The Silk Road of China
Geographically and culturally, Northwest China is about as far away from “traditional China” as you can get without crossing the border. The source of the Silk Road – the ancient trade route that helped create the modern world – is unlike anything you’ll find in Beijing or Xi’an, and this 18-day adventure crossing the country via rail takes you deep into the China few ever see. Otherworldly experiences abound, both on train and off: watch the sun rise over the dunes outside Dunhuang, explore the world of the Muslim Uyghurs, spend the night in traditional yurts near Urumqi, and venture into the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar. There’s more, of course, but we’ve got to keep a few secrets, right?
Local Living: Overnight in a Yurt, Heavenly Lake. Great Wall excursion and entrance (Beijing). Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City guided tour. Terracotta Warriors tour (Xi’an). Great Wall visit (Jiayuguan). Mogao Grottoes (Dunhuang). Turpan guided sightseeing tour. Yurt stay in the Tian Shan Mountains. Taklamakan Desert train. Hotan village and workshop tour by donkey cart. Kashgar orientation walk. Sunday bazaar and animal bazaar visit. All transport between destinations and to/from included activities.
Walk along two sections of the Great Wall, stare down the Terracotta Warriors, learn about the Uyghur culture, stay in a traditional Kazakh yurt, bargain at Kashgar’s Sunday bazaar
The information in this trip details document has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part of the contract between the client and the operator. The itinerary featured is correct at time of printing. It may differ slightly to the one in the brochure. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travellers, comments and our own research. Sometimes it can be a small change like adding an extra meal along the itinerary. Sometimes the change may result in us altering the tour for the coming year. Ultimately, our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. Please note that our brochure is usually released in November each year. If you have booked from the previous brochure you may find there have been some changes to the itinerary.
VERY IMPORTANT: Please ensure that you print a final copy of your Trip Details to review a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans.
While it is our intention to adhere to the route described below, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable to make alterations. The itinerary is brief, as we never know exactly where our journey will take us. Due to our style of travel and the regions we visit, travel can be unpredictable. The Trip Details document is a general guide to the tour and region and any mention of specific destinations or wildlife is by no means a guarantee that they will be visited or encountered. Aboard expedition trips visits to research stations depend on final permission.
Additionally, any travel times listed are approximations only and subject to vary due to local circumstances.
As we use (sometimes crowded) local transport please note backpacks are much more suitable than suitcases for this style of trip. There will be a decent amount of hauling luggage from vans into train stations, up and down stairs, onto trains, lifting to overhead racks, etc. A backpack (rucksack) will make all of this moving about a lot easier.
Depending on the lunar cycle, Ramadan will fall between June 18th to July 17th, 2015. Please note that Ramadan is a month of fasting observed by Muslims throughout the world, during which time the followers of Islam should not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. There may be some limitations to services and disruptions to schedules during Ramadan in Muslim areas, but generally our tours still operate effectively during this period and food is available to non-muslims throughout the day. It is very important to display increased cultural sensitivity during Ramadan. Please wear loose fitting clothes, that cover knees and shoulders, and try to avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public out of respect for those who can’t at that time.
Group Leader Description
Your G Adventures group trip is accompanied by a G Adventures Chief Experience Officer (CEO) in China. The aim of your CEO is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. They will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. G Adventures CEOs are experts in their region with a broad, general knowledge of the countries visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We also use local expert guides where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting- we think it’s the best of both worlds.
Group Size Notes
Max 16, avg 12
12 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
Eating is a big part of traveling. With G Adventures you experience the vast array of wonderful food that is available out in the world.
Our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each others company. Your CEO will be able to suggest favourite restaurants during your trip. Vegetarians will be able to find a range of different foods, although in some areas the choice maybe limited.
For all trips please refer to the meals included and budget information for included meals and meal budgets.
Train, private van, subway, taxi, public bus, donkey cart.
We believe single travellers should not have to pay more to travel so our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers joining group trips are paired in twin or multi-share accommodation with someone of the same sex for the duration of the trip. Some of our Independent trips are designed differently and single travellers on these itineraries must pay the single trip price.
Hotels/guesthouses (11 nts), yurt (1 nt, multi-share), sleeper train (5 nts).
My Own Room Exceptions
Nights 3, 5 and 13, Sleeper trains.
