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12 Days Epic Silk Road Tour including Qinghai Lake and Zhangye Danxia Request

Epic Silk Road Landscape & Culture

1
Trace the follow the footprints of Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, adventurers, traders, pilgrims on the epic ancient Silk Road which linked East and West, encouraged exchanges of culture, ideas, art and trade, also immerse in the diverse and beautifully rugged landscapes of China’s far-west frontier – plateau lake, rainbow mountains, Gobi Desert, etc., and get a lot of opportunities to explore local people and their ethnic cultures, on this exciting 12 Days Silk Road adventure tour. It starts from Xining, the transport hub of northwestern China, and travels by comfortable high speed bullet trains and fast airplanes, which make your journey smooth and leisure, to Kashgar of Xinjiang. It suits all well, especially for culture aficionados, history buffs and nature lovers.

Highlights of this tour:

  • Xining - marvel at the “sapphire of Qinghai Tibet Plateau” - Qinghai Lake and experience authentic Tibetan culture in Kumbum Monastery;
  • Zhangye - witness real “rainbow mountains” in Zhangye Danxia Geopark and Asia’s largest wooden Buddha;
  • Jiayuguan - climb up to the fortress of Jiayuguan – the west starting of Great Wall of China;
  • Dunhuang - visit Chinese Buddhist art center Mogao Grottoes and venture through sand dunes of Mingshashan desert to look for the legendary Crescent Lake;
  • Turpan - encounter China’s most important grape production center, also get amazed by the Flaming Mountains;
  • Urumqi – pleasant at the enchating Heavenly Lake, and visit the fossils of early man in Xinjiang Museum;
  • Kashgar - delve into deep-rooted Muslim culture in the delicate mosques, old towns, tea houses…

Basic Trip Information

Price:
from Request
  1. 1. This price is for one person, based on a group of 2 adults sharing one double-bed room in a 4-star hotel and traveling in low seasons;
  2. 2. This price is subject to change according to your traveling season, group size, hotel class, change of activities and possible fluctuation of currency exchange rate.
Travel Route:
Xining - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang - Turpan - Urumqi - Kashgar
Travel Length:
11 Day and 10 Nights
Tour Code:
CT-QGXT-12
Group Size:
You, your family, friends or group
Experience:
ArchitectureCulturePhotographReligious
Departure:
Any day you want

Your tour - at a glance

Day 1~4 Xining - Zhangye - Jiayuguan

Make Lanzhou as the arrival city, then start your trip to Zhangye to visit the rainbow mountains Danxia Landform, Giant Buddha Temple, then drive to Jiayuguan to visit Jiayuguan Pass

Day 5~7 Dunhuang City Tour & Train to Turpan

Visit the Buddhist caves Yulin Grottoes and Mogao Grottoes, then enjoy the beautiful desert scenery at Echoing Sand Mountains. Last, take a train to Turpan.

Day 8~12 Xinjiang Tour(Turpan, Urumqi and Kashgar) & Kashgar Departure

Arrive at Turpan and visit the Karez System, Flaming Mountain and Grape Valley, then transfer to the capital city of Xinjiang - Urumqi to visit the beautiful Heaven Lake, then take a night flight to Kashgar to visit Abakh Khoja Tomb, Sunday Bazaar and Id Kah Mosque.

Full Itinerary Day by Day

Day 1 Xining Arrival

Welcome to Xining (altitude: 2,261 m), the capital city of Qinghai Province in northwestern China. Upon arriving at Xining Caojiabao Airport (or Xining Railway Station), your tour guide will meet you and escort you to your hotel in the downtown by a private vehicle. After checking in, the rest of today is on your own to acclimate to the elevation and explore this historical city of China.

Arrival Ideas: You can take a flight to Xining from Beijing (about 2hrs), Shanghai (about 3hrs), Xian (about 1.5hrs), Chengdu (about 2hrs), Guangzhou (about 3.5hrs), Dunhuang (about 1.5hrs), etc., or get to Xining by high speed bullet train from Xian (about 4hrs), Lanzhou (about 1.5hrs), Zhangye (about 2hrs), Jiayuguan (about 3~3.5hrs) and other connected cities in China.

Nightlife idea: go to enjoy a great dinner and stunning night view of Xining city on Pearl of Puning which is a 188 meters tall TV & Sightseeing tower alike Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

  • Xining Railway Station Xining Railway Station

Day 2 Xining - Kumbum Monastery - Qinghai Lake - Xining (B, L)

After breakfast, drive around 175 km (3 hours) to explore the picturesque Qinghai Lake. En route, take an excursion visit to the famous Kumbum Monastery (Ta'er Monastery). The monastery is a sacred Tibetan Buddhist temple most known as “one of the six greatest Gelug monasteries”. It is said to be the birthplace of Tsongkhapa - the founder of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism (Yellow Hat Sect). Yak Butter Sculpture of Buddha, Mural and Barbola are the noted “Three Arts” of Kumbum Monastery.

