12 days Silk Road desert highway adventure
This Silk Road discovery tour balances an overland trip from Urumqi to Kashgar and sightseeing in the splendid Karakul Lake. Endless scenery await to be discovered as you travel across the vast deserts in Xinjiang. Stop in the Taklamkan Desert to have a memorable camping experience and enjoy the sunset and sunrise. Added with a cultural visit in Turpan, where you will see many relics along the Silk Road. All together, learning about the history of this famous ancient trading route that still vibrant today.
Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, is the entrance point of this memorable Silk Road adventure. Once you arrive at the airport or train station, your local guide will meet and assist you to the downtown hotel. The rest of today is left free, have a rest or roam the local streets nearby on your own. Urumqi is a great city to explore the customs of Uyghur people and experience their local life.
Notice the clock time in Urumqi of Xinjiang is the same as Beijing Time, but there is 2 hours difference because of the longitude. You should adjust your rest and dinning time 2 hours later as compared with that in mainland China.
Start your trip by visiting the Xinjiang Museum in this morning. Considered as a research and collection center for relics in Xinjiang, this museum provides a great opportunity to learn about the past civilizations along the ancient Silk Road as well as the culture and history of Uyghur people. After, say farewell to Urumqi as you will drive to Turpan, an oasis city located in the southeast. The drive takes over 3 hours, and you will witness the largest wind power station in China along the highway.
As you arrive in Turpan, visit the Karez Well, an ancient irrigation system with a long history of 2,000 years. These wells are made up of vertical wells, underground canals, above-ground canals and small reservoirs. During your stay in the underground canals, you will find this place is also a perfect escape from the intense heat of Turpan. Next with a visit to 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. At last but not least, head to the Sugong Pagoda for a visit. It is one of the most famous Muslim pagodas in China because of its unique appearance.
After breakfast, drive to the Gaochang Ruins, an ancient city used to the one of the most important stops along Silk Road. Pursue the past glory of ancient Goachang people by wandering around this city. Next, head to the Astana Tombs, a serious of underground graves situated on the Gobi desert in north of Gaochang Ruins. Here you will see two well preserved mummies and many precious historical relics discovered.
During the lunch time, enjoy a traditonal Uyghur lunch in a local village of Tuyuk Valley. Then visit the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves and learn about the Buddhism culture in this region. These grottos are located on the west cliffs of the Wood Valley of the Flaming Mountains. They were decorated by numerous murals and other art works created by the people from different cultures, depicting their daily life and religion. Afterwards, enjoy a majestic scenery of the barren, eroded, red sandstone hills in Flaming Mountains, then drive back to your hotel for retire.
A long journey on the vehicle today as you will drive from Turpan to Kuqu this morning. However, it provides a chance to enjoy the breathtaking scenery while crossing the Tianshan Mountain range. Arrive in Kuqa this late afternoon or evening, and your local guide will directly assist you to the hotel for rest.
Spend the whole day to visit several highlights in Kuqa city. The first one is the Kizil Thousand Caves, which is regarded as the earliest Buddhist art treasure trove in China. It holds a significant position in Buddhism and in the history of Kuqa because of its corridor of murals. Afterwards, drive to the Kizilgaha Beacon Tower, built almost 2,000 years ago as the alarm tower for the frontier guards. The tower is in rectangular shape, and on the top you will see a watch cabin which remains of wooden fence.
In the afternoon, drive back to Kuqa city to visit the Grand Mosque, the second largest mosque in Xinjiang. The highlight of the mosque is the Great Praying Hall, which can accommodate 1,000 prayers. It is supported by 88 pillars that embellished with carved designs and in many colors. Next, roam the old town of Kuqa and experience the lifestyles of the locals before you drive to the Subash Ancient City. Unlike the other two ancient cities you visit in Turpan, Subash is the site of a Buddhist temple built more than 1,000 years ago.
Leave for Hotan this morning. You will drive along the new highway G217 and enjoy the unique scenery of the deserts in Xinjiang. The drive takes a long time, and you will get to Hotan this evening. Upon arrival, get settled into the hotel and prepare for the next day.
