Traveling from Tianshui, and marching northwestward along the legendary Hexi Corridor, and getting to Dunhuang, the brightest star on the Silk Road - This is a classic travel route on the ancient Silk Road that has been traveled by travelers for more than two thousand years. It is a route of history, culture and landscape. You will visit two of the Four Greatest Grottoes in China – Maijishan and Mogao which have their own unique features, and many historical sites which have existed more than a thousand years, such as Jiayuguan Pass, Great Wall of Han Dynasty, Giant Buddha Temple, etc., and also explore unique landscape that you can only see in northwestern China - Rainbow Mountains, Yardang Landform, Gobi, desert... Surprises never end in this lifetime Silk Road journey!
Note: Tianshui is a small city located between Xian and Lanzhou. It can be reached by domestic flights from Xian, Beijing, Hangzhou, Chongqing, etc. or high speed trains from Xian, Xining, Zhengzhou, Taiyuan, Wuhan, Changsha, etc. For more flexible flights and trains, you can also start the tour from Lanzhou or Dunhuang.
Day 1 Tianshui ArrivalToday's highlights: Maijishan Grottoes, Fuxi Temple
Welcome to Tianshui, one of the birthplace of Chinese civilization. Your tour guide will pick you up at Tianshui Train Station, and escort you to check in to your hotel. Then transfer to visit the famous Buddhist cave - Maijishan Grottoes. Maijishan Grottoes, together with Longmen Grottoes, Yungang Grottoes and Dunhuang Grottoes, are known as the "Four Greatest Grottoes in China." Caves were chiseled on a hill shaped like a stack of wheat. The ancient artisans carved more than 7800 Buddhist statues with different colors and size. The largest statue, Dongyan Giant Buddha, has a height of 15.8 meters.
Leave Maijishan Grottoes for the holy Fuxi Temple which was built in Ming Dynasty(1483-1484) to worship the ancient legendary "Fuxi Emperor". Fuxi was very knowledgeable, and created the Eight Diagrams, which made great progress in Chinese civilization.
How to get to Tianshui? - Tianshui can be reached by both high speed bullet trains and normal trains. It takes less 2 hours to get there from Xian by high speed trains. Besides, many trains from other cities also stop at Tianshui, including those from Beijing, Taiyuan, Jinan, Chengdu, Guangzhou, etc.
- Maijishan Grottoes View
- Fuxi Temple
Day 2 Tianshui - High Speed Train to Lanzhou (B)Today's highlights: Gansu Provincial Museum, White Pagoda Mountai, First Bridge on Yellow River
After breakfast, you will go to Tianshui South Railway Station to take a morning high speed train to Lanzhou.
Arrive at Lanzhou after about 1.5 hours' leisure train ride, then start to explore this beautiful city of Yellow River. You will visit the Gansu Provincial Museum (closed on Mondays) to gain a lesson of the culture and history of the Silk Road. After the museum visit, move to next sight - White Pagoda Mountain. Take a cable car to the top of the mountain where you will visit the Tibetan-style White Pagoda built in Yuan Dynasty, and enjoy a panoramic view of Lanzhou city and Yellow River flowing through the city. Then descend the mountain to the bank of Yellow River where will stroll leisurely to see the First Bridge on Yellow River, Yellow River Mother Statues and Ancient Waterwheels Park.
Lastly, go to check in your hotel in Lanzhou city.
Day 3 Lanzhou - Zhangye (B)Today's highlights: Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park, Sunset
After breakfast, you will take a morning train to Zhangye city from Lanzhou (about 5 hrs). Enjoy the beautiful landscape along the road. After arriving at Zhangye West Railway Station, you will be met by a 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 in 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.
You won't miss the precious opportunity to enjoy the amazing sunset. Viewing Deck No. 4 is the best location to take the sunset of the Danxia Landform. It's better to get there earlier to occupy a good location. After sunset, drive back to Zhangye downtown for accommodation.
1. Pack with sunblocks, sunglasses, protective clothing and hat to protect from strong sunlight in summer; 2. Sunset is the best time for taking photos, which happens around 19:00~20:00 in summer and 18:00~19:00 in winter.
- Zhangye Danxia Landform Views After Rain
- Zhangye Danxia Landform Photography
Day 4 Zhangye - Jiayuguan (B)Today's highlights: Giant Buddha Temple, Great Wall Museum, Jiayuguan Pass
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 the Xixia Dynasty(1098), and keeps many precious Buddhist scriptures and wall paintings. Its famous treasure is the Sleeping Buddha, which is centrally seated with symmetric buildings situated along both sides. The Buddha statue was carved by wood 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 visiting the Buddha Temple, drive about 220 km (2.5hrs) to Jiayuguan City and check into your hotel. Then you will go to visit "the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven", also the westernmost starting point of the Great Wall of Ming Dynasty - Jiayuguan Pass. Start your exploration with an educational 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 gradients looking like an overhanging cantilever. Climbing up to higher gives you excellent views of the surrounding land and mountains.
