Tailor-Made Holiday

Along the Silk Route - Kyrgyzstan to China

Travel from the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to the terracotta warriors in Xian

18 days

from $4,500pp (excluding flights)

This holiday follows the northern Chinese Silk Route journeying eastwards by road, rail and air.

  • Explore the dramatic landscapes of Kyrgyzstan
  • Cross the border from Kyrgyzstan into China across the mighty Tien Shan Mountains via the Turugart pass to Kashgar
  • Explore the famous Sunday market in Kashgar at the foot of the Pamirs
  • Visit Dunhuang's Mogao Caves of One Thousand Buddhas
  • See the Terracotta Warriors in Xian

Starting amidst the mountainous countryside of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek in the heart of Central Asia, this trip traverses the spectacular Tien Shan Mountains to Kashgar, then skirts the northern edge of the magnificent Taklimakan Desert via Turpan and Dunhuang before culminating in Xian, the eastern terminus of this once great trading route.

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Price Excluding Flights $Flight cost from 
$ 6075 $ 877.5
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • All accommodation
  • Internal flights
  • International flights as detailed
  • Sightseeing with private guide as per the itinerary
  • Transfers as detailed

what is excluded

  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Istanbul

Fly Istanbul to Bishkek

The capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek was built on a grid system with many tree-lined streets. This approach to city planning has made central Bishkek a pleasant area to explore, with wide boulevards and impressive architecture.

Unusually low and surprisingly flat for the capital of such a mountainous country, Bishkek is still 800 metres above sea level. Almost constantly visible from the streets are the snowy peaks of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, which surround the city.

You will be staying at Silk Road Lodge, Bishkek, Bed & Breakfast

Day 2

City Tour
Explore Bishkek and some of the various monuments that dot the city. These include the Victory Monument that celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany and the huge Ala-Too Square, where Bishkek's immense 'White House' is located, there will also be a visit to the Parliament House and take a stroll in the Green Bazaar, an ideal place to find Kyrgyz traditional clothing, hats and boots.

You will be staying at Silk Road Lodge, Bishkek, Bed & Breakfast

Day 3

Drive to Karakol via Balasagun. Visit Burana Tower and Prejvalsky Museum.
En-route stop to see the conically shaped 13th Century Burana Tower. The tower was originally 45 metres high, however a number of earthquakes have caused significant damage to the structure, and it is now only 25 metres high. There is a small building on the site that containes historical information as well as artefacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.

Drive from Bishkek to Karakol via Burana Tower and Prezhevalsky Museum

Depart Bishkek and travel to the Burana Tower, around 90 minutes away.

This 11th century minaret is all that remains of a former Karakhanid city called Balasgun. Meaning 'Black Khans', the Karakhanids ruled a large swathe of Central Asia for over 200 years.

Continue to the Przhevalsky Museum, which is a five hour drive away and situated near the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. It was built to commemorate the famous Russian traveller and scientist Nikolai Przhevalsky, who became a 'Great Game' icon.

Drive on to Karakol, a short distance away.

Formerly known as Przhevalsk, after the Russian explorer, Karakol is a peaceful, low-rise town. Shaded by rows of white poplars, its winding backstreets hide Russian timbered gingerbread cottages.

Sitting at over 1800 metres, the town is slightly inland from the enormous Issyk Kul Lake, pressed up against the foothills of the Tien Shan. The area is famous for its apple orchards which can be found around the town.

You will be staying at Green Yard Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 4

Naryn and local villages
After breakfast depart for Naryn. There will be opportunities for photographic stops at the shore of the lake and when visiting some of the local villages that may include Tamga, Bokonbaev, Kadji-Sai and Kochkorka.

Travel from Karakol to Naryn via Orto Tokoi & Kochor Village

A long day today, so it is best to make an early start this morning. En route pass by the Orto Tokoi water reservoir and travel over Dolon pass (3030m). Also stop in Kochkor village to visit the local handicraft museum & shop. This is also an excellent place to experience the rural Kyrgyz lifestyle. Continue to Naryn, which is approximately a two hour drive away.

