Welcome to Xining (altitude: 2,261 m), the capital city of Qinghai Province in northwestern China. Upon arriving at Xining Caojiabao Airport (or Xining Railway Station), your tour guide will meet you and escort you to your hotel in the downtown by a private vehicle. After checking in, the rest of today is on your own to acclimate to the elevation and explore this historical city of China.
Arrival Ideas: You can take a flight to Xining from Beijing (about 2hrs), Shanghai (about 3hrs), Xian (about 1.5hrs), Chengdu (about 2hrs), Guangzhou (about 3.5hrs), Dunhuang (about 1.5hrs), etc., or get to Xining by high speed bullet train from Xian (about 4hrs), Lanzhou (about 1.5hrs), Zhangye (about 2hrs), Jiayuguan (about 3~3.5hrs) and other connected cities in China.
Nightlife Idea: go to enjoy a great dinner and stunning night view of Xining city on Pearl of Puning which is a 188 meters tall TV & Sightseeing tower alike Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.
After breakfast, drive around 175 km (3 hours) to explore the picturesque Qinghai Lake. En route, take an excursion visit to the famous Kumbum Monastery (Ta'er Monastery). The monastery is a sacred Tibetan Buddhist temple most known as “one of the six greatest Gelug monasteries”. It is said to be the birthplace of Tsongkhapa - the founder of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism (Yellow Hat Sect). Yak Butter Sculpture of Buddha, Mural and Barbola are the noted “Three Arts” of Kumbum Monastery.
Keep driving about 2 hours from Kumbum Monastery, you will get to Qinghai Lake. As the largest inland lake, as well as the largest salt water lake in China, Qinghai Lake (3200 m) stretches 105 km in length, 63 km in width and occupies a water area of over 4,500 square kilometers. It was elected as the Most Beautiful Lake in China by China’s National Geographic, attracting thousands of photographers to take photos every year.
You will spend a wonderful time appreciating the beauty of Qinghai Lake in Erlangjian Scenic Area - the essence of the whole scenic area of Qinghai Lake. It shapes like a long and narrow sword inserting into the lake. Walking on the plank road, you will be delivered a far-reaching panorama of the sea-like lake. Due to the different salt content of different parts of the lake, the water presents different colors in the refraction of sunlight. More than the lake view, the scenic surrounding - endless grassland and rapeseed flower lands, soft sand beaches as well as flocks of grazing sheep, horses and yaks also make you enjoy yourself to the fullest. On a clear day, you will feast your eyes on a charming vista of the snow-capped mountains in the distance as well as the huge sand dunes of Sand Island on the far shore. At the same time, Qinghai Lake is a sacred Tibetan Buddhist site. There are many devoted Buddhist coming from afar to worship to Qinghai Lake each year.
Optional Qinghai Lake Cruise: Taking a cruise allows you to admire Qinghai Lake from a different perspective. There are two kinds of cruises available in Erlangjian Scenic Area: High Speed Cruise and catamaran. The former offers a 25 minutes’ single trip from Erlangjian Wharf to Erlangjian Peninsula at the cost of CNY140. The latter offers a 50 minutes’ round trip at the cost of CNY180. This price doesn't include your personal expense on the ship, such as drinking, food, etc. This cruise is only available during the period from May to October.
After sightseeing, drive back to Xining for accommodation.
After breakfast, you will take a morning high speed bullet train to Zhangye city in Gansu Province from Xining (about 2hrs). Enjoy the beautiful landscape along the road. After arrival at Zhangye West Railway Station, you will be met by local tour guide. Let's get ready for the trip!
In the afternoon, drive about an hour to visit the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park. The Danxia landform is a spectacular petrographic geomorphology landscape which is formed from red-coloured sandstones and conglomerates. The one in Zhangye was formed in the pre-Jurassic Age. Thousands of mountains and stiffs stretch like the colorful sunset glow. The barren mountains are covered by a red grit rock stratum. At the same time, some surfaces of mountains appear other colors, such as white, yellow, etc, and form many irregular lines and blocks looking like some abstract oil paintings. There are four viewing decks for you to watch and shoot. You will visit one by one, and will be transferred by park buses from one deck to another.
