Echoing Sand Mountain and Crescent Lake
Home China Tour China Group Tours 12 Days Ancient China Silk Road Tour from Xian to Urumqi

Tour Overview

Explore China’s diverse landscapes and rich history on this 12-day journey through Xi’an, Lanzhou, Xiahe, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Turpan, and Urumqi. Marvel at the ancient Xi’an City Wall, witness the silent army of Terracotta Warriors, and cruise to Bingling Temple’s thousand-year-old grottoes. Immerse yourself in Tibetan Buddhism at Labrang Monastery, gaze at the vibrant hues of Zhangye’s Danxia Rainbow Mountain, and step into the ancient Silk Road history at Jiayuguan and Dunhuang. From the Oasis wonders of Turpan to Urumqi’s Heavenly Lake, each stop offers a unique blend of culture, history, and natural beauty.

Highlights of this tour:

1. Xi’an Ancient City Wall Stroll: Wander atop the iconic Ming Dynasty wall, savoring panoramic city views and the rich history of ancient fortifications.
2. Terracotta Warriors Marvel: Stand amazed among 7000 life-sized warriors, each with unique features, narrating the ancient story of China’s first emperor.
3. Bingling Temple Grottoes Cruise: Glide through Liujiaxia Gorge to Bingling’s “Thousand Buddhas,” witness stone sculptures, pagodas, and vivid murals carved into Jishi Hill.
4. Labrang Monastery Spiritual Haven: Immerse in Tibetan Buddhism at this vast complex, exploring temples, prayer halls, and Tibetan nomadic life on the enchanting Sangke Grassland.
5. Zhangye’s Danxia Beauty: Witness the vibrant, layered colors of Rainbow Mountain at sunrise, a breathtaking geological marvel on the Silk Road.
6. Jiayuguan’s Overhanging Great Wall: Marvel at Ming Dynasty’s architectural prowess, Overhanging Great Wall offers panoramic views, a testament to China’s ancient military defense.
7. Dunhuang’s Oasis Wonders: Experience the surreal Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain, where desert wonders meet, and explore the lively Shazhou Night Market.
8. Turpan’s Ancient Engineering Marvel: Discover the life-giving Karez Well system, explore Sugong Pagoda, and step back in time at Jiaohe Ruins, a testament to ancient civilizations.

Day-by-day Itinerary

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  1. When you arrive at Xian airport (please arrive before 3 pm), the local English-speaking guide and the driver will pick you up from the exit gate.

    Drive 1h to Xian City, and start your visit with the Xian Ancient City Wall. Encircling the heart of Xian, the wall is a testament to ancient fortification prowess, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Spanning 13.7 kilometers, it stands as one of the best-preserved city walls in the world. Visitors can stroll or bike (optional, at your own expense) along its parapets, offering panoramic views of the city and its historic landmarks.

    Xian City Wall bike ride
    Ride a bicycle on the City Wall

    Later, move on to the Bell and Drum Tower Square, which is located in the very center of the city and is considered the symbol of this old capital. Walking forward, you will explore the narrow winding streets of the Muslim Quarter. As you wander through the lively streets, you'll encounter a mix of traditional craftsmanship, vibrant street performances, and the warm hospitality of the locals. Also entertain your taste buds with iconic Shaanxi food like Lamb Paomo (Pieces of Flat-bread Bun Soaked in Mutton Soup), Hulu Ji (Gourd-shaped Chicken), etc.

    Meal: N/A

    Accommodation: in Xian

  2. After one hour's drive from the city center, you will arrive at the Terracotta Warriors, an archaeological marvel housing thousands of life-sized clay soldiers, horses, and chariots. Crafted over 2,000 years ago to accompany China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in the afterlife, the site is a UNESCO World Heritage treasure. Visitors can explore the meticulously arranged pits, each revealing unique soldiers with distinct expressions, providing a captivating insight into ancient Chinese military and artistic achievements.

    Xian-Terracotta Warriors and Horse
    Terracotta Warriors and Horse

    After lunch, you will head to the train station for 3hrs high-speed train to Lanzhou. Upon your arrival at Lanzhou train station, the 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 to visit the Yellow River Custom Tourist Line - one of the longest riverside gardens in China stretching along the Yellow River. A leisure stroll here will introduce you to a series of folk culture-themed sites, including Zhongshan Iron Bridge, White Pagoda Hill Park, Waterwheel Park, Yellow River Mother Sculpture, sheepskin raft, etc.

