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Beijing – Xian – Lanzhou – Dunhuang – Turpan – Urumqi – Kashgar – Shanghai
The network of overland trade routes collectively known as the Silk Road, a term coined by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877, was established during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) of China. It stretches from the eastern terminus of Chang’an (present-day Xi’an) all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. On this exotic journey we retrace the footsteps of Marco Polo to explore the glorious past of the fabled Silk Road. Trip highlights include the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, Mogao Grottos and the scenic drive from Kashgar to Karakul Lake on winding Karakoram Highway whose route overlaps one of the many paths of the Silk Road.
This is a physically demanding tour venturing into locations as high as 3,645m (12,000 feet) above sea level. Travellers prone to altitude sickness should take precaution.
- Group size limited to 20.
- Expert local guides hand-picked by owners of Laurus Travel.
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers included.
- No forced shopping stops.
- Free Wi-Fi in all hotels.
- Quality meals at non-tourist restaurants.
- Unlimited supply of bottled water during group activities.
- Visit to chambers in Forbidden City that most tour companies pass up.
- Great Wall visit at Mutianyu with cable car.
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Day 1/Thu: Departing for Beijing
The exciting journey starts with your transpacific flight departing from a city of your choice. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Fri: Arrival in Beijing
Welcome to Beijing! Meet the driver on arrival for transfer to the hotel. You’ll have the balance of the day at leisure. The guide will get in touch with you tonight.
Capital of China, Beijing is a world-class cultural and educational centre. With a population of 21.7 million (2017), it ranks as China’s second largest city behind Shanghai. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates – treasures that make it the most popular tourist city in China by the number of visitors it receives every year.
Day 3/Sat: Beijing (B/L/D)
We begin today with a visit to the Forbidden City. Officially known as the Palace Museum, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties lived and carried out their administration. Construction of the Forbidden City took 14 years (1406-1420) to complete. The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 hectares or 180 acres. It exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1912 but the royal family was allowed to continue to live in the Forbidden City till 1924, when the last emperor, Pu Yi, was driven out of the imperial palace. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
After lunch we proceed to the Summer Palace, a well preserved UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The imperial resort was first named Garden of Clear Ripples, which was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860 during the Second Opium War (referred to as Arrow War by the British). Reconstruction started 25 years later and was completed in 1895 when the name was changed to Yi He Yuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The design gives prominence to Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, south of the hill. The sprawling complex covers an area of 290 hectares and the buildings inside consist of over 3,000 bays.
Today we enjoy a delicious welcome dinner at a popular restaurant specializing in Peking Roast Duck, a famous local dish.
Day 4/Sun: Beijing (B/L)
After an early breakfast we embark on a full-day excursion to the legendary Great Wall at Mutianyu, 75km northeast of the city.
Zigzagging over 6,000 kilometres from east to west along the undulating mountains, the Great Wall was built to hold off tribal invaders from the north. As history shows, the Wall failed the Chinese rulers miserably, especially in the case of Kublai Khan who and his men swept across China from the Mongolian steppe, thus the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368).
Construction of the earliest sections of the Wall started in the 7th century B.C. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 and took 200 years to complete. The wall we see today in Beijing is almost exactly the result of this effort.
Day 5/Mon: Beijing (B/L)
We begin our sightseeing today with a visit to a traditional hutong neighbourhood. Hutong refers to an ancient alleyway with siheyuan or ”4-sided courtyard house” on both sides. The name hutong dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.). According to some experts, the word originated from the Mongolian language, in which it is pronounced as hottog and means “well.” In ancient times, people tended to gather and live around wells. So the original meaning of hutong should be “a place where people live around”.
We then visit historic Jingshan Park. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 metres above ground, 89 metres above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.
Next up is Tian’anmen Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square measures 880 metres from north to south and 500 metres from east to west. Said to be the largest public plaza in the world, Tian’anmen Square has the capacity to hold one million people. The imposing Tian’anmen Tower sits at the north end of the square while the Monument to the People’s Heroes dominates the centre. The square is flanked by The Great Hall of the People (west) and the National Museum (east). Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum and Qianmen (Front Gate) are located in the south of the square. One of the top 16 tourist attractions in Beijing, Tiananmen Square is also the witness of the Chinese people’s great struggles for democracy and personal freedom since 1919.
