17 Days Itinerary of Silk Road Exploration with Zhangjiajie
Except for Beijing and Shanghai, what are the other top sights in China? If you have no ideas, this 17 days in-depth China tour will kindle exact fresh plan for you with the carefully-engineered itinerary focusing not only the historic & cultural relics but also miracles of natural landscapes, from adventure to ancient Silk Road to the incredible Zhangjiajie Avatar Mountains and from exploration to the mysterious Xian Terracotta Warriors to cute Chengdu pandas. With professional team of expert guides and comfortable transfers, it’s a real once-in-life journey to deeply explore the remote civilization of this noble nation!
Heavenly Lake, Jiaohe Ruins, Mogao Grottoes, Jiayuguan Pass, The Rainbow Mountain, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Yellow Dragon Cave, Tianzi Mountain, Tianme Mountain, Terracotta Warriors and Horses, Ancient City Wall, Chengdu Panda Base, Sichuan Cuisine Museum.
Upon your arrival at Urumqi 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.
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.
At around 7am, the driver will pick you up from the hotel lobby and drop you off at train station to catch the morning high-speed train to Dunhuang. The train rides around 3.5 hours and you can enjoy the scenery on the way. Upon arrival at Dunhuang station, the local English speaking guide and driver will be waiting for you and drive to downtown hotel.
In the afternoon when it is not too hot, you will start the visit with 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
Later, follow your guide to explore the amazing Shazhou Night Market. 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.
In the morning,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.
Later, drive around 5 hours to Jiayuguan. You are suggested to wear comfortable shoes and take some snacks considering this will be a long-time journey.
Today you will start the visit with 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.
Last, 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, drive around 3 hours to Zhangye for overnight.
Today you will fully 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.
Firstly, come to visit The Rainbow Mountain Scenic Area which locates in Linze County, 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.
In the afternoon, move on to The Ice Valley Mountain Scenic Area, read Binggou Mountain in Chinese, earns its fame mainly with its graceful shapes. Usually, people come here for sunrise scenery. Although the color of hills here are not as bright as Rainbow Mountain, the unique form here easily excites people’s imagination to enjoy the natural masterpiece in another way.
After breakfast, pay a 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.
Later, you will head to train station to catch noon high-speed train to Lanzhou. The train rides around 4.5 hours, you can take this chance to have a nap on the train or just enjoy the scenery along the way.
When you arrive at Lanzhou train station, 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. You will have a glimpse of Lanzhou city by visiting 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. A leisure strolling bathed in rosy light of dusk on the River Road is a top thing to do in Lanzhou.
In the morning, the driver will pick you up from the hotel lobby and transfer to Lanzhou airport for your noon flight to Zhangjiajie.
Upon arrival in Zhangjiajie, the local English speaking guide and driver will wait for you at the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name. Your exploration begins with the fantastic Yellow Dragon Cave. The cave is praised as “all-round champion” by domestic and foreign geological authorities because it boasts the most complete and beautiful cave landscape with the largest scale. You will appreciate the pointing stalagmites, take a boat to explore the deep underground river (the river is rich with second-class state-protected giant salamanders and translucent glass fish), and see the great stone fall and interesting stone monkeys of various shapes.
Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan Area
Today, you’ll start your adventure with Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. It’s the first national forest park in China and was included in World Natural Heritage List in 1992 for the queer forest of quartz sandstone peaks. You will see the pillars rise hundreds of meters into the sky, stroll along tranquil valleys and feel rejuvenated by the fresh air.
Then, head to Yellow Stone Village. With an altitude of more than 1200 meters, it’s the largest and best observation deck to overlook the quartz sandstone peak forest. You can hear the story of Zhang Liang being saved by Huang Shi from your guide while you are walking, and you may come across the cute monkeys on the way.
After that, move on to Golden Whip Stream, one of the most beautiful sites in Zhangjiajie. The stream winds its way through the hills and valleys and got its name because of passing by the Golden Whip Rock. Just listen to the murmurs of the stream, stroll along the valley and stop to watch the fish swimming in the crystal clear water.
After the relaxing hiking, take the sightseeing bus to exit the forest park and drive around 40 minutes to Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. Move on to challenge yourself at the longest and highest Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge in the world with a length of 430 meters. You can have a panoramic view of Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon while walking on the transparent glass floor. You may be scared to step on the bridge at first, but once you take the first step, you will enjoy the magnificent view of flying waterfalls, lush forests, running streams.
Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan Area
Today’s first stop is Tianzi Mountain. There is a saying that you will not want to see any other mountains after visiting Tianzi Mountain. One of the spectacular sights is the sea of clouds after rain if you are lucky. You will witness rugged rocks and a forest of stone peaks which looks like a group of warriors listening to orders.
After that, continue to explore Yuanjiajie Scenic Area, the inspiration for Hallelujah Mountain in the super famous movie Avatar. You also can experience Bailong Elevator, the highest and heaviest outdoor elevator in the world. You will be amazed by the speed of the elevator, only 1 minute and 58 seconds up to Yuanjiajie. When you step out of the elevator, a magical landscape painting will unfold in front of you. The massive quartz-sandstone pillars are just towering over you or next to you.
