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The Great Silk Road

From US$ 6,290 US$ 5,976
  • No booking or credit card fees
highlights
  • Follow the route of the ancient Silk Road, travelling in the footsteps of countless generations of nomads and traders
  • Discover the unreal, rainbow-coloured landscape of Zhangye, a UNESCO site that looks like countless pots of bright paint have been spilled across sandstone mountains. You won't be able to put your camera away!
  • Uncover the ‘other terracotta warriors’ in Xi’an’s Hanyangling Mausoleum, an authentic and more personal burial site that’s home to tens of thousands of buried pottery figures
  • Experience the unique atmosphere of Kashgar’s Sunday Market
The Great Silk Road tour starts in Beijing and ends in Tashkent. The Great Silk Road is an Explorer tour that takes 32 days taking you from Beijing to Tashkent and through other destinations in Asia.

Unlock the secrets of the Silk Road on this immersive journey across Central Asia. From Beijing all the way to Tashkent, this epic 32-day trip heads west across China, showcasing stunning relics, dynastic palaces, Muslim minarets, hidden grottoes and rock-cut Buddhist masterpieces. Continuing into Kyrgyzstan and to the heartland of Uzbekistan, be dazzled by Central Asia proper: the tranquil landscape of Song-Kol Lake; wild boar and deer around Chychkan Gorge; Solomon's Throne in historic Osh; and the superb mosques and museums of Samarkand. Full of warmly hospitable locals, spectacular expanses and constant evocations of a legendary past, this is the Silk Road at its magical best.
Nimen Hao! Welcome to Beijing - the capital of the most populous country on earth. China's capital is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity, however there are still plenty of places that give an insight into the nation's ancient past, as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where the meeting will take place – if you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Any free time today in Beijing is taken at your leisure, so get out and start exploring this vast and amazing city. It's recommended that you arrive a few days early to experience all that Beijing has to offer. Beijing's food is a highlight, from the famous Beijing Roast Duck to dumplings in a tiny backstreet eatery, there’s no chance you’ll go hungry here!
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY 530
  • Beijing - Beijing Foodie Walk Urban Adventure - CNY 360
  • Beijing - Great Wall Experience Urban Adventure - CNY 900
  • Beijing - Beijing Insights Urban Adventure - CNY 490
Catch the bullet train to Xi'an (approximately 5-6 hours). Once the imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xian is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites to explore. Enjoy a walking tour of the Muslim Quarter of Xi'an with your group. After the walking tour, why not visit the Great Mosque, one of the most important in China. This area has plenty of interesting shops, lively street stalls and roving groups of white-bearded men in skull caps. This evening enjoy some free time to uncover what was once the start of the ancient trading route of the Silk Road.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Enjoy a free day to explore Xi'an at your leisure. Perhaps hire a bike and ride along the city walls, which are the most complete in China, or climb to the top of the Bell and Drum towers for impressive views. Perhaps visit the impressive Tang Dynasty Small or Big Wild Goose Pagodas. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is in a scenic area which also includes the Shaanxi History Museum and Da Cien Temple. It's very popular with locals, especially in the evenings when there is a nightly light and music show around the many fountains. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is inside the Jianfu Temple and Xi'an Museum is also nearby.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Xi'an - Bell & Drum Towers - CNY 50
  • Xi'an - Great Mosque - CNY 25
  • Xi'an - Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY 50
  • Hua Shan day trip - CNY 200
  • Xi'an - Karaoke - CNY 100
  • Temple of the Eight Immortals - CNY 10
  • Xi'an - Cycling on City Wall - CNY 80
Today starts with a short drive to the lesser-known Hanyangling Mausoleum with a local guide. This is a Han dynasty tomb of Emperor Jingdi, a burial site that’s more authentic and less crowded than the Teracotta Warriors. Dating from 153 BC, the tomb’s a magnificent cultural relic, comprising of tens of thousands of buried pottery figures, the emperor’s tomb, empress’ tomb, burial pits, a ceremonial site, a human sacrifice graveyard and a criminals’ cemetery. You will head underground and walk through the pits, which have glass floors and walls that enable you to see the on-going excavations up close. In the evening the group boards the first overnight train to Zhangye.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train