Keep driving about 2 hours from Kumbum Monastery, you will get to Qinghai Lake. As the largest inland lake, as well as the largest salt water lake in China, Qinghai Lake (3200 m) stretches 105 km in length, 63 km in width and occupies a water area of over 4,500 square kilometers. It was elected as the Most Beautiful Lake in China by China’s National Geographic, attracting thousands of photographers to take photos every year.

You will spend a wonderful time appreciating the beauty of Qinghai Lake in Erlangjian Scenic Area - the essence of the whole scenic area of Qinghai Lake. It shapes like a long and narrow sword inserting into the lake. Walking on the plank road, you will be delivered a far-reaching panorama of the sea-like lake. Due to the different salt content of different parts of the lake, the water presents different colors in the refraction of sunlight. More than the lake view, the scenic surrounding - endless grassland and rapeseed flower lands, soft sand beaches as well as flocks of grazing sheep, horses and yaks also make you enjoy yourself to the fullest. On a clear day, you will feast your eyes on a charming vista of the snow-capped mountains in the distance as well as the huge sand dunes of Sand Island on the far shore. At the same time, Qinghai Lake is a sacred Tibetan Buddhist site. There are many devoted Buddhist coming from afar to worship to Qinghai Lake each year.

Optional Qinghai Lake Cruise: Taking a cruise allows you to admire Qinghai Lake from a different perspective. There are two kinds of cruises available in Erlangjian Scenic Area: High Speed Cruise and catamaran. The former offers a 25 minutes’ single trip from Erlangjian Wharf to Erlangjian Peninsula at the cost of CNY140. The latter offers a 50 minutes’ round trip at the cost of CNY180. This price doesn't include your personal expense on the ship, such as drinking, food, etc. This cruise is only available during the period from May to October.

After sightseeing, drive back to Xining for accommodation.

  • Rape flowers Blooming around Qinghai Lake in July Rape flowers Blooming around Qinghai Lake in July
  • Kumbum Monastery  - A Honored Tibetan Gelug Monastery Kumbum Monastery - A Honored Tibetan Gelug Monastery
  • Qinghai Lake Cruise Enjoy a cruise on Qinghai Lake

Day 3 Xining - Zhangye (B, L)

After breakfast, you will take a morning high speed bullet train to Zhangye city in Gansu Province from Xining (about 2hrs). Enjoy the beautiful landscape along the road. After arrival at Zhangye West Railway Station, you will be met by local tour guide. Let's get ready for the trip!

In the afternoon, drive about an hour to visit the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park. The Danxia landform is a spectacular petrographic geomorphology landscape which is formed from red-coloured sandstones and conglomerates. The one in Zhangye was formed in the pre-Jurassic Age. Thousands of mountains and stiffs stretch like the colorful sunset glow. The barren mountains are covered by a red grit rock stratum. At the same time, some surfaces of mountains appear other colors, such as white, yellow, etc, and form many irregular lines and blocks looking like some abstract oil paintings. There are four viewing decks for you to watch and shoot. You will visit one by one, and will be transferred by park buses from one deck to another.

After watching sunset at Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park, drive about 30km to Linze County for accommodation. Tomorrow morning, you are going to visit another Danxia Landform.

Useful Tips: 1) Pack with sun creams, sunglasses, protective clothing and hat to protect from strong sunlight in summer; 2) sunset is the best time for taking photos which happen around 19:00~20:00 in summer and 18:00~19:00 in winter.

  • Zhangye Danxia Landform Views After Rain Zhangye Danxia Landform Views After Rain
  • Zhangye Danxia Landform Photography Zhangye Danxia Landform Photography

Day 4 Zhangye - Jiayuguan (B, L)

After breakfast, you will go to visit the Giant Buddha Temple which is famous for having the largest indoor sleeping Buddha in Asia. This temple is a large complex with regal arrangements built in Xixia Dynasty(1098), and keeps many precious Buddhist scriptures and wall paintings. Its famous treasure is the Sleeping Buddha which is the centrally seated with symmetric buildings situating along both sides. The Buddha statue was carved by woods with a length of 34.5 meters, telling the story of Buddha's Nirvana. His ears are as big as the space in which 4 adults can sit side by side.

After visit the Buddha Temple, drive about 220km (2.5hrs) to Jiayuguan City and check in your hotel. Then you will go to visit "the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven", also the westernmost starting point of Great Wall of Ming Dynasty - Jiayuguan Pass. Start your exploration with an education visit to the Great Wall Museum to learn some interesting facts about both the Jiayuguan Fort and Great Wall, including history, old photos, relics, etc. Then enter the gate to explore the grandiose Jiayuguan Fort. It is a complex of towers, city walls and other military buildings covering more than 25,000 square meters. The city wall is nearly 11 meters high, and comprises an outer and inner wall. There are two large gates standing at the east and the west of the inner wall. Walkways lead to the top of the wall, allowing horses to climb up the wall.

