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adventure travel trip to China
Uighur Kashgar cloth merchant
  • Sep 1-15, 2014
  • Sep 7-21, 2015
  • Duration 15 days
    Group Size 2-12
    Land Cost $3,995-$4,650 Details
    Single Supplement $795 Details
    Lodging 2 stars-3 stars
    Grade II
    Best Time

    Tracing the Ancient Silk Route

    Xian to Kashgar via Lanzhou, Xiahe, Jiayuguan, the Western Desert, and Dunhuang

    Day 1      Arrive Xian

    On arrival in Xian, you will be met by your English-speaking guide and assisted with the transfer to your centrally located hotel. The rest of the day will be free to relax and recover from the long flight. If you've never been to China before, consider spending a few days in one or more of the exciting cities of Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong prior to Xian or at the end of your trip.

    Meals: None
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Consider arriving a few days early in Beijing to see the Great Wall and other sights
    Day 2      Explore Xian

    In the 10th century, Xian was thought to be the greatest city on earth and you will visit its ancient sites including the Bell and Drum Towers, the Wild Goose Pagoda, which was built by Emperor Gao Zong in memory of his deceased mother, and the Ancient City Walls, built on the foundations of the walls of the Tang Forbidden City.  You'll have some time in the afternoon to relax before heading out to a local restaurant for a traditional Xian dumpling dinner.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Statue of Xuanzang in the foregound of the Wild Goose Pagoda
    Day 3      Terracotta Warriors

    Xian is best known for its renowned terracotta warriors. These entombed statues are considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the century. Over 6,000 of them were individually sculpted from clay, each having a different costume, height, and even facial expression. They stand in battle formation, facing east to protect the tomb of China's first Emperor, the great Qin Shihuang. Afterwards, visit the Shanxi Museum, which holds the world's greatest repository of Tang Dynasty ceramics, paintings, and imperial artifacts. In the evening, there will be a dinner and concert from the restored Tang Dynasty featuring court music and dance.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Marvel at Xian's terracotta warriors
    Day 4      Buddhist Center of Langzhou / Xiahe

    A morning flight takes you to Langzhou, the capital of Gansu province. From here, you travel to Bingling Temple to view some fascinating Buddhist caves that date back to the third century. Your journey continues on to Xiahe, a major center for Tibetan Lamaism (approx. 185 mi/5 hrs). You spend two nights in this amazingly remote town, set in a beautiful mountain valley.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Bingling Monastery
    Day 5      Sangki Grasslands / Bajiao Ancient Village

    Today you travel about nine miles outside of Xiahe to the Sangki Grasslands to see the yak herds. This vast expanse of grassy plains covers about 40 square miles with only about 4,000 Tibetan nomads occupying the grasslands. You will find them grazing their yak herds, and you may even have the chance to ride one of their horses. You also visit the ancient town of Bajiao (Bajiao Cheng), a walled village that was originally built around 2,000 years ago during the Han dynasty (50 mi/1.5 hrs). As you approach Bajiao, you will see the amazing White Rock Cliffs. At the foot of these cliffs, there is a small monastery and monk village.  Return to your hotel in Xiahe.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Bajiao Ancient Village
    Day 6      Xiahe / Lanzhou / Train to Jiayuguan

    Today you will visit the Labrang Monastery, one of the largest monasteries in China. It also serves as an important Tibetan Buddhism School. The monastery even contains thousands of Buddha statues, all made of various metals, ivory, sandalwood, jade, and crystal. Return to Lanzhou where you board an overnight sleeper train bound for Jiayuguan.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
    Lodging: Overnight train

    Visit the beautiful Labrang Monastery
    Day 7      Jiayuguan / Dunhuang: Desert Meets Town

    Upon entering the Hexi corridor, you travel on a strip of desert surrounded by mountains on both sides. You arrive in the early morning (ETA 7:30 am) at Jiayuguan (Jiayu Pass), the traditional last outpost on the edge of the ancient Han Chinese Empire and you will be met and transferred to a hotel to freshen up. Afterwards, visit Jiayuguan Fort, which actually marks the end of the Great Wall. The heavily industrialized modern town stands in stark contrast to the desert scenery. You also visit the Hanging Wall (another section of the Great Wall) before driving across the desert landscape to the oasis of Dunhuang (237 mi/5 hrs), another important stop on the Silk Road.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Visit the lively market in the oasis town of Dunhuang
    Day 8      Dunhuang

    After a night in Dunhuang, experience the sunrise over desert sand dunes and see Crescent Lake. You will even have the option of riding a camel across the desert. Overnight in Dunhuang.

