Advanced China Travelers
Silk Road Discovery - 13 Days / 12 Nights
TOUR CODE TS 2015
Urumqi, Turpan, Dunhuang, Jiayuguan, Xian, Shanghai
Day 1 Beijing
Arrive in Beijing after your flight, where we will greet and escort you to your hotel.
Day 2 Beijing - Urumqi (AB, L, D)
Take a flight to Urumqi, widely known as "beautiful pasture". As the capital of Xinjiang Uygar Autonomous Region, it is a major industrial center. Xinjiang is a large, sparsely populated area (comparable in size to Iran). You will not only observe Islamic culture of the Uygar people and daily lifestyle of many other ethnic groups, but also see the vast natural scenery of Urumqi and the Gobi Desert. Rest in the evening.
Day 3 Urumqi (AB, L, D)
Urumqi is quite known for being the city furthest away from the ocean, but it has also played an intricate role in the northern pathway of the Silk Road. We begin today's adventure by visiting the surreal Heavenly Lake
, whose local name is Tian Chi. Surround yourself with this breathtaking environment that covers 4.9 square kilometers of crystal clear blue water. This large pristine lake is surrounded by alpine meadows and snow-capped mountains densely packed with gorgeous pine and cypress trees as well as fields of flamboyant wild flowers and medicinal herbs. Be awestruck by the elegance of this grand, tranquil natural environment. Thereafter, you will explore the nomadic Khazak community and witness the lifestyle of the local people. You will also visit the International Grand Bazaar
, the largest bazaar in the world built in traditional Muslim style and displaying a Middle-Eastern feel. The bazaar mixes Islamic culture, architecture, ethnic commerce, tourism and entertainment into a highly frequented local hot spot for shopping at bargain prices. It is an artistic palace that gathers various ethnic cultures including Han, Uygur, Hui and Kazak and combines the art of songs and dances of Xinjiang with the cultural experience of Chinese feasts.
Day 4 Urumqi - Turpan (AB, L, D)
You will spend your last hours in Urumqi by touring the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum
that houses over 50,000 pieces of collections including historical, national and revolutionary relics. Then you will have a bus ride to Turpan, also known as the "Oasis" in the Gobi Desert. Then discover for yourself one of the world's architectural wonders hiding in Yarnaz Valley, just west of Turpan. You will be brought to the Jiaohe Ruins
where the remains of ancient Chinese ruins are found along with an ancient monastery and palace. Jiaohe Ruins are the largest, oldest and best preserved earthen city in the world. In case you didn't know, Turpan is also prevalent with grape orchards and fields of grains and considered the hottest place in China. In the evening, enjoy an exotic Uygar singing and dancing show.
Day 5 Turpan - Dunhuang (AB)
In the morning, you will visit the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves
. In a breathtaking valley inside the Flaming Mountains
lies this ancient temple complex, built between the 5th and 14th century by slaves whose entire lives were dedicated to this construction. In the grottoes, people created artwork depicting daily life and their religion. Unfortunately many of the fine examples of Buddhist sculpture and wall frescoes once decorating the caves were destroyed after Islam came to the region in the 13th century. There are 77 artificial caves and 40 of them contain murals of thousands of Buddhas. The word bezeklik means "place where there are paintings" in the Uigur language. The caves are rectangular rooms with a round arch ceiling which is divided into quadratic fields, each containing a picture of Buddha. So the whole ceiling contains virtually hundreds of Buddha's. Some larger fields contain a big Buddha, surrounded by other figures and scenes, while other murals show people of the area, including Indians, Persians and Caucasians. Thereafter, you'll visit the western front of the Flaming Mountain, where the Grape Valley
lies. This green paradise is covered with layer upon layer of grapes. Of the dozens of kinds of grapes, Wuhebai (white seedless) is reputed as a green pearl. It seems that all the water in the desert of Turpan flows into the Karez systems in the Grape Valley. The Karez Underground Irrigation Channels
is a 2,000-year-old system. Karez are very delicate irrigation systems made up of vertical wells, underground canals, above-ground canals and small reservoirs. It reduces evaporation, avoids getting polluted and needs no other power equipment; it runs from high to low ground with the help of gravity alone. At its peak, this irrigation system exceeded 5,000 km (3,106 miles) and was also referred to as 'the underground Great Wall'. Karez are among the top three major ancient irrigation projects and are the life source of Turpan. In a sense, without them, there would be no Turpan culture. Turban is the hottest place in China and the arid climate makes water all the more precious. Then, prior to your unique experience on an overnight train to Dunhuang, you will have a chance to visit the local Uygar family to witness the daily lifestyle of Muslims in Turpan.
Day 6 Dunhuang (AB, L, D)
Upon arrival, you will tour Crescent Moon Lake
in the Singing Sands Dunes. It's said to look like the lips of a beautiful seductress or a slice of cantaloupe, some even think it's a mirage but most agree it resembles a crescent moon that's fallen from the sky. It's none of these things of course, but the natural wonder that is Crescent Moon Lake. This spring has been gurgling up through the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert for thousands of years with sand blowing in and around it but has never managed to smother it. You can't help but marvel at the dramatic view; you've discovered the wondrous sight of Crescent Spring! As you explore the Humming Sandy Mountain
keep your ears peeled for the whistling tunes. Ancient legend tells of a general who had many soldiers and came here to fight in a war with their enemies. While they were engaged in a fierce battle, a great gust of wind buried all the warriors in the sand and the sand mountains were formed. As this happened during the peak of the war; the soldiers continued to fight even beneath the sand. So the humming you hear is said to be the roar of the soldiers. Echoing-Sand Mountain is known as one of the Eight Great Landscapes of Dunhuang and one of the Four Great Singing Sands of China. Also, take an optional camel ride at additional cost.
