Wander ancient towns on the Silk Road, seldom visited by Westerners, on this unique cultural journey
Nestled in the farthest western reaches of China, Xinjiang Province has served as a cultural and commercial crossroads for centuries. This land of tribes and clans of at least thirteen different ethnicities is still rooted in tradition. And as the heart of the Silk Road, their warmth and hospitality remains as timeless as ever. Traveling through beautiful landscapes of forest, steppe, grassland, and desert, and framed by the dramatic backdrop of the snowy Tian Shan Mountains, you’ll see firsthand a vanishing way of life and marvel at the cultural and natural riches to be found on China’s “New Frontier.” We’ve put a strong emphasis on cultural encounters by combining visits to colorful markets, local artisans, and ancient villages with a couple of overnight homestays, folk performances, and tons of regional cuisines to offer you genuine and educational interactions with the local people. Topped off with a distinctive desert camping experience—one you can only get with MTS—and even a night in a traditional yurt, you’ll go home with an insider’s perspective of this raw, remote land the way few Westerners have a chance to see it!
Hiking, cultural touring, camel ride
- Discover the intricate mix of ancient Silk Road cultures through the history, art, nature, and friendly hospitality of China’s Wild West
- Wander through colorful markets and visit local artisans
- Immerse yourself in desert culture on this unique cultural journey adventure that includes a night of desert camping—an experience you can only get with MTS
- See the ancient centers of the Silk Road through the eyes of the locals on homestays, watching folk performances, and sampling the varied regional cuisines
- Get off the grid to see some of the most dramatic and remote mountains and lakes in China, plus the vast Taklamakan Desert
Duration: 16 days Start Location: Beijing End Location: BeijingDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Beijing (This entire trip is below 6,000')
Arrive in Beijing. Take the complimentary Hilton Capital Airport Hotel shuttle to the hotel to check in.
Day 2 : Beijing to Dunhuang
Today we fly from Beijing to Dunhuang. Visit the famous Mogao Caves, the best preserved Buddhist caves in China. Afterward enjoy dinner at the night market.
Day 3 : Dunhuang
We spend the day sightseeing in Dunhuang and then take the overnight, soft sleeper train to Turpan.
Day 4 : Turpan
Arrive in Turpan early this morning. Visit Karez irrigation system as well as the ancient city of Yargul. We have lunch at a local restaurant, then visit the local market.
Day 5 : Turpan Area to Tuyuk Village
Today we visit Idkut (Gaochang) and Astana Tombs, before driving to Tuyuk Village, the oldest known Uighur town and very unique. Homestay in Tuyuk.
Day 6 : Tuyuk Village to Urumqi to Kuqa
Drive to Urumqi, then fly to Kuqa. Sightseeing in Kuqa.
Day 7 : Kuqa
Today we will visit the Kuqa Grand Canyon and hike for 2 hours. Then visit Kizil 1000 Buddha Caves, which date back to the 11th century and match those of Luoyang, Dunhuang and Datong.
Day 8 : Kuqa to Hotan
Today we will cross the Taklamakan Desert, one of the biggest and most mysterious deserts in the world. Taklamakan means “those who go in will not come out” attesting to its emptiness and remoteness. Overnight in Hotan.
Day 9 : Hotan to Camping in Taklamakan Desert (4,500')
Today we will explore Hotan, visiting the Jade River and a traditional clothing factory where we can enjoy local culture in action before driving to the Taklamakan Desert for our distinctive desert trekking experience. We will ride camels and hike for a few hours before building our camp (our gear will be carried by more camels). For dinner, we will roast lamb kebabs over the fire before we settle into our overnight desert camping experience.
Day 10 : Hotan (4,500')
Return to Hotan and our hotel to clean up before visiting a local carpet factory, where will learn how the local women have made carpets by hand for hundreds of years. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight in Hotan.
Day 11 : Hotan to Yarkent
Drive from Hotan to Yarkent on the Southern Silk Road. enjoying lunch in a village along the way. Arrive in Yarkent.
Day 12 : Yarkent to Kashgar (4,200')
Today we drive from Yarkent to Kashgar (approximately 5-6 hours). Along the way, visit the famous Uighur knife town of Yinggisar.
Day 13 : Kashgar
Today we will rise early to catch the famous Sunday market, when the population of Kashgar swells by 50,000. This market is still one of the most amazing bazaars in the world and there is little that is not for sale here. You will see an overwhelming array of livestock, rugs, and clothing. Photo opportunities abound and you can lose hours in the labrynthine chaos. Next we will visit the Old Town where we will enter into a Uyghur home for a delicious lunch. Afterwards we will visit the Apak Hoja Tomb where there are 58 tombs and 5 generations buried. Our guide will relay the differing legends of the "Fragrant Concubine" related to this site.
Day 14 : Kashgar to Karakul Lake (11,800')
Day trip to the stunning Karakul Lake on the Karakorum Highway to Pakistan.
Day 15 : Kashgar to Beijing
Fly to Beijing and overnight near the Beijing Airport.
Day 16 : Fly home
Fly home or to your next destination.
DATES: Best time to go: June - July, September Departures: Aug 19, 2014 - Sep 3, 2014 2014 departure itineraries subject to change. Contact us for the most up to date itinerary. Sep 9 - 24, 2014 2014 departure itineraries subject to change. Contact us for the most up to date itinerary. Sep 30, 2014 - Oct 15, 2014 2014 departure itineraries subject to change. Contact us for the most up to date itinerary.
$4,495 (10-16 members)
$1,000 internal airfare – Beijing/Dunhuang, Urumqi/Kuqa and Kashgar/Beijing - subject to change
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.