After watching sunset at Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park, drive about 30km to Linze County for accommodation. Tomorrow morning, you are going to visit another Danxia Landform.
Useful Tips: 1. Pack with sun creams, sunglasses, protective clothing and hat to protect from strong sunlight in summer; 2. sunset is the best time for taking photos which happen around 19:00~20:00 in summer and 18:00~19:00 in winter.
After breakfast, you will go to visit the Giant Buddha Temple, which is famous for having the largest indoor sleeping Buddha in Asia. This temple is a large complex with regal arrangements built in the Xixia Dynasty(1098), and keeps many precious Buddhist scriptures and wall paintings. Its famous treasure is the Sleeping Buddha, which is centrally seated with symmetric buildings situated along both sides. The Buddha statue was carved by wood with a length of 34.5 meters, telling the story of Buddha's Nirvana. His ears are as big as the space in which 4 adults can sit side by side.
After visiting the Buddha Temple, drive about 220 km (2.5hrs) to Jiayuguan City and check into your hotel. Then you will go to visit "the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven", also the westernmost starting point of the Great Wall of Ming Dynasty - Jiayuguan Pass. Start your exploration with an educational visit to the Great Wall Museum to learn some interesting facts about both the Jiayuguan Fort and Great Wall, including history, old photos, relics, etc. Then enter the gate to explore the grandiose Jiayuguan Fort. It is a complex of towers, city walls and other military buildings covering more than 25,000 square meters. The city wall is nearly 11 meters high, and comprises an outer and inner wall. There are two large gates standing at the east and the west of the inner wall. Walkways lead to the top of the wall, allowing horses to climb up the wall.
If time allows, and you are interested, you can take an optional visit to the Xuanbi Great Wall (Overhanging Wall) which is about 18km away from the Fort. The walls were built on lofty cliffs with incredibly large gradients looking like an overhanging cantilever. Climbing up to higher gives you excellent views of the surrounding land and mountains.
Today you will travel to Dunhuang from Jiayuguan in the early morning. After arriving at Dunhuang city, you will visit Echoing Sand Mountains (Mingshashan). It is said, in the sunny days, the sand mountains echo like Orchestra music even if there is no wind. If you slide from the sand mountains, you can hear the echoing sound clearly. Your last thing to do for today is the Crescent Lake. Surrounded by the Echoing Sand Mountains, Crescent Lake is a beautiful oasis with some well decorated traditional Chinese architecture, some trees and flowers and a lake that has never dried up and shapes like a crescent moon.
Nightlife Ideas: 1. Go out to go for a walk in the Shazhou Night Market where you can try some local food, relax in a drinking bar, or buy some interesting handcrafts, etc. 2. Enjoy the fascinating Silk Road Show - Silk Road Flower Rain which is a relaxing feast of unparalleled visual beauty with impressively elaborate dances performed by professional dancers wearing stunning costumes and an incredible set design.
After breakfast, you will be taken to explore the remote wild Gobi Desert landscape as well as several legendary historical sites. Drive westwards about 100 km, you will first arrive at Yumen Pass (Jade Gate Pass) which used to be a military defensive pass as well as an important border for international trading along the ancient Silk Road. It is said that the jadewares from the West were imported to China through this gate, which is how the name Yumen was given. About 5 km from Yumen Pass is the Ruin of the Great Wall of the Han Dynasty, which was built to fight against the Xiongnu in ancient times. Keep driving more than 80 km, you will get to Yardang National Geologic Park. It is also called Devil City in that you will hear the sound just like the devil screaming when the strong wind goes through the desert. The park features Yardang landforms in distinct shapes like Mongolian Yurt, Stone Bird, Peacock and others. Make full use of your imagination, you may find some rocks with some miniatures similar to famed architectures, like the Potala Palace in Tibet, Heaven Temple in Beijing or something else.
Leave Yardang National Geologic Park, and drive along the coming way back to Dunhuang. On the route, you will take a side trip to visit Yangguan Pass, which was the gate to another branch of the ancient Silk Road. Accommodate in Dunhuang City.
Useful Tips: 1. Pack some food and water for the long drive in the desert; 2. Get fully prepared for the strong sunlight and high temperatures in the daytime.
