11-Day Xinjiang Silk Road Tour including Dunhuang
Route: Dunhuang – Turpan – Kucha – Taklamakan Desert – Hotan – Yarkand – Kashgar – Karakorum Highway – Kashgar
Activities: Our 11 day Xinjiang Silk Road Tour including Dunhuaung is designed for people who already have been to Xi’an but not beyond. This tour will enhance your experience of nature, history, and the culture and customs of various ethnic groups, both past and present.
Place & Transport: Flight to Dunhuang
Day’s Activities: Airport to Hotel Transfer
Place to Stay: Dunhuang
Our guide and driver will meet you at Dunhuang Airport and transfer you to your hotel.
Place & Transport: Tour of Dunhuang
Today’s Activities: Mogao Grottoes, Echoing Sand Dunes, Crescent Moon Spring
Accommodation: On the Night Train.
Following the hotel breakfast, you will visit the Mogao Grottoes. Constructed over a millennium ago between the 4th and 14th centuries, the caves hold the world’s richest repository of Buddhist sutras, murals, sculptures, and architecture. Next we will visit Crescent Moon Spring. Quite literally an oasis in the desert, its name is derived from the crescent moon shape of the small pool of spring water between two large sand dunes. The pool never dries out despite the extreme aridity. Our Dunhuang tour will conclude with a visit to Echoing-Sand Mountain, whose many-hued landscape ranges from red, yellow, green, to black and white. When a strong wind blows, the rapidly shifting sand roars; when the wind is little more than a light breeze, the sand produces gentle, dulcet sounds akin to music. It is the same when you are sliding down the mountain of sand, and is how the mountain got its name. After dinner you will take the overnight train to Turpan.
Place & Transport: Turpan Arrival and Turpan Tour
Day’s Activities: Kariz Underground Water System, Jiaohe Ancient City, Emin Minaret, Tuyuk Village
After arriving in Turpan, we will check in to our hotel before launching our Turpan tour. First we will inspect the Kariz underground water system, China’s third most important ancient engineering feat with a total length of 3100 miles and dating back more than 2000 years. We will take you to one of the natural, non-touristy Kariz spots in Turpan. Then we will visit Jiaohe Ancient City which is the world’s oldest, largest, and tallest ancient city built of mud. Many cultural relics have been unearthed at Jiaoche, such as an antefix of the Tang Dynasty and early Buddhist scriptures. Emin Minaret was built in 1777, it is the largest extant old tower in Xinjiang and it is the only Islamic tower among the hundred most famous towers in China. After the tour, you will spend the night in Turpan.
Place & Transport: Turpan to Kucha via the Tianshan Mountains
Day’s Activities: Tianshan Mountains
After breakfast at the hotel, we will leave for Kucha. Our journey will take us across the Tianshan Mountain Range which divides Xinjiang into two parts: Northern Xinjiang and Southern Xinjiang. Tianshan Mountain is known to the Uyghur people as “Tangry Tagh” meaning “God Mountain,” because of the life-sustaining conditions the first Uyghur settlers found here. Those earliest settlers inhabited both sides of the range, benefitting from abundant water and green pastures on which to graze their herds. We will have lunch along the route before arriving in Kucha during late afternoon, and you will have free time to explore the city in the evening.
Place & Transport: Kuqa (Kuche) Tour
Day’s Activities: Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves, Beacon Tower, Grand Mosque, Kuqa Old Town, Subash Ancient City
After breakfast we will visit the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves dating back to the 5th and 6th century AD. These are the second best preserved Buddhist caves in China. We will enjoy a Chinese lunch at the caves before continuing our tour of Kuqa, the biggest county in Aksu prefecture. Kuqa was previously the most important pass on the middle route of the Silk Road in Xinjiang, and was also a center for Buddhism in southern Xinjiang. En route we will visit the Beacon Tower, at 13 m the highest tower on the Silk Road made of mud and wood. The Beacon Tower had been used for sending out fire signals to warn of the approach of enemies. We will then visit the ancient city of Subash, a well preserved 1 sq km site where Uyghur ancestors used to worship in temples during the Buddhist period.
Following our tour, we will visit Kuqa Grand Mosque and have some free time to stroll through the streets of Kuqa’s old town.
Place & Transport: Kucha to Hotan via the new Desert Highway, and Desert Camping
Day’s Activities: Taklamakan Desert
After the hotel breakfast we will start our day’s journey to cross the width of the Taklamakan Desert, along the 450 km long Taklamakan Desert Highway. Taklamakan Desert is the second largest shifting sands desert in the world, covering an area of 337,600 square km. Taklamakan Desert was known as the “Sea of Death” by the Silk Road traders attempting to cross it in their caravans in times gone by. Many traders who entered the desert lost their way and were never to be seen again. We will have our lunch on the way, and upon completing 2/3 of our desert highway journey, we shall stop for overnight camping. If you are lucky to find wood, then you will have a camp fire by which to enjoy your dinner. Your food and water supplies obtained along the way or the day before in Kucha. You camping gear such as tent, ground mat and sleeping bag will be provided.
