16-Day Dunhuang and Xinjiang Silkroad

Day 1 Dunhuang Arrival

Dunhuang was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road and is best known for the nearby UNESCO site Mogao Caves. It is located in an oasis of Western China.

You are free to stroll around and have a good rest today.

Day 2 UNESCO site Mogao Caves and Intangible Cultural Experience

You will visit Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes, which is one of the three famous ancient Buddhist sculptural sites of China. The first caves were dug out in 366 AD and the whole excavation lasted about 1,000 years. There are 735 caves in the Mogao Grottoes, with more than 45,000 square meters (484,376 sq. ft.) of murals preserved, more than 2,400 colorful sculptures, and 5 eaves of wooden grottoes in the Tang (618-907 AD) and Song (960-1279 AD) dynasties. For your better experience, you will have a Dunhuang Clay Printmaking Experience, the intangible cultural heritage of Dunhuang. Through this experience, you will get a general idea of how ancient Chinese people made murals in caves and enjoy the art of the traditional Chinese culture. Later, you will visit Crescent Lake and Mingsha Shan, named after the sound of wind whipping off the dunes, the singing sand phenomenon.

Day 3 Yumen Pass and Fly to Xinjiang

You will visit the Yumen Pass or Jade Gate, is the name of a pass of the Great Wall and was one of the most famous passes leading to the north and west from Chinese territory. This pass was built around 111 BC which has a history of more than 2,130 years. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as the Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor World Heritage Site. Moreover,you will visit the Great Walls of Han Dynasty.

After lunch, you will be dropped at the airport and take a domestic flight to Xinjiang.

Day 4 Jiaohe Ruin and Grapes Valley

You will visit Jiaohe Ruin, a UNESCO site, founded and built in 108 BC. It is a natural fortress located atop a steep cliff on a leaf-shaped plateau between two deep river valleys, and was an important stop along the Silk Road. It is the world’s largest and most ancient, the best preserved soil architecture city, but also our country preserved more than two thousand years of the most complete urban ruins.

Then you will go to Grapes Valley. In here, you can not only feel the magical landscape of nature, taste the sweetest grapes in the world, but also appreciate the passionate dance of Uyghur young men in the grape ditch, the exciting Dawaz performance, and the lively and festive girls picking grapes.

Day 5 Bosten Lake and Luobu Village

You will go to Bosten Lake which is the largest inland freshwater lake in China. It is famous for its magnificent and vast lake landscape. The water is clear blue, surrounded by steep mountains. In the meadow of the lake, you can see cattle and sheep leisurely eating grass, swans and ducks swimming freely on the water. In winter, Botsten Lake will appear ice cracks and ice picks, crystal clear like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Next, you will visit Luobu Village. The Luobu people are one of the oldest ethnic groups in Xinjiang, bordering the largest desert in China-Taklamakan Desert. They do not grow grain, do not herd livestock, and only fish on small boats for food. In Luobu Village, you will not only see the wonderful natural landscape, but also learn about Luobu’s lifestyle, traditional architecture, handicrafts and cultural customs.

Day 6 Tarim Populus Euphratica Nature Reserve

You will go to the Tarim Populus Euphratica Nature Reserve.It covers a total area of 100 square km, which is the oldest, largest, best preserved and most original populus euphratica forest park in China.Populous euphratica is a tree species that grows in the desert and is very precious, which can be compared with the ginkgo tree, which is called “plant living fossil”. People praised the huge vitality of populus euphratica as “three thousand years”, that is, live a 1,000 years without dying; don’t fall a 1,000 years after death; don’t get rotten after falling 1,000 years later. It is like a fairyland, especially in autumn.

Day 7 Kuqa Countryside and City Tour

You will have a day trip in Kuqa which was called Qiuzi since the 3rd century BC and was once the homeland of the ancient Buddhist Kingdom of Kucha.  