Day 7 Dunhuang (AB, L, D)
Today is primarily devoted to touring the Mogao Grottoes
, also widely referred to as the "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas." Carved into the cliffs above the Dachuan River, the Mogao Caves form a system of 492 temples southeast of the Dunhuang oasis in Gansu Province and comprise the largest, most richly endowed, and longest used treasure house of Buddhist art in the world. According to Tang Dynasty records, a monk had witnessed on site a vision of a thousand Buddhas under showers of golden rays. Inspired, he started the caves' construction work that spanned ten dynasties. The caves contain the most impressive and well preserved examples of ancient Buddhist cave art aging over 1,000 years. The treasure house contains hundreds of sandstone caves holding more than 2,000 statues and 45,000 brilliantly bright paintings of Buddha and Chinese mythological figures.
Day 8 Dunghuang - Jiayuguan (AB, L, D)
After breakfast, travel by motor coach to Jiayuguan. You may have the opportunity to see a mirage on the way.
Day 9 Jiayuguan - Xian (AB, L, D)
After breakfast, visit Jiayuguan Fort
. Constructed during the Ming Dynasty, the Jiayuguan Pass is the western end and the best preserved portion of the Great Wall's ancient military. The pass is also known by the name the "First and Greatest Pass Under Heaven". You will also have an opportunity to visit the First Beacon Tower
, the oldest and most effective original telegram. Beacon towers are the most important component of the defensive project on the Great Wall and are built continually to pass military messages. In ancient times, if intruders approached, soldiers on the wall would create smoke in the daytime and light a fire at night to warn their troops. Afterwards, go for a visit to the Overhanging Great Wall
that was built as an extension to the Jiayuguan Pass as an integral part of the ancient defense system during the reign of Emperor Jiajiang of the Tang Dynasty in 1539. Built on the eastern slope of Mt. Heishan, it's not visible to anyone looking from west to east. Enemies thought they could enter inner China from here as long as they rounded the Jiayuguan Pass. However, they were mistaken to their dismay. After they went over the mountain with great difficulty, they found a very firm wall in their path that was impossible to cross. This place has, therefore, always been considered a natural barrier. After lunch, fly to Xian.
Day 10 Xian (AB, L, D)
Today we visit the Eighth Wonder of the World
, the Terracotta Warriors
excavation site, which is one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in the world. The site measures 16,300 square meters and contains 7,300 warriors, horses and chariots arranged in battle formations within 3 different pits. View these fascinating warriors, each uniquely created with such intricate craftsmanship that it's hard to believe these Terracotta Warriors were built over 2,000 years ago. Their purpose was to guard the First Emperor in order to protect him in the afterlife. After lunch, we visit the Ancient City Wall
, which encircles and protects the ancient part of Xian and is one of the largest ancient military defense systems in the world. The massive city wall measures 12 meters high, with a width of 12 - 14 meters at the top and 15 - 18 meters at the base. The ancient City Wall features a series of watchtowers, turrets, crenels and gate towers, all surrounded by a moat. Xian is one of the few cities in China where the original city walls are well preserved and still visible.
Continue your tour to the Big Goose Pagoda
, which was built in 652 AD. Originally constructed with five stories, it collapsed and was rebuilt in 704 AD with two additional. The Big Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous Buddhist pagodas in China and is filled with ancient artifacts. One of the pagoda's many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of Buddha that were brought to China from India by the traveling Buddhist translator Xuanzang. The temple complex in which the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is located is filled with beautiful gardens and stunning architecture.
Day 11 Xian - Shanghai (AB, L)
Take a flight to Shanghai. Then start today's adventure by visiting the Yu Yuan Garden, followed by a ride up the famous Pearl TV Tower. The Yu Yuan Garden is a famous classical garden, located in the heart of Shanghai's Old District. Considered one of Shanghai's highlights, it was originally built in the 16th century and displays an exquisite layout and beautiful picturesque scenery. Here you will find numerous classic style rock and tree garden areas, ponds, bridges and pavilions. In the Old Shanghai District, a great number of small streets and lanes are present, where vendors sell their traditional Chinese products and goods to the tourists and locals. Stroll through the Old District and experience Chinese culture. Shanghai's most recognized landmark is, without a doubt, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The Pearl TV Tower measures 4698 meters (almost 3 miles) tall, making it the world's 3rd tallest TV and radio tower. Travel up and down the tower in a double-decker elevator that can hold up to 50 people at a rate of seven meters (almost 23 feet) per second. Be fascinated by the modern style buildings and spectacular views of Shanghai.
On a clear day, you can even see all the way to the Yangtze River. After lunch, enjoy a walk along Nanjing Road and the Bund. The Bund is a symbol of Shanghai and the epitome of Shanghai's modern history. Stroll through this colonial riverside of Old Shanghai and view the dozens of historic buildings lining the Huangpu River. 52 high rises of all styles in the West showcase the art of international architecture as well as the history of contemporary Shanghai. Visit Nanjing Road, China's premier shopping street stretching 3.4 miles long and take in the modern, vibrant and eclectic street filled with shops, eateries, restaurants and more. Nanjing Road starts at the Bund in the east and ends in the west and is a must-see metropolitan destination for shoppers from all over the world! A side excursion of a Shanghai Harbor cruise or Shanghai acrobat show can complete your evening at an additional cost.
Day 12 Shanghai (AB)
This is a free day to explore Shanghai at your leisure.
Day 13 Shanghai (AB)
This is the last morning to freely explore Shanghai before we escort you back to the airport for your flight home.
||This itinerary is subject to change due to circumstances beyond our control including: weather, airline schedules, cruise itinerary changes, boat changes, etc.