Place & Transport: Taklamakan Desert to Hotan Tour
Day’s Activities: Local Silk, Carpet, Jade Workshops, White Jade River, Hotan Sunday Bazaar
Accommodation: Taklamakan Desert Camp
After breakfast in the desert, we will continue our journey to Hotan. Upon arrival, we will check in to the hotel and leave you time for short rest. We will then start our tour by visiting Hotan’s amazing Sunday Market, a huge lively market which is like taking a journey back in time, experiencing donkey gridlock. Hotan is particularly famous for its high quality jade, carpet and Atlas silk products. The best jade in China is found here in White Jade River, which we will visit, and try to find some jade for ourselves as we watch the locals digging and sifting for the precious rock. We will also visit the White Jade factory to see how the Jade is processed and made into jewelry and ornaments. Hotan is also renowned for its high quality wool carpets. We will visit a carpet workshop to observe the weaving process. Finally, we shall visit the Silk Atlas factory to see the silk threads being separated from silk cocoons, and observe the weaving of luxurious, shimmering women’s clothing. The night will be spent in Hotan.
Place & Transport: Hotan to Kashgar via Yarkand
Day’s Activities: Yarkand Golden Graveyard, Tomb of Aman Nisahan, Yegisar Knife Factory
We will leave for Kashgar after breakfast at the hotel and make several stops along the way before reaching Yarkand. Known as Shache in Chinese, this is among the largest counties in Xinjiang. In Yarkand we will visit the Golden Graveyard, dating from the 16th Century and the burial site of Yarkand Uyghur Kingdom’s royal family. Next to this is the Tomb of Aman Nisahan, the wife of the second King of the Yarkand Kingdom. Aman Nisahan is a famous Uyghur poet, musician and composer. She is most renowned for her transcription of the Twelve Mukam of famous traditional Uyghur music. We will enjoy a traditional lunch of corn noodles, pumpkin dumplings and kebab in a local Yarkand restaurant. Our next stop will be Yegisar, the most famous region in Xinjiang for making traditional Uyghur knives. We will have the chance to visit one of the many knife workshops here and glimpse the manufacturing process. Then we will continue our journey to Kashgar, arriving in late afternoon.
Note: Buying knives in Yingsar as souvenir is strictly prohibited. Nonetheless if you decide to do so, please buy it at your own risk. At the time of preparing this program, it is illegal to transport knives on your flight, train or bus, nor may you post them via couriers.
Place & Transport: Kashgar to Karakul Lake and back to Kashgar
Day’s Activities: Karakoram Highway, Opal Village, Corner Lake, Mt. Muztagh Ata, Karakul Lake
After breakfast at the hotel, we will take a drive on the Karakurum highway. It is renowned as the highest paved border crossing in the world and regarded as one of its most beautiful highways. We will see the following on our drive: Opal Village, an hour’s drive from Kashgar, is a good location to take photos of village life and traditional activities like bread making and noodle pulling. Half an hour’s drive beyond the village will take us to Oytagh Red Mountain. The mountain valley is surrounded by a beautiful backdrop of multi-colored mountains topped by snowcapped peaks. Corner Lake (Bulung Kul) is a tranquil shallow lake affording very nice photographic opportunities of the lake with stunning reflections of the sand mountains. Karakul Lake lies 3600 meters above sea level, sandwiched between Mt. Muztagata (7546 meters) and Mt. Gonger (7719 meters), said to be 2 of the 6 most beautiful mountains in the world. We will visit local Kyrgyz yurts and learn something about traditional ways of nomadic mountain life, before returning to Kashgar in the afternoon.
Day’s Activities: Apak Hoja Tomb, Livestock Market, Sunday Market, Eid Kah Mosque, Old Town, Handicraft Street, Uyghur Family Visit
We will begin our Kashgar City Tour with a visit to the Apak Hoja Tomb, also known as the“fragrant concubine tomb” (Xingfei in Chinese). This is a very tranquil place and a great example of Uyghur Islamic architecture. Next we will head to the famous livestock market and Sunday market, renowned as the biggest market in Central Asia. It is said you can buy anything you want at the Sunday market except chicken milk or cow eggs. We will then enjoy our lunch in a typical Uyghur restaurant or arrange your lunch with a Uyghur family in Kashgar Old Town. After lunch, we will wander through the narrow winding streets of historic Kashgar Old Town, rubbing shoulders with the friendly Uyghur residents. Located at the spiritual heart of Old Town is Eid Kah Mosque, the largest mosque in China. We will enter the mosque and understand a bit more about Islam and the religious life of Uyghur people. After the Eid Kah Mosque, we will pass through Handicraft Street, viewing pots being hammered, wood craftsmen at work and traditional musical Instrument workshops. The night will be spent in Kashgar.
Note: Before entering the Mosque visitors should dress respectfully, no shorts or short-sleeved shirts, and women should cover their heads with a scarf.
Place & Transport: Kashgar Airport Transfer
Day’s Activities: Morning flight from Kashgar to your next destination
After breakfast at the hotel, we will escort you to Kashgar Airport and see you off to your next destination.