Jiayuguan watchtower _75463766

Western China: Relics of the Silk Road

Over 2,000 years ago, merchants first began to use the great artery of the Silk Road for the flow of goods between China, the trading centers of Persia, the Middle East and Europe. Thus was born the legendary 4,000 mile trail that began its arduous journey through western China’s challenging terrain via the ‘caravan city’ oases of Dunhuang, Tupanm Urumqi, Hotan and Kashgar, to which increased wealth inevitably flowed

May 24 – June 11 (19 Days)
Price $8,770 | SS $1,200
Deposit $500


Tour Description

Today’s western China remains far less developed than the east, from which it can still seem surprisingly remote, with languages and traditions of its own. It’s a land characterized by swathes of empty and breathtakingly beautiful terrain, with vistas ranging from infinite prairie pastures to formidable tracts like Xinjang’s Taklamakan desert, and the peaks of some of Asia’s highest mountains.

Our journey through these fascinating unfamiliar landscapes and cultures, offers the curious traveler insight into the region’s ancient civilizations on visits to haunting ancient ruins of sites like Jiaohe, the citadel of Gaochang, Buddhist and Confucian temples, Islamic mosques and cultural museums. All this is in contrast to a chance to enjoy Kashgar’s famously colorful Grand Sunday Bazaar, and Hotan’s night market with local Uyghur dancers. 



  • Explore Bezeklik’s great Cave of 1,000 Buddhas – an amazing cave grotto complex dating from the 5th to the 14th centuries
  • Wander the Mogao Cliff cave chapels near Dunhuang, a UNESCO world Heritage Site dating back to AD 366
  • Visit Jiayuguan Fort, the western starting point of the Ming Great Wall and a key pass on the ancient Silk Road

  • Discover the archaeology among the historic ruins of Jiaohe and the citadel of Goachang near Turpan
  • View the iconic Terracotta Warriors, a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of Qn Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China




Prof. Craig Benjamin

2019 Itinerary

Friday, May 24: BEIJING
We arrive into the city of Beijing and transfer to our first hotel where the group will meet for the first dinner of the tour.
Dinner included.

Saturday, May 25: BEIJING
We start by visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Located in the heart of Beijing, here we will see various meeting rooms and walk through the Emperor’s garden to gain a greater appreciation of the nature of these structures. We have the afternoon to spend at leisure, opt to explore on your own, or to relax.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Sunday, May 26: BEIJING
Today we visit the iconic Great Wall of China, a sight to behold. After lunch, we will continue to the Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty Empress Dowager Cixi and enjoy a short cruise on Lake Kunming. We will also have the chance to see a Jade Carving Factory, offering us insight in how jade wares are created.
All meals included.

Monday, May 27: BEIJING – XI’AN
This morning we fly to Xi’an, the Chinese terminus of the Silk Road. Xi’an was the capital of China during the Han and Tang dynasties, the two ages when the world came to China. Touring in Xi’an includes a visit to the Tang Walls. Some passes of the walls were built in its early years to protect the newly-founded dynasty from hostile nomads.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Tuesday, May 28: XI’AN
We start our day with a visit to the Terracotta Reproduction Center and the famous Terracotta warriors. The statues displayed here were originally crafted to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. In the afternoon, we continue to Xi’an museum, home to an immense collection that spans over 130,000 pieces; 14,400 of which are rated at China’s highest level of cultural importance.
All meals included.

Wednesday, May 29: XI’AN – JIAYUGUAN
This morning, we catch a flight to Jiayuguan, known as the ‘mouth’ of China, and one of the Silk Road’s defining points. Upon our arrival we have lunch. In the afternoon, we pay a visit to the Jiayuguan fort, which was a vital area for defence along the Great Wall. There is also time to see the Gate as well as examine the exhibits housed within the nearby Great Wall Museum, which are divided into sections according to time periods and seasons. 
Breakfast & lunch included.

Thursday, May 30: JIAYUGUAN
After breakfast, we drive for around forty minutes to the fascinating Wei-Jin Tombs – often referred to as the largest subterranean art gallery in the world – and explore this site in depth. Here, we can stand before amazing murals and we will also discover artifacts at the accompanying museum. After a stop for lunch, we make our way to Yemawan Bao Yizhi, a former walled town with crumbling ruins. 
Breakfast & lunch included.

