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Grand Silk Explorer

Trip Length

Trip Code

38 days PCGS

Countries Visited

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, China

Start City

End City

Beijing Tashkent
Grand Silk Explorer

For those who have dreamt of the ancient Silk Road, this journey offers the ultimate adventure! For centuries travellers in the pursuit of trade and knowledge have crossed the deserts of Western China, scaled the mountain passes of Kyrgyzstan and marvelled at the turquoise-domed architecture of Uzbekistan. From bustling Beijing to the sleepier Uzbek capital of Tashkent, we travel through lands once conquered by mighty leaders such as Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. Prepare to be swept up by colourful local hospitality, to sample life as a steppe-dwelling nomad and to be humbled by vast desert and mountain landscapes. The highlights of this journey are as diverse as the people we will meet – explore the thriving Kashgar bazaars, stay in yurts like Kyrgyz nomads, meet local families in the mountains and uncover a world little changed in centuries.

Why we love it:

Grand Silk Explorer


Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1: Beijing

Accommodation: Dong Fang Hotel or similar, Beijing

Activities:

Day 2-3: Beijing - overnight train

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Dong Fang Hotel or similar, Beijing

Activities:

Day 4-5: Xian - Overnight Train

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Union Alliance Hotel or similar, Xi'an

Activities:

Day 6-8: Lanzhou - Xiahe - Overnight Train

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Overseas Tibetan Hotel or similar, Xiahe

Activities:

Day 9: Jiayuguan

Accommodation: Tiandong Hotel or similar, Jiayuguan

Activities:

Day 10-11: Dunhuang - Overnight Train

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Feitian Hotel or similar, Dunhuang

Activities:

Day 12: Turpan

Accommodation: Turpan Hotel or similar, urpan

Activities:

Day 13: Turpan - Urumqi

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Urumqi Hotel or similar, Urumqi

Activities:

Day 14: Urumqi - Kashgar

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Yanbul Hotel or similar, Kashgar

Activities:

Day 15: Kashgar

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Yanbul Hotel or similar, Kashgar

Activities:

Day 16-17: Torugart Pass - Tash-Rabat

Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners

Accommodation: Yurt Camp ( Dostuk) or similar, Tash-Rabat Valley

Activities:

Day 18-19: Son-Kul Lake

Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners

Accommodation: Yurt Camp ( U Baisha ) or similar, Son Kul Lake

Activities:

Day 20: Kochkor

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Accommodation: Kochkorka Village Family Home stay or similar, Kochkorka

Activities:

Day 21: Barskoön Gorge - Tamga

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Accommodation: Village Guesthouse or similar, Tamga

Activities:

Day 22-23: Lake Issyk-Kul

Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners

Accommodation: Village Guesthouse or similar, Karakol

Activities:

Day 24-25: Chong-Kemin - Bishkek

Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches

Accommodation: Asia Mountains or similar, Bishkek

Activities:

Day 26: Tashkent

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Uzbekistan Hotel or similar, Tashkent

Activities:

Day 27: Tashkent

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Uzbekistan Hotel or similar, Tashkent

Activities:

Day 28: Khiva

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Malila or Isaak Guesthouse, Khiva

Activities:

Day 29: Khiva - Ayaz Qala

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 dinner

Accommodation: Yurt or similar, Ayaz Kala

Activities:

Day 30: Bukhara

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch

Accommodation: Atlas or Lyabi Guesthouse, Bukhara

Activities:

Day 31: Bukhara

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Atlas or Lyabi Guesthouse, Bukhara

Activities:

Day 32: Bukhara

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Atlas or Lyabi Guesthouse, Bukhara

Activities:

Day 33-34: Nuratau Mountains - Samarkand

Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner

Accommodation: Homestay or similar, Sentab

Activities:

Day 35: Samarkand

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Zarina or Caravan Guesthouse, Samarkand

Activities:

Day 36: Samarkand

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Accommodation: Zarina or Caravan Guesthouse, Samarkand

Activities:

Day 37-38: Samarkand - Tashkent

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Accommodation: Uzbekistan Hotel or similar, Tashkent

Activities:


Your Trip

What to know

Venturing well away from cities and remote areas, this trip takes you right off the beaten track. Accommodation and facilities may be basic but the rewards are immeasurable. A good level of fitness is required for this trip given the high altitudes.

What's Included

Transport

Non-included Meals

Some meals are included on your trip (except for North America trips - please refer to your day-to-day itinerary). However, sometimes we think you'll benefit from getting out and discovering the local cuisine. So when a meal is not included, it's a great opportunity to try something new. For group trips, ask your leader for tips on where to get the best meal, or you might decide to dine out as a group and experience the fun together.