After breakfast, drive about 10 km from Dunhuang city to visit the newly opened Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center before going to Mogao Grottoes. You will watch two short but well-produced educational documentary movies that introduce history, arts, and other facts about Mogao Grottoes, which will be very helpful when you visit the grottoes. After the movies, take an internal bus to Mogao Grottoes.
Mogao Grottoes is famed as the "Louvre of the East", which is outstanding for its exquisite mural paintings and statues. There are now 492 grottoes in which about 45000 square meters long mural paintings and 2100 colorfully painted statues from which you can trace the development of Chinese art over 1600 years from one dynasty to the next because each dynasty built their own caves to record its own features. There are about 40 common caves opened to the public. In the tourist area, you will be divided into groups by different tour guides who will accompany you to visit the caves (usually 7~8 caves during April ~ November and 12 caves during December ~ March) with a great introduction. After that, if you want to visit more other caves, you can do it by yourselves or follow other tour guides. Besides, there are 10 special caves (with extra fees) available for your extensive visit.
In the afternoon, you will be escorted to catch your train to Turpan. Currently, there are several high speed bullet trains running to Turpan from Liuyuan South Railway Station in the afternoon. It takes only about 3.5 hours to get to Turpan. Upon arriving at Turpan North Railway Station, you will be picked up by your local tour guide, and transferred to check into your hotel in the city. The rest of today is free at your own leisure.
Useful Tips: 1. During peak seasons (May to October), there are usually a lot of visitors to Mogao Caves, so it is recommended to make a reservation in advance for at least 7 days. 2. If you want to see the Special Caves (excluded from the regular visit, and only open for limited individual visitors or small groups with reservations), you can contact our travel consultants or your tour guide to arrange for you, but you have to pay the extra admission fee for each cave. 3. It is not allowed to take photos inside grottoes.
After breakfast in the hotel, you will drive to Tuyu Valley along Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon, which condenses the essence of the landscape of Flaming Mountain - the hottest spot in Turpan. Flaming Mountain is immortalized in the Chinese classic Journey to the West as a blazing mountain that the monk Xuan Zang has to pass through. Finally, they use a magic fan to extinguish the blaze and go on with their trip. Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon splits the whole mountain in half and you will clearly admire the unique landform - red sandstones looking like flaming fire, distinctive rocks showing the uncanny workmanship of nature and deep gorge with crisscross valleys. The magnificence, strangeness, danger, and elegance of Flaming Mountain are fully shown here.
The winding road hanging on the cliff of Flaming Mountain will soon lead you to Tuyuk Valley (Tuyugou in Chinese) which is an Uighur valley with lots of historical sites. Mazar Village, the oldest existing Uighur village with a history of over 2,600 years, is a big highlight of the valley. Mazar Village holds a significant status in Buddhism and Islam. It is said that 6 Muslims came to China and started preaching there, so Mazar Village is called Eastern Mekka. Before Islam, it once was a Buddhist center as well. Many Buddhist caves can be found in the village, but the statues and murals failed to survive. The villagers still live peacefully in the village, and you can clearly see how they run their daily lives in the old mud adobe houses.
Next to drive back to Turpan City to discover the brilliant project of Karez System. Together with the Great Wall and Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the Karez System is regarded as one of China’s Three Greatest Ancient Projects. It is a special kind of irrigation system consisting of vertical wells, underground canals, ground canals and waterlogging pond. The vertically dug wells are linked together to channel the water which occurs during summer rain season, or is melted from snow mountains of Tianshan range to desired farmlands in the desert area. Visiting the Turpan Karez Museum, you will not only see the pictures and models detailing the history of the Karez System, but also visit the real underground tunnels.
Your last stop is the famous relic - Jiaohe Ancient City - an ancient city that was strategically located along the ancient Silk Road. Perching on a plateau, it acted as a natural barrier from the attacking enemies in the old times. Now, it is renowned as the best-preserved earthen architecture in the world. The interesting sculptures, videos and some other displays in Jiaohe Cultural Village Museum will give you an appreciation of the history of Jiaohe City before you start exploring. Then, take a shuttle bus to the core scenic area. Walking up along the pathway uphill, you can see many historical structural remains, including the residential area, official area and Buddhist temples. It is also available to walk to the central platform for a more awesome view of the whole park. When the night drops, you will feast on a breathtaking sunrise over the ruins.