Finish all the activities, transfer to Zhangjiajie downtown area for overnight.
Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangjiajie Downtown Area
After breakfast, follow your guide to explore another highlights of Zhangjiajie - the Tianmen Mountain National Park.
Firstly, drive to the cableway base for you to take the cable car up to the top of Tianmen Mountain.With a length of 7445 meters, Tianmen Mountain cableway is regarded as the longest cableway in the world. The one way cable car ride take about 28 minutes. And the half-hour riding is an excellent chance to see the picturesque scenery of the mountain
Arriving at the mountain top, you will firstly pay a visit to Tianmen Temple. The temple was built in the Ming Dynasty and is the Buddhist activity center in the western Hunan Province.
Next you will take a walk on the vertiginous Skywalk built by transparent glass. For some people it is really a test of courage! Then move to the Tianmen Cave (Heaven’s door cave). This natural stone archway is 131.5 meters high and 57 meters wide. It will take about half an hour to walk through the famous cave.
Later, take a shuttle bus down to the mountain foot by the 99-bend Road– the scenic round hill road.
At the end of the visit, you’ll be dropped off at Zhangjiajie airport to catch the flight to Xian. Upon arrival at Xian airport, there will be the local driver picking you up from the exit gate and transfer to local hotel.
In the morning, you will head to the must-see Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Known as “the Eighth Wonders of the World”, the museum shows a surprisingly high level in sculpture, which is listed in the most significant discoveries of the 20th century. The splendid scene and format will leave you an impressive memory. You can spend 2.5-3 hours there.
After lunch, continue your visit to Big Wild Goose Pagoda.Also known as Da Ci’en Pagoda, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda was built in 652 for keeping the Buss-hist Scriptures which were taken back from India by Master Xuanzang. Till today the pagoda has been standing here for over 1,350 years.
After that,move to Bell Tower & Drum Tower Square which is a strategically important building that marks the geographical center of the ancient capital of Xian, have some relaxing walk here would be very worthwhile to experience local people’s life.
Last, go to Muslim Quarter to have relaxing sightseeing and enjoy the local food/ snacks. Muslin Quarter is the most famous food street in Xian. It consists of Islamic food area, ethnic group shopping center, Great Mosque and living area of Hui people, with a history of more than 1,000 years. The tour guide will give recommendations for you to have the best local food experience.
Come to the Ancient City Wall to enjoy the peaceful morning time! It is the most completely 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, drive around 1 hour to Yuanjiacun Village - one of ten most beautiful villages in Shannxi Province. It is a best place to feel the history of Guanzhong area and the idyllic life of local people that is akin to the 1950s and 1960s. Here, you would have chance to watch Qin Opera Show, taste authentic local food, and try milling flour, waving cloth, making vinegar, and grinding soybean to make Tofu (Bean Curd). That surely will be an interesting and much more impressive experience.
Free and easy on your own arrangement in the morning. You can either have some rest at hotel or explore the city on your own.
At around 12:00, the driver will meet you at the hotel lobby and transfer to train station for your afternoon high-speed train to Chengdu. The train rides around 3-4 hours, you can enjoy the scenery on the way.
When you arrive at Chengdu station, there will be the local English speaking tour guide and driver picking you up from the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name. Your exploration will start with a leisure evening tour.
First, come to the vibrant Renmin Park which is a perfect place to do people watching. Here you can enjoy a cup of tea in a nice tea house and watch local people while away the time with various activities such as playing cards, doing tai chi, playing mahjong, dancing, and napping.
Later, come to explore the bustling Jinli Pedestrian Street, a must see place in Chengdu. You can see that the buildings here are built in Qing Dynasty style, and meandering through the street gives people the feeling of traveling back in time. You can enjoy shopping, do people watching, and taste some yummy food that you never saw before.
Nearby is the Kuanzhai Alley, another famous street in Chengdu. If you have interests, you can continue your visit there. The street has long history which can be traced back to Qing Dynasty. In addition to appreciating the traditional architecture, you also can savor some local delicacies.
The first scenic site will be the exciting Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, which is well known for the protection and breeding of the endangered giant pandas which are unique to China. The base is definitely a highlight for most visitors to Chengdu. There are adorable pandas everywhere. You can watch them eating bamboo, playing with each other, and of course sleeping. Your tour guide will navigate you through the huge area, share some information about the pandas, and help you take amazing photos.
Later, you’ll go to check out a unique museum themed with cuisine culture, Sichuan Cuisine Museum, and have a fantastic experience there. You will have chance to see plenty of cooking utensils from the past dynasties and sample some local delicacies. The highlight of this interesting museum tour will be learning to cook a couple of Sichuan dishes such as Mapo Tofu and Kung Pao Chicken under the instructions of local chefs. After finishing cooking, you will sit down and enjoy your own cooking.
Later, continue your visit to Wenshu Temple which was built in the Sui Dynasty with a long history. The temple is still operating and frequented by local people who come to pray and relax themselves. It is a good place to come to know Buddhism. You can have a nice stroll around the pleasant garden and take photos of the wonderful ancient architecture.
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.