Disembark after an overnight train ride to Zhangye, arriving at around midday. Check into your hotel and take an orientation walk with the group leader around this leafy town of temples and parks. The city was established 1,000 years ago as the headquarters of General Huo when he controlled the ‘Hexi Corridor’. Controlling this area meant controlling the lucrative Silk Road, as the corridor is one of the few ways through the Qilian Mountains to the north and the desert and peaks to the south. Zhangye is home to China’s largest reclining Buddha, which would have been visited by Marco Polo in the 13th century while he waited for permission from Kubilau Khan to continue on to the Mongolian capital. Relax with free time for the rest of the afternoon and evening as you prepare yourself for some truly spectacular scenery tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Today pack your sunscreen, hat and water as you head to see the unreal landscapes of Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, where it looks like millions of coloured paint pots have been spilled across the mountains. This 400-square-kilometer World Heritage site was formed over 24 million - 100 million years ago. The area was originally a lake fed by rivers, which brought many layers of sand and mineral deposits. When the lake dried up the mineral elements oxidised, giving the lake its unique colour palette. The elements then eroded the lake into mountainous shapes and unusual formations. The result looks like an oil painting, with colours ranging from pink and orange to earthy brown. The scale of the formation and the swirling patterns of rainbow colours are stunning. Take a hike around this grand and magnificent area at sunset, and discover that every angle is a photographers dream.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse
Today there is an option to rise early and return to the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park for an unforgettable sunrise over the hills. Later at midday the group will catch a day train to Jiayuguan (approximately 1.5-2 hours). Jiayuguan was the last outpost on the edge of the ancient Han Chinese Empire, the last Chinese-controlled stop for travellers and traders before they passed into the uncertain and dangerous deserts beyond. While exploring the city you might notice the growing Muslim influence as we travel further west.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Today explore Jiayuguan Fort and a remote section of the Great Wall, which you will either visit today before heading to Dunhuang. The Ming dynasty built a series of forts and towers in Jiayuguan to secure their hold over the area and Jiayuguan Fort, though restored, still offers a feeling of desolation as you look out into the desert from atop its walls. Here we visit a section of the Jiayuguan Pass, which is the western end of the Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty. Travel to Dunhuang in the afternoon, which is about five hours drive. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel
This morning the group can decide if they want to drive out of the city and watch the sun rise over the nearby dunes at Crescent Lake. The oasis, which take the shape of a crescent moon, is believed to have existed for around 2,000 years and is surrounded by Mingsha Shan (Singing Sand Dunes). Today you will also visit the nearby Mogao Caves, which house some of the most stunning Buddhist murals in the world, and are perhaps the greatest store of Buddhist art in the world. The first cave was carved out and painted in 366 AD after a Buddhist monk, passing through on the Silk Road, had a vision of a thousand Buddha faces appearing on the cliff. The caves were largely forgotten until a Taoist monk stumbled upon them in 1907. Currently there are more than 492 caves, most containing murals, manuscripts, and over 2,415 coloured statues. Return to your hotel in Dunhuang for the night and perhaps enjoy a drink at the unique beer gardens off the nearby night market.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Travel by private bus this morning to Liuyuan train station and board a day train to Turpan (approximately 3.5 hours). A transfer will be waiting in Turpan to take you to the hotel. Once an important staging post on the Silk Road, Turpan is an attractive oasis town famous for its vineyards, stone fruits, melons and the nearby Flaming Mountains. The Turpan Depression is second only to the Dead Sea in Jordan as the lowest point on earth. It's a small city by Chinese standards, but the surrounding area is full of interesting places. The country roads on the outskirts are lined with poplars and the lovely old mud brick dwellings of the Uyghur people, while the modern ‘inner’ town has shiny new buildings, spacious streets and public squares.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Explore Turpan with your local guide. Visit the ruins of the once great Silk Road city of Jiaohe, one of Xinjiang’s best historical sites and one of the most rewarding to visit. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen with you as things will be heating up! During free time this afternoon, choose to join the locals socialising in the square, or visit the market tonight for all the flavours of the region and plenty of interaction.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Take the last train journey to Kashgar, which departs between 11am and 1pm (approximately 24 hours). See mirages in the Turpan basin, then climb through a high mountain pass, switch-backing up the peak of the Tian Shan Mountains. By morning you will have descended down the other side into the Tarim basin, skirting the northern edge of the sandy Taklamakan desert, passing isolated communities eking out a living in a harsh environment.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train
Optional Activities
  • Turpan - Emin Minaret
Arrive into Kashgar around midday today. Once a frontier town straddling the crossroads of empires and trading routes, Kashgar is now very much a modern, fast developing city that continues to take advantage of its geographical position near the border of Pakistan and Central Asia. Far from Beijing it may be, but there are still plenty of signs that you are still in China, such as the country's largest Chairman Mao statue.

