Silk Road China tour – a mesmerizing grand adventure from Beijing to Kashgar!
Beijing – Xian – Dunhuang – Turpan – Kashgar – Karakul Lake – Urumqi – Suzhou – Shanghai
On this exotic Silk Road journey we follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo along the Silk Road, from the eastern terminus of the ancient trade route to the westernmost tip of China.
Trip highlights include the Forbidden City, the Great Wall at Mutianyu, the Terracotta Army, Mogao Grottos, and the scenic drive to Karakul Lake on winding Karakoram Highway whose route traces one of the many paths of the ancient Silk Road.
- Group size limited to 20.
- No forced shopping stops.
- Expert local guides.
- Gratuities for all local guides and drivers included.
- Quality meals at high-end, non-tourist restaurants.
- Unlimited supply of bottled water.
- Free in-room Wi-Fi in most hotels.
- Travel from Beijing to Xian by high speed train.
- Peking roast duck at a top rated restaurant.
- Visits to side chambers in Forbidden City that most companies leave out.
- Great Wall visit at Mutianyu including cable car.
- Classical gardens of Suzhou.
Peking opera show in Beijing
Jewish heritage tour in Shanghai
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
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Day 1/Thu: Departing Home City (B/L)
Your exciting Silk Road China tour begins 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 Beijing
Welcome to Beijing! Meet your guide on arrival in late afternoon and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure.
Day 3/Sat: Beijing (B/L/D)
Capital of China, Beijing is a world-class cultural and educational centre with a population of 21 million (2013), ranking it 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.
Beijing was already a strategically important city in northern China for centuries when Kublai Khan decided to move his capital here from Karakorum in Mongolia. With the collapse of the vast Mongol empire in 1368 AD, Beijing, known as Da Du or Grand Capital at the time, lost its status as the country’s capital but soon regained it when the imperial court of the successive Ming Dynasty moved here from Nanjing. Beijing continued to serve as China’s capital after Manchu tribes dethroned the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty in 1644 and established the Great Qing Empire (Qing Dynasty), which lasted till 1911.
We begin today with a visit to Tiananmen (tian an men) Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square is 880 metres from north to south, and 500 meters from east to west. Said to be the biggest of its kind in the world, Tiananmen Square has the capacity to hold one million people. Tiananmen (Heavenly Gate) Tower sites 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 of China (east). Chairman Mao’s mausoleum and Qianmen (Front Gate) sit in the south of the square. Considered 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.
After lunch we proceed to the Forbidden City. Also known as Palace Museum or Gu Gong in Chinese, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) 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. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
We conclude our sightseeing today with a visit to a 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”.
Today we enjoy a delicious dinner at high-end Beijing roast duck restaurant.
Day 4/Sun: Beijing (B/L)
Morning sightseeing takes us to historic Jingshan Park for a panoramic view of the Forbidden City from above. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace in the old days, serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 meters above ground, 89 meters above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.
Next on our schedule is 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.
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 of its kind in the world, sits right across from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in various guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by the Chinese. 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 $8.
Day 5/Mon: Beijing (B/L)
Today 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. 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 6/Tue: Beijing – Xian (B/D)
Free morning to relax or explore on your own. We check out the hotel at noon and travel to Xian by the high-speed train. The four-hour-forty-minute rail journey cuts through fertile farmland dotted with villages, providing the visitor an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful landscape. The track we travel on is part of the new 2,298 km high-speed railway connecting Beijing and Guangzhou, the longest high-speed rail line in the world. The Chinese for the past 20 years have been on a building spree expanding the country’s rail network and upgrading existing railways. This new rail service rivals France’s TGV and Japan’s “shinkansen” in terms of speed, comfort, cleanliness and onboard facilities.
Please note that the train ride may be replaced by air flight during and within 3 days before and after these Chinese public holidays: Spring Festival, Qingming, Labour Day, Duanwu, Mid-Autumn, National Day and New Year’s Day.
Day 7/Wed: Xian (B/L/D)
Eastern terminus of the fabled Silk Road and one of the ancient capitals of China, Xian is home to the world famous Terracotta Army.
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 archeological discoveries of the 20th Century.
After lunch we return to the city for a stroll on the ancient city wall. The wall, declared national treasure by the State Council in 1961 under the premiership of Zhou Enlai, was started in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, encircling an area of 14 square kilometres. The wall runs 13.7 kilometres long and measures 12 metres in height and 15 to 18 metres in thickness at the base.
Enjoy a delicious buffet dinner in the hotel.
Day 8/Thur: Xian – Dunhuang (B/L)
Free morning to explore on your own. We recommend Bell Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. You can reach both by Subway Line 2, which has a stop right next door to our hotel. Bell Tower is 3 stops away (8 minutes). The pagoda is 7 stops away plus a short taxi ride at the other end which costs about 15 Yuan (less than $3).
