15 days Silk Road and Tibet Yushu Horse Race festival tour
You'll arrive in Xining, the capital of the Qinghai province in western China, and the largest city on the Tibetan Plateau. From Xining, you can easily access the area the Amdo Tibetan people inhabited and learn about their brilliant culture.
Take a morning drive to visit Kumbum monastery, one of the most revered monasteries in all of Tibet. then continue to Qinghai Lake, the largest salt lake in China. After experiencing the unforgettable sunset at Qinghai Lake, you'll head to Gonghe county for an overnight stay.
Today you'll drive across the rolling Amdo grasslands to Yushu with a stop to have a rare visit to a Tibetan nomad tent.
You'll have a full day tour around Yushu in order to experience the Jyegu Monastery, which houses about 600 hundred Tibetan monks, and the Gyana Mani Stone Pile- ornate stones set out by the Buddhists as an offering to the gods.
The Yushu Horse Racing Festival is a traditional festival within the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the Qinghai Province. It begins on the 25th of July and lasts for one week. The weather is at its best and the lush green grasslands provide a great place for long-distance horse racing and camping. On the famous Pathang grassland, Tibetans from different Kham areas gather here to celebrate this annual cultural festival. Activities include traditional sports, songs, dances and fashion shows. Locals dress in their best traditional clothing, adorn themselves with jewelry, and set up the colorful tents on the grasslands for the festival performances and family picnics. Today you'll drive to the racing grounds and enjoy all the activities of the day, including horse racing and traditional Tibetan dances.
You'll spend a full day at the horse racing festival to watch yak racing and traditional Tibetan fashion shows.
You'll fly back to Xining (MU2093, 08:55 - 10:10) and board the train to Zhangye (D2747, 13:18 - 15:14). Upon arrival at Zhangye, you'll be picked up at the train station and driven to see the Zhangye Danxia Landform, a stunning mass of rainbow-colored rock often said to be the most beautiful landform in all of China Then an overnight stay in Zhangye.
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- the first pass at the west end of the Great Wall of China 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, called the Xuanbi Great Wall in Chinese- a place with one of the most spectacular views along the Great Wall, and a lesson in the tactical ingenuity of ancient Chinese builders.
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 at 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.
Once you are awake and ready, you'll have the opportunity to explore the shops, restaurants and rich culture of Dunhuang, one of the most important stops along the Silk Road, freely and on your own. You'll then take the afternoon bullet train to Turpan (D2701, 14:43 -18:18). Once settled, you can use the time left in the day for another free exploration of rich culture, local fare, shops, and street vendors.
You'll experience a full day tour in Turpan, including a morning visit to the Gaochang Ruins- the ancient remnants of a 2,000 year old city. Afterwards, you'll have lunch with a local Uyghur family in the scenic Tuyuk valley. After lunch you'll visit 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.
In the morning you'll visit the Ancient City of Jiaohe- the ruins of a 2,000-year-old fort and a key point along the China Silk Road. You'll also tour the 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; and 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 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. Then you'll 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!