For details of your joining hotel please refer to your tour voucher, G Account, the G Adventures App or contact your travel agent.
When arriving to Beijing International Airport, you have a few choices on how to get to your starting point hotel.
A. Taxi: Follow the signs to the taxi ranks once you have come out of the baggage hall. The ranks are clearly defined, and traffic guards will systematically put you into a taxi. Print out the name of your hotel in Chinese. A taxi ride will take between 34-45 minutes depending on traffic, and should cost between 95-120 Yuan (plus an extra 10 for the tollway).
DO NOT GO WITH ANYONE WHO APPROACHES YOU OFFERING A METERED TAXI WHICH IS PARKED IN THE LOT. THEY WILL RIP YOU OFF.
B. Airport Express Train: Once you have come out of the luggage hall, follow the signs to the underground Airport Express Line. This line takes you to the center of Beijing, to DONGZHIMEN, where you can transfer to Subway line 2, or take a taxi from here to your hotel. The Airport Express ticket costs 25 yuan. It takes about 16 minutes from Terminal 3 of the Airport to Dongzhimen. Train hours are from 6:30am to 10:30pm. To continue to the Chongwenmen Hotel by subway, it is very easy to transfer to Line 2 of the Subway and take it 5 stops to the Chongwenmen stop. Exit C. Turn right. The hotel is on your right hand side. Subway Fare is 2 yuan.
C. If you have paid for an arrival transfer when you booked your trip, our driver will be waiting for you with a G Adventures sign with your name on it. He will be waiting for you outside the luggage hall. There most likely will be many signs, so please check carefully for your name.
We don’t expect any problems, and nor should you, but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, as soon as possible please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your CEO (if you are not on a group tour please refer to the emergency contact details provided in this dossier). If you are unable to get in touch with your leader, please refer to our emergency contact details.
If you have not made contact with our transfer representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, please contact the Beijing transfer complications number below. As a last resort we recommend that you make your own way to the Starting Point hotel, following the Joining Instructions. Please apply to your travel agent on your return for a refund of the transfer cost if this occurs.
Should you need to contact us during a situation of dire need, it is best to first call either the G Adventures Local Operator (if one is listed below) or our G Adventures Local Office. If for any reason you do not receive an immediate answer, please leave a detailed message and contact information, so they may return your call and assist you as soon as possible.
EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS
G Adventures Local Representative (China):
Julia Shi: +86 138 8829 6360
G Adventures Asia Manager: Julie Fitzgerald
G Adventures Office Bangkok, Thailand
During Office hours (Weekdays, 9am-5pm Local Time)
From outside Thailand: +66 2 381 5574
From within Thailand: 02 381 5574
After hours emergency number
From outside Thailand: +66 87 049 6074
From within Thailand: 087 049 6074
If you are unable for any reason to contact our local office, please call the numbers listed below, which will connect you directly with our 24 hour Sales team, who will happily assist you.
Toll-free, North America only: 1 888 800 4100
Calls from UK: 0344 272 0000
Calls from Germany: 0800 365 1000
Calls from Australia: 1 300 796 618
Calls from New Zealand: 0800 333 307
Outside North America, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the UK: +1 416 260 0999
What to Take
What you need to bring depends on the trip you have chosen and the countries or regions you are planning to visit. We suggest that you pack as lightly as possible as your are expected to carry your own luggage. As a rule we try not to have to walk more than 15-20 mintues with your bags which is why we recommend keeping the weight of your bags between 10-15kg/22-30lb. Suitcases are not recommended for G Adventures trips! Most travellers carry a backpack or rolling bag of small to medium size (no XXL ones please!) as they need to fit under the beds when travelling on sleeper trains. You will also need a day pack/bag to carry water, cameras and other electronics like ipods and mobile phones.
▪ Windproof / waterproof jacket / umbrella / poncho
▪ Small towel / swimsuit
▪ Day pack for daily personal items
▪ Sunblock/Sun hat
▪ Wet wipes / Moist towelettes / Hand sanitizing lotion
▪ Alarm Clock
▪ Hiking pants /track pants / long trousers
▪ Hiking boots/sturdy walking shoes
▪ Ear plugs for light sleepers
▪ Moisturizer, Lip balm
▪ Toiletries (biodegradable)
▪ Water bottle / Plastic mug / Cutleries
▪ Flashlight (with extra batteries and bulbs)
▪ Money belt
▪ Insect Repellent
▪ Protein bars, chocolate, dried fruits, candies and snack foods.