Late afternoon flight to Dunhuang. We visit Dunhuang Museum if time allows.
Day 9/Fri: 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 10/Sat: Dunhuang – Urumqi – Kashgar (B/L)
Free morning to explore on your own. We board afternoon flight to Urumqi to connect Kashgar-bound flight in the evening. Meet your guide and transfer to hotel.
Day 11/Sun: Kashgar (B/L)
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.
We spend the whole morning visiting the extraordinary Sunday market, when half of Central Asia seems to converge on the city, is as exotic to the average Han Chinese as to the foreign tourists.
Our afternoon schedule includes the Old Town centre, Abakh Hoja Tomb (also known as Fragrant Concubines’s Tomb) and Ida Kah Mosque.
Day 12/Mon: Kashgar – Lake Karakul- Urumqi (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.
We fly to Urumqi in the evening. Urumqi is the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Muliums account for 21% of the city’s entire population.
Day 13/Tue: Urumqi – Turpan – Urumqi (B/L/D)
After breakfast we embark on a day trip to Turpan by high speed train (1 hour).
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 sightseeing in Turpan features Jiaohe Ruins (Yarkhoto, an ancient garrison town), the Karez museum and the Bezeklik Buddhist Caves in the Flaming Mountains.
Day 14/Wed: Urumqi (B/L)
Morning sightseeing at Red Hill Park and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum where the famous Tarim Mummies are on display. Free afternoon to explore on your own.
Day 15/Thu: Urumqi – Shanghai (B/L)
The flight departing for Shanghai this morning takes over 4 hours. Afternoon sightseeing at Jade Buddha Temple.
Day 16/Fri: Shanghai (B)
Today is a free day. Please ask your guide if you need advice. Our recommendations include Jinmao Tower and the evening cruise on Huangpu River to enjoy the city’s spectacular neon-lit skyline.
Day 17/Sat: Shanghai (B/L/D)
Our full-day walking tour begins with a stroll through an old but vibrant neighbourhood near our hotel. We then proceed to the magnificent Shanghai Museum with a huge collection of national treasures collected from around the country.
After lunch, we walk to Yu Garden in the old town centre. The last stop of our schedule is the Bund, a waterfront promenade famous for its landmark neoclassical buildings of European style. The skyline of the glitzy buildings across the river in Pudong looks better in late afternoon and certainly works better for your camera!
Day 18/Sun: Shanghai – Suzhou – Shanghai (B/L/D)
Enjoy a full-day excursion to Suzhou today. We must leave the hotel no later than 7:00 AM so that we can return to Shanghai early and avoid being caught up in heavy traffic on the way back.
Eighty kilometers to the northwest of Shanghai, ancient Suzhou is most famous for its gardens, canals and silk industry. In late 13th Century a Venetian named Marco Polo visited Suzhou and he was very impressed by what he saw. He vividly described the prosperous silk making trade and dubbed Suzhou Venice of the East due to the small waterways crisscrossing the city. Our schedule today takes in historic Tiger Hill, Humble Administrator’s Garden and a short cruise on the Grand Canal. If time permits, we’ll stop by the silk spinning mill before returning to Shanghai.
Tiger Hill has been a popular tourist destination for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, as is evident from the poetry and calligraphy carved into the rocks on the hill. The hill is so named because it is said to look like a crouching tiger. Another legend states that a white tiger appeared on the hill to guard it following the burial of King Helu. The highlight here is the brick pagoda constructed between 959 and 961 AD as part of Yun Yan Buddhist temple. Because of its unintended tilt to one side (2.34 meters off towards northeast), the pagoda is also called by some China’s Leaning Tower of Pisa, except this one is 200 years older than the bell tower in Italy.
The traditional Humble Administrator’s Garden is a masterpiece listed by the UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site with a style in sharp contrast with the Yu Garden of Shanghai.
Day 19/Mon: Shanghai – Home City (B)
Your memorable Silk Road China trip ends this morning. Transfer to the airport to board return flight departing in the afternoon. Re-cross the International Date Line and arrive home the same day.
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|Beijing||4||Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng||luxury|
|Xian||2||Sheraton Xian North City||luxury|
|Dunhuang||2||Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel||first class, best available|
|Shanghai||4||Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou||luxury|
2017 Dates and Prices
|Depart (Thu)||Return (Mon)||Land Tour Price
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Silk Road China Tour Review
“… Silk Road tour was outstanding. It was very well planned, organized and offered an excellent opportunity to see so much of China in a short period of time. The guide we had at each stop was knowledgeable, accomodating and spoke English well. We would highly recomment this trip for those who want to see China for the first time and are physically able and willing to cover a lot of ground walking. This is a great trip for physically and mentally active people.”
Mike and Laurie M
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