Over two thousand years ago, brave diplomats, merchants, adventurers and travelers opened up an overland trade route connecting the East and the West. Northwest China, particularly the Hexi Corridor (Zhangye-Jiayuguan-Dunhuang) and Xinjiang area, has served as an important trail and bridge that witnessed, recorded and preserved the products, art, religion and cultural exchanges between ancient China and other Asian and European countries. Thanks to its historic role and isolation from those densely populated modern cities, a large number of historic sites remain in Northwest China, ranging from ancient fortress, tombs, Great Walls, city ruins to Buddhist temples, grottoes and Islamic mosques. The areas still have various amazing natural landscapes of Danxia Landform, desert, mountains, alpine lakes, etc. This 11 days in-depth wild Silk Road adventure will take you to follow the ancient footprints on Silk Route, go back to history and get in touch with different cultural relics as well as enjoy the most outstanding natural beauty on the way.
Day 1 Lanzhou ArrivalAirport / railway station pick up
Welcome to Lanzhou - the city of Yellow River. Once you arrival at Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport or Lanzhou Train Station, you will be picked up by your local guide, then be escorted to your hotel in a private vehicle. The rest of today is yours to relax in this northwestern historical city on your own.
Free time ideas:
You can go for a walk along the Yellow River, even cruise on the river. Or hike up to the top of the White Pagoda Mountain to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery. The panoramic view of Lanzhou City from the mountain is marvelous.
Day 2 Train to Zhangye (B, L)Today's highlight: Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park
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 3 Zhangye - Jiayuguan (B, L)Today's highlights: Giant Buddha Temple, Jiayuguan Pass, Overhanging Great Wall
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
- Great Wall Museum
Day 4 Jiayuguan - Dunhuang (B, L)Today's highlights: Echoing Sand Mountains, Crescent Lake
Today you will travel to Dunhuang from Jiayuguan in the early morning. After arriving at Dunhuang city, you will visit 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.
- Glamorous Mingshashan (Echoing Sand Mountains)
Day 5 Dunhuang Geology & Silk Road History Tour (B, L)Today's Highlights: Yardang National Geologic Park, Yumen Pass, Great Wall of Han Dynasty
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 first 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 jadewares from the 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 the Great Wall of the Han Dynasty, which was built to fight against the Xiongnu in ancient times. Keep driving more than 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 features 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. On the route, you will take a side trip to visit Yangguan Pass, which was the gate to another branch of the ancient Silk Road. Accommodate in Dunhuang City.
Useful Tips: 1) Pack some food and water for the long drive in the desert; 2) Get fully prepared for the strong sunlight and high temperatures in the daytime.
- Beautiful Yardang National Geopark Sunset in June
- Yumen Pass (Jade Gate Pass)
Day 6 Dunhuang - Turpan (B, L)Today's highlight: Mogao Grottoes
After breakfast, drive about 10 km from Dunhuang city to visit the newly opened Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center before going to Mogao Grottoes. You will watch two short but well-produced educational documentary movies that introduce history, arts, and other facts about Mogao Grottoes, which will be very helpful when you visit the grottoes. After the movies, take an internal 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 their 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 a 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.
In the afternoon, you will be escorted to catch your train to Turpan. Currently, there are several high speed bullet trains running to Turpan from Liuyuan South Railway Station in the afternoon. 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 into your hotel in the city. The rest of today is free at your own leisure.
Useful Tips: 1. During peak seasons (May to October), there are usually a lot of visitors to Mogao Caves, so it is recommended to make a reservation in advance for at least 7 days. 2. If you want to see the Special Caves (excluded from 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.
- longtitle Our customers Robert's family from USA visited Mogao Cave in Dunhuang, Gansu on September 9, 2019.
- Our customers Irene’s group from Malaysia visited Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu on December 8, 2019.
