Retrace the route of the fabled Silk Road through the desert oasis towns of Dunhuang, Turpan, Kashgar and Urumqi with stops in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai
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Experience the routes and sights of the famed Silk Road, where East and West first began to blend, trading goods and ideas, bringing Chinese silks into Imperial Rome, along with the philosophies of Islam, Buddhism and Christianity into the East as the caravans crossed the expansive areas of the Gobi Desert.
Board a flight to Dunhuang in the remote Gobi Desert to see local markets and the fascinating Mogao Caves where Buddhist art has been carved into the cliffs. View the expansive sand dunes from atop a camel. Visit Urumqi to experience a desert oasis and meet the Uygur, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority that resides in the remote northern section. See the graceful Emin Minaret, the tallest Islamic structure in China.
Go to the Flaming Mountains and Kashgar, where Marco Polo visited in 1273 A.D. Visit desert markets along with snowcapped mountains on an ancient trade route. The Silk Road Tour departs China from Shanghai.
Day 1 Depart North AmericaFly to China from your nearest city on a trans-Pacific flight.
Day 2 Arrive BeijingArrive at Beijing Capital Airport. You are met by ACT service staff and transferred by vehicle to your hotel. Meet your fellow travelers at the Evening Reception and learn more about the upcoming activities.The Hilton Beijing Wangfujing (Evening Reception)
Day 3 BeijingYour exploration in Beijing starts in Tiananmen Square – the world’s largest. Visit the “Egg” – the futuristic National Performing Arts Center. Next, visit the Forbidden City, the magnificent imperial palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties which were built almost 600 years ago. After lunch, take an excursion to the extraordinary Great Wall of China. The rugged and scenic Mutianyu section along steep mountain ridges best exemplifies the Ming era defensive wall construction. Return to hotel in time for a welcome banquet featuring Peking Duck, the Capital’s signature dish.The Hilton Beijing Wangfujing (B-L-D)
Day 4 Beijing – XianAfter breakfast in hotel, transfer to airport and fly to Xian, an ancient capital of China and cosmopolitan terminus of the Silk Road. Upon arrival, visit the extraordinary Terracotta Warriors of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shihuang, one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites. This archaeological excavation site is a stunning exhibit of more than 7,000 unique terracotta life-size statues of soldiers, officers, horses, chariots, and artifacts. Tonight, enjoy a special Xian Cuisine Dinner in an elite local restaurant.The Westin Xian (B-L-D)
Day 5 Xian – DunhuangEnjoy a morning tour of the massive ancient City Walls constructed in Ming era, and the Big Goose Pagoda, which was first built in the Tang Dynasty and has since survived centuries of war and earthquakes. Transfer to Xian airport and board a flight to Dunhuang in arid and remote Gansu Province. Dunhuang is an ancient city located in the Gobi Desert. It was a very important military stronghold during the dynasties for protecting China’s vital Hexi Corridor trading route between the Middle Kingdom and Central Asia and Europe. Upon arrival, enjoy a city tour and visit a local market. Check in at the hotel and enjoy dinner.Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel (B-L-D)
Day 6 DunhuangToday, you explore the fascinating Buddhist art at the Mogao Caves, a World Heritage Site since 1987, carved into cliffs facing the desert. For well over one thousand years from the Wei to Ming dynasties, Buddhist monks and devotees poured tremendous amounts of money and effort into creating this treasure house of fascinating Buddhist art with thousands of murals, sculptures, carvings, and reliefs. Unfortunately, many of these treasures were looted and taken away by European “explorers” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A research institute was set up on site in the 1970s to catalogue, study, and protect these precious ancient artworks.In the afternoon, visit the incongruous Crescent Spring Lake, a spring-fed pool situated within the huge Singing Sand Dunes of the Gobi Desert. You have the opportunity to enjoy a Bactrian camel ride up the sand dunes. If time permits, you will also visit the quiet Western Thousand Buddha Caves.Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel (B-L-D)
Day 7 Dunhuang – TurpanTransfer to the airport and fly across arid deserts and dry mountains to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. There you will be met by your guide and driven to Turpan, a Uygur town in an oasis surrounded by searing desert and towering mountains. The Turpan depression is the second lowest spot on earth (only the Dead Sea is lower) at 154 meters (505 feet) below sea level. The Uygur people are a distinctive Turkic-speaking ethnic minority in northwestern China. Islam is the dominant religion for the Uygurs and many other minorities in the region. Once in Turpan, visit the site of the ancient Jiaohe City built on a strategic high ground over 2,000 years ago; the remains of some structures are still standing. Finish the long day at the iconic Emin Minaret, the tallest Islamic structure in China.Turpan Tuha Hotel (B-L-D)
