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6 Days Silk Road Tour with Populus Euphratica Forest Sightseeing

Catch the Best Color of Autumn in Northwestern China


The Silk Road, an old trading route that connected China with the west in ancient times, is also an attractive travel route now to discover the remaining cultural treasures and the spectacular natural scenery.

This tour takes you to unveil the mystery of China’s Silk Road in its golden essence – Zhangye, Jiayuguan and Dunhuang where numerous heritage wonders including dangerous Buddhist temples, significant Buddhist grottoes, unique geoparks with featured landform, informative museums, etc. are inlaid. In addition to following the steps of ancient traders (or pilgrims, diplomats, travelers…) to immerse yourself in the great civilization of ancient China, you will spend another day feasting on the striking autumn color in Jinta Populus Euphratica Forest in Jiuquan. From early to middle October, the golden leaves of Populus euphratica are the subject that shutterbugs complete to shoot. During your whole tour, worry-free service with knowledge tour guide, private transfer, hand-picked hotels, meals and tickets is offered.

Highlights of this tour

  • Witness the famous “rainbow mountains” in Zhangye - spectacular Danxia Landform landscape which was formed in the pre-Jurassic Age;
  • Step up to the fortress of Jiayuguan Pass which is the western beginning of the Great Wall of China and learn some interesting history facts in the museum;
  • Marvel at the extremely rare desert landscape – echoing sand dune & crescent lake and priceless cultural wonder – Mogao Grottoes with unmatched historical & artistical value;
  • Capture the most brilliant autumn view and get amazed by the magic natural vitality in Jintan Populus Euphratica Forest.

Basic Trip Information

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:
Zhangye - Jiuquan - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang
Travel Length:
6 Days and 5 Nights
Tour Code:
Group Size:
You, your family, friends or group
Any day you want
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Full Itinerary Day by day

Day 1 Zhangye Arrival

Welcome to Zhangye, a key town of the Silk Road, the major thoroughfare of New Eurasian Land Bridge and national historical and cultural city! Your tour guide will meet you at Zhangye Ganzhou Airport (or railway station), then escort you to your hotel in a private vehicle. The rest of today is on your own to relax in this historical city.

Arrival Ideas: Zhangye is not a very popular transportation hub like Lanzhou and Xining. Currently, it is usually reached by flights from Xian, Lanzhou, Chengdu, Beijing and Guangzhou. You can also get there by high speed trains from Lanzhou (4 hrs), Xining (2hrs), Xian (7.5hrs), Dunhuang (4hrs), Jiayuguan (1.5hrs), Urumqi (8hrs), and so on.

Welcome to Zhangye (Drum Tower)
Day 2 Zhangye Sightseeing (B, L)

Zhangye is famous for its unparalleled Danxia Landforms which is a spectacular petrographic geomorphology landscape formed from red-colored sandstones and conglomerates. Among all the Danxia places in Zhangye, Binggou Danxia Landform Scenery Area and Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park (Linze Danxia) have most significant Danxia landscapes. Today you will go to explore both of them.

After breakfast, you will go to visit Binggou Danxia Landform first which is about 1 hour's driving from Zhangye downtown. Even though just being visited by fewer travelers, Binggou Danxia Landform Scenery Area has its own featured charms. If the Linze Danxia Scenery is a visual feast of colors, then the Binggou Danxia is a great joy to find how the Mother Nature became a sculptor who sculptured the mountains to amazing different shapes, like grand palaces, long corridors, giant pillars, etc. You will hike leisurely about 2 hours to look the spectacular landform closely.

In the afternoon, drive about an hour to visit the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park which 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 five 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 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.

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 Photography Binggou Danxia Landform
Day 3 Zhangye - Jinta Populus Euphratica Forest - Jiayuguan (B, L)

Today, you will drive 260 km (about 3 hours) from Zhangye to Jinta Populus Euphratica Forest (in Jiuquan) which is an ideal destination for an autumn excursion.

Populus euphratica is a heroic plant resistant to cold, heat, alkali, waterlogging and drought. Because of its weird shapes, it becomes a unique scenery of the desert area in northwestern China. Jinta Populus Euphratica Forest, located in Jiuquan, is China’s largest artificial plantation forest planted to resist sand and wind. In October when the autumn painted the trees in the forest in a golden shimmer, walking in the Populus euphratica forest is like walking into a richly-colored oil painting. Standing under the trees and looking up, you will feel the sun shining on the golden leaves gently and making them more dazzling. Jinbo Lake Scenic Zone, where the golden reflections of Populus Euphratica Forest are mirrored on the water surface, is the core part of Jinta Populus Euphratica Forest. It is also available to climb to the viewing-deck to view or photograph a panoramic scene of the forest and the lake. In addition to Populus euphratica trees, the surrounding area covered with many other endemic tree species are addictive as well, such as red willows, poplars, reeds, date palm trees, etc. If the weather permits, it is possible to enjoy the rolling snow-covered mountains from the forest.

After sightseeing, drive 70 km (about 1.5 hours) to Jiayuguan. 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.

Stay overnight in Jiayuguan.

In-depth Populus Euphratica Travel Idea: If you want an in-depth Populus euphratica forest photography trip, Ejina Populus Euphratica Forest is strongly recommended. It is a larger forest with much more old wild trees. Located in the westernmost part of Inner Mongolia, Ejina Populus Euphratica Forest needs 2 more days to travel. Feel free to contact us to customize a photography tour combining the Silk Road and Ejina Populus Euphratica Forest.

Jinta Populus Euphratica Forest Jinta Populus Euphratica Forest Jiayuguan Fort Great Wall Museum
Day 4 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 Exquisite Mural Painting
Day 5 Dunhuang (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 - Ancient Sound of Dunhuang. Through the use of high-tech methods such as holographic projection and 3D visuals, it presents a fully immersive theatrical experience of both elaborate dances and unique performance of ancient musical instruments.(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 Echoing Sand Mountains Mogao Grottoes Mogao Grottoes Giant Buddha in No. 96 Cave
Day 6 Dunhuang Departure (B)

Today is free for you until your tour guide see you off at the airport/train station.

Tips: remember to pack all your belongings carefully, and check out your hotel before 12:00 or extra cost may occur.

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