If time allows and you are interested, you can take an optional visit to the Xuanbi Great Wall (Overhanging Wall) which is about 18km away from the Fort. The walls were built on lofty cliffs with incredibly large gradient looking like an overhanging cantilever. Climbing up to higher gives you excellent views of the surrounding land and mountains.

  • Jiayuguan Fort Jiayuguan Fort
  • Giant Buddha Temple Giant Buddha Temple
  • Great Wall Museum Great Wall Museum

Day 5 Jiayuguan - Dunhuang (B, L)

Today you will travel to Dunhuang from Jiayuguan in the early morning. On route, visit Yulin Grottoes which is known as the "sister caves" of Mogao caves. It is a Buddhist cave temple site located about 160 km east of the oasis town of Dunhuang and the Mogao Caves, and was listed as the UNESCO World Heritage sites as part of the Chinese Section of the Silk Road. There are 43 existing caves in the Yulin Caves, with a total of 5,200 square meters of murals and more than 259 colored sculptures. You can visit up to 6 caves in which you can admire magnificent mural paintings which are believed to be even more beautiful than those in Mogao Caves. There are also 3 “special caves” (No. 2, No. 3 and No. 25) with outstanding art value that you can visit with extra charges.

After arriving at Dunhuang city, check in to your hotel.

Nightlife Idea: go out for a walk in the Shazhou Night Market where you can try some local food, relax in a drinking bar, or buy some interesting handcrafts, etc.

  • Yulin Grottoes (No. 3 Cave) Yulin Grottoes (No. 3 Cave)

Day 6 Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes Exploration & Mingshashan Sightseeing (B, L)

After breakfast, drive about 10km from the Dunhuang city to visit the newly opened Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center before go to Mogao Grottoes. You will watch two short but well-produced educational documentary movies that introduce the history, arts, and other facts about Mogao Grottoes. After the movies, take the interzonal bus to Mogao Grottoes.

Mogao Grottoes is famed as the "Louvre of the East", which is outstanding for its exquisite mural paintings and statues. There are now 492 grottoes in which about 45000 square meters mural paintings and 2100 colorfully painted statues from which you can trace the development of Chinese art over 1600 years from one dynasty to the next because each dynasty built own caves to record its own features. There are about 40 common caves opened to the public. In the tourist area, you will be divided into groups by different tour guides who will accompany you to visit the caves (usually 7~8 caves during April~November and 12 caves during December~March) with great introduction. After that, if you want to visit more other caves, you can do it by yourselves or follow other tour guides. Besides, there are 10 special caves (with extra fees) available for your extensional visiting.

The following attraction is Mingshashan, the Echoing Sand Mountains. It is said, in the sunny days, the sand mountains echo like Orchestra music even if there is no wind. If you slide from the sand mountains, you can hear the echoing sound clearly. Your last thing to do for today is the Crescent Lake. Surrounded by the Echoing Sand Mountains, Crescent Lake is a beautiful oasis with some well decorated traditional Chinese architecture, some trees and flowers and a lake that has never dried up and shapes like a crescent moon.

Useful Tips:

1) It is necessary to make a reservation in advance for at least 7 days for Mogao Grottoes visit during May ~ October when there are usually a lot of visitors; 2) It is not allowed to take photos inside the grottoes; 3) in the summer, travelers can stay up to late night around 21:30 in Mingshashan Scenic Area to enjoy the cool time and beautiful sky of stars. It's usually very hot during 12:00~15:00. You can enter the park later when it is not that hot.

Free Time Nightlife Ideas: Enjoy the fascinating Silk Road Show - Silk Road Flower Rain which is a relaxing feast of unparalleled visual beauty with impressively elaborate dances performed by professional dancers wearing stunning costumes and an incredible set design.(Notice: the Silk Road Show is not available during November to middle April of next year. The tickets of the show sell out quickly. If you want to watch the show, please let your travel consultant or tour guide know in advance.)

  • Crescent Lake has been a famous attraction for more than 1200 years Crescent Lake has been a famous attraction for more than 1200 years
  • Mogao Grottoes Mogao Grottoes

Day 7 Dunhuang - Turpan (B)

Today is free for you to have fun until your tour driver escort you to catch your train to Turpan. Currently, there are 4 high speed bullet trains running to Turpan from Liuyuan South Railway Station in Dunhuang. It takes only about 3.5 hours to get to Turpan. Upon arriving at Turpan North Railway Station, you will be picked up by your local tour guide, and transferred to check in to your hotel in the city. The rest of today is free at your own leisure.

