The legendary Silk Road linked China to the trading centres of Persia, the Middle East & Europe. More than 2,000 years ago, merchants first began to use this great artery for the flow of goods between China and the Roman West. Its routes skirted searing deserts, followed narrow tracks through mountains and crossed vast grasslands. Our journey traces the Silk Road and the travels of Marco Polo through China from Beijing & Xian (previously Chang-An) to the caravan sites of Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Turpan, Hotan & Kashgar. We take in the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Terracotta Army in Xian, the Mogao Cliff cave chapels in Dunhuang and the ancient citadel of Jiaohe near Urumqi.
DAY 1. : Depart from London on direct flight to BEIJING
DAY 2. : Arrival in early afternoon in BEIJING and transfer to hotel for overnight.
DAY 3: Depart by flight from Beijing to Xian. The Chinese terminus of the Silk Road. Xian, formerly known as Chang’An and the capital during the Han & Tang dynasties, the two ages when the world came to China. En route from the airport a visit will be made to Yangling, the tomb of the Han emperor Jingdi renowned for its miniature army of figurines. During the next 3 days we will visit the extraordinary sites in both the city and surrounding areas. This evening we will meet for an orientation lecture and dinner.
DAY 4: Full day tour to the countryside and visit the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China, who unified China, standardised the currency and completed the Great Wall. It is outside his tomb that over 8,000 life-size Terracotta figures depicting soldiers, cavalry, charioteers and horses have been unearthed. All full comprehensive tour of the whole complex. Return to Xian city and enjoy a performance in music and dance of the Tang Dynasty period and dinner show.
DAY 5: Continue, once again, into the countryside through the Wei river valley to the Famen temple, where imperial gifts sealed in a crypt in 864 BC demonstrates the devotion of the Tang emperors to a “True body relic of the Buddha” imported from India. On return to Xian we will visit the great mosque and Muslim quarter.
DAY 6: This morning we fly to Lanzhou. Known as the” fragrant city”. Lanzhou was a garrison town and a vital stop for caravans. We will spend the afternoon visiting the excellent Gansu Provincial Museum which houses among its many treasures the famous “Flying Horses of Gansu”. Overnight Lanzhou.
DAY 7: Today begins with a boat trip on the Yellow River to the Buddhist caves of Binglingsi.Accessible only by water. Thirty four caves dating back to the Western Han dynasty (385-431) and spread along rock cliffs for over a mile. We will visit those caves that have the finest sculptures and paintings, the most impressive of which is a huge stone-carved Buddha over 80 feet tall carved into the face of a cliff. Return to Lanzhou for overnight.
DAY 8: We leave Lanzhou, travelling into the hills of the Yellow River basin to the village of Xiahe,a miniature Lhasa in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous region. At 9700 feet, a serene valley surrounds the colourful town of two storey wooden shops and mud-walled compounds. Village life as it has been for centuries: small dirt lanes, bent old women spinning drum shaped prayer wheels and everywhere you will find traditional prayer flags. This afternoon a vist to the Labrang Monastery and the home of 4000 monks. These Tibetan-style temples are lovely, their golden roofs capped with traditional images and fine interiors. Overnight Labrang.
DAY 9: After visiting a local bazaar, we return to Lanzhou. In the evening fly to Dunhuang. The city of Dunhuang was a place of residence for Marco Polo for over one year.(around 1274) Overnight Dunhuang.
DAY 10. The highlight of Dunhuang is the Magao Cliff cave-chapels a UNESCO World heritage site. This complex of over 490 cave-chapels was begun around 366CE and is a veritable museum of magnificent sculptures and beautiful wall paintings in both Chinese and Central Asian styles. Our emphasis will be on the Sui & Tang periods (7th to 9th century)
When Marco Polo travelled through north-west China, he saw the Buddha images/ dunhuang of Ganzhou and described the biggest as having a height of ten steps along with other smaller ones. According to him, the statues were made of clay or stone, all exquisitely carved or moulded with a layer of gold applied on the surface. He also said "the idols (of Dunhuang) and the devotees (Buddhists) used their own language."
DAY 11: Continue touring and exploring the Magao Cliff cave chapels. In the late afternoon we fly to Urumqi. Overnight Urumqi.
DAY 12. : We drive via the Daqin pass, a major passage along the Northern Silk route, across part of the forbidding Gobi desert to the lush oasis of Turpan. Turpan is basin and is the second lowest point on earth. This afternoon we will visit the regional museum and the 18th century Emin minaret and mosque. Overnight Turpan.
DAY 13: Our touring includes the ancient walled capital of the Urghurs, Gaochang as well as the Bezeklik and Toyuq cave chapels, both in the Flaming Mountains overnight Turpan.
DAY 14: This morning we visit the ancient citadel of Jiaohe another World Heritage site noted for its temples and stupas. Return to Urumqi late in the afternoon Overnight Urumqi
DAY 15: Today we include the new Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Museum and a scenic view of the city from Red Hill. Overnight Urumqi.
DAY 16: Travel today by air from Urumqi to Hotan. This town is rarely visited by Westerners Here the tour will include the Han dynasty site of Meiikawat, the ancient tower of Rawak and the small local museum. You will also learn about the region’s jade production and see how the famous Khotanese silk has been woven for centuries. Overnight Hotan.
DAY 17: An unusual drive across the edges of the Takliamakan desert to Kashgar. En-route we will stop at Yarkand (Shache) a traditional Ughur town with an old fort and the Aleytun mosque. The western most Chinese city on the Silk Road today Kashgar (ancient Shule) continues its role as a crossroads between east and west. Overnight Kashgar.
DAY 18: Today we will visit the Great Mosque, the largest in China and the Apaq Khoya Shrine. Every Sunday morning the people of Kashgar trade their fascinating merchandise at a huge bazaar. Some of the traders travel from distant villages to set up their stalls. Overnight Kashgar.
DAY 19: This morning we fly back to Urumqi and overnight hotel. In the evening we have a farewell dinner and de-briefing on the tour. Overnight Urumqi.
DAY 20: Morning flight from Urumqi to Beijing and transfer to hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 21: Depart Beijing for return flight to London, as you are travelling westwards your arrival will be the same day.
FLIGHTS: International: London/ Beijing/London flights ( Please ask for quote)
Land: Beijing-Xian,Xian-Lanzhou, Langzhou-Dunhuang, Dunhuang-Urumqi, Urumqi–Hotan, Kashgar-Urumqi, Urumqi-Beijing.
NOTE: Tourist facilities on the Silk Road are not yet well developed. In some places hotels are simple but we offer the best available. The tour could be considered strenuous it requires walking over rough, uneven and sandy terrain. All persons should be physically active and able to walk independently throughout the touring days. You should be willing to accept some discomforts.
INCLUDES: All Domestic flights, 3star hotels on a twin share basis with breakfast, sightseeings, admissions & entrance fees. air-conditioned vehicle, English speaking guides.
NOT INCLUDED: International flights, China Visa, Personal Expenses, meals not included in above itinerary,travel insurance.