The once extensive Old Town is just about all but gone, with only a few areas still left to be demolished or rebuilt under the guise of it being overcrowded, with poor drainage and vulnerable to earthquakes. There has been a huge loss of culture with Uyghur families being relocated to newly built apartments.

The town's main landmark is the Id Kah Mosque and its surrounding square. The dusty old laneways are crammed full of shops, food stalls and Uyghur locals living a lifestyle virtually unchanged for a hundred years. Take advantage of the proximity to Pakistan by having a meal of curry and chapattis at a Pakistani café or play a round or two with the lads hanging out at the pool tables on Id Kah Square. Alternatively, you can get lost meandering down lanes and alleyways, stopping at stalls selling tandoori-baked bagels or mulberry juice. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Kashgar's main attraction is undoubtedly the Sunday Bazaar, which you’ll visit today. It’s said to be the biggest market in Asia, and on its main day it can feel like everyone from hundreds of miles around has converged on the city. It’s alive with traders selling all kinds of wares – rugs, hats, spices, boots, dates, ingredients for traditional medicines, auto parts, you name it. The Bazaar is divided into two sections – the Downtown Bazaar, which sells clothing, household goods, produce and everything else you could imagine, and the Animal Bazaar just outside the city. Taking a private van, first travel out to the Animal Bazaar to see the frantic bargaining and bustle of local herdsmen and farmers (watch as they even take donkeys for a 'test drive'). It’s certainly a memorable scene to see every farmer, handler, sheep, cow, camel, horse and donkey from the surrounding villages packed into a small square overflowing with sound and smell. Then return to the city to visit the main bazaar and mingle with the traders and shoppers at your own pace. Perhaps join the locals in Id Kah Square on this free evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Kashgar - Id Kah Mosque - CNY 20
  • Kashgar - Tomb of Abakh Hoja - CNY 30
Say goodbye to your Chinese leader and group today, and travel onwards with other group members who are completing the Beijing to Tashkent journey.

Depart early morning by private bus for our journey into the seldom-travelled country of Kyrgyzstan, a nation that still embraces nomadic traditions and extends some of the warmest hospitality you'll find anywhere in the world. We'll be travelling for around 11 hours today, including approx 7 hours of driving, plus border formalities (which can require a lot of patience and plenty of waiting).

You will be accompanied by a Chinese Intrepid representative to the border and then meet your new driver and escort on the Kyrgyzstan side who will be with you until we meet the Central Asia group at Bishkek tomorrow.

We cross the breathtaking Torugart Pass (3570m) high in the Tian Shan, slated as the most exciting route into Central Asia - take note of the changing landscape between China and Kyrgyzstan - and drive down to Tash Rabat (3500m), a beautifully preserved caravanserai of the 14th century. There is very little public transport in Kyrgyzstan so to make the most of our time here we have a private van for our journeys. It can be a rough ride in places today and often gets quite cold as we ascend higher into the mountains even in mid summer, so make sure you bring some warm clothes!

Drive on to Naryn where we stay in a hotel tonight.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Travel on to Bishkek, where you will have free time until you meet your new group and leader at 6pm tonight.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Enjoy a full-day city tour of Bishkek. You'll notice a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere as you stroll around town. The centre of the city is Ala-too Square, which was known as Lenin's Square in Soviet times. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of this square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. For those interested in their Soviet memorabilia, a larger-than-life Frunze can be found still sitting on a bronze horse facing the train station, though his name plaque has been removed. You can also still visit the museum built over Frunze's birthplace. A nice place to watch the world go by is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'll find a few open-air cafes that are great to sit at and soak up the atmosphere over a drink. The century-old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Bishkek - State Historical Museum
Drive 60 km to the 11th-century Burana tower, an ancient minaret from the Silk Road period. In the nearby village of Don Aryk, visit a local home. Reflecting the important role horses have played in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic life style, the country is famous for at least four types of horse games such as odarysh or wrestling, tiyin-enish, where riders try to pick up coins at full gallop and kok buru or buzkashi, a type of goat-snatching polo. We'll take the chance here to watch the how the locals play the horse game here. Enjoy lunch with the family.

