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Home China Silk Road Tour Silk Road Private Tours 12 Days China Silk Road Tour from Xian to Urumqi by High Speed Train

Tour Overview

The Best China Silk Road tour starts from Xi’an, the original starting point of the Silk Road, and ends in Urumqi, the core of the Xinjiang region. The reason why this tour is best is that it covers almost all the must-see attractions of Silk Road in 12 days, including the Terracotta Warriors, Bingling Temple, Zhangye Rainbow Mountain, Jiayuguan Pass, Mogao Grottoes, Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain, Jiaohe Ruins in Turpan and Heavenly Lake in Urumqi.

Heading to the west from ancient Xian, you will collect fabulous views along Silk Road within your eyes, the history and culture in your heart, and local authoritative foods in your taste buds.

Highlights of this tour:

1. Visit Xi’an’s most attractive attraction – the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, and learn the stories behind these life-size sculptures and the history of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
2. Admire the vivid giant statues and colorful murals at Bingling Temple, a grotto accessible only by a speedboat.
3. Place yourself in the amazing “Rainbow Mountain” in Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park.
4. Enter the Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain, a world of wonders created by nature, where you will experience a variety of fun and exciting desert entertainment.
5. Discover the most dazzling pearl of the Silk Road – the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang and marvel at its exquisite murals and sculptures.
6. Explore many ancient ruins and heritages in southern Xinjiang: the Karez Well, Sugong Pagoda, Tuyu Valley, and Jiaohe Ruins.
7. Be fully pleased by the pure beauty of the Heavenly Lake of Tianshan Mountain.

Day-by-day Itinerary

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  1. Welcome to our 12-day Best of Silk Road Tour from Xi'an to Urumqi by Train! Upon your arrival at Xi'an airport or train station (please arrive before 1:00 pm), the local driver will pick you up from the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name and drive for 1 hour to visit the Ancient City Wall, the most well-preserved and the largest city wall in China. It was built for military defense in ancient times. As it surrounds the city, visitors can ride a bike to take a good look at the city and the surrounding moat (optional, rent a bike at your own expense).

    Xian Ancient City Wall
    cycle on Ancient City Wall

    Later, move on to the Bell and Drum Tower Square, which locates in the very center of the city and is considered the symbol of this old capital. Walking forward, you will come to Muslim Quarter where you will find many special local products and authentic local snacks. You can enjoy preserved meat, casserole, and various noodles, and purchase some Terracotta Warriors imitations as souvenirs.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Xi'an

    Xian Muslim Street
    Muslim Street

  2. Your today's exploration begins with the world's heritage - Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Known as "the Eighth Wonder of the World", it was found by four local farmers while drilling a well in 1974. Now it has turned into one of the most important attractions in China and the No.1 attractive site in Xi'an. The museum includes Pit 1 (the largest pit), Pit 2, Pit 3, and the exhibition hall of chariots and horses. You will stay in the museum for 2-3 hours. Listening to the explanation from the expert tour guide, you will learn the hidden story of those live-sized sculptures and the history of their owner: the First Emperor of Qin who is the first emperor of China.

    After lunch, head to the train station for a 3-hour high-speed train to Lanzhou. Upon your arrival at Lanzhou train station, your local English-speaking tour guide and driver will welcome you at the exit gate by holding a board with your name.

    After a short rest in your hotel, follow your guide for a glimpse of Lanzhou city by visiting the Huanghe River Custom Tourist Line, which is considered "the Bund of Lanzhou City", taking Zhongshan Bridge as the axis to stretch out along the Yellow River. The sites to visit on the Tourist Line are distributed on the Road River, including Yellow River Mother Sculpture, Zhongshan Iron Bridge, White Pagoda Hill Park, Waterwheel Park and so on. A leisure stroll bathed in the rosy light of dusk on the River Road is a top thing to do in Lanzhou.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Lanzhou

    Xian Terracotta Army
    Terracotta Warriors and Horses

  3. At around 9 am, your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel lobby, and drive around 1.5 hours southwest of Lanzhou to Binglingsi Temple, which is actually a series of grotto complexes featured in Buddhist elements and engraved on the mountain cliffs. Considering Bingling Temple stands on the cliff along Liujiaxia reservoir, visitors need to take a speedboat to approach the grottoes to have a better visit.

    The boat thrilling travels through the breathtaking landscape offering a delicious appetizer for travelers, later on, the climax is coming when you walk close to those giant statues with vivid shapes and walling paintings in bright colors, deeply dazzling each visitor. After the visit, drive to Xiahe for the night.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Xiahe

    Bingling Grottoes
    Bingling Grottoes

  4. You will start today's visit with Labrang Monastery, which is one of the “Six Great Monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism Gelug Sect”, a famous Tibetan Buddhist college with the best complete teaching system of Tibetan Buddhism and the longest corridor of turning scriptures in the world.

