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21-Day The Tracks of Marco Polo Tour

Route: Urumqi – Kashgar – Karakorum Highway – Tashkurgan – Yarkant – Kargilik – Hotan – Taklamakan Desert – Aksu – Kuqa – Korla – Turpan – Dunhuang – Jiayuguan – Zhangye – Wuwei – Lanzhou

Activities: The Tracks of Marco Polo Tour in 21 days designed to help you gain thorough understanding about the Chinese side of Silk Road. It is designed by following the footsteps of the great explorer Marco Polo. Even though the tour omits Xi’an from the itinerary, we can include it upon request.

 

Day 01

Place & Transport: Arrival to Urumqi

Today’s Activities: Urumqi Airport to Hotel Transfer

Place to Stay: Urumqi
 

Day 02

Place & Transport: Urumqi Tour

Today’s Activities: Xinjiang Museum, Erdaoqiao International Market

Place to Stay: Urumqi

After breakfast we will visit the extensive Xinjiang Museum. It is a large integrated museum, holding all key artifacts and cultural relics central to Xinjiang region and the Silk Road. The museum is famous for its rich collections of silk artifacts dating from many periods throughout history. The museum also contains several mummies some of them dating back 4000 years, which can easily rival those found in Egypt
 

Day 03

Place &Transportation: Morning Flight to Kashgar then Tour in Kashgar

Today’s Activities: Kashgar Old Town

  • Kashgar Old Town
  • Kashgar Old Town
  • Kashgar Old Town





Place to Stay: Kashgar

After lunch we will wander through the narrow winding streets of the historic Old town brushing shoulders with the friendly Uyghur residents
 

Day 04

Place & Transport: Kashgar City Tour

Today’s Activities: Apak Hoja Tomb, Sunday Market, Old Town, Id Kah Mosque, Handicraft Street

  • Kashgar Apak Hoja Tomb
  • Kashgar Sunday Market
  • Kashgar Old Town
  • Kashgar Id Kah Mosque
  • Kashgar Handicraft Street





Place to Stay: Kashgar

We will begin our tour of Kashgar City by visiting the Apak Hoja tomb also called fragrant concubine tomb (Xingfei in Chinese) . This is a very tranquil place and a beautiful example of Uyghur Islamic architecture.

Next we will head to the Infamous lively Sunday market renowned as the biggest market in Central Asia. It is said you can buy anything you want from the Sunday market except chicken milk and Cow eggs. Located at the spiritual heart of old town is Id Kah Mosque, the largest mosque in China.  We will go inside and have the chance to understand a bit more about the Islamic life of the Uyghur people. We will pass down Handicraft Street where we can view pots being hammered, wood craftsmen at work and traditional musical instrument workshops.

Note: For entering the Mosque visitors should dress respectfully, no shorts or short sleeved shirts and women should cover their heads with a scarf.
 
 

Day 05

Place & Transport: Kashgar to Karakul Lake to Tashkorgan

Today’s Activities: Karakoram Highway, Opal Village, Red Mountain, Corner Lake & Sand Mountain, Mt. Muztagh Ata, Mt.Konger, Karakul Lake

  • Karakoram Highway
  • Corner Lake
  • Mt. Muztagh Ata
  • Karakul Lake





Place to Stay: Tashkorgan
Drive on Karakoram Highway (An epic road to travel.) Karakul Lake is located southwest of Kashgar, and 200km from Kashgar. You will have chance to do some trekking around the lake which is 3600ms above sea level. Karakul Lake is located at the foot of Muztag Ata (7546m). The people living around the lake are Kyrgyz people, will have chance to visit the Kyrgyz yurts and learn about the nomadic mountain life of Kyrgyz people.In the afternoon drive to Taskorgan
 

Day 06

Place & Transport: Tashkorgan to Kashgar

Today’s Activities: Stone City, Tajik Family Visiting

  • Tashkorgan Stone City





Place to stay: Kashgar

Visit the Stone city in Tashkorgan.. It was once the palace of the Tajik kingdom. You will have a chance to look around the town and visit Tajik family to see the Traditional life of the Tajik people on the Pamir Plateau and the beautiful scenery of the Pamir Mountains. Drive back to Kashgar in the afternoon.
 

Day 07

Place & Transport: Kashgar to Yarkant (180Km)

Today’s Activities: Yegisar Knife Factory, Yarkant Golden Graveyard, Aman Nisahan Tomb, Yarkent Old Town

  • Yegisar knife factory
  • Yarkand Golden graveyard
  • Yarkent old town





Place to Stay: Yarkand

On our way to Yarkand, one hour East of Kashgar, we will make a stop in the county of Yingsar. Yingsar is the most famous region in Xinjiang for making traditional Uyghur knives. We will have the chance to visit one of the many knife factories here and view the making process and purchase souvenirs. Next stop a further two hours down the road will be Yarkand (shache in Chinese). In Yarkand we will first visit the Golden Graveyard.   This graveyard dates from the 17th Century and is the burial place of Royal family members of the Yarkand Uyghur Kingdom. It is known to Local people as “Golden Graveyard” as a sign of respect to the Yarkent Uyghur Kingdom.
Next to the Golden Graveyard we will visit 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. She brought together local musicians, the majority of which were farmers, from the region and put their music to paper and also composed one of the Mukams herself.
 