Continue to Issyk Kul lake – the second largest alpine lake in the world. This beauty is one of the biggest natural water reservoirs in the world, at 170 km long and 70 km wide. A combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and mild salinity means the lake never freezes. Next, continue to Kochkor. Explore a small local market in the centre of the village as well as local co-op that provides training to local women in traditional handicrafts.
Accommodation
  • Guest House/Home Stay
Make the 130 km drive to Son-Köl, one of the largest lakes in the country. This beautiful alpine lake is considered a sacred place for many Kyrgyz people as well as one of the best summer pastures for nomadic herders. In the middle of the summer, you'll see nomadic herdsmen and their families watching over goats, sheep, and horses. Enjoy exploring your surroundings for the rest of the day. There are many beautiful lake trails to hike along. Alternatively you might like to visit some ancient petroglyphs in the local area, or visit a nomad camp for a first-hand look at nomadic life. Simply sit and take in this beautiful corner of the world.

Tonight you will stay in your first yurt of the trip. Yurts, made of felt and tarpaulins on a round frame, are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people. Sleeping arrangements are on a multi-share, mixed-gender basis with mattresses on the floor. It can get very chilly in the evenings, so there's a stove for heating and plenty of blankets. There are no bathroom facilities inside the yurts. Outdoor toilets are to be expected. All meals are included during our stay here. Those daring enough for an invigorating morning splash can use the lake nearby.
Accommodation
  • Yurt Camp
Today you travel along the gravel roads to the tiny village of Kyzyl-Oi squeezed between the mountains. On our way, we will pass large coal deposit and continue along the Kökömeren river which feeds the Syr Darya - one the major rivers of Central Asia that used to fill the Aral Sea. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the river in the shade of the trees and take some free time to explore the village once we arrive. 
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Homestay
Keep in mind that the roads in Kyrgyzstan see little regular maintenance, so even short distances can take a full day. You will arrive at tonight accommodation sometime in the early evening so expect a full travel day. The road crosses the Suusamyr Valley – a high steppe plateau situated at around 2,200 metres above sea level. The mountainous, lush surrounding landscape is dotted with yurts. Just when you think the road couldn't possibly climb any higher, you will arrive at your guesthouse for an overnight stay. The road follows the Chychkan river that cuts through the Tien Shan range. Stop here for a while and soak up the amazing scenery. Surrounded by mountains and rivers flowing below, Chychkan is simply stunning. Arrive in Kok-Bel and stay in a guesthouse again tonight.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Home Stay
After breakfast, drive to Arkyt Village (approximately 4–5 hours). This UNESCO World Heritage-listed network of nature reserves is located in the Sary-Chelek National Park, about 15 km before Sary-Chelek Lake. The reserve was founded in 1959 to preserve the flora and fauna of the walnut-fruit forests and alpine landscapes. On our way, you'll see some small dam projects along the river. After lunch continue another 10 km to take a boat trip across the lake. Stay in a local homestay and enjoy more of that warm Kyrgyzstan hospitality.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Home Stay
A morning drive (approximately 5 hours from Sary-Chelek Lake) brings you to Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan. Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country, Osh is often referred to as the 'capital of the south'. It is one of the truly ancient Central Asian towns, dating back to the 5th century BC. While you are here, be sure to pay a visit to the Jayma Bazaar where you might pick up an interesting souvenir or two. Also pop your head into the famous three-story yurt, or venture up Suleiman-Too Mountain ("Solomon's Throne") which looms over the lovely Fergana Valley.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
This morning we drive to Kyrgyz – Uzbek border. After passing through the border (approx. 1-2hrs), we meet our Uzbek guide and transfer to Andijan. From here we will take a local train to Tashkent (approx. 5.5 hrs). Arrive at our Tashkent hotel in the evening and take a good rest after a long day of travelling.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Begin you introduction to Uzbekistan. City sightseeing today in Tashkent will include a visit to State history museum, visit Abdul Khasim Medrassah with its hujra cells used as metalwork craft workshops to produce jewellery and other goods and Khast Imom Complex with its amazing architectural beauty. After lunch, stop in at the exciting Chorsu Bazaar to see traditional wooden cradles, handmade musical instruments, and the extensive vegetable and spice market.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Transfer to the station for the high speed train to fabled Samarkand (approx 2 hours). This city is located at the very centre of the ancient Silk Road. Enjoy a sightseeing tour of this ancient city on arrival. Inspect the remains of the remarkable medieval observatory developed by Ulug Beg, Tamerlane's (Amir Timur) brilliant astronomer grandson. Today, only half of the below-ground semi-circular track remains to be seen, together with the excellent small museum close by. In the afternoon we drive to the site of Afrosiab, or ancient Samarkand, and visit the Afrosiab Museum with its fine collection of treasures unearthed from the site, including the world famous 10th century frescoes. We check into our hotel in the late afternoon and perhaps go for a short walk before dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Visit the great central square of Samarkand, the Registan. Continue to Guri-Amir, where Tamerlane is buried, to Bibi-Khanum Mosque and also visit the nearby market. Then we drive to Konigil village in the outskirts of Samarkand. A special lunch is served for us here by the family who set up a watermill here for a paper making workshop. After lunch we'll have a tour of this place and explore traditional way of making famous Samarkand paper from mulberry. Upon return to Samarkand we visit Shaki-Zinda ensemble of the Mausoleums. This unusual necropolis has monuments from the 14th and 15th centuries, reflecting the development of the monumental art and architecture of the Timurid dynasty.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Continue tracing the Silk Road towards Bukhara. One of the most important portions of the ancient route named Royal Road, this route connects two major cities of the area and takes us through steppe to the small town of Shahrisabz - a home town of Tamerlaine. We will make a stop at Shahrisabz, visiting the legendery Ak Saray Palace, Dor-ut Tilovat Memorial Complex, Dorus Saodat Complex and Kok-Gumbaz Mosque.