▪ First-aid kit (should contain lip salve, Aspirin, band aids, anti-histamine, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, re hydration powder, insect repellent, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
▪ Camera with extra memory cards and batteries
▪ Personal Entertainment
▪ Waterproof backpack cover
▪ Passport (with photocopies)
▪ Travel insurance (with photocopies)
▪ Airline tickets (with photocopies)
▪ USD cash
▪ Credit or debit card (see personal spending money)
▪ G Adventures vouchers, pre-departure information and dossier
▪ Any entry visas or vaccination certificates required
Laundry facilities are offered by some of our hotels for a charge. There will be times when you may want to or have to do your own laundry so we suggest you bring non-polluting/biodegradable soap.
Visas and Entry Requirements
Please note that visas for China are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. For the most up to date information please check your governments foreign ministry website or with you travel agent as rules do change. It is important that you check for yourself. For most travellers there will probably have an embassy and consulate in the country that you live in.
Following the successful implementation of their 144 hour visa free program for the Shanghai district, The Ministry of Public Security of China have announced the extension of the 144 hour visa free program for provinces of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. As of the 29th of December 2017, over 50 foreign nationals can now enter or exit via one of the following ports:
- Beijing Capital International Airport
- Railway West Railway Station
- Tianjin Binhai International Airport
- Tianjin International Cruise Homeport, or
- Shijiazhuang Zhengding International Airport in Hebei Province and Qinhuangdao Harbor.
Detailed Trip Notes
China has emerged as a great tourist destination in the last ten years and is an intriguing and rewarding destination to visit. Developing at a fast rate, travel is becoming easier for foreigners but please be aware that English is still not widely spoken outside the large cities and that accommodation, toilet facilities and some transportation is not yet at the same level as you would expect in developed countries. If you are able to bring with you a lot of patience, a great sense of humour and a willingness to try and interact with the local people, your travel experience wil be greatly enhanced.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
As currency exchange rates in Asia fluctuate often we ask that you refer to the following website for daily exchange rates: www.xe.com.
As of Aug 2014 the exchange rate for China was 1 USD = 6.14 CNY (Chinese Yuan).
Cash (Chinese Yuan) is the best method of money in China. There are some ATM machines at international airports and major cities that accept Visa and/or Mastercard and debit cards but these should not be relied on as a sole source of funds. We recommend the use of cash as a back up. Major credit cards are accepted in a few shops (except for AMEX and Diner’s) but they may charge a 2-4% transaction fee.
Please also make sure you have access to at least an additional USD $200 (or equivalent) as an ‘emergency’ fund, to be used when circumstances outside our control (ex. a natural disaster) require a change to our planned route. This is a rare occurrence!
Departure Tax is included in all International and Domestic tickets in China.
Traditionally in China tipping is not expected and thus there is no need to tip in restaurants and your general interaction with locals; however, tipping is customary – though not compulsory – in the tourism industry and not only shows an expression of satisfaction it may also be of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. There are times during the trip where there is opportunity to tip the local guides or drivers we use. You may do this individually, or your CEO may offer to collect the money and tip as a group.
Recommendations for tipping drivers and local guides would range from 1 to 3 USD per person per day depending on the quality and length of the service; ask your CEO for specific recommendations based on the circumstances and culture. A suggestion would be for each group member to contribute anonymously by putting their tip into an envelope. This often works the best and the group as a whole should gather to present the gift to the recipient(s), offering their thanks and showing their appreciation. This method brings the action out into the open, allowing for a friendly and appreciative interaction between the group and the recipient(s).
Also at the end of each trip if you felt your G Adventures CEO did an outstanding job tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $5 USD per person per day can be used.
All prices listed are in Chinese Yuan (CNY), per person (unless stated otherwise), and are subject to change as services are provided by third party operators.