In the morning, you will visit two UNESCO sites. One is Subashi Temple, which was built in 1st century AD and has a history of more than 2,000 years.

Another one is the Kizilgaha Beacon Tower, which was built in 202-220 BC. It is the earliest and best preserved beacon site in the North Road era of the ancient Silk Road. It’s surrounded by a grand, gray, wind-eroded yardang landscape, which is a large area of soft, poorly consolidated rock and bedrock surfaces that have been extensively grooved, fluted, and pitted by wind erosion.

In the afternoon, you will visit Kuqa Palace where the Kuqa King lived for generations since 1759. The cultural exhibition area of Qiuci shows the cultural customs of the country Qiuzi in the history of Xinjiang, with numerous cultural relics and folk crafts. 

Last, you will stroll along the Old city of Kuqa is a national historical and cultural city, and its residents are mostly Uyghur. The ancient buildings in the city not only absorb the cultural elements and architectural styles of the Central Plains and Europe, but also integrate the traditional architecture, painting and singing and dancing arts of the Western regions, and still retain the traditional pattern and historical style.

Day 8 Natural Landscape and Buddhist Cave

You will visit the Baicheng Red Stone Forest which is divided into two pieces. One belongs to the typical yardang geological landscape with rolling mountains, layer on layer. And another one is that the whole mountain range presents a magnificent fire red. The color of this red stone forest changes with the season and time, such as yellow, orange, red, brown, grey, etc., makes it become a unique scenery on this trip.

If Baicheng Red Stone Forest is closed, you will visit Kuqa Grand Canyon National Geopark was formed by the reddish-brown rocks after millions of years of wind and rain erosion by nature. The charm of “Tianshan Grand Canyon” lies not only in its grandeur and precipitousness, but also in its deep, quiet and mysterious.

The reddish-brown mountains directly into the sky, in the sunlight, like clusters of burning flames.

Then you will visit another UNESCO site Kizil Caves. It is said to be the earliest major Buddhist cave complex in China, which is 300 years earlier than Mogao Caves in Dunhuang that started in 366 AD. It played an important role in Central Asian art and in the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism. There are 251 grottoes in total, and there are 236 numbered grottoes with about 10,000 square meters of murals.

Day 9 Grand Canyon

You will visit Wenshu Grand Canyon which not only has the strange Yardang geological landscape, but also has the rare ancient and biggest rock salt geological scenery and the unique giant karst erosion geological secret environment in China. It is called the “living geological evolution museum” in Xinjiang.

Day 10 Transfer to Kashgar

It’s a little bit of a long drive to Kashgar. For over 2,000 years, Kashgar was a strategically important oasis on the Silk Road between China, the Middle East, and Europe. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. You will have a half day visiting Kashgar Bazaar which has a history of more than two thousand years and was known as the “largest market in Asia” in ancient times.

Day 11 Kashgar City Tour

You will have a full day city walk in Kashgar Old City. You will start the day by watching the Gate Opening Ceremony first. Then, you will visit the flower pot bazzar, blacksmith bazzar, carpenter bazzar, hat bazzar, etc. Moreover, you will taste different kinds of domestic street foods. Furthermore, you will have a Clay Making Experience which is the unique craft skill here. In addition, you will not only visit Id Kah Mosque which was built in 1442 and is the largest and most famous Islamic mosque in China, but also stroll along Gaotai residence, which has a history of 600 years,to learn domestic Uyghur ethnic lifestyle, unique craft skill, etc.

Day 12 4-day Pamir Plateau Trip

You will head to Pamir Plateau, which has been known as the “Roof of the World” since Victorian times, for a 3-day tour. It is the junction of China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is also one of the highest plateaus in the Asian continent. It was considered a strategic trade route on the Northern Silk Road.  

