Travel with Jack: 8 Days Silk Road Trip (Urumqi/Turpan/Dunhuang/Jiayuguan/Zhangye)
Travel Length8 Days
Travel ThemeCulture, Geopark, Architecture, Ancient Ruins
Travel RouteChengdu - Urumqi - Turpan - Dunhuang - Jiayuguan - Zhangye - Lanzhou - Chengdu
HighlightsFlaming Mountains, Mogao Caves, Dunhuang, Zhangye Danxia Landform, Jiayuguan Fort
I have planned 3 times for going back to ancient China and it shames me to say I gave up in past 3 years due to the bitterly cold weather in winter but finally dreams come true because I decided to take the challenge.
Day 1 Sat Nov 30 Chengdu Urumqi
Take the morning flight Urumqi and go to Heaven lake It is located 110km east of Urumqi (about 2 hours). As a natural alpine lake, it has an elevation of 1,980 meters. In the shape of a half-moon, the lake is 3,400 meters long, about 1,500 meters wide, and 105 meters at the deepest point. With limpid water, the lake shines like a sapphire under the sun and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. (2 hours is suitable for walking and photo along the lake)
Visiting the Heaven Lake in Urumqi
Day 2 Sun Dec 1 Urumqi Turpan
TA short stop at Red Hill, the landmark of Urumqi before taking train to Turpan and visit the Jiaohe Ancient City firstly.
Jiaohe meaning in Chinese where two rivers meet was once the most forward outpost in the West for ages. Historical records and excavation reveal evidence of a prosperous ancient trading center and military stronghold from 1,600 years ago. Owing to the arid climate and remote location, Jiaohe remains relatively intact, leaving us a rare example of an earthen castle, the largest, oldest and best-preserved earthen city in the world.
We only spend 1.5 hours there and it is in a rush but generally, it takes at least 3 hours if you would like to see the landscape in slow space or when there is a sea of faces.
Jiaohe Ancient City Landscape
Bezeklik Caves, also known as the Bizaklik Thousand-Buddha Caves is located in a gorgeous valley of the Flaming Mountains. More than 100 caves were hewn out of this cliff face between the 6th and 9th centuries by Buddhist monks who farmed the valley below. They were abandoned at about the same time as Gaochang Ancient City and Jiaohe Ancient City after the Muslims took over the region in the late 14th century.( one hour is enough for this spot )
The Flaming Mountains are barren, eroded, red sandstone hills in the Tian Shan Mountain range in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China. They lie near the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert and east of the city of Turpan. ( 1.5 hours are good for visit )
The Flaming Mountains
The mountains are 98 kilometers (61 mi) long and 9 kilometers (5.6 mi) wide and cross the Tarim Basin from east to west. The average height of the Flaming Mountains is 500 meters (1640 ft). The mountain climate is harsh and the temperature is extremely hot in the summer, the hottest spot in China with frequent temperature reaching over 50 °C (122 °F) or higher. One of the largest thermometers in China—a popular tourist spot—is on display adjacent to the mountain, tracking the surrounding air temperature.
Day 3 Mon Dec 2, 2019 Turpan to Liuyuan ( Dunhuang )
The Emin Minaret (Chinese pinyin: Su Gong Ta) is located 2 kilometers east of Turpan City and is the tallest minaret in China. It is 44 meters high, and the only Islamic tower among hundreds of renowned towers in China.
The Emin Minaret
You can take a taxi to but it is very hard for return and public transportation is unavailable, so it is not convenient at all and we almost missed our last train.
On arrival in Liuyuan, it takes another 2 hours to Dunhuang city, in northwest of China's Gansu Province, which is a pearl on the ancient Silk Road. It is more than a city's name, it's a witness to the history of cultural treasures that date back thousands of years.
Day 4 Tue Dec 3, 2019 Dunhuang
The Mogao Grottoes Scenic Spot is consists of two parts: the Mogao Grottoes Digital Display Centre and the Mogao Grottoes.
Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center
After booking and collecting the tickets, visitors have to go to the digital exhibition Centre of Mogao Grottoes and watch two films about Mogao Grottoes for 20 minutes each. A "Millennium Mogao" is an introduction to the history and culture of Mogao Grottoes, it will help the tourists to have a better understanding of Mogao Grottoes. Another "Dream Buddha Palace" is a ball screen film that shows a lot of caves that are not open now.
Group Photo at Mogao Grottoes with Our Customers
The Mogao Grottoes are commonly known as the Caves of a Thousand Buddha. With a large number of murals, grottoes, cultural relics, it is a world-famous Buddhist art resort. Here you can enjoy the magnificent grottoes and mural art, and learn the history of Buddhism in Dunhuang through explanation and film display, which is the best option for tourists to visit Dunhuang.
Outside the Mogao Caves
In the Grottoes, you will find that the caves are filled with Buddha statues, flying Apsaras, Kabuki music, fairies, and so on. There are not only sitting statues up to many stories but also small Bodhisattvas of less than ten centimeters, it is quite numerous and in different shapes, which is worth to visit but photo is not allowed.