After Turpan exploration, drive about 3.5 hours to Urumqi for accommodation.
This morning after breakfast, you will be taken to have an educational visit to the Xinjiang Regional Museum. It is the most important ancient Silk Road themed museum in China, which exhibits about 50,000 historical relics including more than 400 National First-class relics (60% of the total in Xinjiang). Among all the exhibitions, the most unique exhibition is the Mummy Hall. It collects 10 more than 4000 years old mummies which were mostly found in Loulan Ancient Kingdom Ruin and preserved almost intact. Loulan Princess, the most famous mummy in the museum, will definitely strike you with its typical European face. All these important exhibitions help you learn deep into the history and culture of Xinjiang as well as the ancient Silk Road.
Leaving the museum, you are going to explore the Heavenly Lake (or Tianchi in Chinese) which is only about 70 km (about 1.5 hrs' drive) away from Urumqi downtown. To protect the authenticity of the natural environment, our private car can only bring you to the entrance of the park. You will then shift onto a park bus to the parking lot around the lake area. Walking for about 15 minutes, you will get to the lakeside of Heavenly Lake. The rest time is free for you to stroll along the periphery of the lake, breathe the remarkably fresh air, and soak in the wonderful scenery. With an altitude of 1980 meters, Heavenly Lake and its alluring surroundings truly offer you a visual feast like heaven, featuring in serene alpine lake, rugged slopes with snow-capped mountains, pure glaciers, wild forest, vast grassland as well as unique ethnic culture.
Generally speaking, there are three ways to explore Heavenly Lake. You can walk around the lake, take a boat cruise, or ride a cable car to the mountain top. If time allows, you can even enjoy all the experiences. The Boat cruise and cable car need extra fees. Tell your preference to your guide, who will then arrange accordingly for you.
Walking around the lake. Plank roads were constructed to encircle the lake. But since the lake is very large, it takes about 5 hours to finish the circle. You can decide the hiking length on your own according to your physical condition and time. Fee: free.
Boat Cruise on the lake. It is very popular among travelers to take a boat cruising to the deeper area of the lake and back, which is leisure and scenic. There are modern ships, Chinese-style ships and high-speed boats available at different prices. Fee: about CNY 100.
Panoramic view from Maya Mountain. If you want more landscape, you can take a cable car up to Maya Mountain, where you can enjoy the panoramic view of Heavenly Lake and a closer view of Tianshan Mountain Range. Fee: about CNY 220.
After the landscape trip, take a park bus to exit the park, and drive back to Urumqi.
This early morning, you will take a flight to Kashgar (about 2 hrs), the southwestern border city of Xinjiang which used to be the epicenter of the regional trade and cultural exchange of ancient Silk Road for more than two millennia. Upon arriving at the airport of Kashgar, you will be welcomed by your local tour guide and driver, and escorted to Kashgar downtown. The rest of today is a guided tour of this legendary Silk Road city.
You will visit the Abakh Hoja Tomb first, which is not a simple tomb but an exquisite architectural complex including chapels, gardens, archways, etc., as the best place in the region to admire Uygur people’s extraordinary aesthetics and skills of Islamic architecture. It also offers a rare opportunity to see and learn about the funeral customs of Uygur families because there is a large Islamic family of five generations whose name is Abakh Hoja buried here. The Abakh Hoja was a local Islamic master who had strengthened the spread of Islam in the Kashgar area, which later earned a great reputation for him and his family.
Next, you will visit the landmark of Kashgar - Id Kah Mosque, which is regarded as the holy shrine for Muslims. Every day, there are thousands of Muslims worshiping here. In history, Id Kah Mosque used to be a school where Islamic culture and history were taught. Many scholars and honored clergies graduated from here.