First, you will visit the Mujixiang Volcano Group is located deep in the Pamir Plateau. It is also called “The Eye of Pamir”. It is the largest in Asia, the world after Azerbaijan and Yellowstone Park mud volcano group in the US. Here, you can also look at 18 Snow Mountains lined up rolling hundreds of kilometers, the snow doesn’t melt all year round. Under the snow peak, the water of Muji River flows soothingly. The cattle and horses graze in the meadow on both sides of the river. Importantly, this spot changes color depending on the seasons and time.

Because Mujixiang Volcano Group is a nature reserve area, it closes for protection sometimes. If it is closed, you will go to the Karakul Lake, the highest elevation lake in Xinjiang, also known as “color-changing Lake” because its water changes color with the season and time. From here, you can also see the 18 Snow Mountains.

Next, you will visit the White Sand Lake to see the White Sand Mountain that is a high mountain in the Pamir Plateau. Because of the long-term weathering here, the rock sand on the top of the mountain is turned into powder, which pours down from the top and covers the mountain, so it is called White Sand Mountain.

Day 13 4-day Pamir Plateau Trip

You will visit the Stone City site, which was built in the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-8 AD) and has a history of more than 2,000 years. It is one of the three major stone cities in China and is an important ancient city on the Silk Road into South Asia and West Asia. Then you will visit Aral Golden Wetland which is named after the sunset that shines on the green grass and turns it into the golden color. Moreover, you will enjoy the Gate Opening Ceremony. During this ceremony, you will appreciate Tajiks traditional performances. Tajiks ethnic is one of the ancient ethnic groups in China and regard the eagle as a strong hero. Their eagle dance, which is linked with the habits and dynamics of the eagle, is one of the national intangible cultural heritage.

Then you will visit the Taheman Wetland, which is also called the Paradise of the Gods. It has vast wetlands, lakes, rivers and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It is the homeland of many wild animals. Also, it is an important habitat and migration station for many migratory birds. Every spring, thousands of migratory birds come here to roost, feed and breed. So it is also called the “Kingdom of birds”, with different kinds of cranes, storks, etc.

Importantly, you will stop by Sarela Village, the “China’s most northwestern oil painting village”. Here, there is a super spectacular snow willow cave. It is extremely beautiful in autumn, like stepping into the golden tunnel. Moreover, here is Tajiks ethnic village. You will have a close look at these people’s houses and lifestyles.

Day 14 4-day Pamir Plateau Trip

You will drive through the Panlong Ancient Road, which is famous for its more than 600 S-shaped and U-shaped bends on the 30 km mountain road, but its altitude rises from 3,000 m (9,842 ft) to 4,200 m (13,779 ft). Please note that it is closed during Mid-November till end of March due to the danger of icy roads.

Then you will visit the Kaneryang Village that is one of the most primitive, complete and systematic villages in Tajiks culture and has a history of more than 400 years. You will pay a visit to one of the Tajiks’ houses to learn more about their lifestyle, enjoy Tajiks domestic foods and performances. Moreover, their handcrafts are also very distinctive, like embroidery and weaving. Furthermore, the ecological environment is very well preserved and there are many kinds of plants and animals here. It is perfect for outdoor activities, like hiking, riding and camping. In addition, there are some special projects, such as horseback riding, archery, wrestling, etc.

Last, you will visit the Bulungkol Lake, which is an alpine lake, formed mainly by glaciers. The lake is deep blue and clear to the bottom. The lake is surrounded by steep peaks and snow-capped ridges, making it look like a fairyland.

Day 15 4-day Pamir Plateau Trip

You will hike on the Muztagh Ata which is also called Muztagata Mountain. It is the second highest (7546 metres) of the mountains which form the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau in China. However, it is also one of the relatively easier 7,000 m peaks in the world to climb, due to its gentle western slope and the comparatively drier weather of Xinjiang. The snow on the mountain does not melt all year round, and the upside down glacier is like a silver beard fluttering on the chest, so it has the reputation of “the father of the iceberg” in China.

Then you will go back to Kashgar.

Day 16 End of this Tour

You will fly to the next city in China.