Day 7 Turpan - Urumqi (B, L)Today's highlights: Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon, Tuyuk Village, Karez System, Jiaohe Ancient City
After breakfast in the hotel, you will drive to Tuyu Valley along Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon, which condenses the essence of the landscape of Flaming Mountain - the hottest spot in Turpan. Flaming Mountain is immortalized in the Chinese classic Journey to the West as a blazing mountain that the monk Xuan Zang has to pass through. Finally, they use a magic fan to extinguish the blaze and go on with their trip. Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon splits the whole mountain in half and you will clearly admire the unique landform - red sandstones looking like flaming fire, distinctive rocks showing the uncanny workmanship of nature and deep gorge with crisscross valleys. The magnificence, strangeness, danger, and elegance of Flaming Mountain are fully shown here.
The winding road hanging on the cliff of Flaming Mountain will soon lead you to Tuyuk Valley (Tuyugou in Chinese) which is an Uighur valley with lots of historical sites. Mazar Village, the oldest existing Uighur village with a history of over 2,600 years, is a big highlight of the valley. Mazar Village holds a significant status in Buddhism and Islam. It is said that 6 Muslims came to China and started preaching there, so Mazar Village is called Eastern Mekka. Before Islam, it once was a Buddhist center as well. Many Buddhist caves can be found in the village, but the statues and murals failed to survive. The villagers still live peacefully in the village, and you can clearly see how they run their daily lives in the old mud adobe houses.
Next to drive back to Turpan City to discover the brilliant project of Karez System. Together with the Great Wall and Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the Karez System is regarded as one of China’s Three Greatest Ancient Projects. It is a special 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 occurs during summer rain season, or is melted from snow mountains of Tianshan range to desired farmlands in the desert area. Visiting the Turpan Karez Museum, you will not only see the pictures and models detailing the history of the Karez System, but also visit the real underground tunnels.
Your last stop is the famous relic - Jiaohe Ancient City - an ancient city that was strategically located along the ancient Silk Road. Perching on a plateau, it acted as a natural barrier from the attacking enemies in the old times. Now, it is renowned as the best-preserved earthen architecture in the world. The interesting sculptures, videos and some other displays in Jiaohe Cultural Village Museum will give you an appreciation of the history of Jiaohe City before you start exploring. Then, take a shuttle bus to the core scenic area. Walking up along the pathway uphill, you can see many historical structural remains, including the residential area, official area and Buddhist temples. It is also available to walk to the central platform for a more awesome view of the whole park. When the night drops, you will feast on a breathtaking sunrise over the ruins.
After Turpan exploration, drive about 3.5 hours to Urumqi for accommodation.
- Jiaohe Anicent City Sunset
- Peaceful Mazar Village in Tuyugou Valley
- Audrey's group from USA and 3 other counties visited Flaming Grand Cayon
Day 8 Urumqi - Heavenly Lake - Urumqi (B, L)Today's highlight: Heavenly Lake full day exploration
This morning after breakfast, you will be taken to have an educational visit to the Xinjiang Regional Museum. It is the most important ancient Silk Road themed museum in China, which exhibits about 50,000 historical relics including more than 400 National First-class relics (60% of the total in Xinjiang). Among all the exhibitions, the most unique exhibition is the Mummy Hall. It collects 10 more than 4000 years old mummies which were mostly found in Loulan Ancient Kingdom Ruin and preserved almost intact. Loulan Princess, the most famous mummy in the museum, will definitely strike you with its typical European face. All these important exhibitions help you learn deep into the history and culture of Xinjiang as well as the ancient Silk Road.
Leaving the museum, you are going to explore the Heavenly Lake (or Tianchi in Chinese) which is only about 70 km (about 1.5 hrs' drive) away from Urumqi downtown. To protect the authenticity of the natural environment, our private car can only bring you to the entrance of the park. You will then shift onto a park bus to the parking lot around the lake area. Walking for about 15 minutes, you will get to the lakeside of Heavenly Lake. The rest time is free for you to stroll along the periphery of the lake, breathe the remarkably fresh air, and soak in the wonderful scenery. With an altitude of 1980 meters, Heavenly Lake and its alluring surroundings truly offer you a visual feast like heaven, featuring in serene alpine lake, rugged slopes with snow-capped mountains, pure glaciers, wild forest, vast grassland as well as unique ethnic culture.