Afternoon sightseeing at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated in southeastern Beijing the Temple of Heaven is China’s largest extant sacrificial temple where, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the emperors conducted the elaborate and most exalted sacrifices addressed to “the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” Construction of the temple started in 1406, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, and took 14 years to complete. The temple was expanded under the Qing emperors Qianlong (1736-1796) and Jiaqing (1796-1820). Occupying 2.73 square kilometres (roughly 1,700 by 1,600 metres), the area of the Temple of Heaven is more than twice that of the Forbidden City.
The famous Hongqiao Pearl Market, the largest pearl market in the world, is right across the street from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in numerous guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by China. If you are interested, please ask the guide to drop you off there. However, you’ll need to get back to the hotel by taxi, which costs about 50 yuan or US$8.
Day 6/Tue: Beijing – Xian (B/D)
Free morning to relax or explore on your own. We travel to Xian by the high-speed train (#G87, 14:00/18:23). The 4-hour-23-minute rail journey through fertile farmland dotted with villages provides the visitor an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful countryside.
Day 7/Wed: Xian (B/L/D)
With a history going back over 3,000 years, Xi’an served as the capital of several ruling dynasties including the Han (206 BC – 220 AD) and the Tang (618 – 907). It is home to the famous Terracotta Army as well as the eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road – a network of trade routes that connected China proper with regions as far as the Mediterranean beginning in the 2nd Century BC.
Morning visit to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Built on the excavation site, the museum is located 30km east of the city. Designed to follow the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) into eternity, the Terracotta Army represents one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.
After lunch we return to the city for a stroll on the ancient city wall. Declared a national treasure by the State Council in 1961, the wall first built in 1370 encircles an area of 14 square kilometres. It runs 13.7 kilometres long and measures 12 metres in height with a thickness at the base between 15 to 18 metres.
Day 8/Thu: Xian (B/L)
Morning sightseeing begins with Shaanxi Provincial Museum. The modern, well-organized museum was completed in 1992 and traces the history of Xian from prehistory to Qing dynasty (1644-1912). The extensive galleries and exhibitions offer the visitor an excellent introduction to the area that greatly improves understanding of the numerous historical sites in and around the city.
We then visit the ancient grand mosque in the old town centre and the adjacent Muslim bazaar. The mosque was established in the 8th Century but the majority of the complex was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was further expanded in the Qing Dynasty. Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, this mosque is completely Chinese in its architectural style. It has neither domes nor traditional minarets.
Day 9/Fri: Xian – Lanzhou (B/L/D)
Our morning journey to Lanzhou by high-speed rail takes 3 hours.
A major link on the ancient Silk Road, Lanzhou is the capital of Gansu Province and a key regional transportation hub with a population of 3.7 million. Our afternoon schedule takes in the Gansu Provincial Museum, Zhongshan Bridge (built in 1907 by Germans) and the historical White Pagoda Hill across the bridge.
Day 10/Sat: Lanzhou – Dunhuang (B/D)
We depart for Dunhuang by high-speed train after breakfast. The rail journey along the Gobi desert takes 5 hours. On arrival at the train station in Liuyuan, we’ll travel another 2 hours by motor coach to arrive in the city of Dunhuang. Lunch on the train would be your own responsibility. You may bring some snacks or purchase bento style lunch on the train.
Late afternoon sightseeing at Dunhuang Museum.
Day 11/Sun: Dunhuang (B/L)
Morning sightseeing introduces us to the brilliant murals and sculptures inside Mogao Grottos, one of the most celebrated legacies of the Silk Road era. Situated at a strategic point along the Silk Route, at the crossroads of trade as well as religious, cultural and intellectual influences, the 492 cells and cave sanctuaries in Mogao are famous for their statues and wall paintings, spanning 1,000 years of Buddhist art. In the afternoon, we visit the Crescent Moon Lake and Singing Sand Dunes.
Day 12/Mon: Dunhuang – Turpan (B/L/D)
Following breakfast we transfer to the train station located 2 hours from Dunhuang to board the high-speed train for Turpan (3 hours). Situated on the northern route of the Silk Road, Turpan is a fertile oasis where crops and vineyards are irrigated by an underground water canal system called Karez. Ethnic Uyghurs make up 70% of the total population.
Our afternoon sightseeing in Turpan features Jiaohe Ruins (Yarkhoto, an ancient garrison town), the Karez museum and the Bezeklik Buddhist Caves in the Flaming Mountains.