Day 8 TurpanBegin today’s sightseeing at the Gaochang Ruins, which reveals traces of a prosperous ancient Silk Road trading center and Chinese military stronghold dating from 100 B.C. Take an excursion to the Beziklik Caves, which attest to the flourishing of Buddhism in western China before Islam became the dominant religion in the 15th century. Stop at the Flaming Mountains, a fascinating and colorful geological phenomenon. Turpan is famous throughout China for its large sweet grapes. A visit to the Grape Valley gives you the opportunity to walk through the shady vineyards, stop by homes of Uygur farmers, and go down into Karez Wells, an ingenious underground irrigation system that has been efficiently keeping all the crops alive with snow melt water in the scorching summer heat for millennia. Enjoy a Uygur Cuisine Dinner in the hotel restaurant.Turpan Tuha Hotel (B-L-D)
Day 9 Turpan – KashgarDepart Turpan and travel back to Urumqi airport by road. Take an afternoon flight to Kashgar. You will be met and transfer to your hotel upon arrival. The city of Kashgar sits in an oasis at the far edge of the Taklimakan Desert and the towering Pamir Mountains at the crossroads of historic trading routes. The town has served as a center for exchange of goods and ideas in Central Asia since ancient times. Marco Polo visited Kashgar in 1273 A.D. and observed Nestorian Christians amongst other exotic populace. Enjoy a brief city tour and then have dinner.Yinruilin International Hotel (B-L-D)
Day 10 KashgarKashgar is home to one of the world’s largest and oldest outdoor markets, the Kashgar Sunday Bazaar. Thousands of donkey carts, tractors, trucks, horses, sheep, and people from around the region congregate each Sunday to trade in Kashgar’s fair ground. Uygur, Hui, Kazahk, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Tajik, Han, and Pakistani merchants all ply their unique cultural wares. After your exploration in the market, go to visit the Id Kah Mosque, largest in Xinjiang, and the Old Town Area, where small alleys run through traditional neighborhoods and streets are lined with vendor stands, craft shops and small restaurants. Next, visit the Cemetery of Abakh Hoja, the richest and most influential man in the region in the late 17th century, and whose great granddaughter was believed to be the “Fragrant Concubine” of Emperor Qianlong. Later, visit the Tomb of Yusup Hazi Hajup, an accomplished Uygur poet and philosopher in the 11th century. This evening enjoy a Local Muslim Cuisine Dinner followed by a Uygur Song & Dance Performance.Yinruilin International Hotel (B-L-D)
Day 11 KashgarToday’s excursion takes you into the lofty Pamir Mountains, some of the world’s highest. First, stop by the small town of Upal for a tour of its active market. Then visit the Tomb of Mahmud Kashgari (1008-1105 A.D.) a prominent Uygur scholar and creator of the first comprehensive dictionary of the Turkic language. Continue driving up along the fabled Karakorum Highway passing stunning views of high mountains and deep canyons. Arrive at the Karakuri Lake for a breathtaking walk along the shore and behold the extraordinary glacier peaks of Muztagh Ata and Kongur which soar over 24,000 feet into the sky. Return to Kashgar by the evening and spend a third night in this most exotic Silk Road city.Yinruilin International Hotel (B-L)
Day 12 Kashgar – UrumqiAfter breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly back to Urumqi. A geographic superlative, Urumqi is the most inland city on earth. It lies 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) from the nearest ocean. Check into your hotel upon arrival and have lunch. In the afternoon, you visit the Erdaoqiao Muslim Market for a true enjoyment of the senses, and then the Xinjiang Museum to view the famous Caucasian featured “Loulan Mummies”, buried and preserved over 2000 years ago. Enjoy a local cuisine dinner.Sheraton Urumqi Hotel (B-L-D)
Day 13 UrumqiToday’s excursion will take you out of the city of Urumqi to the beautiful Heavenly Lake set among the alpine peaks of Tianshan Mountain. The snowcapped Mount Bogda (5,445 meters or 17,900 feet) is reflected in the clear water of the lake. You have the opportunity to take a pleasant hike along the trails and visit a yurt home of the local Kazakh herdsmen. There are about one and a half million ethnic Kazakh people living in northwestern China. Return to your hotel and the balance of the day is free for your own exploration or relaxation.Sheraton Urumqi Hotel (B-L)
Day 14 Urumqi – ShanghaiAfter breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly across China to Shanghai, covering in a few hours by plane what took months by caravan. You will be met by your local guide and transfer to your hotel upon arrival. In the afternoon, after refreshing, go to visit the exquisite Yuyuan Garden built in 1559 during the Ming dynasty, and the European Art-Deco architecture of the Bund. Enjoy a Shanghai Dumpling Dinner.Fairmont Peace Hotel (B-D)
Day 15 ShanghaiVisit the marvelous Shanghai Museum, whose galleries contain some of the world-class collections of ancient art and artifacts dating back millennia. Wander around the former French Concession, represented by the leafy Fuxing Park and colonial architecture in the area. Lunch at trendy Xintiandi. The afternoon and evening are free for you to enjoy the city of Shanghai on your own.
Fairmont Peace Hotel (B-L)
Day 16 Return HomeTransfer to the airport for your homebound flight. Arrive in North America on the same day.(B)
Beijing, Xian, Dunhuang, Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar, Shanghai
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