Days
13
Price from
£2,030GBP

Discover the soul of the Silk Road on this immersive journey through the past.

Uncover the treasures of the famous Silk Route and witness the great clash of cultures on these ancient crossroads. This special itinerary not only takes in the markets, museums, monuments, and Buddhist and Islamic sites that make this region so magical – it delves deep into the heart of the Silk Road and ventures to where few other trips do. Head into the Taklamakan Desert – China’s ‘Death Valley’ – and the high Pamir mountains, break bread and share stories with Uyghur, Tajik and Kyrgyz folk in their homes, and marvel at ancient ruins in remote desert locations on this incredible journey through the past and China's modern present.


Start
Urumqi, China
Finish
Kashgar, China
Country
China
Style
Peregrine
Code
PCUK
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Enter the fascinating Xinjiang Autonomous Region and encounter a melting pot of cultures and traditions in Urumqi.

  • Share meals and stories with several different ethnic groups of the region, including the Uyghur, Tajik and Kyrgyz people.

  • In the comfort of a private vehicle, travel an incredible breadth of landscapes, from the lush pastures of Heavenly Lake to the Taklamakan Desert and the rugged Pamir range.

  • Peruse the Kashgar Sunday Bazaar, where the spirit of Silk Road trade lives on in a fascinating, booming frontier city.

  • Beyond the mosques, minarets and museums of the major stops, discover lesser-known gems in between, such as Tashkurgan and the Upal country market.

Is this trip right for you?

  • You’ll be travelling in one of the largest countries in the world, along the ancient Silk Road route in the remote frontier province of Xinjiang, so be prepared for some long travelling days far from anywhere you may have been before.

  • The remote locations we visit bring with them the challenges and rewards of visiting such regions, including the chance to experience China away from what you believed China to be, where language, ethnic groups, food and culture vary, and where even today few western travel groups venture.

  • Overall, excellent health is required for this trip as we spend long days on the road, explore sites on foot, are often far from medical assistance, will experience extremes in temperature and reach altitude on this itinerary of up to 4000m.

  • Many social media sites in China are blocked, so be aware that regular contact with family and friends at home may not be as easy as usual.

  • Xinjiang is a politically sensitive part of the country due to its ethnic and cultural differences with 'mainland' China. Travel is not as restricted here as in Tibet but the security situation remains fragile. Outbreaks of ethnic violence remain sporadic and foreigners are not normally targeted during unrest but it's important to be alert to the possibility of the situation changing without notice, and that we may need to make some changes to the itinerary should an increase in tension occur.