Day 13/Tue: Turpan – Urumqi – Kashgar (B/L/D)
The high-speed train ride to Urumqi takes only one hour. Our sightseeing in Urumqi includes Red Hill Park and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum where the famous Tarim Mummies are on display. Transfer to the airport for late afternoon flight to Kashgar (2 hours).
Located at the westernmost tip of China, Kashgar, also known as Shufu in the old days, is a vibrant kaleidoscope of Central Asian cultures. An oasis 1200 metres above sea level, Kashgar is a remarkably prosperous and pleasant place, despite remaining, in part, an essentially medieval city.
Day 14/Wed: Kashgar (B/L)
Our morning schedule today includes the Old Town centre, Abakh Hoja Tomb (also known as Fragrant Concubines’s Tomb) and Ida Kah Mosque.
We spend the afternoon visiting a local Uighur family and the extraordinary Sunday Bazaar where half of Central Asia seems to converge. The market now called Central Asia International Grand Bazaar is open every day except for three days during the three-day holiday known as Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice).
Day 15/Thu: Kashgar – Lake Karakul – Kashgar (B/L)
After breakfast we embark on a full-day excursion to Karakul Lake, 198 kilometres southwest of Kashgar.
Accessed via legendary Karakoram Highway leading to Pakistan, the lake, 3,600 metres above sea level, sits on the laps of Muztagh Ata and Kongur, two towering peaks of the Pamir Mountains. The scenery along the way is simply stunning. As we drive higher and higher into the mountains, farmland along the river valley on the edge of the desert gradually gives way to high mountain pastures nibbled by camels and yaks tended by yurt-dwelling Kirgiz and Tajiks.
The Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world, connecting China’s Xianjiang region with Gilgit-Baltisan region of Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass, at an elevation of 4,693 metres. The highway was built by the government of Pakistan and China. It was started in 1950 and opened to the public in 1979. About 810 Pakistanis and 200 Chinese workers lost their lives during the construction of the highway, mostly in landslide and falls.
Day 16/Fri: Kashgar – Shanghai (B/D)
Morning flight to Shanghai. Afternoon sightseeing finds us at Shanghai Museum. This museum is frequently cited by visitors as one of the best of its kind in China with a treasure trove collected from around the country. Due to Kashgar’s remoteness, our air travel to Shanghai including connecting time in Urumqi or Xi’an takes the better part of a day. If we couldn’t make it to Shanghai on time, the planned sightseeing for this afternoon would be moved to Day 18.
Day 17/Sat: Shanghai (B/L/D)
With a population of 24 million (2015), Shanghai is China’s biggest city. Rapid economic growth in the past 30 years has again turned Shanghai into a leading global city with significant influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology and transport. Today’s visitors to Shanghai are delighted by its futuristic skyline that blends so well with its treasured historical landmarks.
Our full-day tour begins at Jade Buddha Temple located in an old neighbourhood. This active temple of Mahayana Buddhism was founded in 1882 housing two jade Buddha statues imported from Burma.
We then process to famous waterfront promenade known as the Bund, which is followed by a visit to Yu Garden in the old town centre.
We wrap up the day with a drive through the glitzy financial district of Lujiazui on the opposite side of the Bund across Huangpu River.
Day 18/Sun: Shanghai (B)
Today is a free day to explore on your own. Our recommendations include Jinmao Tower and the popular evening cruise on Huangpu River. We also offer an optional half-day Jewish heritage tour and a full-day tour to Suzhou by high-speed train.
Day 19/Mon: Shanghai – Home City (B)
Your memorable Silk Road tour ends this morning. Transfer to the airport any time for return flight. Guests flying back to North America will regain a day upon re-crossing the International Date Line, thus arriving home the same day as departing from Shanghai.
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|Beijing||4||Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng||luxury|
|Xian||3||Sheraton Xian North City||luxury|
|Lanzhou||1||Crowne Plaza Lanzhou||luxury|
|Dunhuang||2||Silk Road Hotel||4-star, best available|
|Turpan||1||Friendship Peak Holiday Hotel||4-star, best available|
2018 Dates and Prices
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Additional 5% discount available for parties of 6 and more.
|May-17 (sold out)||Jun-04||$6720/$5250||$1920/$1500|
* Land Only price does not include international air. Please contact us for a fare quote.
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Updated December 29, 2017