Today we make our way to the city of Dunhuang, China’s front door during the period of the Silk Road. On the way, we stop to explore the Yulin Grottoes, a Buddhist cave temple site, home to 250 statues and wall paintings, dating back to the Tang Dynasty. We will also visit the ruined Tang Military Fortress. Upon arrival in Dunhuang, we visit the Shazhou night market. This is the perfect opportunity to taste some of China’s authentic delicacies, including yellow noodles, brewed bean jelly and Hu Lamb Pizza.
All meals included.

Saturday, June 1: DUNHUANG
After a brief drive, we arrive at the Mogoa Caves – a stop that will undoubtedly be the highlight of our tour. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a complex of some 492 cave-chapels, which are home to magnificent sculptures and wall paintings. Time permitting, we will also explore the Singing Sand Dunes, where the desert meets the oasis. This area offers experiences such as Crescent Lake camel rides. 
All meals included.

Sunday, June 2: DUNHUANG – TURPAN
This morning we visit Duhuang Museum. On display are documents, unearthed cultural relics from ancient tombs and tools. Later, we travel to Turpan and upon arrival, we have the chance to explore the excellent regional museum, and the 18th century Emin Minaret. The Minaret was built within one year and is the tallest in China.
All meals included.

Monday, June 3: TURPAN
Our touring today begins with a drive to Bezelik to explore the Cave of 1,000 Buddhas. Next, we visit the Flaming Cliffs and Toyuq village. After lunch, we delve into the ancient citadel of Jiaohe and explore the ruins. Finally, we travel to the ruins of Gaochang, an ancient oasis city located on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. 
All meals included.

Tuesday, June 4: TURPAN – URUMQI
We start our day at the Turpan Karez Paradise, a museum featuring Turpan’s water management system. After, we board a train to Urumqi and upon arrival this afternoon, we tour the town and visit the Confucian Temple.
Breakfast & lunch included.

Wednesday, June 5: URUMQI
This morning we visit Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Museum, home to a large number of cultural relics which have been discovered in the region. After pausing for lunch, we venture through Shuimogou Park home to stunning water features, and the Erdaoqiao Grand Bazaar, the perfect place to pick up souvenirs. 
Breakfast & lunch included.

Thursday, June 6: URUMQI – HOTAN
A late morning flight brings us to Hotan and our stay in this oasis will be a true adventure. Touring here will include the Imam Asim Tomb, a popular pilgrimage site. If there is time this afternoon, we will also visit Rawaq Pagoda and the White Jade River. Tonight, we wander the market on the main public square.
All meals included.

Friday, June 7: HOTAN – KASHGAR
We drive out to Melikawat ruins this morning, an archaeological site which still contains the remains of its walls, glass and pottery. We travel back to Hotan and explore the cultural museum. We will also have the opportunity to visit either a Silk or Carpet workshop. Tonight we take a short flight to Kashgar.
All meals included.

Saturday, June 8: KASHGAR
Today, Kashgar continues its role as a cultural crossroads, as traders still cross the borders with the former Soviet Republics and Pakistan,  to trade in the local markets. We have the chance to visit the Afaq Khoja Mausoleum, one of the holiest Muslim sites in China. After, we venture through the old town of Kashgar and explore the Heytgah Mosque.
All meals included.

Sunday, June 9: KASHGAR
We start our day with a drive to the Three Immortals Buddhist Caves and view them from across the river. After lunch, we visit the Grand Sunday’s Bazaar, one of the largest and more colorful markets in China. We will also visit the Shipton’s Arch and then visit the livestock market. Tonight, we will have dinner as a group in the style of a banquet, bringing out the local flavor of the region.
All meals included.

Monday, June 10: KASHGAR – BEIJING
We leave Kashgar and catch a flight back to Beijing. The rest of the day is free to spend at leisure. Perhaps take the time to revisit your favorite sites on your own, venture to places still on your bucket list, or to just relax and unwind at the hotel. Later we enjoy a farewell dinner together.
All meals included.

Tuesday, June 11: DEPART BEIJING
We transfer to the airport for our flights home or onward travel.
Breakfast included.

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