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Silk Road Explorer - 19 Days

Silk Road Explorer

For centuries the Silk Road was the thread that linked east and west. From as early as 200BC the silk merchants of Xi’an, China’s ancient capital, set off with their camel caravans on the long trek to distant Constantinople. They skirted the Gobi and the ferocious Taklamakan deserts, and crossed ‘the Roof of the World’, over the Pamirs and the Karakorams. This tour allows you to follow in their footsteps, to trace the legendary route taken by Marco Polo from west to east, with the inclusion of exotic places like Xiahe, and the dramatically-located fortified town of Jiayuguan. This outstanding expedition along the northern path of the Silk Road features Central Asia’s most historic, dramatic and splendid scenery. Conditions of travel have improved since the Italian’s day, but in some of the more remote places, where accommodation is comfortable but simple, a spirit of adventure is required. 

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Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves

The Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves is located on the Small Jishi Hill, which is about 35 km  (22 miles) west of Yonjing County in Lanzhou city. Bingling means ‘ten thousand buddhas” in the Tibetan language and is constructed in the Jin Dynasty (265-316). The statues date from various dynastic eras and show the differing cultures, clothing and physical features of the worshipped gods.


The Labrang Monastery

The Labrang Monastery was established in 1907 by the first Jamyang Zhépa, Ngawang Tsondrum which is the Tibetan Buddism’s most important monastery town outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Labrang housed over 4000 monks at its peak, but now only has around 1500 monks.


Jiayuguan Pass

Jiayu Pass was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) under the supervision of Feng Sheng, a founding general of the Ming Dynasty. It was built with rammed earth, making yellow its dominant hue and helping the pass blend harmoniously with the surrounding desert. Jiatyu pass is not only a vital pass on the ancient silk road but also a western starting point of the Ming Great Wall.


Mogao Grottoes

Mongao Grottoes also known as the Magao Caves or Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, form a system of 492 temples 25 km (16 miles) southeast of the center of Dunhuang. It is located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road. The caves were dug out in AD 366 as places of the Buddhist meditation and worship. The Mogao Grottoes are famous for the Chinese Buddhist grottoes and, along with Longmen Grottoes and Yungang Grottoes, are one of the three famous ancient Buddhist sculptural sites of China.


Mingsha Sand Dune

The Mingsha Sand Dune is located 5 kilometers south of Dunhuang city. It is famous for its flute-like sounds in the gale, therefore its name Mingsha as “Loud Sand” in English. The mountain is full of rolling braes forming such breathtaking scenery.

There are a few things to know before you enter China. Traveling to China can be a very special experience, but keep in mind that it does come with challenges. Do not worry! down below we have written down some tips for you before going to China, so you can be prepared at all times.


Get your visa before entering China

This might be one of the most important steps because without a visa you will not be able to enter China.


Purchase VPN before you go to China

You might or might not already know this, but you are not able to access Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc. This is because these sites are banned in China. There is a way to still access these sites, by purchasing a VPN. VPN disguises the computer’s or mobile’s IP address.


Learn the basic Mandarin

It is not necessary, but it does help a lot! Especially in the "smaller" cities of China where a lot of people do not speak English. If you are only going to visit big cities like Beijing or Shanghai, most younger people are able to speak English.


Bring your own napkins

Most of the toilets in China do not provide toilet papers. What is worse than finding out there is no toilet paper after you have used the toilet? This is why you should always carry napkins with you.


Do not tip in China

In many western countries, it is usual to tip a waitress for her or his service. This is not the case in China. You are not expected to tip.


Get a SIM card in China

You can easily find a cheap SIM card at the airport for your stay in China. This is very handy because you are able to contact others or use Google if it is necessary.  For example, if you want to search for a specific location.

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Download WeChat (Weixin)

The most used app where locals use to communicate with is WeChat. You can download the app for free on your phone If you like to communicate with Chinese people you have met and stay in contact.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor wechat logo

Day 1
Home country

Depart Home country for flight to Beijing.

Day 2
Beijing - Xi'an

Check-in for the onward flight to Xian.

Day 3

Independent day. Join group for hot pot dinner this evening. (BD)

Day 4

After an early breakfast transferred to the station for the train to Lanzhou. (BL-packed D)

Day 5
Lanzhou - Xiahe

A visit to the White Pagoda Hill Park with its 80ft high Buddha, and the Yellow River Mother Statue.