Then we'll continue to Bukhara where we will rest for tonight.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Today, we'll enjoy a full day sightseeing in Bukhara.

First, you'll visit the lovely Sitora-i Mohi Khosa, once the summer residence of the last Emir. Designed by Russian architects, it has lavish interiors decorated
with traditional filigree plaster, mirrored surfaces and delicate floral wall paintings by local artisans. Then your private transport takes you through the Bukhara oasis to the peaceful 16th century Chor Bakr necropolis, where you'll enjoy the simplicity of decoration of Khonako-Medrassah-Mosque complex that is typical of Bukhara.

In the afternoon, visit the Ark Fortress and Kalon mosque which is symbolic of Bukhara, then to one of Central Asia's oldest and most exquisite structures, the 10th century Ismail Samani Mausoleum, whose superb decorative brickwork has survived 1,000 years of rugged history. From here it is only a short distance to the Lyabi-Haus area and our hotel which is situated in the old Jewish quarter and decorated with traditional Uzbek crafts. After dinner, there's time to join the locals strolling around the area and visit some of the small craft studios tucked into the ancient nearby madrassas and trading domes.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Historically Gijduvan was one of the caravan stops on the way to Holy Bukhara. Local Sufi master Kholiq (Abdukholiq Gijduvoniy) made this place famous because the Sufi Order he founded here in the 13th century. A couple of centuries later Ulugbek – the famous astronomer ruler of Samarkand and grandson of Tamerlane built a medrassah here, just next to the grave of the Sufi Saint. This town has gained further fame as one of the centers of glazed ceramic production. Today, you'll be transferred to this small town and visit the private studio of a local ceramic artist, meet his family and have a master class with ceramic artists. Later you can have some free time to explore this small town and learn more about life of Uzbek people outside big cities. For lunch we recommend to try another specialty of Gijduvan cuisine - the juicy
kebabs of Gijduvan are famous throughout Uzbekistan! On your way back, stop to see the minaret from the late 12th century in Vobkent.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
After breakfast, enjoy some free time for optional sightseeing in Bukhara. In the afternoon, take a fast train back to Tashkent and arrive in time for your farewell dinner with your fellow travellers. Transfer to the hotel and stay overnight in Tashkent.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please speak to your leader about storing luggage at the hotel.
what’s included
Accommodation
  • Hotel (23 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (2 nts), Guesthouse/Homestay (5 nts), Yurt (1 nt)
Meals
  • 17 Breakfast, 7 Lunch, 8 Dinner
Transport
  • Overnight Sleeper Train , Private Bus , Public Bus , High Speed Train , Metro/Subway
Included Activities
  • Xi'an - Muslim Quarter Walking Tour
  • Xi'an - Hanyangling Mausoleum
  • Zhangye - Danxia Landform Geological Park
  • Jiayuguan - Hanging Great Wall
  • Jiayuguan - Fort
  • Dunhuang - Mogao Caves
  • Dunhuang - Crescent Moon Lake & Singing Sand Mountains
  • Turpan - Jiaohe Ancient City
  • Kashgar - Sunday & Animal Bazaars
  • Bishkek - City Tour
  • Shamsy Valley - Burana tower