▪ Great Wall entrance - CNY 45.00
▪ Cable car at Great Wall - CNY 60.00
▪ Toboggan at Great Wall - CNY 60.00
▪ Forbidden City - CNY 60.00
▪ Temple of Heaven - CNY 35.00 (Taxi 12 CNY per taxi from your hotel)
▪ Summer Palace – transfer - CNY2 PP by subway (Taxi or Subway)
▪ Summer Palace - CNY 50.00 (30main entry; 10 Cixi Museum; 10 Dragon boat)
▪ Lama Temple - CNY 25.00 (Subway 2 CNY PP)
▪ Legend of Gongfu Beijing - CNY200-680
▪ Acrobatic Performance Beijing - CNY180-880
▪ Beijing Opera Performance - CNY180-680
▪ Hutong Trishaw Cycle Tour - CNY100-150
▪ Bike tour Drum Tower & Houhai - CNY 25.00 (Bike Rental)
▪ Factory 798 Art & Galleries - Free
▪ Tiananmen Square - Free
▪ Beijing Duck - CNY100-150
▪ Hutong Cycle tour - 100-150
▪ Terra Cotta Warriors Museum - 150CNY
▪ Bell & Drum Towers - 35CNY – one way; 50 CNY – round trip
▪ Great Mosque - 25CNY
▪ City Wall Xi’an South Gate - 54CNY (20 CNY/ hr to bike the wall)
▪ Big Wild Goose Pagoda - 50CNY PP (15CNY per taxi – one way)
▪ Shanxi History Museum - Free (20CNY for non-reserved visitors)
▪ Dumpling Banquet Defachang Restaurant - 108CNY
Please note these are examples of the entrance fees charged, this does not include hiring transport to/from the destination (unless stated otherwise)
Please note inoculations may be required for the country visited. It is your responsibility to consult with your travel doctor for up to date medical travel information well before departure.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information well before departure. We recommend that you carry a First Aid kit and hand sanitizers / antibacterial wipes as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that sometimes we are in remote areas and away from medical facilities, and for legal reasons our CEOs are prohibited from administering any type of drug including headache tablets, antibiotics, etc. In Asia pharmacies tend to stock the same western drugs as you get at home but they are usually produced locally so please bring the full drug name with you when trying to purchase a prescription drug. When selecting your trip please carefully read the brochure and itinerary and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please refer to the Physical and Culture Shock ratings for trip specific information. G Adventures reserves the right to exclude any traveller from all or part of a trip without refund if in the reasonable opinion of our CEO they are unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group.
Safety and Security
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government’s advice for their latest travel information before departure. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travellers’ cheques, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home – you won’t need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. When travelling on a group trip, please note that your CEO has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Your CEO will accompany you on all included activities. During your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your CEO will assist you with options available in a given location please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and we offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment when selecting an activity in your free time. Although the cities visited on tour are generally safe during the day, there can be risks to wandering throughout any major city at night. It is our recommendation to stay in small groups and to take taxis to and from restaurants, or during night time excursions.
Protests and Demonstrations- Protests and demonstrations, even those that are well intended, have the potential to turn violent with no warning. Counter protests can also turn violent. Action by security forces to disperse demonstrators and protesters may occur at any time. If you are in an area where demonstrators or protesters are gathering, avoid the temptation of staying for a good photo opportunity and leave the area immediately.
Water based activities have an element of danger and excitement built into them. We recommend only participating in water based activities when accompanied by a guide(s). We make every reasonable effort to ensure the fun and adventurous element of any water based activities (in countries with varying degrees of operating standards) have a balanced approach to safety. It is our policy not to allow our CEOs to make arrangements on your behalf for water based activities that are not accompanied by guide(s).
Swimming, including snorkeling, is always at your own risk.
We take all prudent measures in relation to your safety. For ways to further enhance your personal safety while traveling, please visit:
Trip Specific Safety
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travellers’ cheques, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home – you won’t need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Our small group adventures bring together people of all ages. It is very important you are aware that, as a minimum, an average level of fitness and mobility’ is required to undertake our easiest programs. Travellers must be able to walk without the aid of another person, climb 3-4 flights of stairs, step on and off small boats, and carry their own luggage at a minimum. Travellers with a pre-existing medical condition are required to complete a short medical questionnaire, which must be signed by their physician. This is to ensure that travellers have the necessary fitness and mobility to comfortably complete their chosen trip. While our CEOs work hard to ensure that all our travellers are catered for equally, it is not their responsibility to help individuals who cannot complete the day’s activities unaided. Please refer to the physical ratings in this Trip Details document for more information.