Generally speaking, there are three ways to explore Heavenly Lake. You can walk around the lake, take a boat cruise, or ride a cable car to the mountain top. If time allows, you can even enjoy all the experiences. The Boat cruise and cable car need extra fees. Tell your preference to your guide, who will then arrange accordingly for you.
- Walking around the lake. Plank roads were constructed to encircle the lake. But since the lake is very large, it takes about 5 hours to finish the circle. You can decide the hiking length on your own according to your physical condition and time. Fee: free.
- Boat Cruise on the lake. It is very popular among travelers to take a boat cruising to the deeper area of the lake and back, which is leisure and scenic. There are modern ships, Chinese-style ships and high-speed boats available at different prices. Fee: about CNY 100.
- Panoramic view from Maya Mountain. If you want more landscape, you can take a cable car up to Maya Mountain, where you can enjoy the panoramic view of Heavenly Lake and a closer view of Tianshan Mountain Range. Fee: about CNY 220.
After the landscape trip, take a park bus to exit the park, and drive back to Urumqi.
- Taking a relaxing cruise on Heavenly Lake
- Green mountains at the lakeside of Heavenly Lake (August)
- Grandiose view of Tianshan Mountains from Heavenly Lake
Day 9 Urumqi - Kashgar (B, L)Today's highlights: Kashgar Old Town, Ancient Tea House, Id Kah Mosque, Abakh Hoja Tomb
This early morning, you will take a flight to Kashgar (about 2 hrs), the southwestern border city of Xinjiang which used to be the epicenter of the regional trade and cultural exchange of ancient Silk Road for more than two millennia. Upon arriving at the airport of Kashgar, you will be welcomed by your local tour guide and driver, and escorted to Kashgar downtown. The rest of today is a guided tour of this legendary Silk Road city.
You will visit the Abakh Hoja Tomb first, which is not a simple tomb but an exquisite architectural complex including chapels, gardens, archways, etc., as the best place in the region to admire Uygur people’s extraordinary aesthetics and skills of Islamic architecture. It also offers a rare opportunity to see and learn about the funeral customs of Uygur families because there is a large Islamic family of five generations whose name is Abakh Hoja buried here. The Abakh Hoja was a local Islamic master who had strengthened the spread of Islam in the Kashgar area, which later earned a great reputation for him and his family.Next, you will visit the landmark of Kashgar - Id Kah Mosque, which is regarded as the holy shrine for Muslims. Every day, there are thousands of Muslims worshiping here. In history, Id Kah Mosque used to be a school where Islamic culture and history were taught. Many scholars and honored clergies graduated from here. Only several minutes' walk from the mosque is the exotic Kashgar Old Town where you can experience the authentic Uyghur living style. Explore the traditional earth buildings where local people live, walk through the famous Handicrafts Street where you can see how the local craftsman makes handicrafts. It is a good place to buy some interesting souvenirs for your family and friends. 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.Today’s activities end. Have a good rest in your hotel in Kashgar.
- Id Kah Mosque is the most influential Islamic mosque in Xinjiang
- Abakh Khoja Tomb
- Kashgar Old Town
Day 10 Kashgar - Karakul Lake - Kashgar (B, L)Today's highlights: Karakul Lake, Muztagh Ata, Baishahu Lakes, Pamirs Plateau
Today, you are going to visit the famous Karakul Lake, which is about 190 km/about 3 hours’ drive from Kashgar downtown. Although it is a long drive, you are surprisingly compensated by the constant landscape of the overwhelming Pamirs Plateau - harsh and lonely snow mountains, inhabited barrens, expansive grassland, pure glaciers, peaceful villages... Make a stop at Baishahu (White Sands Dunes Lake) where a tranquil lake lies under the towering snow mountains of Pamirs Plateau. The sands of Taklamakan Desert fly westward, get stopped by the edge of Pamirs and deposit at the slopes of the mountains, then get washed by the melting ice of the snow mountains, which is the reason why you can see white sand dunes surrounding the White Sand Lake.