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Enjoy a camel ride through the desert
    Day 9      Dunhuan / Train to Turpan

    After a night in Dunhuang, visit the nearby Mogao Caves, which house some of the best Buddhist murals in the world. The first of the caves were carved out and painted in 366 AD, but they had been largely forgotten until a Taoist monk stumbled upon them in 1907. Currently there are more than 492 caves, most containing murals and colored statues. The murals depict numerous personages such as the 'Flying Apsaras,' the goddesses of fragrance and music often depicted dancing and playing a musical instrument. After Mogao, you drive to Lieyuan and transfer to another overnight train to Turpan (ETD 10:10 pm).

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch
    Lodging: Overnight train

    Explore the Mogao Caves
    Day 10      Turpan

    After arriving at the train station (ETA 5:30 am), you drive for about 50 minutes to the delightful oasis town of Turpan, where you will be transferred to your hotel to check in and freshen up. After breakfast, you will visit Astana Tombs (40 mins away), which are located in the Gobi Desert. These tombs feature thousands of historical relics that were unearthed, such as mummies, writings, paintings, earthen figurines, stone wares, and much more. The tour continues in Tuyoq Village and Tuyugou Canyon (1.5 hrs away). Tuyoq is a traditional village of vineyards, orchards, narrow streets, and irrigation channels tumbling between ancient mudbrick houses and shady trees against the backdrop of the red Flaming Mountains. 

    Meals: Breakfast, lunch
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Turpan street shaded by trellised grapevines
    Day 11      Turpan

    Visit the Karez Wells, an irrigation system of wells connected by underground channels. The wells are considered to be one of the three great, ancient projects in China.  The famous fruit and vineyards of these hot, dry desert communities owe their existence to the Karez Wells. These systems are still maintained and functioning today. A small museum provides an insight into their intriguing history and construction, and takes you below ground for a first-hand view.

    Afterwards, visit the Ruins of the Ancient City of Jiaohe, built by the ancient Cheshi people between 221 BC and 220 AD. Located in the Yarnaz Valley, about five miles west of Turpan, it was excavated and constucted from the yellow-gray parched ground of a narrow 100 foot hight, one mile long island that sits in between the Jiahoe River. This is a great vantage point for seeing the surrounding desert and mountain landscape.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    See the temple ruins at Jiaohe
    Day 12      Urumqi / Kashgar

    Today you head out to the capital city of Urumqi, a multi-national province with many languages, customs and colorful ethnic traditions (about two-hour drive). The city is China's gateway to central Asia, with air links to all the former Soviet states, and is widely regarded as "the city farthest from the ocean". Visit Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum where you will see the preserved bodies and garments of nearly a dozen people discovered in tombs throughout Xinjiang. The 4,000-year-old "Loulan Beauty" is the most popular exhibit. Afterwards, catch a flight across the Taklimakan Desert to Kashgar, the "crown jewel" of the Silk Road. Situated at an altitude of 4,228 feet at the end of the spectacular Karakoram Highway, the city is still an important trading center.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Learn about the ancient Xinjiang Mummies
    Day 13      Markets and Mosques

    Kashgar is a fascinating place to with many different cultures and you will have a chance to learn about the local way of life at the colorful and lively market at a village just outside Kashgar. In the afternoon, return to Kashgar where you enjoy a guided tour to Id Kah Mosque, built in 1442 and famous for its yellow walls and Central Asian architecture.

    If you are taking the Tashkurgan Extension, you will depart from the group and drive to Tashkurgan Stone City.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Browse the boisterous animal market
    Day 14      Kashgar / Urumqi

    Visit the old quarter of Kashgar and the local market. In the afternoon, take a flight back to Urumqi, where an overnight is necessary due to flight schedules.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging: Centrally located hotel

    Try some delicious, traditional food at the local market
    Day 15      Urumqi / Onward

    Your morning is free until you are transferred to the airport for your flight back home.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: None

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