Beginning in the first century AD, trade along the Silk Road became the major conduit for exchange of goods, ideas and traditions between east and west. Visit many of the most important stops along this route and learn about the ancient and modern traditions which have shaped not only the history of China, but our own western civilization.
Day #1 Overnight Flight - Welcome to China’s Ancient Silk Road – once a major conduit for the exchange of goods between East and West. Visit many of its most important stops and learn of the ancient and modern traditions that shaped China’s history and western civilization.
Day #2 Arrive Beijing, China - Xian - Arrive first in Beijing, transferring to the domestic terminal for your connection to Xi’an where your tour begins.
Day #3 Xi’an - Xi’an was China’s capital intermittently for 1,087 years and eleven dynasties. Begin your journey with a welcome ceremony at the ancient city wall where you will receive a key to the city and have the opportunity to climb the 600-year-old wall that the Ming emperors rebuilt during their dynasty. This afternoon, visit the fascinating excavation site of the Terra-Cotta Army, which includes more than 8,000 unique terra-cotta warriors and horses that guard the tomb of China's first emperor. Tonight, enjoy dinner and a Tang Dynasty Show.
Day #4 Xi’an - Dunhuang - After a morning flight, arrive in the oasis town of Dunhuang, a crucial junction along the Silk Road, a series of caravan trails which stretched more than 4,350 miles from China to the Mediterranean. These trails served as a highway not just for merchandise, but for religious, cultural and artistic ideas. This afternoon visit the Mogao cave temples located at the edge of the Gobi Desert. These caves house one of the most extensive and exquisite collections of Buddhist paintings and sculptures in the world and remain one of the most perfectly preserved religious sanctuaries.
Day #5 Dunhuang - Overnight Train - Visit Crescent Spring this morning - a natural wonder in the Gobi Desert. The spring is surrounded by the Echoing-Sand Mountain and offers a rare glimpse of where the oasis meets the desert. Enjoy a camel ride or try "sand dune" sliding if you wish. This evening, board your overnight train* to Turpan.
Day #6 Turpan - Early this morning disembark in Turpan. Following breakfast, visit the ancient city of Gaochang, a former garrison town and later a key point along the ancient Silk Road. Your adventure along the Silk Road continues with a visit to the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, seventy-seven caves located on the cliffs overlooking the Valley of the Flaming Mountain. Next, explore Jiaohe, one of the world's architectural wonders located just west of Turpan, which boasts a history of 2,300 years and contains relics dating back to the Tang dynasty. End your day with a visit to Karez, an underground irrigation system that was constructed over 2,000 years ago and is considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of ancient China. This evening, enjoy dinner and a local dance performance.
Day #7 Turpan - Urumqi - Enjoy a beautiful drive to Urumqi. En route, view the snow-covered Bogda Peak and take a cruise on Heavenly Lake. This crescent-shaped lake features crystal clear water from melted snow. Next you will have the opportunity to explore the Xinjiang Regional Museum. In total there are over 50,000 items in the collection representing the ethnic lifestyle and revolutionary spirit of the region.
Day #8 Urumqi - Kashgar - Today you visit the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, the largest mosque in China, which accommodates up to 20,000 worshippers on Friday afternoons. Later, enjoy leisure time to walk along the handicraft street where traditional wares are still made today.
Day #9 Kashgar - Begin your day at the livestock market where cattle, sheep and camels are traded. Next, stroll through the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar, a crucial trading post for the flow of goods between China and the Middle East. Every Sunday, 100,000 people gather at the bazaar where the traditional costumes and food give it an almost medieval feel and bring to life the legends of the Silk Road. After lunch, visit the Abakh Hoja Mosque, the holiest site in all Xinjiang. Later, explore the Old City and visit a local family, learning about their day-to-day life.
Day #10 Kashgar - Urumqi - Beijing - Your morning flight connects through Urumqi, where you will have lunch at a local restaurant before continuing to Beijing. After arrival at your hotel, the remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day #11 Beijing - Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world, is located at the very center of Beijing. It was here on October 1, 1949 that Chairman Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China. After visiting the square, arrive at the Forbidden City. Constructed between 1406 and 1420 by 100,000 artisans and a million laborers, the Forbidden City was the palace for 24 emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Continue your exploration of historic Beijing during a rickshaw tour through the narrow streets and alleys of the oldest part of the city. Stop to meet with a local family and share lunch with them in their home. Then, meet a kite master and learn the history and art of this favorite Chinese pastime. Dinner this evening is a traditional and famous local specialty: Peking Duck.
Day #12 Beijing - No visit to China would be complete without a visit to the Great Wall. Walk along a portion of this 3,700-mile marvel at the Juyongguan section. Travel through the Valley of the Ming Tombs to the Sacred Way, leading to the Imperial tombs. After dinner this evening, a special treat is in store: a Peking Opera performance.
Day #13 Beijing - Visit the Temple of Heaven where city residents engage in their morning Tai Chi ritual. You will also have time to explore this ornate sanctuary where Chinese emperors worshipped their gods. Travel just outside the city to visit the Summer Palace and its beautiful classical gardens - a UNESCO World Heritage site. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a farewell dinner and salute to a most memorable journey.
Day #14 Beijing - Tour Concludes - Your tour ends in Beijing. On your return flight home you will cross the International Dateline.