Itinerary

Assalamu laykum! Welcome to Xinjiang. An arrival transfer is included, so please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or no later than 14 days prior to travel. Once you have provided your details a transfer representative will be booked to meet you and transfer you to your hotel. There will be a welcome meeting at the hotel tonight at 6 pm. Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a multinational province with many languages, customs, cultures 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.
Accommodation
  • Quanji Hotel Urumqi Hongshan 乌鲁木齐全季酒店红山店 or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave the busy city behind and drive out to the beauty of Heavenly Lake (Tianchi) (approximately 2 hours). The area resembles a little piece of alpine scenery with hills covered by fir trees and the area dotted with Kazakh settlements. Local people live in tent-like structures made from animal skin, known as yurts. The steel blue lake sits below the towering Peak of God (Bogeda Feng). You can walk along the lakeside or take longer walks up into the hills, taking in waterfalls, greenery, and the memorable mountain scenery which will be in start contrast to some of the landscapes later on our journey. Back in Urumqi, visit the large and fascinating Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum, which houses an amazing collection of Silk Road artefacts and treasures, including some incredibly well preserved mummies.
Accommodation
  • Quanji Hotel Urumqi Hongshan 乌鲁木齐全季酒店红山店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Urumqi - Heavenly Lake Day Tour
  • Urumqi - Regional Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you will travel from Urumqi to Turpan (approximately 2 hours). The Turpan Depression is second only to the Dead Sea in Jordan as the lowest point on earth, and it gets quite hot here. It's a small city by Chinese standards, but the surrounding area is full of interesting places such as the Jiaohe ruins, remnants of a once great city on the Silk Road. Learn about the ancient Karez irrigation system today at the Turpan Karez Museum. In order to get enough water in the area, long ago the local people dug lengthy underground tunnels that brought the flowing water from the mountains in the north. These tunnels have vertical access shafts that were spaced at intervals that allowed people to bring up water in buckets or to access the tunnel for repairs. You will also stop at Emin Minaret, which at 44 metres is the tallest in China. It was built in 1777 to honour a local general, Emin Khoja. The geometric patterns that cover the outer walls are beautiful, and reflect both Islamic and Chinese design. After a rewarding day of sightseeing, return to Turpan for the night. Perhaps visit the night market tonight to browse and sample some of the local food on offer.
Accommodation
  • Huozhou Hotel 火洲大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Turpan - Emin Minaret
  • Turpan - Karez Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning visit the ruisns of the ancient town of Jiaohe. The Jiaohe Ruins are located 13 kilometers west of Turpan. The name ‘Jiaohe’ refers to the two rivers that join together in the southern part of the town. It was built with rammed earth and bricks 2,300 years ago. Spend some time wandering around the ruins. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and water, as well as a hat, and brace yourself for the heat. Afterwards, meet and have lunch with a Uyghur family. Sitting in their courtyard in the shadow of grape vines you will learn about some if their customs and traditions. Help the family prepare the food and maybe even try your hand at making noodles or kebabs. The wonderful hospitality of the Uyghur people makes for a lovely afternoon. You will then return to Turpan for a free evening. You can escape the heat with a walk under a beautiful central avenue that’s covered with grape vines, where couples stroll, old men play games, and shops and cafes line the side streets.
Accommodation
  • Huozhou Hotel 火洲大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Turpan - Uyghur Family Visit & Lunch
  • Turpan - Jiaohe Ancient City
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Travel from Turpan to Korla (approximately 5 hours). On your way to Korla you'll stop at the Iron Gate Pass. Historically the Iron Gate Pass was of strategic significance because it formed a vulnerable bottle-neck on the Silk Road. A military checkpoint was established at the pass during the Tang Dynasty. Many domestic tourists come to visit the gate because they are attracted by a famous love story, which your leader will no doubt tell you! Arrive in Korla, a mid-sized city in central Xinjiang. You might be surprised at the size of the cities in such a remote location. Lying at the south foot of Tianshan Mountains, and northeast of the Tarim Basin, Korla sits along the banks of the Kongque River. The town is known for its pears, which are popular all over China. Take an evening stroll along the Peacock River, which flows through the centre of Korla.
Accommodation
  • Jinxing Hotel 金星大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Korla - Peacock River evening walk
  • Korla - Iron Gate Pass
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today travel from Korla to Kuqa via the mighty Taklamakan desert (approximately 3-4 hours). To break up the journey you will stop in Luntai for lunch, as well as for some photo stops at the edge of the desert. The Taklamakan, also known as the “Place of Ruins” or the 'Sea of Death', is the largest desert in China, over 1,000 kilometres long and 400 kilometres wide. Lying between the Tien Shan and Kunlun mountain ranges, the Taklamakan Desert is a waterless death trap, experiencing an average annual rainfall of just 0.4in (1cm). Legend states that you can get into the Taklamakan, but you may never get out. Don't worry, we will! Travel onto Kuqa for the evening, where you'll stay for the next two nights.
Accommodation
  • Kuche Grand Hotel 库车饭店 or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Visit the Thousand Buddha Caves and Kizil Valley, approximatly 75 kilometres from Kuqa. The Caves sit on the cliffs on the northern bank of the Muzat River. Currently there are 236 preserved coded caves, which are divided into west, inner valley and rear mountain areas, extending to over 3 kilometres. The interior murals date from the 3rd to the 8th centuries and, as ancient Kuqa was an ethnically diverse place, artisans were inspired by Afghan, Persian and Indian motifs and styles. The heavy use of blue pigment in middle-period murals is a Persian influence, for example. Only the last phase shows any Chinese influence. Spend time exploring this fascinating site with a local guide, then stay overnight in Kuqa.
Accommodation
  • Kuche Grand Hotel 库车饭店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kuqa - Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves
