12 days Classic China Silk Road tour from Xi'an to Urumqi
You'll arrive in gorgeous Xi'an, one of the ancient capitals in Chinese history and also the starting point and terminus of the ancient Silk Road. You'll be picked up at the Xi'an airport or train station and dropped off at your to hotel to rest up.
Tour the highlights of Xi'an, including the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum- the astonishing site where thousands of steadfast warriors, along with their warhorses, guard the tomb of China's first emperor; the Xi'an City Wall- the most intact ancient wall on the China Silk Road. During the Ming dynasty, this was one of the most impressive military defense systems in the world where you can choose to have a walk tour or bicycle tour on the wall; and the Muslim Quarter, where you'll find a cornucopia of local street food and souvenirs for sale. You'll stay overnight in Xi'an before moving along the Silk Road path.
This day begins with taking the Bullet Train to Tianshui- the first significant Silk Road city since Xi'an located along the Wei River. It's about a 2 hour train ride into the city. There you'll visit the Maijishan Grottoes- a network of caves and walkways carved into the cliffside, adorned in colorful Buddhist artwork within. You'll spend the night in Tianshui and depart in the morning.
You'll take the morning train to Zhangye. It's about a 5 hour train ride, so take something along to occupy your time, or sit back and enjoy the local scenery. You'll reach Zhangye around 2:30 pm. From there, you'll be picked up at the train station and driven to the awesome Zhangye Danxia Landform.
With it's brilliant rainbows of color, these mountains are often cited as the most beautiful landform in all of China. You'll then get your rest in Zhangye for the night before exploring more of the city.
In the morning you'll visit the Giant Buddha Temple in Zhangye, where you'll witness some of the most intriguing ancient artwork on the China Silk Road, including the Giant Buddha itself, lying inside the temple at 34.5 meters (about 113 feet) long and 7.5 meters (about 25 feet) wide. You'll then take about a 2.5 hour drive to Jiayuguan, the city that houses the western end of The Great Wall of China. From there you'll visit Jiayuguan Pass- one of the most intact parts of the Great Wall and a key point on the China Silk Road, this defense station is still complete with ramparts, turrets and eaves. If time permits, you may also visit the Overhanging Great Wall, also called the Xuanbi Great Wall- a place with one of the most spectacular views along the Great Wall, and a lesson in the tactical ingenuity of ancient Chinese builders. After the tour is an overnight stay in Jiayuguan.
You'll have an early morning departure from Jiayuguan and travel to Dunhuang, with a stop on the way to the Yulin Grottoes- where you'll find brightly colored artwork depicting 1,000 years of Chinese culture. This stretch of the tour takes about 8-9 hours to complete, including a 6 hour drive and 2-3 hours exploring the region. Upon arrival in Dunhuang, you can rest, relax and enjoy the Shazhou Nightly Market, where you'll be able to sample local cuisine, browse local farmer stands and find unique goods made by the people of this beautiful region. Or if you prefer, you can catch a show at the famous Dunhuang Theater. This award winning theater features some of the best dancers in all of China and is truly an experience in local art.
In the morning. you'll visit the Mogao Grottoes, also known as the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas. This includes a visit to the Dunhuang Grotto protection and Exhibition center, where you can learn about the rich history of this awe inspiring network of 492 temples along the China Silk Road.
Then on to explore the Echoing Sand Mountains, named for the musical sounds heard when even a light wind blows through the dunes; and the crystal clear Crescent Lake, named for the half-moon shape the lake forms around the south side of Dunhuang City. Enjoy a camel riding here.
Morning free explore Dunhuang on your own, then head to Liuyuan for the afternoon bullet train to Turpan (D2701, 14:43 -18:18), another green oasis on the ancient China Silk Road. Upon arrival, you will be picked up and transferred to hotel for rest.
You'll receive a full day tour of Turpan. Morning drive to visit the Gaochang Ruins, was once an important stop along the ancient Silk Road. Because of the war and water shortage, it was finally abandoned, but the remaining city walls, temples, houses still indicates the past glory of this city and the culture of ancient Gaochang people. Then continue the visiting to the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves situated on the west cliffs of the Wood Valley of the Flaming Mountains. Learn about the development and history of the Buddhism in this region from the colorful murals and other precious art works. Afterwards, have a traditional Uyghur lunch in a local village of Tuyuk Valley. On the way back to Turpan, stop to visit the Flaming Mountain, where the temperature on the surface reaches 47.8 C (118.04 F) in the hottest summer, hence the name. Follow the last visit today will be the Jiaohe Ruins, which is currently the largest and oldest earth city in the world. The remains you see today was descended from the Tang Dynasty. Most of them are well preserved due to the high location and dry climate. Overnight at Turpan.
Our morning begins with visiting the intricate Karez underground irrigation system. An important source of life to all of Turpan, this system of caves, reservoirs, canals and wells is an impressive 5,000 km (3100 miles) in total length. Then the Emin Minaret- an impressive structure, this tower looms at 44 meters (144 feet) tall and is the largest minaret in all of China. After lunch you'll head to Urumqi, the world's most inland city, about a 2.5-3 hour drive through the countryside. There you'll be able to rest and refresh on your own and you may take a walk at the Xinjiang Grand Bazaar, where you'll find everything from entertainment to local fare and unique goods from different cultures in and around the region.
You'll take a day trip to Heavenly Lake, where you can relax and reenergize over the pristine waters. Late afternoon get back to Urumqi and visit the Xinjiang Museum; with over 50,000 pieces, this astonishing collection will give you rare insight into this fascinating culture.
This is where we say goodbye. You'll be transported and on your way back home with memories to last a lifetime!