Nine-Storey Temple at Mogao Caves (Cave 96)
Echoing-Sand Mountain, known as Mingsha Shan in Chinese, is five kilometers (about three miles) away from the city of Dunhuang. Seen from afar, the mountain is just like a golden dragon winding its way over the horizon.
The Echoing-Sand Mountain is listed as a key national scenic spot. It is possible to climb it on foot or, if you prefer, on the back of a camel. It is also good to take a sand bath treatment in the summer. Your visit is perfect as you appreciate the splendid environment consisting of golden sand, a wondrous mountain, a tranquil lake, and a beautiful sunset.
Riding a Camel in the Desert
Just as water and fire are incompatible, neither can a desert and a spring coexist. But, this is not the case for the Crescent Lake that is surrounded by the Echoing-Sand Mountain. The golden sandhill and the blue lake cast a beautiful contrast in a harmonious existence.
Beautiful Crescent Lake in Winter
Visitors can witness the variable scenes of the lake from early sunrise to sunset; such as the soft glow of sunrise and the smooth mirror image at dusk. In the evening, blue neon light encircles the lake resembling the moon on the ground.
Crescent Lake Nightview
Day 5 Wed Dec 4, 2019 Dunhuang
Yumen Pass (Jade Gate Pass)，90 km northeast of Dunhuang City, Gansu Province Established in the Western Han Dynasty and located in 95 km northwest of Dunhuang, Yumenguan Pass was a strategic pass on the ancient Silk Road. Yumen in Chinese means the jade of Gate. It was so named because the jade of Hotan in Xinjiang region was transported to central China through this pass.
Jack at Yumen Pass
The Ruin of Great Wall of the Han Dynasty: With a history of over 2000 years, the Han Dynasty Great Wall was built from 101 to 121 BC. It is one of those well-preserved great walls in China. stretching as long as over a thousand kilometers in the west land of ancient China, it had taken a crucial role in defending the country against northern invaders and contributed greatly to the prosperity of silk road in the history.
Jack at the Han Dynasty Great Wall
Yardang National Geologic Park: Situated 180 kilometers in the northwest away from Dunhuang City, the Dunhuang Yadan National Geologic Park is the largest one of Yadan Landform found so far. The park stretches twenty-five kilometers from north to south and about two kilometers from east to west. It features the unique and wonderful scenes and landscapes of Gobi desert.
Dunhuang Yadan National Geologic Park
The Yangguan Pass, also known as the Southern Pass, sitting 75 kilometers southwest of Dunhuang. It was the important pass on the Southern Way of Silk Road, and the significant gateway connecting Central China and Western Regions. Today, the Yangguan Pass is the vital part of the Silk Road culture.
Day 6 Thu Dec 5, 2019 Dunhuang –Jiayuguan –Zhangye
Take the bullet train to Jiayuguan and have a layover for a short visit The first stop is the Overhanging Wall.
Located eleven kilometers away from the downtown Jiayuguan, Overhanging Great Wall is named for its position on the mountain ridge of 45 degrees, resembling hanging upside down in the sky. As the northern extension of Jiayuguan Fort, it is an important part of ancient military defense system.
The Overhanging Great Wall
Jiayuguan Fort connects the Overhanging Great Wall eight kilometers in the north, and the First Fire Tower of the Great Wall seven kilometers in the south, the walls outside stretching to the Gobi Desert. It is the west end of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty.
Finally do not miss the last spot because I think it is the best one today.
The Fire Tower of the Great Wall, about 6 kilometers southwest of Jiayuguan is standing on the cliff which is almost 56 meters high above the river. Due to its special location, the fire tower has played a very important role in the defense system of Jiayuguan Great Wall, so it is regarded as "the First Strategic Fire Tower under the Heaven". if the Great Wall is considered as the monument of the Chinese nation, the First Fire Tower of the Great Wall should be the rising place of this monument.
The First Strategic Fire Tower under the Heaven
After the tour, we catch the train in the evening to Zhangye.
Day 7 Fri Dec 6, 2019 Zhangye
The Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park: Extending along the northern slope of Qilian Mountain in west China, Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park in Gansu is the best representative of China's colorful Danxia landform and the largest Danxia landscape in an arid area, with a wide variety of landforms.
Zhangye Danxia Landform
Binggou Danxia Landform: Compared with the Zhangye Danxia Geopark, the color of Binggou Danxia is relatively simple and has little difference; however, the biggest feature is that the shape is unique, and the scale is quite spectacular. Moreover, compared with the colorful Danxia, there are few tourists, and no noise, tourists can enjoy the peaceful and magnificent scenery.
Binggou Danxia Landform
Day 8 Sat Dec 7, 2019 Zhangye – Lanzhou
Take the train to Lanzhou for the beautiful night view before leaving the next day.
Yellow River Bridge
If you are interested in history and culture, I would very happy to recommend a documentary the Hexi Corridor by CCTV of China and a book the Silk Road.
Hi, I'm Jack. Are you interested in my 8 Days Silk Road Tour? Feel free to contact me, and I will be glad to tell you more stunning stories about the places I have visited. Or, if you want to customize a tour on your own, I'm always ready to help at any time. With my passion, knowledge and understanding of the essence of travel, I promise I will try my best to make the tour memorable and meaningful for you.
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