    After that, transfer to a downtown hotel for check-in.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Lanzhou

  3. At around 9 am, the English-speaking guide and driver will meet you at the hotel lobby, and drive 75 km southwest of Lanzhou to Binglingsi Grottoes. You will be taking a boat to cruise along Liujiaxia Gorge to arrive at the grottoes. Cruising along the green river, you could enjoy the mountains and grottoes in the distance.

    After the visit, drive to Xiahe for the night.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Xiahe

    Bingling Temple Grottoes
    Bingling Temple Grottoes

  4. In the morning, drive you to explore the Labrang Monastery, one of the six great monasteries of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. This spiritual haven features a vast complex of temples, prayer halls, and residences for monks. Visitors can witness the daily rituals, explore the intricate murals, and be captivated by the sacred ambiance.

    Labrang Monastery
    Walk the World's Longest Prayer Wheel Circuit in Labrang Temple

    After lunch, make a midway visit to Sangke Grassland which is a vast expanse of rolling meadows surrounded by majestic mountains. This breathtaking landscape offers visitors a glimpse into traditional Tibetan nomadic life. The grassland is adorned with colorful wildflowers, and visitors can witness herds of yaks and sheep grazing freely. The annual Horse Racing Festival is a highlight, featuring traditional Tibetan performances and vibrant cultural displays.

    Drive back to Lanzhou overnight.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Lanzhou

  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, a mesmerizing complex of Buddhist caves and temples carved into the cliffs. Dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty, these ancient grottoes showcase a fusion of Indian, Persian, and Central Asian artistic influences. You will marvel at well-preserved murals, intricate sculptures, and unique architectural features.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Zhangye

    Mati Temple
    Visit Mati Temple in Winter

  6. After hotel breakfasts, you will visit Zhangye Giant Buddhist Temple. Built in the Western Xia Dynasty, the Buddhist Temple survived the vicissitudes and stood on the Silk Road for 900 years. There is a gigantic sleeping Buddha statue of Sakyamuni the largest scale in Asia inside the temple, hence the name. The beautiful woodcarving, paintings, and statues as well as the underlying culture and history impress travelers a lot.

    Go to the exciting Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park to visit The Rainbow Mountain Scenic Area, a geological marvel renowned for its vibrant and surreal landscape. The mountainsides showcase an array of colors, resembling a painter's palette, created by mineral deposits over millions of years. Visitors can explore the scenic beauty of the multicolored rock formations.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Zhangye

    Danxia Geological National Park Rainbow Mountain
    Rainbow Mountain, Danxia Geological National Park

  7. In the morning, drive to Jiayuguan. After driving through the yellow sand of the desert, you will come to Jiayuguan Pass, a historic fortress marking the western end of the Great Wall. Visitors can explore the well-preserved walls, watchtowers, and the iconic Jiayuguan Fort, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

    Jiayuguan Pass
    Jiayuguan Pass

    The overhanging Great Wall is a remarkable section of the Great Wall that clings to the edge of a steep cliff. Built during the Ming Dynasty, this awe-inspiring architectural marvel offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors will marvel at the strategic design, intricate watchtowers, and breathtaking scenery. Exploring the Overhanging Great Wall provides a unique perspective on the historical and engineering prowess of the Ming Dynasty's construction of this iconic defensive structure.

    Move on to 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 the public today. It's definitely a surprise discovery process when beholding the paints with bright colors vividly depicting the scholars and official life in Weijin Time.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Jiayuguan

    Murals in Weijin Tombs
    Murals in Weijin Tombs

  8. After breakfast, drive around 4-5 hrs to Dunhuang. You can enjoy the Gobi-scapes on the way.

    In the afternoon, when it's not too hot, go to the exciting Crescent Spring and Echoing Sand Mountain, a surreal desert landscape. The Crescent Spring, a pristine oasis, contrasts against the towering Echoing Sand Mountain. Visitors can ride camels, climb the dunes for panoramic views, and experience the phenomenon where the shifting sands create a sound akin to distant echoes. The harmony of the serene lake and the vast, echoing dunes offers a unique and enchanting experience in the heart of the Gobi Desert.