- Jiayuguan Fort
- Giant Buddha Temple
Day 5 Jiayuguan - Dunhuang (B)Today's highlights: Yulin Grottoes, Shazhou Night Market
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)
Day 6 Dunhuang Geology & Silk Road History Tour (B)Today's highlights: Yardang National Geologic Park, Echoing Sand Mountains, Crescent Lake
After breakfast, you will be taken to explore the remote wild Gobi Desert landscape as well as several legendary historical sites. Drive westwards about 100 km, you will firstly arrive at Yumen Pass (Jade Gate Pass) which used to be a military defensive pass as well as an important border for international trading along the ancient Silk Road. It is said that the jade wares from West were imported to China through this gate, which is how the name Yumen was given. About 5 km from Yumen Pass is the Ruin of Great Wall of Han Dynasty which was built to fight against Xiongnu in the ancient time. Keep driving more 80 km, you will get to Yardang National Geologic Park. It is also called Devil City in that you will hear the sound just like the devil screaming when the strong wind goes through the desert. The park is featured Yardang landforms in distinct shapes like Mongolian Yurt, Stone Bird, Peacock and others. Make full use of your imagination, you may find some rocks with some miniatures similar to famed architectures, like the Potala Palace in Tibet, Heaven Temple in Beijing or something else.
Leave Yardang National Geologic Park, and drive along the coming way back to Dunhuang. The following attraction is the Echoing Sand Mountains (Mingshashan). 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.
Nightlife Ideas: 1) Go out to go 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. 2) 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.
Useful Tips: 1) Pack some food and water for the long driving on the desert; 2) get fully prepared for the strong sunlight and high temperatures in the daytime.
- Beautiful Yardang National Geopark Sunset in June
- Crescent Lake Never Dry Up
- Riding Camel at Mingshashan (Echoing Sand Mountains)
Day 7 Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes Art Tour & Departure (B)Today's highlights: Mogao Grottoes, Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center
After breakfast, drive about 10 km 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 long 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 extensive visit.
The rest of today is free for you to catch your flight/train to the next destination. Your Dunhuang Silk Road tour ends!
1. During peak seasons (May to October), there are usually a lot of visitors to Mogao Caves, so it is recommended to make reservation in advance for at least 7 days. 2. If you want to see the Special Caves (excluded in the regular visit, and only open for limited individual visitors or small groups with reservations), you can contact our travel consultants or your tour guide to arrange for you, but you have to pay the extra admission fee for each cave. 3. It is not allowed to take photos inside grottoes.
- Mogao Grottoes
- Mogao Grottoes Feitian (Flying Apsaras)
- Watch a documentary film in the Dome Theater of Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center
1. This price is for one person, based on a group of 2 adults sharing one standard double-bed room in 4-star hotel and traveling with our private tour in low seasons.
2. This price is subject to change according your traveling season, group size, hotel class, change of activities in your itinerary and possible fluctuation of currency exchange rate. If you want a lower price, you can get more people to join you, or use economy class hotels.
3. This price is only valid to March 31, 2023.
4. Reference exchange rate of USD 1= RMB 6.45. The final quote is based on current exchange rate. It may change according to the currency fluctuation, while the RMB quotation will be remained the same.
we made it back to Shanghai. It was a great trip even with rain, COVID, and Sophie's personal issues.
we enjoyed the trip very much. Thanks a lot for organizing everything so brilliant it was really fantastic!
Thank you for your help in sorting out my few days ago. I will certainly be asking you for help in the future, now to start thinking about my 10 day break, beginning of April!
We did quite a lot of research for travel agency before heading for our first trip to Lhasa, Tibet; since foreign travelers to Tibet have to purchase a tour. China Discovery did a great job in helping us get the Tibet Tourism Bureau permit, booking our train tickets from Xining, Qinghai Province, to Lhasa; and organizing a private Tibetan guide, Tenzin, and a driver, for our 5 days in Tibet. They also helped us with all Covid-19 safety measures and authorization requirements). Great sceneries and sites, especially Yamdrok Lake, Khambala pass (4800m), Potala Palace, Sera Monastery and Deprung Monastery. Our guide Tenzin spoke very well in English and was very helpful.
My suggestion: No need to visit Summer Palace; suggest organizing visit of Yack herd with Nomads in higher plateau and in Snow area. Otherwise, very good and Tenzin was excellent
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