Not Included


What to know

Fitness

As the climate and weather on this trip can vary in the extreme - from the heat of the desert to the possibility of snow in the mountains - and there are some very long, potentially uncomfortable travel days you will need to be in good health to undertake this trip.

There are optional day-treks in Kyrgyzstan of medium grade and between 4 and 6 hours in duration. Please ensure you have comfortable walking boots or shoes.

This is a journey involving long periods of driving on rough, unsealed roads, basic accommodation and simple food. The vehicles used are 4WD vehicles - perfect for exploring these remote areas and coping with unpredictable road conditions.The greater your personal fitness level, the more likely you are to enjoy this journey. Due to the bumpy road conditions and number of nights using basic accommodation (mattresses at floor level) this journey is not suitable for those suffering from back or knee problems or similar.

Please ensure that you are carrying adequate supplies of any medication you require, and that you have discussed with your doctor any special requirements about their storage. It is highly recommended that you have a back-up set of essential medication (carried separately) since it will be impossible to replace any medication lost or damaged once we enter Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan has poor medical facilities and a shortage of basic medical supplies. Medical facilities outside Bishkek are quite basic and in some locations almost non-existent.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations may be required for this trip. Please talk to your doctor about the up-to-date information for this region.  We're travel experts, not doctors and defer to the medicos when it comes to inoculations.

Visas and Permits

Please ensure that you have all required visas for your trip – this is your responsibility. Rules and regulations governing the issuance of visas are constantly changing, and vary for different nationalities and you should check visa requirements with your travel agent or relevant consular authority well before travel.

Kyrgyzstan

Many nationalities no longer require a visa to travel to Kyrgyzstan for up to 60 days, including Australia, Belgium, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, USA and Switzerland. Nationals of other countries not listed should check their requirements at their nearest embassy. A Letter of Invitation (LOI) is rarely needed, but should it be required by your embassy please contact your booking agent immediately after booking as this can take up to 30 days to be processed and is not included in your trip cost.

Uzbekistan

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay. We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent. If you are travelling on more than one trip, either with us or another operator, your LOI application will need to go through one local operator. Please send all required documentation to your booking agent, and they will be able to assist you with this process.

LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
All visitors to Uzbekistan require a visa. Most nationalities will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) in order to apply for your visa. Citizens of Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, UK & USA do not currently need a LOI to apply for a tourist visa if applying within their home country; however this information is subject to change at short notice so we recommend checking with the embassy before you travel. If applying for a visa outside of your country of residency, a LOI will be required. We recommend that all documents be submitted no later than 3 months before your tour is scheduled to depart to allow for the time consuming visa process. In order for Intrepid to apply for the LOI on your behalf through our partners in Uzbekistan you will need to email the following information and documents to your booking agent immediately after booking.

• A completed visa/LOI application form which can be filled out online at the following website: http://evisa.mfa.uz/evisa_en/
(You only need to fill in the sections marked with an asterix (HOWEVER you must enter your middle name). See below for specific information to help you fill in the form. Please send a copy to your booking agent and print a copy for yourself which you can use when you apply for your visa)
• Clear, colour scanned copy of your passport
• Letter of Employment or Study. This must be a letter from your employer or place of study on a business letterhead that states clearly that you are travelling for tourism purposes only. If you are retired or self-employed, please indicate this on booking.
• Exact dates of entry and exit from Uzbekistan (including 2nd entry if applicable)
• Where you will apply for your visa (for Visa on Arrival – Tashkent International Airport)
• Copy of your international flight tickets in and out of Tashkent

Submitting this information for your LOI is the responsibility of the traveller.

Please be aware that LOIs take an average of 15 days to be processed but this can be longer so you will need to allow a minimum of 20 days. This does not include the time it will take to apply for and receive your Uzbekistan Visa which will vary depending on place of application. Both LOI and Visa processing times are out of our control and can be unpredictable.

You must allow enough time to receive the LOI and apply for your visa if you are planning to get it in advance. You must indicate where you will apply for your visa and any changes in this information will result in your LOI being delayed so please plan carefully. p>

Once the LOI has been processed a copy will be sent to you or your tour leader. You can then begin the process of applying for your visa if you are getting it in advance. LOIs are valid for a 3 months period so you must apply for your visa within 3 months of the LOI being issued. Remember that LOIs are NOT the actual visa. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller and separate from the trip price. Costs will vary depending on your nationality and place of application. How and where you apply for your Uzbekistan visa will depend on how you enter the country – please see the trip specific advice below.