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

    Dunhuang Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Spring
    Experience riding a camel

    Afterwards, come to Shazhou Night Market, a vibrant culinary and cultural hub. Open after sunset, it entices visitors with a kaleidoscope of local flavors, arts, and crafts. Tourists can indulge in a diverse array of street food, from savory skewers to traditional desserts. The market also features stalls selling local crafts, clothing, and souvenirs.

    Last, transfer to Dunhuang City overnight.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Dunhuang

  9. In the morning, you will head to the amazing Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage site housing a vast collection of Buddhist cave art. Carved over a millennium, the grottoes contain exquisite murals and statues depicting Buddhist teachings. Visitors can explore the caves, marvel at the artistic masterpieces, and gain insights into ancient Silk Road culture. The site is a testament to the fusion of diverse artistic styles and the profound influence of Buddhism on the region's history and art.

    Mogao Grottoes

    In the afternoon, you will head to Dunhuang Liuyuan Train Station for a 3.5-hour high-speed train to Turpan. Upon arrival at Turpan train station, there will be a local driver will pick you up and transfer you to the local hotel. Free on your own in the evening time.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Turpan

  10. 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 Islamic architecture with the largest scale among all pagodas in Xinjiang.

    Xinjiang Karez Irrigation System
    Karez Irrigation System

    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 3.5 hours driving.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Urumqi

    Xinjiang Jiaohe Ruins
    Well-planned Jiaohe Ruins

  11. After hotel breakfast, drive around 1.5 hours to the amazing Heavenly Lake, a breathtaking alpine lake surrounded by majestic mountains. Visitors can marvel at the crystal-clear waters reflecting the snow-capped peaks, creating a picturesque landscape. The lake offers opportunities for boating, hiking, and enjoying the pristine natural surroundings. (Note: Taking a cruise on the lake is an optional activity, which will be at your own expense if you want to experience it.)

    Xinjiang Heavenly Lake Boat Ride
    Rent a Boat and Explore the Heavenly Lake

    Afterwards, move on to Red Hill Park, a scenic haven with cultural and historical significance. The park derives its name from the striking red color of its hills. Visitors can explore the iconic Hongshan Pagoda atop the hill, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Tranquil pathways, vibrant gardens, and the serene waters of a lake create a peaceful ambiance. Red Hill Park is not only a picturesque escape but also a cultural exploration, making it a must-visit destination in Urumqi.

    Last, go to explore Xinjiang International Bazaar, a bustling market that serves as a cultural and commercial hub. Visitors can explore a vibrant array of goods from traditional Uighur carpets and textiles to local handicrafts and spices. The market is a melting pot of diverse cultures, offering a unique blend of Central Asian and Chinese influences. It provides an immersive experience, allowing visitors to discover the rich tapestry of Xinjiang's cultural heritage through its vibrant markets.

    At the end of the visit, transfer back to your hotel.

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: in Urumqi

    Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar
    Erdaoqiao International Bazaar

  12. The 12-day China Silk Road tour concludes today. We've organized an airport transfer for you and extend our best wishes for a safe and enjoyable journey home! Should you desire to explore additional destinations in Xinjiang or other cities across China, please don't hesitate to reach out. We are more than happy to assist you in planning further adventures and ensuring your travels are as seamless and enriching as possible. Safe travels!

    Meal: Breakfast

    Accommodation: N/A

Price Includes

  • 11 nights' hotels, 2 people share one room, with daily breakfasts ;
  • Xian - Lanzhou, Lanzhou - Zhangye, Dunhuang - Turpan high-speed train tickets (second class seat);
  • Private land transportation in air-conditioned vehicle;
  • Experienced Chinese-speaking driver services for the whole trip;
  • Excellent local English speaking tour guides services as mentioned in the itinerary;
  • Main entrance tickets to the scenic spots as mentioned in itinerary;
  • Government taxes and service charges;
  • 1 bottle of mineral waters per person per day;
  • China Travel Insurance.

Price Excludes

  • International tickets to Xian / off Urumqi;
  • Any optional activities inside the attractions;
  • China Visa or any personal expense;
  • Any item not mentioned in the itinerary;
  • Single Room Supplement;
  • All kinds of gratuities for guides, drivers & others.
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