Located on a branch of the ancient Silk Road, Naryn is a small city in the remote and mountainous Naryn Oblast (Province). Originally founded as fortified trading post, Naryn is now the capital of the region.

Situated at just over 2,000 metres above sea level, the city is strung along one of the major tributaries to the famous Syr Darya River. A quiet place, Naryn is good base for visits to nearby sites, such as Song Köl and Tash Rabat.

You will be staying at Celestial Mountain Guesthouse, Bed & Breakfast

Day 5

Full Day to Koshoi Korgon Ruins and Tash Rabat Caravanserai
A scenic drive to At Bashi region to visit Koshoi Korgon ruins and further to Kara Koun canyon (115 km). Visit Tash Rabat caravanserai (the biggest stone structure in Central Asia), and walk along the beautiful canyon. Lunch will be in the nearby yurt camp.

Day 6

Drive from Naryn to Kashgar via Tash Rabat

Leave Naryn and travel to Tash Rabat, an ancient caravanserai that is around two hours away.

Located to the east of the main road, Tash Rabat is thought to have been built in the 10th century to protect caravans from bandits and bad weather, although its precise history is unknown. It is situated in a beautiful valley with a small river running through it.

Afterwards cross the border from Kyrgyzstan into China, bound for Kashgar. The road cuts through the mighty Tien Shan via the Torugart pass (3,650 m). The journey to Kashgar will take approximately five hours.

A fabled trading post at the foot of the Pamir Mountains, Kashgar's position gave it huge strategic importance during the Silk Road era. The vast emptiness of the inhospitable Taklimakan desert to the east assured that the city was a welcome sight for travellers from either direction.

Modernity is gradually eating away at Kashgar's history and isolation, but its famous Old Town remains, along with its bustling bazaars that hark back to a time of silk caravans and spice traders.

You will be staying at Tianyuan International Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 7

Full Day Exploring Kashgar
Begin at the Id Kah mosque, the largest mosque in China. Built in the 15th century, it was damaged during the Cultural Revolution, but has since been restored. Shakesimirzha, the medieval ruler of Kashgar, originally constructed the Id Kah to pray for the souls of his deceased relatives. Despite Mao's failings in the West, he is seen in some parts of China as a hero. One of his statues stands in a small square in the city. Continue to the green-tiled tomb of Apak Khoja, the holiest place in Xinjiang for Sufi Muslims. Located outside Kashgar and built in the 17th century, this shrine houses the remains of five generations of the Apak family, including the revered Apak Khoja. Also see the tomb of Mahmud Kashgari, a Uyghur linguist and scholar.

You will be staying at Tianyuan International Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 8

Visit Kashgar's Market
Explore the covered market where carpets, pashminas, brassware, inlaid handled knives, traditional hats, silks and spices are for sale. Many of the goods on sale are little changed since Marco Polo's time and the art of haggling remains an important skill for anyone looking to buy.

Packed during the weekend, when Kashgar's population swells by up to 50,000 people, the market is much quieter on weekdays.

Travel from Kashgar to Turpan (Rail Journey)

Located on the northern edge of the inhospitable Turpan Depression - the second lowest place on Earth - Turpan is a historic oasis town. Famous for its remarkable 'Karez' irrigation system, the town is fed by a network of wells, connected by underground channels.

The hottest place in China, Turpan is famous for the grapes that grow here. Both its wine and sultanas are popular within China.

Overnight on Train

Day 9

Visit to Grape Valley
Travel to the famous Grape Gully, a pleasant maze of vineyards and fruit trees.
Located in the midst of the desert, this 200 hectare oasis of greenery is where some of the best grapes in China have been grown for more than 1,000 years. Traditional mud-brick drying houses can be seen dotting the fields.