  • Kuqa - Kizil Valley
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Visit the Kuqa Great Mosque and then stop off at Subash Ancient City ruins on the drive to Aksu (approximately 2-3 hours) today. Aksu is located in a picturesque place at the Tien Shan foothills on the border with the Taklamakan Desert. The city’s suburbs are known for its developed agriculture, but Aksu is especially famous for its apple gardens. These apples are the best in China, at least in the opinion of the city folk. Melons, apricots, dates, peas, and grapes are also grown in this region. The city’s history dates back more than two thousand years, although as with most cities in China, it's now much modernised.
Accommodation
  • Excemon Hongfu Hotel 阿克苏辰茂鸿福酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kuqa - Subash Ancient City
  • Kuqa - Great Mosque
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
A long drive today takes you from Aksu to Kashgar (approximately 6 hours). Kashgar is very much a frontier town, quickly developing to take advantage of its geographical location right in the heart of Central Asia. There are still plenty of signs that you are still in China, such as the country's largest Chairman Mao statue, along with many indicators that you are at the crossroads of Central Asia. This once ancient city is quickly modernising – in 2011 the Chinese government started rapid demolishing the Old Town due to it being overcrowded, with poor drainage and vulnerable to earthquakes, and relocated Uyghur families to newly built apartments. It’s hard to predict what will be left in this area in the coming months, let along future years. The town's main landmark is the Id Kah Mosque – which you'll visit today – and its surrounding square, off which dusty lanes lead, crammed full of shops, food stalls and street life. Take advantage of the proximity to Pakistan by having a meal of curry and chapattis at a Pakistani cafe, play a round or two with the lads hanging out at the open door pool tables on Id Kah Square, get lost meandering down lanes and alleyways, stopping at stalls selling tandoori-baked bagels or mulberry juice, or visit some of the city's holy sites in your free time here.
Accommodation
  • Sultan Hotel 苏力旦大饭店 or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Kashgar's main attraction is undoubtedly the Sunday Bazaar, which you’ll visit today. It’s said to be one of the biggest markets in Asia, and on its main day it can feel like everyone from hundreds of miles around has converged on the city. It’s alive with traders selling all kinds of wares – rugs, hats, spices, boots, dates, ingredients for traditional medicines, auto parts, you name it. Now much modernised, it's divided into two sections – the Downtown Bazaar, which sells clothing, household goods, produce and everything else you could imagine, and the Animal Bazaar just outside the city. You'll travel out to the Animal Bazaar to see the frantic bargaining and bustle of local herdsmen and farmers trading and bartering – even taking donkeys for a 'test drive' – while their handlers catch up on the latest news and gossip. It’s certainly a memorable scene to see every farmer, handler, sheep, cow, camel, horse and donkey from the surrounding villages packed into a small square overflowing with sound and smell. Later, return to the city to visit the main bazaar and mingle with the traders and shoppers at your own pace, bringing to life the legends of one of the world's great trading towns.
Accommodation
  • Sultan Hotel 苏力旦大饭店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kashgar - Sunday & Animal Markets
  • Kashgar - Old Town
  • Kashgar - Id Kah Mosque
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel by to Karakul lake via the little town of Upal this morning (approximately 5-6 hours). The Upal country market is a great place to stop off to stretch your legs and browse through the food and daily supplies on sale. Next stop is Karakul Lake, where you'll visit a Kyrgyz family, the local ethnic group living in this area. Try their specialty of milk tea, and there might be the opportunity for some traditional dishes for lunch. You'll also see their handicrafts and learn a little about customs and daily life here. Then, continue on to Tashkurgan, where the Tajiks make up a sizeable part of the population – around 30,000 altogether. This city is situated high in the Pamir mountains along the border crossing between China and Pakistan. The options for accommodation are somewhat limited here, but you'll stay in a local 3 star hotel for the night.
Accommodation
  • Crown Inn Hotel 塔什库尔干皇冠大酒店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Karakul Lake - Kyrgyz family visit & lunch
  • Upal - Local Market
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The highest altitude we will reach while travelling today is 4000m and overnight altitude is 2800m in Tashkurgan.
Learn about the history of the area today with a visit to the Tajik Museum and the nearby Stone City – an ancient fort on the outskirts of town. You'll then meet a Tajik family and spend time enjoying a meal together. Travel back to Kashgar this afternoon, following the same route that brought you here. Tonight is your final chance to enjoy a meal together as a group and reflect on tour journey on China's Silk Road.
Accommodation
  • Sultan Hotel 苏力旦大饭店 or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tashkurgan - Stone City
  • Tashkurgan - Tajik family visit & lunch
  • Tashkurgan - Tajik Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

12 breakfasts, 2 lunches

Transport

Private Bus

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights)

Included Activities

  • Urumqi - Heavenly Lake Day Tour
  • Urumqi - Regional Museum
  • Turpan - Emin Minaret
  • Turpan - Karez Museum
  • Turpan - Uyghur Family Visit & Lunch
  • Turpan - Jiaohe Ancient City
  • Korla - Peacock River evening walk
  • Korla - Iron Gate Pass
  • Kuqa - Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves
  • Kuqa - Kizil Valley
  • Kuqa - Subash Ancient City
  • Kuqa - Great Mosque
  • Kashgar - Sunday & Animal Markets
  • Kashgar - Old Town
  • Kashgar - Id Kah Mosque
  • Karakul Lake - Kyrgyz family visit & lunch
  • Upal - Local Market
  • Tashkurgan - Stone City
  • Tashkurgan - Tajik family visit & lunch
  • Tashkurgan - Tajik Museum

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A complimentary arrival transfer is included.
2. A Single Supplement is available to purchase for this trip.
3. Gratuities included for the essential services only that you will receive as part of your tour package. Please see our Tipping section of these trip notes for more information.
4. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster or civil unrest) necessitate a change to our planned route.

Essential Trip Information

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