The medical questionnaire can be found online at:
A Couple of Rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on any trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for our travellers. Our philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter, and in particular the local people who make the world the special place it is. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our CEOs have the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is compulsory in order to participate on any of our trips. When travelling on a group trip, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance has been sighted by your CEO, who will take note of your insurance details. When selecting a travel insurance policy please bear in mind that all clients must have medical coverage and that we require a minimum coverage of USD 200,000 for repatriation and emergency rescue. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. If you have credit card insurance we require proof of purchase of the trip (a receipt of credit card statement) with a credit card in your name. Contact your bank for details of their participating insurer, the level of coverage and emergency contact telephone number.
Planeterra-The G Adventures Foundation
The Planeterra Foundation planeterra.org is a Canadian non-profit organization that helps empower local people to develop their communities, conserve their cultures, and create humane and supportive systems for their endeavours. Planeterra provides capacity building and catalyst grants to get community social enterprises off the ground. These businesses address local challenges by providing benefits for indigenous people, empowering marginalized women, and granting disadvantaged youth access to education, employment, and brighter futures. Planeterra also works to ensure these businesses have a thriving customer base by integrating programs into G Adventures’ itineraries globally.
G Adventures is Planeterra’s largest corporate donor, covering all operating costs so 100% of your donation will bring opportunity to people in need.
G Adventures’ Dollar-a-Day Program provides travellers with the opportunity to give back to the people and places visited on our tours by donating one dollar for every day you are on trip. 100% of these donations go directly to support community development projects worldwide that are implemented by Planeterra.
In Asia the dress standard is more conservative than it is back home. When packing try to pick loose, lightweight, long clothing that will keep you cool in the usually hot and humid climate of Asian summers. In predominately Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim countries we ask that you dress respectfully and avoid very short shorts/skirts and singlets/tanktops when visiting temples or mosques or other holy sites.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! Your feedback information is so important to us that you’ll receive a special discount code for free online prints and we’ll give you 5% off the price of your next G Adventures trip if your feedback is completed on-line within 30 days of finishing your trip. Please visit http://www.gadventures.com/evaluations
Our adventure travel e-newsletter is full of travel news, trip information, interesting stories and contests. To avoid missing out on special offers and updates from G Adventures, subscribe at www.gadventures.com/newsletters/
Stay current on how our company invests in our global community through our foundation – Planeterra. Sign up for Planeterra’s monthly news to learn more about how to give back and support the people and places we love to visit.
You must be 18 to travel unaccompanied on a G Adventures tour. For minors travelling with a guardian over 21 years old, the minimum age is 12.
Check-in times and baggage allowances/restrictions vary by airline and can change at any time. For the most up-to-date information for your flight, please contact your airline. We recommend checking in online in advance to avoid potential delays at the airport.
English-speaking Chief Experience Officer (CEO) throughout, local guides.
PRODUCT_LINE: ACSR, ID: 22613
Day 1 Beijing
There are activities planned until an evening welcome meeting and optional group dinner — the famous Beijing Duck is on the menu.
Arrival Day and Welcome Meeting
Day 2 Beijing (1B)
Enjoy a guided tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. In the afternoon, options include shopping, taking a hutong tour, or visiting some city sights like the Summer Palace, Lama Temple, and Bell and Drum towers.
Forbidden City Tour
Day 3 Beijing/Xi'an (1B)
Visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. At the wall, climb to the top and explore a stretch by foot while taking in spectacular views as it winds along mountain ridges. This section also boasts a cable car and a luge slide.
In the evening, take an overnight sleeper train to Xi’an.
Great Wall Mutianyu Visit
Drive through the city and countryside to reach the Great Wall’s Mutianyu section. Take the same transportation back.
Basic overnight train (beds)
Day 4 Xi'an
Arrive in Xi’an in the early morning and, after checking into the hotel, grab some breakfast and take an orientation walk.
After, take a guided trip out to the Terracotta Warriors, a short drive away.
Spend free time in the evening wandering the Muslim Quarter and shopping for souvenirs.