  • Don Aryk - Local home visit & horsemanship demonstration
  • Kochkor - Market
  • Kochkor - Women's Felt Co-op
  • Sary Chelek - National Park
  • Sary Chelek - Boat trip
  • Osh - Bazaar
  • Osh - Solomon's Throne
  • Tashkent - Chorsu Bazaar
  • Tashkent - Khast Imom Complex
  • Tashkent - History Museum
  • Samarkand - Ulug Beg Observatory
  • Samarkand - Afrosiab Museum
  • Samarkand - Bibi Khanum Mosque
  • Samarkand - Guri Amir Mausoleum
  • Samarkand - Shakh-I-Zinda Mausoleum Complex
  • Samarkand - Registan
  • Samarkand - Paper making workshop & home cooked lunch
  • Shakhrisabz - Ak Saray Palace
  • Shakhrisabz - Kok-Gumbaz Mosque
  • Shakhrisabz - Dor-ut Tilovat Memorial Complex
  • Shakhrisabz - Dorus Saodat Complex
  • Bukhara - Ismail Samani Mausoleum
  • Bukhara - Sitorai Mohi-Khosa Palace
  • Bukhara - Chor-Bakr Necropolis
  • Bukhara - Ark Fortress
  • Bukhara - Kalon Mosque
  • Vobkent - Minaret
  • Gijduvan - Ceramics Workshop
what’s excluded
  • International Flights
  • Any international flights to Beijing and from Tashkent are not included in this price. We always recommend that you arrive 1 day prior to your tour starting date.
  • Travel Insurance
  • Travel insurance is not included in this The Great Silk Road tour. Travel insurance is mandatory to buy. We recommend purchasing it from World Nomads.
Tour details
Booking Type Instant Booking  
Duration 32 days
Tour Type Group Tour - Max 12 participants
guiding method Live guide/instructor
Guide Language English
Starts/Ends Beijing/Tashkent
image description
Get a PDF file with detailed trip information: Download Trip Notes for The Great Silk Road
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Good to know Payment

A deposit of 400 USD is required to confirm this tour. For any departures within 22 June 2018 full payment is required.

Travel Insurance

The Great Silk Road tour requires that you have adequate and valid travel insurance covering medical and personal accidents, including repatriation costs and emergency evacuation. We recommend using World Nomads' travel insurance.

Visa

For this The Great Silk Road tour getting the required visa(s) is the responsibility for each individual traveller, as visa requirements vary depending on your nationality. We recommend to check with your local embassies representing the countries that you are travelling to, as part of this itinerary.

CancellationNo additional cancellation fees apply for this The Great Silk Road tour. You can cancel the tour up to 58 days prior departure and avoid paying the full amount, but your deposit paid is non-refundable. No refund applies for cancellations within 57 days of departure.
Trip Details
  • Last modified (date)

    24 Apr 2018

  • Trip title

    The Great Silk Road

  • Trip code

    CBSAC

  • Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2018 to 31 Dec 2018

  • Style

    Original

  • Themes

    Explorer

  • Transport

    Overnight Sleeper Train,Private Bus,Public Bus,High Speed Train,Metro/Subway

  • Physical Rating

    3

  • Physical preparation

    You need to have a good level of fitness and be in excellent health to take part in this trip. It's important that you are able to carry your own luggage (pack light!) as there is a lot of local transport on this trip and you will need to be able to take it on and off vehicles and trains as well as negotiate steps and train platforms etc.