You will get to Karakul Lake around noon. After lunch, throw yourself into the breathtaking scenery of the lake and its surroundings. With an altitude of 3600 meters, Karakul Lake is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Central Asia. It welcomes visitors with stunning views of pristine lake nestled against Pamirs mountains which provide an azure backdrop as they are covered with snow all year around, including three gigantic mountains - Muztagh Ata (7546 meters), Kongur Tagh (7649 meters) and Kongur Tiube (7530 meters). From other sides, there is a mixture of boundless grasslands, deserts and valleys. A few Kirghiz nomads put their yurts and graze their herds of sheep, horses and camels near the lake. Take your time to wander around the lake to enjoy the landscape and take photos until returning time.
Drive the same way back to Kashgar, and have a good rest in Kashgar city.
- Tranquil Karakul Lake in October
- Tranquil Karakul Lake in October
Day 11 Kashgar Departure (B)Today's highlights: Kashgar Bazaar, Livestock Market
After breakfast, go to visit the famous Kashgar Bazaar, which is huge, busy, crowded, amazing, chaotic, interesting and colorful. Bazaar, in Uygur, means a large market. Kashgar Bazaar has been the largest and busiest trading center of West and Central Asia since the origin and flourish of the Silk Road. Here you can buy anything from Muslim millinery to authentic Iranian saffron, from pashminas to carpets, from fruits to spices, from a cradle to a camel... or find a place to sit down to enjoy some local snacks, or just experience local culture.
If you happen 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, camels, horses, cows and donkeys will be driven by the Uyghur farmers and herders to squeeze through the gates of the bazaars for trade. It’s dusty, smelly and crowded, but most people find it very exotic.
After the tour, you will be escorted to catch your flight or train to the next destination, or be sent to the border if you want to exit China by land port.
- Sunday Bazaar
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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After sending us an inquiry, one of our travel consultants will get back to you within 0.5~23.5 hrs. In the next few days, he/she will be working closely with you to formulate a customized tour plan, as well as providing professional suggestions based on your travel interests, time, and budget.
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Our local guide in every destination is not only very friendly, enthusiastic but also very informative and knowledgeable.
Once you arrive in the destination, the patient and punctual guides will pick you up and take you to get under skin of the city at your own pace. By in-depth discovery and explanation, they’ll show you more about the history, culture, customs and authentic local life. Throughout the journey, they're not only expert guides who take care of all the details but also fellow travelers who are dedicated to help you explore in comfort and style.
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In each destination, you’ll enjoy a comfortable stay in a great location!
The hotels we choose are based on star rating, great locations, well-equipped facilities, cozy bed, high quality service and guests’ feedbacks. Choices are a lot ranging from luxury 5 star, comfortable 4 star to budget 3 star. You could decide where to stay to best suit for your budget and likes. Generally, the hotels have both Western and Chinese breakfast with a wide choices.
If you have already got an ideal hotel, please feel free to tell our travel consultants and they'll book the hotel for you.
Have good sleep in our well-selected hotels in all the destinations of China.
We can satisfy all the dietary requirements no matter you want Chinese local food, western food, vegetarian food or muslin food.
The restaurants we will take you for lunch or dinner are all designated tourist restaurants approved by local tourist administration bureau. They have very good sanitary conditions and the food is prepared fresh and clean.
There will be some meals excluded in your itinerary as you like, and your private guide will be delighted to give you some suggestions and take you to the local restaurants to taste like Beijing Roast Duck, Xian Dumpling Dinner, Sichuan Hotpot, etc., if you are interested in local food tasting.
All the dining options will satisfy your stomach!
Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang
Xining / Zhangye / Jiayuguan / Dunhuang / Turpan / Urumqi / Kashgar
Xining - Tongren - Xiahe - Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang
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