounding area is full of interesting places such as Gaocheng and Jiaohe - once great cities on the Silk Road. Once upon a time, Gaocheng was the capital of the Uyghur people and the ruins here are very impressive, with the temples, pagodas and courtyards still distinguishable even though they were abandoned over 700 years ago. The Astana Graves nearby are where the dead from the ancient city were buried. Another famous Buddhist site found on the western side of the Flaming Mountains is the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves. Unfortunately most of the artworks were removed or destroyed, so the caves are just a sad reminder of their former glories and not comparable to Mogao. At 44 metres high, the Emin Minaret is the tallest in China. It was built in 1777 to honour a local general, Emin Khoja.

    Turpan Hotel or similar

    Day 13 - Turpan - Urumqi

    • Turpan is well known for its seedless, white variety of grapes grown in the surrounding fields. To provide irrigation to this arid land, the local people have devised a unique subterranean waterway. The Karez are fed from melted snow and conducted to the channels that wind their way beneath the desert.

    • The ancient city of Jiaohe is located 10 kilometres west of town and covers an extensive area. Dating from around 108 BC, this once-busy city was destroyed by Genghis Khan’s Mongol army in the 13th century.
    • Next you will drive to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. This is a multi-national province with many languages, customs and colourful ethnic traditions. It is also China's gateway to Central Asia, with air links to all the former Soviet republics, and it is widely regarded as the city farthest from the ocean.

    Urumqi Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 14 - Urumqi - Kashgar

    • From Urumqi you will drive out to visit the Heavenly Lake (Tianchi), which resembles a little piece of Swiss alpine scenery with hills covered by fir trees and the area dotted with Kazakh settlements. The local people live in tent-like structures made from animal skin, known as yurts. In winter the road becomes impassable due to snow.

    • Returning to Urumqi, you will visit the large and fascinating Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum, which houses an amazing collection of Silk Road artifacts and treasures including some incredibly well preserved mummified bodies.
    • In the evening you will fly across the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar, one of the biggest and oldest cities on the Silk Road.

    Yanbul Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 15 - Kashgar

    • Still an important trading centre and developing at an astounding pace, Kashgar is situated at an altitude of 1289 metres at the end of the spectacular Karakoram Highway. It first fell into Chinese hands nearly 1000 years ago when explorations along the Silk Road opened the area to trade. When the Han Dynasty collapsed, an interregnum followed until the town was captured briefly for the Tang Dynasty before falling again, this time into Arab hands. The great Genghis Khan occupied the city in 1219 and Marco Polo was reputedly a visitor here in 1265. With the downfall of the Mongols, the town was incorporated into Amir Timur's empire before entering another period of instability, this time lasting 350 years. The colourful Sunday Market (actually open every day, but busiest on Sundays) sees the town come alive with traders selling goods from near and far. It is a photographer's dream with the endless stream of fascinating faces and varied goods on sale.

    • Outside of the city is the Animal Bazaar. At time of writing this market was being relocated and it is uncertain as to how modernised or accessible for travellers it will become.
    • You will also take a city tour that includes the Abakh Hoja Tomb, the Id Kah Mosque and the (fast-disappearing) old town.

    Yanbul Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 16 - Kashgar

    • Our tour will come to an end today after breakfast. A transfer to the airport is not included; however, your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.

    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • An experienced, English-speaking local Peregrine leader and specialist local guides at some sites
    • Authentic Accommodation: 4 nights basic hotel, 7 nights comfortable hotel, 4 nights sleeper train
    • Meals: 12 breakfasts
    • Arrival transfer
    • Domestic flight Urumqi to Kashgar
    • Sightseeing and entrance fees as per itinerary: including Temple of Heaven, Fobidden City, Terracotta Warriors
    • Stunning desert landscapes of Dunhuang and the Tibetan monasteries of Xiahe
    • Walk the Great Wall at Mutianyu and Jiayuguan
    • See the spectacular sights of the oasis town of Turpan, including the Flaming Mountains of "Journey to the West" fame
    • Glimpse the fast disappearing into modernization Silk Road city of Kashgar and its amazing bazaars
    • Chinese visa support

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Departure transfer
    • Visas
    • Meals unless specified in the itinerary
    • Insurance
    • Laundry - may be available at locations where we stay two or more nights
    • Optional tours or activities during free time
    • Tips - this is something to consider, and it might be worthwhile speaking to your group about making a group contribution at the end of the trip
    • Onward travel from Kashgar

    Safety Information

    On 22 May a suspected bomb attack took place on a crowded street in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, with reports of over 30 killed. This follows a bomb and knife attack in Urumqi’s South Railway station on 30 April which killed 3 people and injured 79. 

    No Peregrine travellers were in the area at the time. Security throughout Xinjiang province is high and Peregrine groups visiting Urumqi will continue to avoid highly populated areas. 

    China is a safe country to travel in and very few travellers will experience any safety concerns. Serious crime against foreigners is relatively rare, but incidents do occur. Foreigners can be targeted for passports, laptops, mobile phones, purses and handbags. Major tourist sites and areas frequented by foreigners attract thieves and pickpockets. Take extra care at major tourist sites, street markets, Beijing International Airport, major international events and conferences and popular bar areas after dark.

    There are occasional incidents with taxi and pedicab drivers who insist the passenger misunderstood the fare. Avoid travelling in unmarked or unmetered ‘taxis’ and insist on paying only the meter fare. Ask the driver for a receipt (fapiao), on which the taxi number should be printed. You can take this to the police to lodge a complaint.

    Counterfeit bank notes (especially RMB100) are increasingly common. They are generally crumpled to avoid detection. Unscrupulous traders may try to switch your genuine bank notes for counterfeits. Check carefully before accepting notes. It is quite normal to do so.

    Beware of scams particularly in popular tourist areas. A regular example is the ‘tea tasting’ scam. Scams usually involve a foreign national being invited to visit a bar, shop or cafe – for example to practice English or meet a girl - but results in demands for an exorbitant fee, often payable by credit card. This can result in threats of violence or credit card fraud.

    Fire protection standards in Chinese accommodation are not always the same as at home. Check fire precautions including access to fire exits.

  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    China's Silk Road

    Lai Meng - Australia, 2 Jun, 2013
    5
    Overall Rating

    It was a fabulous journey with great guides, and well spaced hard work with rests.

    China's Silk Road

    Lyn - South Africa, 2 Sep, 2012
    4
    Overall Rating

    I thought the trip was well paced and that there was sufficient free time built in. Our tour leaders were well versed in their areas and did their best to accommodate people's requests.

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PCSR
Group size 4 - 16
Start City: Beijing
End City: Kashgar

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