    You also need to be able to cope with extremes in temperature (up to 45C) and some long, hot travel days.

  • Group leader

    All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.

    Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

  • Is this trip right for you

    Central Asia is a remote destination, perfect for intrepid travellers in the true sense of the word! You will venture well away from cities, right off the beaten track and be able to immerse yourself in local food, life and culture.

    Accommodation may on occasion be more basic than what you are used to in homestays, guesthouses and yurt stay. Shower and toilet facilities will be limited in some places and non existent in others. While the comfort level won't always be high, the rewards of living in true local style in this far-out part of the world are immeasurable.

    This is an overland journey, so there will be some very long days of travelling and driving, often over rough terrain. This can be tiring at times and will require a great deal of patience at others, especially at border crossings. 

    What Kyrgyzstan lacks in "sights" compared to the Silk Road monuments and old towns of Uzbekistan and China, it makes up for in alpine landscapes, opportunities for interaction with local families and plenty of time spent on the road or outdoors exploring natural surroundings.

    This trip travels on overnight hard sleeper trains on sections of the journey. Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious, but it's certainly one of the best ways to travel long distances and come face-to-face with the country and its people. It's the main form of transport for locals, so take the chance to interact.

  • Food and dietary requirements

    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.

    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company however you are also welcome to go and make your own food discoveries!

    VEGETARIANS & VEGANS
    Vegetarians in China certainly won't go hungry as there are always plenty of meat free options on menus including vegetable, tofu and egg dishes. Your leader can advise on some local favourites. Diary is uncommon in Chinese cooking, although in some regions like Tibet, Xinjiang and Yunnan you will find milk products as part of the local cuisine. Vegans should also have few problems finding tasty meals in most locations. Nearly all cities will have vegetarian restaurants, often near to temples or monasteries that specialise in Buddhist cuisine.

    DIETARY NEEDS
    Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may wish to supplement inclusions with their own supplies from markets or supermarkets.

    For those suffering from particular food allergies, your group leader will endeavor to disclose to their fullest knowledge the main ingredients in dishes being consumed. It is, however, your personal responsibility to ensure that you do not ingest any foods to which you are allergic.

    There are some simple breakfasts included on this trip which usually comprise bread, butter, jam, coffee/tea and juice (or similar).

    The Central Asian diet relies heavily on meat based dishes. There are options available for vegetarians, however these may at times be limited to bread, fruit, nuts, yoghurt, cheese, eggs etc. Vegetarians or those with particular dietary needs may choose to supplement meals with supplies bought from home or stock up at markets and supermarkets as you go (ie protein bars, dried fruits, etc)

  • Money matters

    SPENDING MONEY:
    When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

    CHINA
    The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).

    ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit/debit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Look for ATMs with your card logo.

    Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.

    Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.

    We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change

    CHINA:
    If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.

    Tipping in China is not customary, but in the travel industry it is. Many guides and drivers would usually supplement their income by taking tourists to shops and restaurants from which they receive commission. Intrepid does not encourage this practice as we believe it can be detrimental to our travellers' experience. Instead we try to ensure we pay our drivers, guides and leaders fairly for their services. Tips are still very much appreciated for those situations in which you believe you have received excellent service.

    Please don't tip with coins, notes of or less that CNY1, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.

    The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:

    Restaurants: Tipping is not common practice at restaurants in China or Tibet.

    Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest CNY10-15 per person per day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.

    Porters: In some hotels a porter may offer to carry your bag to your room. We suggest CNY5 per bag for porters.

    Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest that you tip only those more involved with the group (for example those that help you with your bags etc). CNY5-10 per person per day is generally appropriate, with the amount adjusted accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.

    Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$3-5 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

    KYRGYZSTAN
    The official currency of Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyzstan Som (KGS).
    This can only be obtained within Kyrgyzstan. Conversion of KGS back into other foreign currencies may prove difficult.
    There are many private money changers in Kyrgyzstan, but if you choose to use them you must be sure to check the rate and your change carefully. Major credit cards are rarely accepted in shops and restaurants even in bigger cities. In Bishkek you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Kyrgyzstan must be made in local currency.