You will be staying at Huozhou Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 10

Visit Karez Wells and Emin Minaret
The Karez (meaning well) is a system of underground channels that irrigate the fields with water from the mountains and to which Turpan owes its existence. Constructed over 2,000 years ago they are considered one of ancient China’s great projects. Also visit the Emin Minaret, which built by a local ruler, Emin Hoja, in 1777 has exquisite brick work in an Afghani style.

Spend Half a Day at the Ancient City of Jiaohe
Visit one of two ancient cities in the region, Jiaohe, located just 10 kilometres from Turpan.

Standing on a small island trapped between two rivers, the ancient town of Jiaohe was established as a fortified outpost during the Han Dynasty. Reduced to rubble by Genghis Khan's forces, the town ceased to exist as a settlement in the 13th century.

Wander the maze of narrow streets and explore the ruined buildings. Figures of Buddha survive in the remains of a large monastery at one end of the town.

You will be staying at Huozhou Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 11

Full Day Tour of Sights around Turpan
Travel to Tuyok to see Buddhist caves dating back to the 4th century. Now also an Islamic place of pilgrimage, the caves are carved into the soft dirt and rock of the steep hillside. Decorated with Buddhist murals, over 40 caves have been discovered. Only a few are available to visit.

Continue on to the important Silk Road trading post of Gaochang, formerly the Uighur capital of Xinjiang. Take a donkey cart taxi to venture deep into the famous ruins. Inside the Astana Tombs, see well preserved mummies and unique wall paintings, dating back to the 1st century.

Finally, visit the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves. Consisting of 57 decorated grottoes spanning 11 centuries, Bezeklik was an important centre for Buddhist worship. Inside are many excellent murals.

Travel from Turpan to Dunhuang (Rail Journey)

Meaning 'Blazing Beacon', Dunhuang is an oasis city trapped amidst the mountain-like sand dunes of the Gobi Desert. Out of nowhere, it springs into existence after thousands of miles of emptiness.

Dating back over 4000 years, Dunhuang became a major stopping point on the Silk Road due to its role as an oasis. Now more famous for its history than its geography, Dunhuang plays host to the UNESCO-recognised Mogao Caves.

Overnight on Train

Day 12

Visit the Mogao Grottoes
The Mogao Grottoes are arguably the best examples of Buddhist cave art in China.

It is said that the caves were begun in the fourth century by a monk who had a vision of a thousand Buddhas. He proceeded to carve the first of several hundred caves into the sandstone cliff face.

Brought to international attention by the discovery of the so-called 'Library Cave' in the early 20th century, 492 grottoes remain. Inside, there are over 2000 statues and 45,000 separate murals, whilst up to 50,000 manuscripts were thought to have been stored in the 'Library Cave'.

You will be staying at The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 13

Day of Sightseeing in and around Dunhuang
Head to the Singing Sand Mountains (Mingshan), where desert meets oasis at the Crescent Moon Lake. Have the chance to take a camel ride and climb the dunes (camel rental not included).

Continue to the Western 1000 Buddha caves. Containing similar frescoes to the Mogao Caves, it is assumed that these grottoes are of similar origin, but little is known about them. As well as frescoes, there are several painted clay statues.

Later visit the nine-storey White Horse Dagoba and the fascinating Dunhuang County Museum, which contains some of the Tibetan and Chinese artefacts found at the famous Mogao grottoes. These include scriptures, silks, and sacrificial objects.

You will be staying at The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 14

Drive from Dunhuang to Jiayuguan

Leave Dunhuang and depart for Jiayuguan, a journey of about five or six hours. The route goes through the arid Gansu corridor, offering another opportunity to see parts of rural China.

The site of an impressive Ming Dynasty Fortress, Jiayuguan became known as the western end of the Great Wall; marking the furthest reach of the Chinese empire. It was an important Silk Road site, due to the nearby Jiayu Pass, which was a key waypoint on the route from East to West.