Explore the traditional paper making technology in Hotan this morning. According to the history record, this handicraft was practiced more than 100 years earlier than Ceylon's invention of modern paper. The raw materials for this paper consists of the bark of mulberry tree branches, and at present, there is only one family in Hotan still produces such paper. Afterwards, drive to the Yorung Kash (White Jade River) to see how local people look for jade. If you are interested in the local jade or silk products, go to the market in search of some good bargains.
For the lunch, it is a good idea to taste some Hotan local snacks. In the afternoon, head to the boundless Taklamkan Desert, the second largest shifting-sand desert in the world. In local Uyghur language, Taklamakan means “The desert which buried some places under”. Spend the whole afternoon to ride a camel cross the sand dunes here and enjoy the magnificent scenery of the sunset in the desert. This night you will camp in the desert, we provide the best camping equipment, and the food, water, fruit for the dinner.
Catch the splendid sunrise in Taklamkan Desert in the early morning. See the sun slowly clears the horizon and the shadow. Witness the colors gives way to the intense clarity of desert light. Remember to use your camera to record this awe inspiring scene. Afterwards, say farewell to Taklamkan and drive to Kashgar. Stop in Yarkand to visit some attractions of this ancient city. First head to the Golden Graveyard, where buried the royal family members of the Yarkand Uyghur Kingdom.
The next destination is the Tomb of Aman Nisahan, who was the wife of the second king of the Yarkand Kingdom. Yet what made her famous were her poets and her transcription of the Twelve Mukam of famous traditional Uyghur music. Learn about her folktales from your local guide during your visit here. Afterwards, take a walk around the Yarkand Old Town to see the local customs and lifestyles, and do not miss out on a visit to the knife factory in the "knife town" of Yengisar before you drive to Kashgar.
Today you will visit the enchanting Karakul Lake. Set out from Kashgar this early morning, and drive along the Sino Pakistan Karakorum Highway. Stop at the Opal Village for a short break after one hour of driving, then finally enter the Kunlun Shan Mountain range, one of the last truly unexplored places on earth. Enjoy the surreal glacier scenery along the way before you arrive at the Karakul Lake.
Lying at the foot of Mount Muztagata, Karakul Lake is so clarity as you will clearly see the reflection of the snow capped mountains surrounding the lake in the water. Walk on the grassland with roaming flocks and herds along the shore of the lake. Visit a local Kyrgyz family to experience their customs and culture in this afternoon. Afterwards, drive about 1.5 hours to Tashkorgan and prepare for the next day.
Start today with a visit to the Stone Fort located in the north of Tashkorgan. It was once a bustling city since it was built at the junction of the middle route and southern route of the ancient Silk Road. At present, the remaining city wall still can be recognized clearly. Afterwards, spend couple of hours to savor the beautiful scenery of the surrounding Tashkorgan Grassland. See the magnificent Mount Muztagata and Pamir in distance. In the late afternoon, drive back to Kashgar city and prepare for the next day.
Spend today to walk around the downtown of Kashgar and visit several highlights, Abakh Khoja Tomb, Sunday Market and Id Kah Mosque. Abakh Khoja Tomb is the final resting place for five generations of the Apak Khoja family, including what is purported to be the body of Xiang Fei, a famous concubine in Qing Dynasty. Notice the pillars in the Tomb which decorated beautifully and designed perfectly while visiting here. Next with a walk around the famous Sunday Market, which is jammed with many small shops for selling numerous commodities, traditional scarves, leathers, clothes, and knick-knacks. This market attracts numerous merchants from all over Xinjiang plus nearby countries such as Pakistan and Kirghizstan.
In the afternoon, after wandering in the Kashgar Old Town, visit the Id Kah Mosque, the largest and busiest one in China. The mosque is located in the heart of Kashgar city. Be impressed by the old Islamic architectures with strong ethnic style and religious features. See numerous worshippers coming from different places of Xinjiang. End the tour today with a visit to the Handicraft Street. You will have the dinner tonight with a local Uyghur family.
Say farewell to your guide and drive this morning as they will pick you up from the hotel and drive to the airport or train station for departure. If you wish to continue your travels, we are experts in tailor made trips and ready to assist you in extending your stay in China.