APPLYING FOR YOUR VISA

Some information you may need to fill out your visa application: • Inviting Party: Nuron Savdo /Asia Adventures +998 71 150 62 80 (These are our local partners in Uzbekistan)
• Purpose of Visit: Tourism
• Address in Uzbekistan: Use the name and address of your start or finish hotel
• Occupation: This must match the occupation listed on your supporting Employment letter. Indicate here if you are a student or retired.
• Place of Application: This must be the same as what you requested for your LOI.
Australian & New Zealand citizens wishing to apply for their Uzbekistan visa in advance can do so by post at the consulate in Singapore or Bangkok.

We advise all travellers to apply for either their Visa on Arrival or in advance and not attempt to obtain their visa en-route in China or Kyrgyzstan.

VISA ON ARRIVAL – AIR:

Travellers arriving into Tashkent International Airport can obtain their visa on arrival at the airport ONLY if this is nominated as your place of application on your LOI. Etickets will need to be provided when you apply for your LOI. You will require a printed copy of your LOI before your board your flight. Costs will depend on your nationality (currently approx US$100) and payment must be in cash. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival at any land border. You will also need a printed copy of your Visa Application Form as these are not always available in English at airport immigration

Travellers on PCJU – Jewels of Uzbekistan, PCKL – Kyrgyzstan Lakes of The Sky, PCGS – Grand Silk Explorer & PCPT – Tajikistan Pamir Adventure may apply for an LOI indicating Tashkent International Airport as place of visa application in order to get a Visa on Arrival.

Please note that travellers on PCPT - Tajikistan Pamir Adventure will require a double entry visa. Enter the total number of days of your stay in Uzbekistan on your LOI form and indicate that a double entry is required

WARNING – REGISTRATION IN UZBEKISTAN:

All visitors to Uzbekistan must register with the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs within 3 working days after arrival. When staying at a hotel, you will be registered automatically. Please ensure you keep any registration documents issued by the hotel until you exit the country.

LAWS & HEALTH:

Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia, such as sleeping tablets, may be illegal or restricted in Uzbekistan. You should declare all prescription medications and other restricted items on arrival in Uzbekistan, and carry a copy of the prescription with you.

China

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.

We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.

Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance

MAINLAND CHINA & HONG KONG:

Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival and Chinese visas can be difficult to obtain outside your country of residence. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements.

INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:

Itinerary:

Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.

Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
606 InterChina Commercial Building
33 Dengshikou Street
Dongcheng District
Beijing 100006
+86 10 6406 7328

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:

* Hotel List - this will be sent to you by your booking agent. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that your trip visits.
* Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not.
* Itinerary – please print off a copy of your specific trip itinerary from our website and include it with your application, listing the dates you will visit each destination.
* Photocopy of your passport.
* Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required).
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements.

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS

We require you to send the following at the time of booking, or no later than 60 days prior to travel: Clear, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport
Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well.

Insurance

You are required to have travel insurance before heading off on a Peregrine trip. Insurance can be organised by your Peregrine representative or your travel agent.

Responsible Travel

Our Responsible Travel ethos is at the heart of everything we do, from getting the basics right like respecting local cultures and the environment, to initiating projects that make positive contributions to communities, to our staff’s fundraising efforts and offsetting our carbon emissions.
Please visit our Responsible Travel (http://www.peregrineadventures.com/rt) page for more information.

Customs and Culture

Our Pre Departure Information or Travel Dossier (provided upon booking a trip) provides tips on how you can show respect for the local customs and culture in the country you are travelling in. Your leader will also help steer you though the complexities of local cultural norms.

Pre Departure Information
The information listed above is a brief description of some things you may need to consider when booking a trip. Once a tour is booked you will be provided with a link to your Travel Dossier which will contain detailed Pre Departure information.

Further Reading

Kyrgyzstan

Uzbekistan

There are a number of books which make interesting reading and provide insight in the history, politics and culture of the country. Suggestions are:

The Great Game - Peter Hopkirk

Setting the East Ablaze - Peter Hopkirk

Land Beyond the River: The Untold Story of Central Asia - Monica Whitlock

The Lost Heart of Asia - Colin Thubron

Central Asia: A Travellers' Companion - Kathleen Hopkirk

Central Asia - Lonely Planet

China

There are a number of books which make interesting reading and provide insight in the history, politics and culture of the country. Suggestions are: Wild Swans-Jung Chang The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices-Xinran Riding the Iron Rooster-Paul Theroux From Heaven Lake-Vikram Seth One’s Company-Peter Fleming Red China Blues-Jan Wong Mr China’s Son: A Villager’s Life-He Liuyi China, Renaissance of the Middle Kingdom-Odyssey Guide China-Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrase Book-Lonely Planet. The following are recommended for travellers on the Silk Road: The Great Game-Peter Hopkirk Foreign Devils on the Silk Road-Peter Hopkirk.