Begin the drive to Xiahe. Drive across grasslands and into a beautiful valley with an en-route visit to the Liujiaxia Reservoir on the Yellow River, and a ferry ride to Bingling Temple, known as the ‘Thousand Buddha caves’. (BLD)

Day 6

Nick-named ‘Little Tibet’ Xiahe is the site of Labrang Monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside of that province. Also visit the Sangke grasslands, where Tibetan nomadic farmers herd their yaks and visit a local family. (BLD)

Day 7
Xiahe - Lanzhou

Visit the town you may see monks heading towards the temple to complete their three-kilometer kora around the temple. A kora is a combination of pilgrimage & meditation and is an important feature of Tibetan Buddhism. (BL)

Day 8
Lanzhou - Jiayuguan

Take the fastet train to Jiayuguan. Relax the rest of the day before dinner. (BL-packed D)

Day 9
Jiayuguan - Dunhuang

See the Great Fortress and the overhanging Great Wall that guards the mountain pass, Jiayu ‘Excellent Valley Pass’. This is the narrowest section between two hills along the Hexi or Gansu Corridor – a string of oases along the northern edge of the Tibetan plateau. The Fort here guarded the entrance with one gate facing East and the other West. Continue the journey to Dunhuang, a strategic staging post on the Silk Road and once the western most point of China with the Great Wall extended to reach it and fortified to protect the city. This city is regarded as an ancient treasure house of Buddhist murals and sculpture with the Mogao Caves. (BD)

Day 10

Tour the Mogao Caves, an art gallery in the desert. The caves are lined with Buddhist frescoes and sculpted figures, said to be the finest examples of Buddhist art in the world. Mixing Indian and Chinese styles, they are a remarkable record of Silk Road civilisation.

Among other caves to see and explore, stop to see the pavilion housing the Sleeping Buddha a 50 foot long horizontal, serenely reposed statue and certainly the most famous ‘The Library’ Cave that produced a huge treasure of documents – dating from 406 to 1002, a solid mass of 1000s of scrolls – they stood to a height of nearly 10 feet. (BL)

Day 11
Dunhuang - Urumqi

Depart from the hotel to begin a visit of Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Moon Lake, set in an amphitheatre of sand dunes. For the adventurous, the optional ascent of these sand ‘mountains’ by camel offers truly breathtaking vistas.

Day 12
Urumqi -Turpan

Before leaving Urumqi stop to visit the Xinjiang Museum.Depart the city for Turpan. The city is located within a depression some 80metres below sea level making the climate extremely dry but despite this the oasis town has been famous for its agriculture for centuries – particularly their melons and vineyards. The fertile oasis commanded the northern route and was an important stop for the rich caravans that passed through.

The city was conquered in the 14th Century by an heir to the Chaghatai Khanate loyal to Tamerlane the Great. The population was converted to Islam and then began the building of the mosques and minarets of today.

One of your first visits would be to the Emin Minaret, one of the finest buildings on the Silk Road begun in 1777. (BLD)

Day 13

Visit the ruined cities of Jiaohe and Gaochang. Continue to the Bezeklik Caves whose walls are adorned with Buddhist frescoes, and the legendary Flaming Mountains, then see the underground Tombs of Astana. Evening performance of traditional folk music and dance. (BL)

Day 14
Turpan - Urumqi

Morning to explore Turpan before return drive to Urumqi. (BD)

Day 15
Urumqi - Kashgar

Take a flight to Kashgar. Kashgar, a fabled city for its position on the Northern Silk Road, where the Taklamakan Desert meets the Tian Shan Mountains. (BLD)

Day 16

Visit the Sunday bazaar. In this teeming market, you can buy anything from herbal medicines to carpets, from a cradle to a camel.

Take a typical Uygur style meal, then walk through the old town, a warren of twisting alleys and white-washed walls.

Visit the Tomb of Abakh Khoja, known as the ‘fragrant concubine’ and the vast Id Kah Mosque. (BL)

Day 17
Kashgar - Lake Karakul

Drive to Lake Karakul. Take lunch outdoors, arranged at a vineyard. The meal served is quite simple matching the remote location. Return to Kashgar. (BLD)

Day 18
Kashgar - Beijing

Independent morning. Transfer to the airport for the flight to Beijing via Urumqi.

Day 19
Beijing - Home country

Met and transferred to the airport for flight back home. (B)

The tour cost includes

  • Twin shared accommodation with BBF daily
  • Domestic flights from Beijing to Xian, Dunhuang to Urumqi, Kasghar to Urumqi and Urumqi to Beijing in economy
  • Train tickets: Xi’an/Lanzhou (soft seat), Lanzhou/Jiayuguan on the soft sleeper
  • Transfers and all sightseeing visits in private vehicle with air-conditioning
  • The entrance fees to all listed sightseeing
  • Service of professional English speaking local guides accompanying for all transfers and sightseeing
  • Meals as specified, B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner

Not included in the tour

  • International flight
  • Travel Insurance
  • Gratuities to guides and drivers
  • No guide accompanies on the train between Lanzhou – Jiayuguan
  • Meals not specified or drinks
  • Sightseeing not specified
  • Personal expenses, ie. Laundry, communication, use of internet, souvenirs etc.

**All flight timings are subject to change without notice. In cases were we are aware of any major schedule changes made to your itinerary before your departure, we shall revise your arrangements and notify you accordingly. However, it is possible for changes to occur whilst you are in China. Our representatives will do all that is necessary to rectify the problems these changes may cause and will endeavour to seek your advice concerning new arrangements. However, at times there can be limited options and some decisions may have to taken without your consent to protect the well being of your tour in general**

Price From EUR4,679.00/person*2
Total: = 4,679.00 EUR
Total = 2p *