    The grand temple complex, housing elegant Buddhist images and statues, wall paintings and other treasures receives devout worship from those Tibetans who are pilgriming from a misty valley each dawn, telling you the moved power of belief from hearts.

    Labrang Monastery in Xiahe
    Labrang Monastery

    After lunch, make a midway visit to Sangke Grassland where you would enjoy the mysterious and simple Tibetan customs. Drive back to Lanzhou afterward.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Lanzhou

    Sangke Grassland
    Sangke Grassland

  5. This morning, the driver will pick you up from the hotel and head to Lanzhou train station for your morning train to Zhangye.

    Arrive in Zhangye, meet your local guide and continue your visit to Matisi Grottoes. Joined with Mogao Caves and Yulin Grottoes in Dunhuang, Matisi Grottoes is famed as the “Three Artistic Grottoes of Hexi Corridor”. You will be amazed at the incredible combination of Buddhist temples and mountain grottoes here: the large elegant temple stands against the hill where plenty of grottoes were engraved.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangye

    Matisi Grottoes
    Matisi Grottoes

  6. After breakfast in the hotel, take a guided tour of Zhangye Giant Buddhist Temple. Built in Western Xia Dynasty, the Giant Buddhist Temple has survived from the vicissitudes and stands on Silk Road for 900 years. There is a gigantic sleeping Buddha statue of Sakyamuni with the largest scale in Asia inside the temple, hence the name. The beautiful woodcarving, paintings and statues as well as the underneath culture and history impress travelers a lot.

    Zhangye Giant Buddhist Temple
    Giant Buddhist Temple

    Later, head to the exciting Pingshan Lake Grand Canyon. As one of the magnificent grand canyons along the silk road, it is the best place where you can not only enjoy the special landform but also visit some precious animals and plants. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Grand View Garden of Zhangye Landscape, and it has been praised as "Comparable to the Grand Canyon of Colorado" and "the new discovery of the Silk Road" by China Geographic Journal and well-known geologists and tourists at home and abroad.

    Note: We will hike in the Pingshan Lake Grand Canyon for about 2-3 hours. It is not suggested for tourists with knee problems.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangye

    Zhangye Pingshan Lake Grand Canyon
    Pingshan Lake Grand Canyon

  7. Today, you will enjoy Rainbow Mountain, the highlight of Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park. Located in Linze County, Rainbow Mountain features a bright color and is great to enjoy the sunset. Seen from the high platform, the rising layers of mountains in beautiful red with different saturation are bathed in rosy sunlight, depicting a gorgeous picture for the visitors who trudged a lot to here.

    Zhangye Danxian Rainbow Mountains
    Rainbow Mountains

    After driving through the yellow sand of the desert, you will come to Jiayuguan Pass, also known as the “First and Greatest Pass Under Heaven”, “the Throat of Hexi Corridor”. As the western end of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty, Jiayuguan Pass, being constructed for hundreds of years, not only occupied a vital position in military defense but also exerted an important influence in trade & culture exchange as a key waypoint of the ancient Silk Road.

    Located 8 kilometers north of Jiayuguan Fort, Overhanging Great Wall, an important part of the ancient military defense system, seems to be hanging upside down in the air.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Jiayuguan

    Overhanging Great Wall
    Overhanging Great Wall

  8. After breakfasts, drive around 4-5 hours to Dunhuang. You can enjoy the Gobi scapes on the way. In the afternoon, when it's not too hot, go to visit Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain. They are harmonious mates of miracle created by nature, glittering like a pearl along the Silk Road for thousands of years. The incredible co-existence between spring water and sand mountains always amazes visitors at their first sight here: the sand mountains meander like a huge dragon and roar when wings blow while the Crescent Spring, like a gentle maiden, is embraced in the arms of mountains without being smudging. A lifetime experience provided here as optional activity is a camel ride at Echo Sand Mountain.

    Friendly tip: There are many entertainment activities available in the desert, like camel rides, sand buggy, etc., if you are interested to try, please pay on your own at the spot (optional).