    The official currency in Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistan Som (UZS).

    This can only be obtained in Uzbekistan. Conversion of UZS back into other foreign currencies may prove difficult.

    Banks are rarely able to exchange foreign currency so you should ask the advice of your hotel or leader for where to change money. There are also many private money changers in Uzbekistan but if you choose to use them you must be sure to check the rate and your change carefully.

    Major credit cards are rarely accepted in shops and restaurants even in bigger cities. Some banks in Tashkent will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.

    In Tashkent you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Uzbekistan must be made in local currency.

    Please note that you must declare ALL currency (including travellers cheques) on entry to and exit Uzbekistan. Failure to do so accurately, or exiting the country with more currency than when you entered may result in delays, fines or the additional sums being confiscated.

    CENTRAL ASIA & MONGOLIA:
    If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.

    The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:

    Restaurants: - we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added. In China tipping in restaurants is not common practice.

    Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$1-2 (Central Asia & Mongolia), CNY5-10 (China) per person per day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.

    Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest RUB30-50 (Russia)/US$1-2 (Mongolia, Central Asia)/CNY5-10 (China) per person per activity day for local guides. Adjust the amount accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.

    Porters: In some hotels in China a porter may offer to carry your bag to your room. We suggest CNY5 per bag for porters.

    Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of RUB50/US$2 (Russia/Mongolia/Central Asia) or CNY5 (China) per person per day is generally appropriate. Adjust the amount accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.

    Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline $US3-5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used.

    Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

    CONTINGENCY FUNDS:
    We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.

  • Climate and seasonal

    CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
    Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.

  • A couple of rules

    Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.

    Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders, local operators or locals.

    Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.

  • Accommodation notes

    OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
    The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.

    TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
    Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on our different trips than your own.

    CHECK-IN TIME
    Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.

    PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
    If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

    HARD SLEEPER TRAINS CHINA:
    We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys in China. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded berths (6 to a compartment) and sheets, a blanket/quilt & pillow provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet if you are concerned about the quality/cleanliness of sheets being not what you are used to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals or snacks are available and all have hot water in each carriage for tea and instant noodles. While we aim to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. While railway services are rapidly being modernised in China, some train journeys on less frequented routes may use older rolling stock and the carriages of a more basic standard.

    HOMESTAYS:
    Please note that at our homestays you might be required to share a room with people of the opposite sex, or with your leader. Because we stay at real people's homes, beds might be pull-out couches or mattresses on the floor, or even a yurt in their backyard. Some of the accommodation along the way is very basic, staying in local guesthouses, yurts and homestays with limited facilities. Some facilities are shared and some accommodation has cold water only or no bathroom facilities.

    Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we are arriving prior to normal check in time. However this is not always possible which means we will not be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination. If you have purchased pre or post trip accommodation, you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

  • Your fellow travellers

    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.

    SINGLE TRAVELLERS:
    Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.

  • Itinerary disclaimer

    Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Essential Trip Information a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

    OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:
    A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

  • Accommodation

    Hotel (23 nts),Overnight Sleeper Train (2 nts),Guesthouse/Homestay (5 nts),Yurt (1 nt)

  • Joining point description

    King Parkview Hotel is centrally located in Beijing, close to many historical and cultural landmarks, including Jinshan Park, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and the National Art Museum, and the hutong areaThe hotel offers comfortable rooms including en-suite bathroom, TV & AC. Hotel rooms may include a vanity pack which are not complimentary. You will be charged at checkout if you open or use the vanity pack.

  • Introduction

    Unlock the secrets of the Silk Road on this immersive journey across Central Asia. From Beijing all the way to Tashkent, this epic 32-day trip heads west across China, showcasing stunning relics, dynastic palaces, Muslim minarets, hidden grottoes and rock-cut Buddhist masterpieces. Continuing into Kyrgyzstan and to the heartland of Uzbekistan, be dazzled by Central Asia proper: the tranquil landscape of Song-Kol Lake; wild boar and deer around Chychkan Gorge; Solomon's Throne in historic Osh; and the superb mosques and museums of Samarkand. Full of warmly hospitable locals, spectacular expanses and constant evocations of a legendary past, this is the Silk Road at its magical best.

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