16 days China Silk Road with Kanas Lake tour
You'll arrive in Lanzhou, the great capital city of the Gansu Province in northwest China. Lanzhou has been an important city along the Silk Road since ancient times. This grand city lies at the southern end of the route leading through the Hexi Corridor across Central Asia.
This day begins with taking the Bullet Train to Tianshui- Located along the Wei River, Tianshui was the first significant Silk Road city after Xi'an. 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- 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. 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 6 hours drive time and 2-3 hours of exploration. 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 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.
In the morning you'll tour to 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'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.
Today you'll drive to Fuyun county, it's a long drive, about 7-8 hours total. However there are some amazing stops along the way! You'll stop to visit the Multi Colored Bay, which lives up to its name and is truly a breathtaking sight. You'll also stop at the Karamay Wild Animal Protection Reserve, where you can observe over 40 different local animal species in their natural habitat. This portion of the tour also takes you through the Kurbantongut Desert. The beauty of this landscape alone is enough to fill your journey with awe and wonder.
You'll drive to Burqin, a small county in the area that borders Russia, Kazakstan and Mongolia. Upon arrival, you have the chance to freely explore the city on your own. In the late afternoon you'll head out to visit Rainbow Beach (Wucaiwan in Chinese), named for the stunning layers of multi-colored rock overlooking the crystal clear waters of the lake below. You'll catch the best time to see the rock around sunset, when the different colors of rock shine and dance in the lights of the sky above. You'll then stay overnight in Burqin county.
In the morning you'll take a 3 hour drive to Jiadengyu, which is the entrance to the Kanas Lake Nature Reserve. Kanas Lake is a great place for outdoor activities, and your options include hiking, boating, horse riding and river rafting (these activities are on your own expense). In the afternoon, we suggest that you take the shuttle bus or boat and enjoy the scenery in Lying Dragon Bay, Immortal Bay and Moon Bay. These bays are the most well-known and beautiful spots in the area. You'll then stay overnight at a hotel near Jiadengyu, or, if your budget allows, you can choose to stay at a hotel inside the Kanas Lake Nature Reserve.
You'll have the morning to enjoy more beauty of the Kanas Lake Nature Reserve; we suggest you visit the Guan Yu Tai (Fish Watching Pavilion), the reserve's highest point and the best place to experience an incredible panoramic view of the entire lake. The Kanas Lake is famous for changing its colors. The color of the water changes several times in a day, from dark green to sky blue, then to gray and white. The higher you climb up, the more colors you will see. In the afternoon, you'll drive to Hemu Village and visit with some local Tuwa families. This small place has been ranked by China's National Geographic as one of the six most beautiful villages in China. After the visit, you'll rest in the hotels of Hemu Village. "
You'll take a morning hike to watch the sunrise over Hemu village, a view well worth the early waking hour. Then you can choose to ride a horse or simply walk around the village. After exploring a bit, you'll visit the Tuwa people. Many have said to be deeply impressed by their simple life style and character. After having lunch in the village, you'll drive back to Burqin for an overnight stay.
You'll drive to Kuitun, with a couple of stops along the way. You'll visit the Ghost City; named more for the eerie sound made by the wind as it travels through the city than for any otherworldly inhabitants, and then the massive Hundred Mile Oil Zone.
Enjoy the drive back to Urumqi, then say goodbye and make your way home with treasured memories to last a lifetime!