15 Days In-depth Silk Road Tour from Xian to Xinjiang
How can I travel on the Silk Road China? This 15 days Silk Route tour ticking off all the highlights of the tourist cities along the road inspires you the best experience to deeply explore the noble trade & culture exchange channel. From the home of Terracotta Warriors, Xian which is also the starting point of ancient Silk Road, to Dunhuang where Mogao Grottoes and Crescent Lake-Echo Sand Mountain lies, to Xinjiang, a vast land where the ancient civilization had ever glittered in the sky of history and a great galaxy of natural landscapes awaiting, both your eyes and spirit will be extremely excited during the awesome trip!
Terracotta Warriors and Horses, Ancient City Wall, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Mogao Grottoes, Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain, Heavenly Lake, Xinjiang Regional Museum, Erdaoqiao International Bazaar, Kashgar Old Town, Id Kah Mosque, Karakuri Lake, Tashkurgan Stone City, Kizil Grottoes, Tianshan Grand Canyon, Subashi Ruins, Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, Jiaohe Ruins, Sugong Pagoda
Upon your arrival at Xian airport/train station, our local driver will pick you up from the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name and transfer to downtown hotel for check-in. Free and easy on your arrangement for rest of the day.
Your Xian exploration begins with world’s heritage Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Known as “the Eighth Wonders 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 the 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 history of their owner: First Emperor of Qin who is also the first emperor of China.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then head back to Xian downtown area for another historical highlight- Ancient City Wall. It is the most complete preserved and the largest city wall in China, which was built for the military defense in the ancient time. Since it is cycling the city, visitors can ride a bike around the city wall (optional).
Later, move on to the Bell and Drum Tower Square, which locates in the very center of the city and is considered as 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, various noodles, and purchase some Terracotta Warriors imitation as souvenirs.
As one of the most famous historical cities, Xian has lots of interesting places to go! Today you will explore the must-see sights in Xian downtown area.
Firstly, come to the Shaanxi History Museum (closed on every Monday),which is one of the biggest and most famous museums in China. The museum houses the cultural heritage unearthed in Shaanxi Province. Although it’s a provincial Museum, the collection of relics here is at national level from both quantity and quality as Xian had been Capitals for more than 13 dynasties in ancient China. Following the tour guide, walk and stop at those priceless exhibits to learn the hidden history and splendid civilization of China.
After that, move on to Big Wild Goose Pagoda. On the way to the attraction spot, your guide will introduce the history and culture of this ancient city for you to catch a glimpse of reason why so many well-known relics were discovered on this land. Big Wild Goose Pagoda was originally built to hold Buddhist sutra and figurines of the Buddha that Xuanzang brought back from India in Tang Dyansty, 652 A.D. Now there is a big square divided into North Square and South Square, surrounding the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The design of the buildings and statues is in Tang style, showing people the ever glory of that great time. It’s busier in the evening when many activities with Tang elements held by local amateur.
In the afternoon, taking flight to Dunhuang. Upon arrival at Dunhuang airport, there will be our local driver picking you up from the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name and transfer to local hotel.
Today you will explore the best of Dunhuang! No doubt the first site will be the amazing Mogao Grottoes. As the existing anthology of Buddhist art with biggest scale and the best preservation in the world, Mogao Caves wins a fame of “the pearls of oriental art”. It keeps 735verns, about45,000 square kilometers frescoes, 2,415 painted sculpture, more than 4,000 flying Apsaras (the beautiful Bodhisattva in the 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 late afternoon when it is not too hot, continue your visit to Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain. Echo Sand Mountain and Crescent Spring are harmonious mates of miracle created by natural, 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 meanders like a huge dragon and roars when wings blowing while the Crescent Spring, like a gentle maiden, is embraced in arms of mountains without being smudging. A life-time experience provided here as optional activity is camel ride at Echo Sand Mountain.
Friendly tip: There is camel ride available in the Echo Sand Mountain, if you would like to try it, please pay in cash on your own (around CNY100 /pax ). Of course yout tour guide will help to purchase tickets.
Last, come to Shazhou Night Market for further food 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. Mogao Caves visited in daytime put the most outstanding highlight of Dunhuang before you, Shazhou Night Market just takes you into the down-to-earth life of the local. Do you feel a pull from the strong perfume emitting from the stalls bathed in the dim lights and speed up towards the hawkers and carefully avoid the busy crowds? For sure, you will find the special vitality of this northwest city remoting from the country center during your leisure strolling.