Terracotta Warriors Guided Tour
Day 5 Xi'an/Jiayuguan (1B)
Enjoy a free day in Xi’an. Opt to visit the Great Mosque in the Muslim Quarter, ride a bike around the city walls, visit the Big Goose Pagoda, or do some shopping. In the evening, board a sleeper train for the overnight journey to Jiayuguan.
Basic overnight train (beds)
Day 6 Jiayuguan
Located in the Gansu Province, Jiayuguan is famous for its location on the Silk Road and also for its post on the Great Wall.
The westernmost section of the Great Wall, the Jiayuguan Pass, was built during the Ming Dynasty, along with the Overhanging Great Wall section.
Jiayuguan Great Wall of China Visit
Day 7 Jiayuguan/Dunhuang (1B)
Travel by express bus to Dunhuang, a major stop on the Silk Road.
Enjoy a guided visit to the famous Mogao Grottoes, filled with Buddha statues, and learn about this important place.
Spend a free afternoon wandering the town centre, shopping in the market, or visiting sights further afield. This is one of the loveliest cities in the region.
Mogao Grottoes Visit
Day 8 Dunhuang/Turpan (1B)
Mingsha means “Singing or echoing sands”, named for the sound of the wind blowing through the dunes. Arrive before sunrise to climb the massive dunes and watch the sun come up over the “desert”. The sands turn from white to golden as the sun rises. Later, opt for a camel ride through the dunes in the early morning sun and choose to sled down one of the dunes.
Head back to town for breakfast and a rest. In the afternoon, opt to spend more time in the city or visit a local village nearby.
In the evening, board a sleeper train to Turpan, the first stop in the Xinjiang province.
Basic overnight train (beds)
Day 9 Turpan
Arrive at the train station and drive by private van (about 1 hr) to Turpan, the lowest point in Asia.
Enjoy a city tour with a local guide and learn about this interesting desert city, the ancient Karez water system, and the culture of the Uyghur minority people.
Turpan City Tour
Day 10 Turpan
The day is free to continue exploring. Sights in Turpan include the Emin Minaret, the city mosque, and the Turpan Museum. There is plenty to do outside the city centre; opt to visit the Jiaohe ruins and Flaming Mountains.
Learn what makes this area different from the rest of China, starting with the time. Try your hand at tying a local headscarf in the distinct Uyghur fashion and indulge in some of the grapes grown in this region.
Day 11 Turpan/Heavenly Lake (1B, 1L, 1D)
In the morning take a private van to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Province. From here, drive into the Tian Shan Mountains (Heavenly Mountains) for an overnight in a yurt with the local Kazakh minority people. This area looks more similar to the Swiss Alps, with towering snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes, than somewhere in the middle of China. Spend the day hiking, horseback riding, or just relaxing and soaking in the views. In the evening, tuck into the multi-share circular felt hut (yurt) and sleep like a local.
Keep in mind this area will have basic accommodations, meals, and bathroom facilities. Expect to share your yurt with other members of the group, all sleeping on mats and blankets around a central fireplace. Bathrooms are likely to be outhouses. The experience of staying in this beautiful location with these welcoming people will be well-worth the lack of amenities.
Overnight in a Yurt
Drive into the mountains via Urumqi.
Day 12 Heavenly Lake/Urumqi (1B)
Spend the morning enjoying nature before heading to Urumqi, the capital of the province.
Day 13 Urumqi/Hotan (1B)
Over the next two days, travel by train to Hotan, a small town in the Taklamakan Desert. Watch the scenery go by, make friends with the locals, and catch up on your reading.
Basic overnight train (beds)
Day 14 Hotan (1B)
Arrive in the evening to Hotan. Start exploring this small town.
Day 15 Hotan (1B)
With free time in the afternoon, tour the market or check out some abandoned ancient towns, the Yoktan or Melikawat ruins. Hotan is also known for its jade.
Hotan Village Tour
Day 16 Hotan/Kashgar (1B)
Enjoy one last train ride to Kashgar, arriving in the evening.
Day 17 Kashgar (1B)
Spend the rest of the day exploring the old town centre or the People’s Square.
Meet the group for an optional farewell dinner.
Sunday Bazaar Market
Day 18 Kashgar
Depart at any time.
From Kashgar, there are flights to different regions of China. You can return to Beijing, continue on to Shanghai, Chengdu, or Hong Kong. Most flights connect in Urumqi.