Only several minutes' walk from the mosque is the exotic Kashgar Old Town where you can experience the authentic Uyghur living style. Explore the traditional earth buildings where local people live, walk through the famous Handicrafts Street where you can see how the local craftsman makes handicrafts. It is a good place to buy some interesting souvenirs for your family and friends. You will also take a break and enjoy a cup of local tea at the Ancient Tea House, which is more than 100 years old. The locals also like to spend some leisure time in the tea house with friends and families - drinking, chatting and playing music sometimes.
Today’s activities end. Have a good rest in your hotel in Kashgar.
Today, you are going to visit the famous Karakul Lake, which is about 190 km/about 3 hours’ drive from Kashgar downtown. Although it is a long drive, you are surprisingly compensated by the constant landscape of the overwhelming Pamirs Plateau - harsh and lonely snow mountains, inhabited barrens, expansive grassland, pure glaciers, peaceful villages... Make a stop at Baishahu (White Sands Dunes Lake) where a tranquil lake lies under the towering snow mountains of Pamirs Plateau. The sands of Taklamakan Desert fly westward, get stopped by the edge of Pamirs and deposit at the slopes of the mountains, then get washed by the melting ice of the snow mountains, which is the reason why you can see white sand dunes surrounding the White Sand Lake.
You will get to Karakul Lake around noon. After lunch, throw yourself into the breathtaking scenery of the lake and its surroundings. With an altitude of 3600 meters, Karakul Lake is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Central Asia. It welcomes visitors with stunning views of pristine lake nestled against Pamirs mountains which provide an azure backdrop as they are covered with snow all year around, including three gigantic mountains - Muztagh Ata (7546 meters), Kongur Tagh (7649 meters) and Kongur Tiube (7530 meters). From other sides, there is a mixture of boundless grasslands, deserts and valleys. A few Kirghiz nomads put their yurts and graze their herds of sheep, horses and camels near the lake. Take your time to wander around the lake to enjoy the landscape and take photos until returning time.
Drive the same way back to Kashgar, and have a good rest in Kashgar city.
After breakfast, go to visit the famous Kashgar Bazaar, which is huge, busy, crowded, amazing, chaotic, interesting and colorful. Bazaar, in Uygur, means a large market. Kashgar Bazaar has been the largest and busiest trading center of West and Central Asia since the origin and flourish of the Silk Road. Here you can buy anything from Muslim millinery to authentic Iranian saffron, from pashminas to carpets, from fruits to spices, from a cradle to a camel... or find a place to sit down to enjoy some local snacks, or just experience local culture.
If you happen to visit Kashgar on a Sunday, don't miss the opportunity to experience the Livestock Market, which takes place once a week on Sunday. By lunchtime, numerous sheep, camels, horses, cows and donkeys will be driven by the Uyghur farmers and herders to squeeze through the gates of the bazaars for trade. It’s dusty, smelly and crowded, but most people find it very exotic.
After the tour, you will be escorted to catch your flight or train to the next destination, or be sent to the border if you want to exit China by land port.
The quotation for this trip is from Request P/P
1. This price is for one person, based on a group of 2 adults sharing one standard double-bed room in 4-star hotel and traveling with our private tour in low seasons.
2. This price is subject to change according your traveling season, group size, hotel class, change of activities in your itinerary and possible fluctuation of currency exchange rate. If you want a lower price, you can get more people to join you, or use economy class hotels.
Professional licensed English-speaking guide;
Admission tickets for all attractions listed in the itinerary;
Accommodation as listed in the itinerary (4-star standard);
Necessary vehicle transfers as listed in the itinerary;
Domestic flights (economy class) from Urumqi to Kashgar and high-speed trains from Xining to Zhangye / Dunhuang to Turpan (second class);
Airport (and train station) pick up and drop off;
Luggage Transfers: between airports (railway station) and hotels;
All meals as listed (“B” for Chinese and Western breakfast buffet in your hotel; “L” for Chinese Lunch in local restaurant; “D” for Chinese dinner in local restaurant.);
Our service charge, including tour planning, handling, operational and communication charges.
Accommodation not listed in the itinerary;
Single Room Supplement;
Tourist sites which are not listed in the itinerary;
Xining arrival flight or train on the first day;
Kashgar departure flight or train on the last day;
Recommended optional activities;
Excess Baggage Charges;
Optional tips to guides, drivers, etc.
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