15 days China Silk Road and Yangtze River cruise tour
Arrive in Urumqi, which happens to be the world's most inland city. You'll be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel. From there you'll have the chance rest up and refresh in the comfort of your lodging accommodations. Once settled, feel free to take a walk into the mind-boggling 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 begin with a morning drive to visit the aptly named Heavenly Lake. This beautiful and serene body of crystal water has the ability to bring renewed energy to even the weariest of travelers. In the afternoon, you'll enjoy a drive to the oasis city of Turpan for the night. There you will find a sparse population, fertile soil that boasts one of the countries greatest grape growing abilities and plenty of ancient ruins and relics to gaze upon.
You'll receive a full-day tour of Turpan. This includes visiting the Gaochang Ruins- the ancient remnants of a 2,000-year-old city, the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves- a beautiful labyrinth of ancient art, and the Flaming Mountain- named for the bright red, orange and yellow rock that causes a flame-like effect across the desert sky. Then experience a local cuisine by having lunch with an Uyghur family in the gorgeous Tuyuk valley. After, you'll view the Emin Minaret. An impressive structure, this tower looms at 44 meters (144 feet) tall and is the largest minaret in all of China.
Your 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. From there, you'll head to the train station drop off and take the train to Dunhuang (D2708, 12:46-16:41, around 4 hours). Upon arrival at Dunhuang, you'll be taken to your hotel. In another beautiful oasis surrounded by soul-soothing sand dunes, and one of the most important cities on the China Silk Road, you can rest up and enjoy the Shazhou Nightly Market or some traditional Chinese performance art at the Dunhuang Theater.
You'll enjoy a morning visit to the breathtaking Mogao Grottoes, including a visit to the Dunhuang Grotto protection and Exhibition center. Here you will witness the awe of ancient Chinese cave paintings and artwork, and also learn some history about the region. Later you will visit the beautiful Crescent Lake and Echoing Sand Mountains, where even a breeze in the air causes the dunes of multi-colored sand to echo with a magical, musical tune.
In the morning, you'll be dropped off at Dunhuang airport. From there you'll fly to Lanzhou, the capital city of the Gansu Province in northwest China. Upon arrival at Lanzhou, you'll be picked up by a local guide and driver. Your entourage will then head to Xiahe (300km and about a 4-hour drive). You will then have the rest of the day to freely explore the wonders of Xiahe on your own. A harmonious and colorful city, Xiahe is populated primarily by Buddhists, as it is sacred land and home to the famous Labrang Monastery.
Your first exploration will be a morning visit to the Labrang Monastery, one of the six main Gelupa monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism. Then you will head to the Sangke grasslands for a short visit to view some of the local nomadic groups and beautiful grasslands. From here you will be arranged to visit a local nomad family and experience a rarely seen side of Tibetan culture. Then a late afternoon drive back to Lanzhou for an overnight stay.
You'll be taken to the train station for a 1.5-hour train ride to Tianshui, at one time, the very first stop along the China Silk Road. There you'll visit Maiji Mountain and Maijishan Grottoes- a network of caves and walkways carved into the cliffside, adorned in colorful Buddhist artwork within. After the grottoes, you'll take the late afternoon train to Xi'an, which takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Tour the highlights of Xi'an, including the Terra Cotta 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, this wall was one of the most impressive military defense systems in the world during the Ming Dynasty; and the Muslim Quarter, where you'll find a cornucopia of local street food and souvenirs for sale.
You'll start off the day visiting the Shaanxi Provincial History Museum, one of the largest state museums in all of China; and Big Goose Pagoda, the Xi'an landmark. Built during the Tang dynasty to house Buddhist sutras brought back from India by the monk of Xuanzang, his travels inspired one of the best-known works in Chinese literature, 'Journey to the West'. Afterward, you'll pay a visit to the Tangbo Art Museum, which houses a collection of Shaanxi folk art and ancient paintings, where you can also learn the basics of Chinese calligraphy and utilize your new knowledge with some hands-on practice. You'll then take an afternoon flight to the bustling city of Chongqing. Upon arrival in Chongqing, you'll be picked up and taken to the Chongqing Pier to embark the luxury Yangtze Cruise.
Your Yangtze River Cruise begins! The first stop is a shore excursion to the Fengdu Ghost City, filled with temples, relics and shrines dedicated to honoring the afterlife; or the Shibao Temple, a large temple built into the mountainside, which offers a stunning view of the land below its feet.
The Yangtze River Cruise passes through Three Gorges. This area's incredible beauty includes one of the highest rated scenic areas in China. Then a shore excursion to Lesser Three Gorges, where the emerald green waters enchant your senses. Or to the Goddess Stream, a pristine body of water, snaking through the stone, creating massive cliff faces in its wake.
You'll begin the day with a shore excursion to Three Gorges Dam- one of the world's largest hydroelectric dams. You'll disembark the ship in Yichang around noon, then you'll catch an afternoon flight to Shanghai. You'll be picked up at the Shanghai airport and taken to your hotel for the night.
You'll spend the day Sightseeing in Shanghai, including a morning visit to the picturesque Yu Garden, Old French Concession and Xintiandi, where you'll find plenty of shops, restaurants, historical sites and more. You'll then head to check out the Shanghai Urban Exhibition Hall, Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Bund- the famous waterfront that helps Shanghai thrive, and Nanjing road- the premier shopping area in the city. In the evening you may choose to enjoy a Chinese Acrobatics show (entrance tickets will be your responsibility).
Your driver will take you to the Shanghai airport, where you'll begin the flight home and end your travels with WindhorseTour, though the memories will last a lifetime!