Dunhuang free time idea:

Visit Dunhuang Museum where some precious arts and relics are preserved. It is also a great place to learn about Dunhuang culture and history as well as the history of Ancient Silk Road.

Day 8 Turpan (B, L)

In the morning, your guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel. The first attraction for today is the brilliant project - Karez System which is special a kind of irrigation system consisting of vertical wells, underground canals, ground canals and waterlogging pond. The vertically dug wells are linked together to channel the water which occur during summer rain season, or melt from snow mountains of Tianshan range to desired farmlands on the ground. After the Karez visiting, transfer to tour anther famous relic - the Jiaohe Ancient City which used to be the capital city of the former Cheshi State. It is renowned as the "perfect ruin of earth building" because it has been well-preserved for almost two thousand years. Last activity for today is to visit the Emin Minaret. It is an elegant and innovative Islamic pagoda built by the duke Emin Hezhuo to express his devotion to the lord Allah. Emin Minaret looks like an awl which is 44 meters high. Nearby, there is an ornate mosque.

  • Vertical Well of Karez Vertical Well of Karez
  • First Glimpse of Jiaohe Ancient City First Glimpse of Jiaohe Ancient City

Day 9 Turpan - Urumqi (B, L)

After breakfast, go to visit the Flaming Mountains. Stretching about 100km, Flaming Mountain is covered by red sandstones which look like flaming fire. Want to get rid of the heat of Flaming Mountains? Transfer to enjoy the pleasant cool of the Grape Valley where you can also taste delicious grapes and other fruits.

In the afternoon, you will explore the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves. Its highlight is about 40 large wall paintings covering more than 1,200 square meters which have different themes, such as the Gaochang Kingdom, Buddhism, etc.

Drive back to Urumqi.

  • Turpan Flaming Mountain Turpan Flaming Mountain
  • Turpan Grape Valley Turpan Grape Valley

Day 10 Urumqi - Heaven Lake - Kashgar (B, L)

After breakfast, drive to visit the beautiful Heaven Lake. It is located on the Heaven Mountain. In ancient fairy tale, it was the fairyland where the Heavenly Queen lived. It is the best summer resort in Xinjiang. Cruising on a boat, enjoying the breathtaking picturesque views of inverted reflection of snow mountains, flourishing plants and blooming flowers around the lake.

Drive back to Urumqi and take a flight to Kashgar. Your tour guide will meet you and escort you to your hotel in Kashgar.

  • Aluring Heavenly Lake scenery in autumn day Aluring Heavenly Lake scenery in autumn day

Day 11 Kashgar (B, L)

After breakfast, you will visit the Abakh Khoja Tomb first. It is a typical Islamic architectural complex, as well as a famous tombs group of a large Islamic family of five generations. It was known as Abakh Khoja Tomb because a local Islam master whose name was Abakh Hoja buried here. He had strengthened the spread of Islam in Kashgar area, which later earned a great reputation for him and his family.

Afterwards, you will visit the Id Kah Mosque which is regarded as the holy shrine for the Muslims. Every day, there are thousands of Muslims worshiping here. In the history, Id Kah Mosque used to be a school where Islam culture and history was taught. Many scholars and honored clergies graduated from here. Only several minutes' walking from the mosque is the famous Handicrafts Street where you can walk leisurely or buy some interesting souvenirs for your families and friends.

Following activity is to visit the Old Town of Kashgar City where you will experience the authentic Uighur living style. You will also take a break and enjoy a cup of local tea at the ancient tea house which is more than 100 years old. The locals also like to spend some leisure time in the tea house with friends and families - drinking, chatting and playing music sometimes.

Accommodate at Kashgar city.

  • Id Kah Mosque is the most influential Islamic mosque in Xinjiang Id Kah Mosque is the most influential Islamic mosque in Xinjiang
  • Abakh Khoja Tomb Abakh Khoja Tomb
  • Kashgar Old Town Kashgar Old Town

Day 12 Kashgar Departure (B)

After breakfast, go to visit the famous Kashgar Bazaar. Bazaar, in Uygur, means large market. As one of the most important cities along the Silk Road, Kashgar Bazaar has always been a very important trading center where you can buy anything from herbal medicines to carpets, from a cradle to a camel.

If you are happened to visit Kashgar on a Sunday, don't miss the opportunity to experience the Livestock Market, which takes place once a week on Sunday. By lunchtime, numerous sheep, camel, horse, cow and donkey will be driven by the Uighur farmers and herders, and squeeze through the gates of the bazaars for trade. It is dusty, smelly and crowded, but most people find it very exotic.

Lastly, go to airport to catch your departing flight, or transfer to the border. Your Urumqi Kashgar tour ends.

  • Sunday Bazaar Sunday Bazaar
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