Can you travel Silk Road today? Yes, absolutely! To help people trace the buried civilization and lesser-reached landscapes along the ancient Silk Road, we provide this 13 days Silk Road tour with carefully-engineered itinerary covering the highlights of Qinghai, Gansu and Xinjiang Regions with the landscapes varying from historic and cultural relics, naturals sights as well as ethnic flavor. From Xining and Lanzhou, you will head northwest to meet Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Turpan and finally arrive to the core of Xinjiang, Urumqi, to satisfy both your eyes and spirit by the fabulous scenery alongside.
2. Refresh yourself on the Sangka Grasslands, strolling on lush grass and watching local folk dance performances.
3. Place yourself in the amazing “Rainbow Mountain” in Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park.
4. Climb to the westernmost fortress of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall – Jiayuguan Pass, and get to know some interesting historical facts.
5. Visit all the best parts of Dunhuang including exquisite frescoes of Mogao Grottoes, delicious snacks of Shazhou Night Market, and exciting desert activities in Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain.
6. Explore Turpan’s best attractions, including Jiaohe Ruins, Karez Well, Sugong Pagoda, and Tuyu Valley.
7. Enjoy Urumqi’s Islamic architecture and experience the rich ethnic customs in the world’s largest market – Erdaoqiao International Bazaar.
8. Appreciate the amazing Heavenly Lake, which is an alpine lake nestled on a snow-capped hillside, and learn about the legend of the Queen Mother of the West.
- Day 1: Xining Arrival (No meal)
Upon your arrival at Xining airport/train station, the 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.
Accommodation: Overnight in Xining
- Day 2: Xining- Lanzhou by High-speed Train (B, L)Ta’er Monastery, Huanghe River Custom Tourist Line
You will explore the amazing Xining by visiting Ta’er Monastery. As one of the “Six Great Monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism Gelug Sect”, Ta’er Monastery is another site in Xining, Qinghai Province, sharing the same popularity with Qinghai Lake. Ta’er Monastery has profound historical origin that it’s the birthplace of famous Tsongkhapa, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism Gelug Sect. Not only bearing the divine position in religious followers, the monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist institution of higher education. Beneath the glorious decorations on surface fascinating your eyes, the rich accumulations in history, culture, religion and arts of Ta’er Monastery excites your souls deeply especially when meeting those devout followers trudged for pilgrimage here.
In the afternoon, you will take a 2-hour high-speed train to Lanzhou. When you arrive at Lanzhou train station, the local tour guide and driver will be meeting you at the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name.
Later, follow your guide to visit Huanghe River Custom Tourist Line, which is considered as “the Bund of Lanzhou City”, taking Zhongshan Bridge as the axis to stretch out along the Yellow River. The sites to visit of 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.
Accommodation: Overnight in Lanzhou
- Day 3: Lanzhou – Xiahe Tour (B, L)Binglingsi Grottoes
After breakfast, drive around 1.5 hours to visit Binglingsi Grottoes, a series of grotto complex featured in Buddhist elements and engraved on the mountain cliffs. Considering it stands on the cliff along Liujiaxia reservoir, people need to take a speedboat to approach the grottoes to have a better visit. The boat thrilling travels through the breath-taking landscape offering a delicious appetizer for travelers, later on, the climax is coming when you walking closely to those giant statues with vivid shapes and walling paintings in bright color, deeply dazzling each visitor.
After the visit, continue to drive to Xiahe for overnight.
Accommodation: Overnight in Xiahe
- Day 4: Xiahe-Lanzhou Tour (B, L)Labrang Monastery, Sangka Grasslands
Today you will visit the must-see sights in Xiahe. The first one will be the amazing Labrang Monastery. You will regret that you didn’t pay an earlier visit to Labrang Monastery if you hear the loud titles of it: one of the “Six Great Monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism Gelug Sect”, famous Tibetan Buddhist college with best complete teaching system of Tibetan Buddhism, the longest corridor of turning scriptures in the world…It does deserve the titles and also your visit after trudge. 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 misty valley in each dawn, telling you the moved power of belief from hearts.
In the afternoon, move on to Sangke Grasslands definitely would refresh yourself. Distinct from the spiritous touch at Labrang Monastery, Sangke Grasslands is filled with esthetical taste, appealing endless people to cry out mental pressure built up from busy life. Lush grasses waves green carpets here stretching distantly on the plateau with altitude of 3,000 meters while flocks and herds spotted on it to add more vitality, which forms awesome idyllic sights, bewildering travelers to crazily click the shutters. More “wow” moments here is from those interesting activities at local families, like have local foods and appreciate their ethnic dances.
Friendly tip: The best visit time to Sangke Grasslands is from June to September.
Accommodation: Overnight in Xiahe
- Day 5: Lanzhou-Wuwei Tour (B, L)Leitai Han Tombs, Wuwei Confucius Temple
After breakfast, drive around 3.5 hours to visit the highlights of Wuwei. The first stop will be Leitai Han Tombs.China is never short in history, even in its wilder western regions, which could be readily found at Leitai Han Tombs in Wuwei, the site we’re going to visit. We could trace back to history of this site about 1,700 years ago, earning its reputation mainly in unearthing the famous Bronze Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow which is taken as Chinese National Tourist Symbol. The tombs were discovered by local farmers in 1969 when they were digging the combat tunnels, henceforth we have more material to shed light on Han Dynasty’s culture, history, economy and politics.
Later, continue your visit to Wuwei Confucius Temple, which was built in Ming Dynasty with large scale and high historical status, about 500 years ago, for people to worship the greatest spiritual mentor of Chinese, Confucius. The Temple also houses Wuwei Museum to allow visitors not only learn the thoughts and history of Confucius but also appreciate the historic relics of Wuwei City. The architectures of antique flavor in the temple are ideal subjects for photography. You will have about 1.5 hours here.
