Man and Camels, Silk Road, China

The Silk Road

Fabled international trade route for the Chinese Empire.

Starting at Chang An, or Xian as it is known today, the Silk Road meandered across China, skirting the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar and then across the Tien Shan mountains into Central Asia or south across the Karakorum mountains into Pakistan and Persia (Iran).

Taklamakan desert in Chinese Xinjiang province
Taklamakan desert, China

Discover ancient routes

Today, travellers can follow this ancient route for themselves, stopping along the way to explore the many sites of interest. Visit the Longmen caves near Luoyang and the hanging temple at Maijishan, explore the lost cities of the Taklamakan desert or travel to Shaolin Monastery, famous for its martial arts. Jiayuguan is the most westerly point on the Great Wall of China some 2,000 miles from its East coast origins, while the oasis town of Turpan is the second lowest place on earth.

Crescent Spring and Mingyue Pavilion, Dunghuang, China
Dunhuang, China

Further exploration

At Dunhuang see the Mogao Grottoes and ride camels into the desert at sunset while, in Kashgar, a centre for international trade and visited by Marco Polo on his epic journey, the sounds, sights and smells of the Sunday Market are a must. Explore the history of this famous trade route on our tour of the Silk Route starting in Kyrgyzstan and ending in Xian.

Shangri La Express Train, Golden Eagle Silk Road Journey, China
Turpan, China

Travel the Silk Road by Luxury Train

Travelling from Moscow to Beijing (or vice versa), it is now possible to journey the silk route on board the luxurious Golden Eagle Train. Crossing five countries, from Russia, through Central Asia and ending in China, this holiday is a really magical way to soak up the history, ancient sites and fabulous architecture of this ancient trading route.


What do you really love doing? We curate your itinerary especially for you.

Terracotta Warriors Xian China

The Terracotta Warriors

See one of China’s most important sights, the Terracotta Warriors on the outskirts of Xian.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Labrang, Xiahe, China

A Taste of Tibet

Visit the Tibetan town of Xiahe and the Labrang Monastery.

Maiji Caves in Gansu, Tianshui, China

Maijishan Grottoes

Climb up the rock face at Maijishan using ladders and platforms to reach World Heritage Buddhist caves and the carved statue and murals within. These are some of the most famous Buddhist rock carvings along the Silk Route with some 220 caves containing over 7800 sculptures.

Uighur man with beard, Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, China

Silk Road Cultures

Experience different ethnic groups, cultures and traditions from the Chinese Han people to the Uighurs and Kazakhs.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Kashgar Market, Kashgar, China

Kashgar Sunday Market

Absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the Sunday market at Kashgar.

Suggested Holiday Idea

The Bingling Temple

Bingling Temple and Caves

Travel up the Yellow River by speedboat to Bingling Buddhist Temple and Thousand Buddha Caves. Take time to walk into the hills for true peace and quiet.

Shangri La Express Train, Golden Eagle Silk Road Journey, China

Silk Route by Train

Journey the Silk Route by luxury train crossing five countries through Central Asia; a magical way to see this ancient trading route.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes

Mogao Grottoes

See the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang before riding camels into the desert at sunset.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Need Inspiration?
Browse our China holiday ideas.

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Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Paul Craven

Paul is the Conde Nast Traveller chosen Specialist for Central Asia and the Silk Route.

Being from a family with Army connections I can from an early age remember travelling. From camping in Europe and then later being sent to boarding school when we lived in Germany at the age of eight, complete with shorts, long socks, a cap and my suitcase. In appearance not too dissimilar to the children evacuated to the countryside during the blitz.

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Clare Higginson

It was my passion for languages that first encouraged me to leave the UK behind and grab my rucksack. Since then, it’s been a mixture of intriguing cultures, jaw-dropping landscapes and the wonder of seeing animals in their natural habitat that sees me continuously extending my travel wish list.

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