Free and easy on your own in the morning for you to have good rest at hotel. Later, meet you driver at the hotel lobby and transfer to train station to catch the afternoon high-speed train to Urumqi. The train rides around 4.5 hours, you can have a nap on the train or enjoy the urban scenery outside the window on the way.
Upon your arrival at Urumqi station, there will be the local driver waiting for you at the exit gate and drive to local hotel.
After hotel breakfast, 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. Heat, the special feature coming with summer is seldom there due to its geographical conditions. Looking out over the scenic area, the white snowy mountains mirroring in the green lake and colorful flowers spotted on the green grassland along the lake, plus the tour guide’s commentary to the tale of Queen Mother of the West bringing it some color of mystery, both your eyes and souls will be fully pleased by the pure beauty here.
Afterwards, move on to Xinjiang Regional Museum. As the only autonomous region class museum in Xinjiang, Xinjiang Regional Museum 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 in the museum 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 largest scale in the world with strong Islam flavor in its buildings. You should not miss this site during your tour to Urumqi, even if you are not going for shopping, you would favor the experience for the strong ethnic flavor here. Eyes are dazzled by an overwhelming of goods in the stalls while ears are excited by the hawking, bewildering you if you are travel through space and time to the ancient silk road to glimpse the prosperous trades between different nations.
Taking morning flight to Kashgar. Upon arrival, the local English speaking tour guide and driver will be waiting for you at the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name.
Your exploration begins with Kashgar Old Town. Kashgar’s spirit is in the old town with curved lanes distributed in the maze-like Islam blocks, which is the thing that bewilders you to be here. Eyes on face and camera in hands should be busiest during visit, elegant folk dwellings, neat streets, cozy tea houses gathering leisure old people, naughty kids playing in front of doors and bursting into laughter when you walking closely… soul warmth rising from bottom of hearts along your slowly wander.
Next, come to the largest Islam Mosque in Xinjiang- Id Kah Mosque, whose birth could be traced back to 1442, in Ming Dynasty. It’s an ancient architectural complex sitting in the city center with strong ethnic and religious color, composed by four parts: the pagoda, garden, scripture hall and praying hall. Not only functioned as center for religious activities, is the Mosque also the place for local people to celebrate festivals. If you are lucky to visit it on a praying day and or festival day, you will meet an extreme busy scene that thousands of Islam followers gather on the Square.
Afterwards, continue your step to the Local Handicrafts Market. Spending some time in the handicrafts market is also a top things-to-do in Kashgar. Follow the local crowd to walk leisurely and stop at a stall interesting you or talking with those hawkers with ethnic faces. Do not forget to bargain when you are picking some as souvenirs.
Today you will head to the amazing Karakuri Lake. The driving lasts around 4 hours from Kashgar city to the lake, which would be a good chance to enjoy the mountain-and-lake view on the way.
Karakuri Lake also named Karakul is a high mountain moraine lake. It locates at the foot of the Father on Iceberg, 191km far from Kashgar and crossed by the Sino-Pakistan Highway.
Karakuri means “Dark Ocean”, which is corresponded to its appearance: the water is deep and unfathomable, the grass growing well on the banks where Kirgiz shepherds usually stay for grazing. The Lake embraces the inverted images of the snowy pinnacles, green grass and leisure flocks and herds when sunny days while it turns to be dark and bleak in the rainy days.
Finishing the relaxing sightseeing, transfer to Tashkurgan for overnight.
After breakfast, come to enjoy the unique scenery in Tashkurgan Stone City which is a famous relic along ancient Silk Route, occupying a vital position in sense of ancient military. It was the Capital of Puli Kingdom of Han Dynasty and a stronghold set by Tang Dynasty to governing the surrounding areas. The significant value in trade and politic brought it prosperous time in old time and left many treasures you can see today including pottery shard, gold, silver and jewelry, scriptures, silk…
In the afternoon, drive around 5.5 hours back to Kashgar.
In the morning, follow your guide to explore The Livestock Market, at suburb of Kashgar City, is an interesting window for you to learn local culture and folk customs of South Xinjiang. It is said to be the largest livestock market in Asia, mainly with trade of flocks and herds. Hawking from sellers, bargaining from buyers, moo and bleat from the animals forming a busy and down-to-earth scene before you.