Accommodation: Overnight in Wuwei
- Day 6: Wuwei-Zhangye Tour (B, L)Tiantishan Caves
Today you will head to the amazing Tiantishan Caves which has a loud title: Father of All Chinese Grottoes. It was one of the earliest engraved grottoes in China with history dating back to 1,600 years ago. Today, there are wall paintings of hundreds of square meters, three-floor caves, seventeen shrines, and hundreds of statues as well as Buddhist scriptures well preserved with mix features of Western Xia, Northern Wei Dynasty, Sui and Tang Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty as well as Ming Dynasty.
In the afternoon, drive around 3 hours to Zhangye and check in in local hotel.
Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangye
- Day 7: Zhangye Tour (B, L)The Rainbow Mountain, Zhangye Giant Buddhist Temple
Get up early to enjoy the highlight of Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park. The Danxia landform earns the most spotlight for Zhangye City. Rated as one of “10 Wonders of Nature in the World” in 2011 by National Geographic News, it does deserve the reputation. There are two main scenic area of the Zhangye Danxia with different features, and you will visit The Rainbow Mountain Scenic Area for today.
Located in Linze County, the Rainbow Mountain features in its bright color and is better to enjoy sunset, which chosen by most travelers. Seen from the high platform, the rising layers of mountains in beautiful red with different saturation is bathed in rosy sunlight, depicting a gorgeous picture for the visitors who trudged a lot to here.
Later, continue your visit to Zhangye Giant Buddhist Temple. Built in Western Xia Dynasty, the Giant Buddhist Temple had 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 impresses travelers a lot.
Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangye
- Day 8: Zhangye-Jiayuguan Tour (B, L)Jiayuguan Pass, Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum, Weijin Tombs
Today you will head to Jiayuguan and explore the best relics in Jiayuguan. After driving through the yellow sand of 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 Great Wall of Ming Dynasty, Jiayuguan Pass, being constructed for hundreds of years, not only occupied a vital position in military defense but also exerted importance influence in trade & culture exchange as a key waypoint of ancient Silk Road. You can climb up the tower to admire the entire view.
Next, continue your visit to Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum. Inside the Jiayuguan Pass Scenic Area, there is the first Great Wall themed museum with 7 major exhibition halls to show you more detailed knowledge about this great constructional engineering in Chinese history. The oil painting of Great Wall exhibited here with large scale, about 220.5 m2 is a highlight deserving longer stop.
Afterwards, move on to Weijin Tombs. Driving through the wilder Gobi about 20km from Jiayuguan City, you will come to the famous “underground gallery”, Weijin Tombs. In accordance with the title, wall paints dominate the theme of the visit to this site. Underneath the yellow sand, were about 1,400 ancient tombs buried in the obscure desert and only 6 tombs are open to public today. It’s definitely a surprise discovery process when beholding the paints with bright colors vividly depicting the scholars and officals’ life in Weijin Time. The background knowledge about history, culture, politics and economy reflected by the paintings explained by tour guide helps you better understand this site, please follow up your guide closely!
Last, transfer to local hotel.
Accommodation: Overnight in Jiayuguan
- Day 9: Jiayuguan-Dunhuang Tour (B, L)Echoing-Sand Mountain, Crescent Lake
After breakfast, drive around 5 hours to Dunhuang. You are suggested to wear comfortable shoes and take some snacks considering this will be a long-time journey.
Having lunch in Dunhuang, and after short rest when it is not too hot, you will head 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 your tour guide will help to purchase tickets.
Last, 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. 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.
Accommodation: Overnight in Dunhuang
- Day 10: Dunhuang-Turpan by High-speed Train (B, L)Mogao Caves
Today you will head to 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 afternoon, you will be dropped off at Dunhuang train station to catch afternoon high-speed train to Turpan. You can have a nap on the train since it needs 3.5 hours’ train riding. Arrival in Turpan, you will find the local driver waiting for you at the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name. Later, drive to local hotel.
Accommodation: Overnight in Turpan
- Day 11: Turpan-Urumqi Tour (B, L)Karez Well, Sugong Pagoda, Tuyu Valley, Jiaohe Ruins
Today the first site will be 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.
Next, come to Tuyu Valley. It is the oldest Uyghur village in Xinjiang and a nice place to soak up Buddhist and Islamic culture. Afterwards, continue your visit 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.
At the end of the tour, you will head to Urumqi by 3 hours’ driving.
Accommodation: Overnight in Urumqi
- Day 12: Urumqi Tour (B, L)Heavenly Lake, Xinjiang Regional Museum, Erdaoqiao International Bazaar
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.
Accommodation: Overnight in Urumqi
- Day 13: Urumqi Departure (B)
The 13 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.
Accommodation : N/A
- 12 nights’ accommodation in centrally located hotels with daily breakfasts
- Xining-Lanzhou, Dunhuang-Turpan high-speed train tickets (second class seat)
- 11 Chinese-style lunches
- Entrance tickets as listed in the itinerary
- Excellent English-speaking tour guides
- Private transfers in air-conditioned vehicles with licensed drivers
- Travel Agency Liability Insurance during the tour
- Government taxes
- China Visas/international flights
- Any dinner
- Any optional activity/battery car/shuttle bus/boat cruise/camel ride/horse ride inside the attractions
- Our package does not include travel insurance. Please purchase commercial travel insurance before your trip for any unforeseen circumstance.
- Any item beyond “Price Includes”
- Gratuities to guide and driver (recommended if you are satisfied with their services)