Day 08

Place & Transport: Yarkant to Hotan (360KM)

Today’s Activities: Kargilik

Place to Stay: Hotan

We will leave for Hotan after breakfast. On our way to Hotan we will make a stop in the county of Kargilik. Where has a small market with as well as a beautiful mosque from 16th century. Arrive in Hoten in the afternoon.
 

Day 09

Place & Transport: Hotan Tour

Today’s Activities: Taklimakan Desert, Local Silk, Carpet, Jade Workshops, White Jade River, Hotan Sunday Bazaar

  • Taklimakan Desert
  • Local Silk
  • Jade Workshops
  • White Jade River
  • Hotan Bazaar





Place to Stay: Hotan

After breakfast we will visit Hotans 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 products, the best Jade in China being found here in the White Jade River. We will visit the river and try to find some Jade for ourselves and watch the locals at work 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 see the weaving process.
 

Day 10

Place & Transport: Hotan to Aksu by Crossing the New Desert Highway (650KM)

Today’s Activities: Taklamakan Desert Highway

  • Taklamakan Desert Highway





Place to Stay: Aksu

 After Breakfast, we set off for Aksu. The day’s journey will have us cross the width of the Taklamakan Desert along the 450km 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 is known as the “sea of death” by the silk road traders that used to have to cross it in their caravans in times gone by, many traders entered the desert lost their way and were never to be seen again.

We will arrive in Aksu late in the afternoon in time for dinner. The day’s total distance will be 500 km from Hotan to Aksu (around 6 hours).
 

Day11

Place & Transport: Aksu to Kuqa via Bay County (320KM)

Today’s Activities: Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves

  • Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves
  • Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves
  • Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves





Place to Stay: Kuche

 After breakfast we will set out from Aksu to Kuqa (Kuche in Chinese). On our way to Kuqa we will visit the Kizil Thousand Buddha caves, dating from 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 on our journey to Kuqa.

Kuqa is the biggest county of Aksu prefecture. Kuqa was previously the most important pass on the middle silk road (route) in Xinjiang. Kuqa is also a center for Buddhism in southern Xinjiang.
 

Day12

Place & Transport: Kuqa Tour the to Korla (320KM)

Today’s Activities: Ancient Beacon Tower, Kuqa Grand Mosque, Kuqa Old Town, Subash Ancient City, Iron Gate

  • Kucha Beacon Tower
  • Kuqa Grand Mosque
  • Kuqa Old Town
  • Subash Ancient City





Place to Stay: Korla

After breakfast we will visit Kuqa Grand Mosque and have some free time to stroll through the streets of Kuqa’s old town. We will then set off for Korla making a few visits on route. Firstly we will visit the Beacon Tower, the highest tower on the silk road, at 13m high and made of mud and wood. The Beacan Tower was previously used for sending out fire signals to warn of the arrival of enemies. We will then visit the Subash ancient city – Well preserved 1km square in size used to be the temples where Uyghur ancestors used to worship in the Buddhism periods then we will carry on our journey to Korla and have a picnic lunch on the way. We will arrive in Korla in the afternoon. Explore Korla downtown. Korla is regarded as the cleanest city in the whole of Xinjiang. We will visit the Iron Gate (Tiemenguan) the point where Silk Road travelers used to have to be registered along their route.
 

Day13

Place & Transport: Korla to Turpan by Crossing the TianShan Mountain (400KM)

Today’s Activities: TianShan Mountains

  • Tianshan Mountains
  • Tianshan Mountains
  • Tianshan Mountains





Place to Stay: Turpan

After breakfast we will leave for Turpan. Our journey will take us across the TianShan Mountain, the range which divides Xinjiang into two parts, Northern Xinjiang and Southern Xinjiang. TianShan Mountain is known to the Uyghur people as “Tangry Tagh” which means “God Mountain”. This was due to the life sustaining properties the first Uyghur settlers found here. The first settlers inhabited both sides of the range and received water from the mountains and green pastures on which to graze their herds. We will enjoy a picnic lunch along the route. We will arrive in Turpan late afternoon and you will have free time to explore the city.
 
 

Day14

Place & Transport: Turpan Tour

Today’s Activities: Gaochang Ancient City, Astana Ancient Tombs, Tuyuk Village

  • Gaochang Ancient City
  • Astana Ancient Tombs
  • Tuyuk Village





Place to Stay: Turpan

Gaochang Ancient City was built in the first century B.C; it was a key point on the ancient Silk Road. Astana Ancient tombs is known as capital tombs and underground museum of Xinjiang where many important writings, paintings and mummies have been discovered. Tuyuk Village. Here the most traditional Uyghur life can be seen with the people living in traditional homes made of mud.
 

