Central Asia on the Silk Road
Since opening up to travellers, China and its northwestern neighbours don't seem quite as out-there a destination to some people but they're clearly not looking in the right places. This comprehensive 26-day journey from Beijing to Tashkent is one of those experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. Picking up in the Chinese capital, you'll visit the Uyghur province of Xinjiang, learning about the food, culture and history of this minority group. Then, we'll leave China behind and venture into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to retrace part of the route that helped build empires: The Silk Road. From stunning snow-capped mountains to arid deserts, experience a side of Asia in a way that you'll barely believe is real.
Train, private van/bus, walking, plane, camel, metro
Hotels/guesthouses (19 nts), sleeper trains (3 nts), community-based tourism/homestays (2 nts, shared facilities), yurt (1 nt, multi-share).
Wander along the Great Wall, stare down the Terracotta Warriors, bargain at Kashgar's Sunday bazaar, stay in a yurt with a Kyrgyz family, marvel at the sights in Bukhara and Samarkand.
Local Living: Overnight in a Yurt, Tash Rabat Local Living: CBT Homestay, Kochkor Local Living: Plov Cooking Demonstration and Dinner, Samarkand. Great Wall entrance (Beijing). Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City guided tour. Terracotta Warriors tour (Xi'an). Mogao Grottoes (Dunhuang). Turpan guided sightseeing tour. Sunday bazaar and animal bazaar visit (Kashgar). Torugart Pass (China/Kyrgyzstan border). Yurt stay with local meals. Carpet-making workshop visit. Karakol village tour. Burana Tower visit. Bishkek orientation walk. Tashkent city tour. Khiva ancient city tour (half-day). Bukhara city tour. Samarkand city tour. Plov-making demonstration with dinner. Internal flights. Border crossing and language support. All transport between destinations and to/from included activities.
Day 1 Beijing
Arrive at any time.
Day 2 Beijing (1B)
Visit the spectacular Great Wall of China. Opt to take in a kung fu show or a Chinese acrobats show.
Day 3 Beijing/Xi'an (1B)
Take a guided tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City with free time in the afternoon to explore before an overnight train to Xi'an.
Day 4 Xi'an (1L)
Arrive to Xi'an and take an orientation walk. Opt to cycle around the city walls, visit the Muslim Quarter or the Big Goose Pagoda.
Day 5 Xi'an (1B, 1L)
Take a guided tour to see the Terracotta Warriors with an included lunch at a local farmer's house.
Day 6 Xi'an/Dunhuang
In the morning, hop on an overnight train to Dunhuang.
Day 7 Dunhuang
Arrive to Dunhuang and take a guided visit to the UNESCO-listed Mogao Grottoes. Enjoy a free afternoon to wander the town centre or visit sights further afield.
Day 8 Dunhuang/Turpan
Opt to visit the unique Mingsha Sand Dunes for sunrise to climb the massive dunes and enjoy a camel ride. Overnight train to Turpan.
Day 9 Turpan
Arrive in Turpan, the lowest point in Asia. Enjoy a city tour with a local guide including the ancient Karez water system.
Day 10 Turpan/Kashgar (1B)
Drive to Urumqi and fly to Kashgar. Take an orientation walk of the city and head out for an optional dinner.
Day 11 Kashgar (1B)
Enjoy the Sunday markets in Kashgar, including the famous Sunday bazaar and fascinating animal market.
Day 12 Kashgar/Tash Rabat (1B, 1D)
Drive to the border via the Torugart Pass. Continue to Tash Rabat, a small community of Kyrgyz nomads high in the Tian Shan mountain range. Overnight in a yurt.
Day 13 Tash Rabat/Kochkor (1B, 1D)
Enjoy the scenic mountains in the morning then drive to Kochkor to visit women at a carpet-making workshop. Enjoy a homestay in the community-based tourism (CBT) houses.
Day 14 Kochkor/Karakol (1B)
Travel to Karakol with a guided village tour. With free time, opt to check out the Przhevalsky Museum, the local market, Dungan Mosque or the Orthodox church.
Day 15 Karakol/Cholpon-Ata (1B, 1D)
Stay in Cholpon-Ata for the night. Enjoy a free afternoon to hang out on the beach, visit the petroglyphs or take a boat tour on the lake.
Day 16 Cholpon-Ata/Bishkek (1B)
Travel to the capital city Bishkek. Stop en route at the Burana Tower. Enjoy free time to shop, visit the city and enjoy the nightlife.
Day 17 Bishkek (1B)
Explore the city or opt to go further afield for a hike in Ala Archa National Park.
Day 18 Bishkek/Tashkent (1B)
Fly to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Take an orientation walk to get to know the city.
Day 19 Tashkent (1B)
Take an included sightseeing tour of the city with a local guide before free time to explore.
Day 20 Tashkent/Khiva (1B)
Fly to Urgench and drive to UNESCO-listed Khiva. Enjoy a half-day tour of this ancient city.
Day 21 Khiva/Bukhara (1B)
Travel day through the desert to Bukhara, one of the most charming cities in the country.
Day 22 Bukhara (1B)
Take an included city tour with a local guide. Use some free time to visit a local hammam (bathhouse) or pick up some souvenirs.
Day 23 Bukhara/Samarkand (1B)
Travel on to Samarkand. Take an orientation walk and opt to visit the Amir Timur Mausoleum.
Day 24 Samarkand (1B, 1D)
Enjoy a tour of the city with a local guide. In the evening, enjoy a plov-cooking demonstration and dinner with a local family.
Day 25 Samarkand/Tashkent (1B)
Travel back to Tashkent for a final evening together.
Day 26 Tashkent (1B)
Depart at any time.