Now a pleasant, but relatively unremarkable town, Jiayuguan offers beautiful views of the snow-capped Qilian Mountains on clear days.

Explore the Overhanging Wall and Jiayuguan Museum
Head out of the city to the see the Overhanging Wall. A walk along it gives fine views of the surrounding area and its emptiness.
Return to Jiayuguan. In the Ming Dynasty Jiayuguan was considered the end of the Great Wall and anybody going beyond it was sure to perish. Today, a magnificently restored fort (originally built in 1372) marks the place and from the ramparts one can see the old wall fading gradually into the desert. Also visit the Jiayuguan Museum, if time allows.

You will be staying at Garden Hotel Jiayuguan, Bed & Breakfast

Day 15

Spend Half a Day Visiting Jiayuguan Fort
Visit Jiayuguan's magnificently restored fort, originally built in 1372. Known as the 'Impregnable Defile Under Heaven', this imposing structure guarded the Jiayu Pass, which squeezes between the Qilian Mountains and the Mazong Shan.

From the ramparts, watch the old wall fading gradually into the desert. In the distance, spot the peaks of the surrounding natural barriers that formed such an important part of China's defences.

Afterwards, visit the Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum, which showcases the Great Wall's unique history.

Fly Jiayuguan to Xian

You will be staying at Mercure Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 16

Terracotta Warriors & Wild Goose Pagoda
Stumbled upon by peasants digging a well in 1974, the 2,000 year old army of the terracotta warriors is a fascinating record of artistic achievement and a grandiose expression of imperial power. Emperor Qin Shihuang was the first emperor of the Chinese people and embarked on a series of huge construction projects including the Great Wall. The best preserved of these undertakings is probably the terracotta warriors, interred within the outer wall of the emperor's mausoleum as his eternal imperial guard. The mound of earth which protects his tomb is believed to be studded with precious stones.

On your return to Xian visit the Wild Goose Pagoda which was built in AD648 by the third emperor of the Tang dynasty, Gao Zong, in memory of his deceased mother. Lunch included.

Having existed for more than three millennia and been the capital city of 13 dynasties, Xian, formerly Chang'an, is often considered as being at the heart of Chinese civilisation. Also an ancient trade hub of huge economic importance, it was the eastern terminus of the legendary Silk Road.

Xian remains an important city, packed with sites worth visiting and laid out in a neat arrangement. Among these sites, the world famous Terracotta Army is the highlight, but numerous other historic locations litter the city.

You will be staying at Mercure Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 17

Visit the Great Mosque & Muslim Quarter
Visit the Great Mosque, one of China’s largest and built in the Chinese style. Although founded in 742 the present layout dates from the 14th century and is made up of four courtyards which contain stone stelae, many trees and ornate arches. The backstreets leading to the Mosque have been home to the city’s Hui community for centuries - Muslims, the Hui form one of China’s 56 minority groups. Take a wander around these streets.

Visit Shaanxi Provincial Museum
The Shaanxi Provincial Museum gives an impressive insight into the region and the many complex factors that have formed the city’s history. The city was called Chang’An and was the start of the Silk Routes to the West.

You will be staying at Mercure Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 18

Han Jing Tombs and Museum.
Discovered in the early 1990s by road workers this tomb is still under excavation. The terracotta figurines uncovered here are much less imposing (but no less grand) than those of the Army of Terracotta Warriors. The museum houses most of the artefacts excavated from the tomb which include examples of male and female warriors, eunuchs, dancers and various farm animals. Walk above the actual burial chambers (which are glassed in to protect the relics) and observe the excavations of the Miniature Warriors taking place.

Fly Xian to Beijing

You will be staying at Orchid Hotel Beijing, Bed & Breakfast

Day 19

Day at leisure

Day 20

Fly Beijing to Istanbul

Fly Istanbul to London

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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