Day15

Place & Transport: Turpan Tour then Overnight Train to Dunhuang

Today’s Activities: Kariz Water System, Jiaohe Ancient City, Emin Minaret

  • Kariz Underground Water System
  • Jiaohe Ancient City
  • Emin Minaret





Place to Stay: On the Train

Kariz underground water system is the China’s third most important ancient engineering feat with a total length of 3100 miles and dating back more than 2000 years. Jiaohe Ancient City is the oldest, largest, highest ancient city built of mud in the World. Many cultural relics were unearthed, such as antefix of the Tang Dynasty and Buddhist scriptures at the Ancient City of Jiaohe. 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 famous towers in China. You will take an evening train to Dunhuang.
 

Day16

Place & Transport: Railway Station to Hotel Transfer

Today’s Activities: Mogao Caves, Echoing Sand Dunes, Crescent Moon Spring

  • Mogao Caves
  • Echoing sand dunes
  • Crescent Moon Spring





Place to Stay: Dunhuang

We arrive at the Dunhuang railway station early in the morning and then take a 1.5 hour drive from the station to Dunhuang city to check in to our hotel and freshen up. We head to Mogao Grottoes that morning. Constructed over a millennium ago, from the 4th to the 14th centuries, the caves hold the world’s richest treasure house of Buddhist sutras, murals and sculptures.

We will have lunch at Mogao Caves and then drive to Crescent Moon Spring, 6km south of Dunhuang in the Singing Sands Mountains. It is quite literally an oasis in the desert. The spring’s name derives from the crescent moon shape taken by the small pool of spring water between two large sand dunes. Although the area is very dry, the pool doesn’t dry up as one might expect.

We return to Dunhuang in the afternoon and take a walk around Shazhou Market in town. After dinner we will watch the Flying Sky Show (Fei Tian), a traditional Buddhist dance.
 

Day17

Place & Transport: Dunhuang Tour

Today’s Activities: Jade Gate, Han Dynasty Great Wall

  • Jade gate
  • Han Dynasty Great Wall





Place to Stay: Xi’an

After breakfast we head to Jade gate, once one of the west gates out of the country during the Han Dynasty (206 B. C. -220 A. D.). It is quite ruined by the shifting sands but still displays the splendor of the dynasty.
Then we visit the Great wall of the Han dynasty, built for defending the nomadic Xiongnu.
 

Day18

Place & Transport: Dunhuang to Jiayuguan and then Tour of Jiayuguan

Today’s Activities: Jia Yu Pass

  • Jia Yu Pass
  • Jia Yu Pass
  • Jia Yu Pass
  • Jia Yu Pass
  • Jia Yu Pass





Place to Stay: Jiayuguan

Jiayu Pass stands in the southwest section of the city of Jiayuguan in Gansu Province. The snow-covered Qilian Mountains spread for hundreds of miles to the south, and the Dragon’s Head (Longshou) and the Horse’s Mane (Mazong) mountains rise to its north. The walls on both sides of the pass extend across the desert to join the mountains. It was a strategic passageway on the route to the western regions (west of China’s Yumen Pass, including what is today’s Xinjiang and Central Asia).
The existing building was constructed in 1372. It is a square structure with a circumference of 733 meters, divided into outer and inner sections. The outer wall was built with mud except for the western section, which was made of bricks. The double walls indicate the important strategic position of this pass
 

Day 19

Place & Transport: Jiayuguan to Wuwei

Today’s Activities: Zhangye Big Temple, Confucian Temple, Changcheng Town

Place to stay: Wuwei

After breakfast we will drive towards Wuwei, on the journey, we will visit Zhangye temple. The existing complex consists of the Giant Buddha Hall, the Buddhist Classics Hall, and a Clay Pagoda. The two-storied Giant Buddha Hall is 33 meters high, 49 meters wide and 24 meters long, with a total area of 1770 square meters. The gold-plated and painted Giant Buddha lies in the Nirvana situation in the middle of the hall. The whole Buddha is 34.5 meters long and 7.5 meters wide between its two shoulders, with feet of 4 meters and ears of 2 meters. The Buddha’s calm expression moves visitors. Behind the Buddha are 10 disciples, and in two side halls stand 18 Saintly Warriors. The walls of the hall are covered with colorful murals, which depict episodes from the Mountain-sea Sutra (an ancient Chinese encyclopedia) and from Journey to the West (a celebrated novel written in the Ming Dynasty).

Located on the historical Silk Road, Wuwei is considered to be one of the most famous historical and cultural cities of China with plenty of historical resources. There are numerous historical and cultural relics for sightseeing in the city. The most famous ones include the Leitai Han Tombs, Confucian Temple,  Changcheng Town (Great Wall Town),
 

Day 20

Place & Transport: Wuwei to Lanzhou

Today’s Activities:

Place to stay: Lanzhou Yanguan Mansion
 

Day 21

Place & Transport: Lanzhou Tour then Flight to Next Destination

Today’s Activities:

The Waterwheel Garden, built in 1994, is located in the Binhe Middle Road (Binhe Zhong Lu) in Lanzhou, Gansu Province. The garden covers an area of 1.45 hectares (3.58 acres) and is comprised of two waterwheels, a cofferdam, the recreation area and a house of water mill. Take a afternoon flight to next destination.

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