Important Information

Local Emergency Contacts

In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, our local offices can be reached on:

China +861064067328 (PEAK Beijing)

Kyrgyzstan +996555303025 (Fantastic Asia)

Uzbekistan +998901852547 (Silk Tours)

Travelling During Holiday Periods

Major holidays in China are Spring Festival (Lunar New Year), first week of May and National Week (first week of October). These are not ideal times to travel in China as literally the entire country is on the move and we schedule less or no tours during these times. There is a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. If your tour does travel during this time, plenty of patience and flexibility will be required.

In 2014 Chinese New Year day fall on Friday 31st January, ushering in the Year of the Horse. All days from 30th January to 5th February 2014 are designated as public holidays. In 2015 Chinese New Year will be on 19th February (Year of the Sheep) and in 2016 it will be on 8th February (Year of the Monkey).

Train Travel in China

Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 4-berth ‘soft-sleeper’ class, which are four beds in a compartment. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths. There are urns or thermos flasks for making hot beverages. It is quite possible that we may be divided over a series of separate compartments and some of us may have to share our compartment with other train travellers. There is no single supplement available for the train. While train travel is an integral part of the China travel experience and offers some of the best chances of meeting and making friends with locals, it can also be quite a culture shock for some travellers.

Travel in Xinjiang Autonomous Region

This trip visits the far western province of Xinjiang, a politically sensitive part of the country due to its ethnic and cultural differences with "mainland" China.Travel in this region is not restricted as in Tibet however the security situation remains fragile and conditions locally can deteriorate rapidly at short notice. You should exercise caution when travelling in the region. Whilst outbreaks of ethnic violence remain sporadic and foreigners are not normally targeted during unrest, you should be alert to the possibility of being caught up in any unexpected demonstrations or outbreaks of violence. During periods of tension, some news reporting, access to text-messaging, the internet and to international telephone lines may be blocked. The Chinese authorities tend to react quickly to these incidents and will increase the security presence in the area. Avoid becoming involved in any protests and avoid large crowds. Don’t film or photograph any such activities or anything of a military nature. You should carry an emergency fund of around $400 USD in case we are required to change the itinerary urgently in response to the local situation.

Single Supplement

Please note a Single Supplement is available to purchase for this trip, however single rooms cannot be confirmed whilst we are staying in traditional Yurts and Homestays. Please also note that single rooms across Central Asia are generally smaller and may not have windows and/or balconies.

Local Travel

Central Asia is a developing region whose infrastructure, values, customs and standards differ from what you are used to at home. Please bear this in mind as you are travelling in this exciting area and respect the fact that you should not impose your standards and expectations on the culture there. Roads outside the main towns are poorly-maintained and often only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles. The terrain of the region can mean delays due to road conditions and extreme weather. Kyrgyzstan's borders with neighbouring countries are subject to closure without notice. You will need to be prepared for unforeseen changes to the itinerary and to be flexible with daily schedules. Although a high level of physical fitness is not required, travellers should be comfortable with the realities of an "out there" adventure, and prepared for very basic conditions in the countryside. The roads in the region are rough and often unsealed, with some sections travelling on single-track roads above river valleys. We use highly experienced drivers, however this itinerary may not be suitable for those who suffer from heights or are nervous passengers! This is truly an adventurous itinerary for the experienced traveller.

Facilities

There are no bathroom facilities at our yurt stays and home stays often have outdoor toilets and limited plumbing. If having a hot shower every night is important for you, then you will be uncomfortable on this tour. Be prepared for squat toilets outdoors, some days without access to running water and sporadic plumbing in hotels.

Other Travellers

As this tour forms part of a number of itineraries you may be joined by other travellers at different stages of your trip. Your group leader may also change throughout this tour.

About this Information

The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please keep this in mind when you read it and check with us if you want to be sure about something. The document was correct at time of printing, but you can check online for the most up to date version.  If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!

Last Updated

26 May 2014


General Contact Details

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E-mail: sales@peregrineadventures.com
Web: Visit Peregrine