    Afterward, come to Shazhou Night Market for further exploration. Though you might have visited many night markets or food streets during your weeks of vacation, Shazhou Night Market still brings something different for you. You will find the special vitality of this northwest city remoting from the country center during your leisure strolling. Last, transfer you to Dunhuang city for an overnight stay.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Dunhuang

    Dunhuang Echoing Sand Mountain
    Echoing Sand Mountain

  9. Today you will head to the amazing Mogao Grottoes. As the existing anthology of Buddhist art with the biggest scale and the best preservation in the world, Mogao Caves wins a fame of “the pearls of oriental art”. It keeps 735 verns, about 45,000 square kilometers of frescoes, 2,415 painted sculptures, more than 4,000 flying Apsaras (the beautiful Bodhisattva in Buddhism who has fair scent and does well in dancing and music), and 5 wooden constructions of Tang and Song Dynasty as well as thousands of Stone pillars and flagstones with lotus carving on them.

    In the afternoon, you will be dropped off at Dunhuang train station to catch the afternoon high-speed train to Turpan. You can have a nap on the train since it needs 3.5 hours train ride. Upon arrival in Turpan, you will find the local driver waiting for you at the exit gate holding a welcome board with your name. Later, drive to the local hotel.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Turpan

    Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes
    Mogao Grottoes

  10. After breakfast, drive to Tuyugou Valley, the oldest Uyghur village in Xinjiang and a nice place to soak up Buddhist and Islamic culture. Afterward, continue your visit to Flaming Mountains, made of red sandstone, which lies like a red dragon in the Turpan Basin from east to west. Our specialty is having lunch with the local Uighur family and know more about the hard-working minority.

    Xinjiang Tuyu Valley
    Tuyu Valley

    Stop by the Karez Well irrigation system that produces the best melons and grapes in China. The following is the visit to Sugong Minaret, a typical Islam architecture with the largest scale among all pagodas in Xinjiang.

    Today's tour ends up with a 2-hour exploration of Jiaohe Ruins, the largest, oldest and best-preserved raw-soil building in the world with a history of more than 2,000 years. You will wander around this ancient city stepping back in time to trace past civilizations.

    Last, we will drive to a hotel near Heavenly Lake for the night.

    Accommodation: Overnight near the Heavenly Lake

    Jiaohe Ruins in Xinjiang
    Jiaohe Ruins

  11. In the morning, drive around 1.5 hours to the amazing Heavenly Lake of Tianshan Mountain. Heavenly Lake, read Tianchi Lake in Chinese, is an alpine lake nestled against the slope of the snow-covered Bodga Mountain. You can choose to absorb the beautiful surroundings by taking a cruise, or trekking along the lake... (Note: Taking a cruise on the lake is an optional activity, which will be at your own expense if you want to experience it)

    Afterward, move on to Xinjiang Regional Museum. As the only autonomous region-class museum in Xinjiang, it houses over 40,000 collections including all kinds of relics and specimens, exhibited in five separate halls. You can find many treasures ever glittering on the famous Silk Road. The No.1 star exhibition here is the unprecedented ancient corpse with even tiny fingernails well preserved.

    Driving back to Urumqi city, follow your guide to explore the interesting evening scenery in Erdaoqiao International Bazaar. It's one of the bazaars with the largest scale in the world with a strong Islam flavor in its buildings. You should not miss this site during your tour of Urumqi, even if you are not going for shopping, you would favor the experience for the strong ethnic flavor here. Eyes are dazzled by the overwhelming of goods in the stalls while ears are excited by the hawking, bewildering you if you are traveling through space and time to the ancient silk road to glimpse the prosperous trades between different nations.

    Accommodation: Overnight in Urumqi

    Xinjiang Heavenly Lake
    Heavenly Lake

  12. The 12 days China Silk Road tour will end by today. We will arrange an airport transfer for you and wish you a pleasant journey home! If you want to visit more places in Xinjiang or other Chinese cities, please feel free to contact us. We will be very happy to be helpful to you.

    Accommodation: N/A

Price Includes

  • 11-night 4-star hotels with daily breakfasts;
  • Xian - Lanzhou, Dunhuang - Turpan high-speed train tickets (second-class seat);
  • Lanzhou - Zhangye train tickets (hard seat);
  • Private land transportation in air-conditioned vehicles with licensed drivers;
  • Excellent local English-speaking tour guides services as mentioned in the itinerary;
  • Main entrance tickets to the scenic spots as mentioned in the itinerary;
  • Government taxes and service charges;
  • 1 bottle of mineral water per person per day;
  • China Travel Insurance.

Price Excludes

  • Flights to Xi'an or off Urumqi;
  • Lunch or dinner (the guide will recommend local restaurants for you to pay by yourself);
  • Any optional golf car/battery car/bike ride/camel ride/horse ride/boat cruise etc. inside attractions;
  • China Visa or any personal expense;
  • Any item that is not mentioned in the itinerary;
  • Tips to the guide and driver.
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