Later, drive around 5-6 hours to Aksu and check into local hotel.
Today you will head to Kuqa where drives around 3 hours from Aksu. Kuqa, known as Guizi in ancient times, boasts lots of cultural relics such as ancient city walls, temples, caves and tombs. Today the knowledgeable tour guide will lead you to learn more about this city. You will visit a typical Buddhist grotto first, Kizil Grottoes. It is the earliest and westernmost large-scale grotto group in China. There are 4 grotto areas with 236 officially numbered grottoes. Most of the statues have been destroyed, but 81 caves still have delicate murals which are valuable historical and cultural remains of the ancient Guizi Kingdom.
Afterwards, continue to explore the magnificent Tianshan Grand Canyon, the best geological park in the world. It records the entire process of crustal movement in Xinjiang for nearly 400 million years.
At last, move on to Kuqa Old City to savor local gourmet food and experience the life of the local people. This pristine place will definitely leave you an unforgettable memory.
Today, the first site will be Subashi Ruins which is the largest-scaled Buddhist temple relics in Xinjiang, appealing archaeologist from all the world. Subashi had been the famous Kingdom of Women with the female dominated the society while the male was obedient. There is similar plot in the famous Chinese novel Journey to the West, arousing people’s strong interest to there.
After the visit, you will head to Korla. The driving lasts around 6 hours, but you won’t be bored as you can enjoy the great scenery on the way.
Arrival in Korla, you will make a visit to Iron Gate Pass. Lying in the Iron Pass Valley, upstream the Kongque River, Iron Gate Pass is regarded as throat on the middle route of ancient Silk Road, connecting South and North Xinjiang. Passing the gate, you are welcomed by a narrow path meandering forth with murmuring stream flowing with jagged rocks of grotesque shapes standing alongside. Those great men like Zhang Qian, Ban Chao and Xuan Zang who created incredible contribution in history also left their footprints here.
After breakfast, you will head to Turpan. Arrival in Turpan, follow your guide to find a nice restaurant to fill your stomach, then you will officially start exploring the amazing Turpan by visiting Tuyu Valley. It is the oldest Uyghur village in Xinjiang and a nice place to soak up Buddhist and Islamic culture. Next, continue to explore the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves. Among all the grottoes in Turpan, Bezeklik has the largest group of caves and the most abundant murals. It is also one of the large Buddhist cave temple sites in Xinjiang. There are 57 caves open to visitors now.
Later, move on to 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.
Today you will further explore the best of Turpan! First, come to Karez Well, an underground irrigation system created by ancient Xinjiang people. This project can be called the source of life for the arid northwestern region. Later, move on to Sugong Pagoda, you will witness this typical Islam architecture with the largest scale among all pagodas in Xinjiang. Then, continue to Astana Tombs. Nearby Gaochang Ruins, about 40km away from Turpan city, stretches out an ancient tomb group named Astana Tombs. Originating from 3rd century to 8th century, about 1,700 years ago, it was the public graveyard of ancient Gaochang people. There are over 500 tombs in total with owners varying from the nobility, officials and civilians, gaining a high reputation in archeology.
At the end of the visit, you will head to Urumqi for overnight.
The 15 days amazing trip will end by today. We will arrange 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 for you.
The core of our service is excellent travel guides. Over 20 years, we have built up a considerable professional guide team that is knowledgeable, attentive and flexible. The most experienced and reliable guides will be arranged for your unique China tour. Our passionate guide team is full of contagious enthusiasm and keen interest to share culture and history in a pleasant manner. We are always glad at your service to lead you to explore a real China and experience authentic local life in China.
Our Driver and Vehicle
The first mission of our service is to ensure you feel safe and comfortable during your travel. The vehicles we use are air-conditioned, clean and well-maintained. Our drivers are all licensed drivers with many years of driving experience. Moreover, we offer free baby seats for families with little kids.
Food is a very important part of Chinese culture. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to taste the real local Chinese food!
Buffet breakfast will be included in the hotel if you would like accommodation to be arranged by us. Having lunch at local restaurants close and convenient to the attractions you will visit, you would enjoy the local dishes in each city. Chinese style, Vegetarian or Muslim meals are all available. If you have any other diet requirements or allergies, please feel free to let us know, we will try our best to organize it.
For daily dinner, you are suggested to have it on your own when you are exploring each city in your own time, this way would be more flexible for you to choose food as per your interest and preference.