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Silk Road Travel Guide and Tips

Silk Road Tours Map

Touring on the ancient Silk Road, which was a main trade route in the history, strolling along the majestic Great Wall of China, wandering among the magnificent monuments and rich relics, are only possible for those who travel to China.
Traveling to China is like traveling to a civilization that has well balanced its economic growth and developments with the rich culture that runs thousands of years back in time. From the delicious and different cuisines to cuddly giant pandas, secrets of the ancient world to modern technology and beautiful natural landscapes to contemporary skyscrapers will be unraveled in front of your eyes if you travel to China for your China holiday tours. Join hands with We to choose the best tour guide that fits your budget, time and tastes. We team is a well-seasoned team with years of experience planning the most significant memorable tour to China.

As an ancient destination, we highly recommend you put Silk Road on your travel list for its unspoiled treasures.

Why Visit Silk Road:

There are many beautiful travel destinations and historical sites along the silk road; here, we mapped out some well-known scenery that any foreigners traveling to the country are worth to visit. So Let's start to explore the most popular and mysterious trade route in the world.

This legendary Silk Route started from the 2nd Century B.C, which is not only strengthened the communication and exchanges between the Han Chinese and ethnic minorities in the northwestern regions. But it also enabled the dissemination of the exceptional cultures and creations of the Central Plains to western countries. At the same time, the Silk Road facilitated the introduction of western cultures and arts into China.

Most Popular Tourist Destinations

Do you have any ideas where to go to explore China Silk Road better? In fact, the Silk Road passes through six provinces in China, including Henan, Shaanxi, Ningxia, Qinghai, and the essence of the Silk Road - Gansu and Xinjiang. In these provinces, there are many cities and towns cherished with numerous brilliant historic & cultural treasures. Here we list the top 10 destinations (including Xian, Luoyang, Dunhuang, Kashgar…) with priceless relics and breathtaking landscape to experience. Just click your favorite destination to find the general travel information and the most recommended tours. If you are looking any other places for a more in-depth experience (such as Kuche, Korla, Baoji, Zhongwei, Guyuan…), feel free to contact us for more detailed information.

Terracotta Warriors in Xian

Xian - the Origin of the Silk Road: The Silk Road was originally opened in 139 BC during the Western Han Dynasty, when Emperor Wu ordered Zhang Qian to visit western regions from the capital - Xian (called Chang’an in the old times). As the origin of the Silk Road and an old capital of 13 Dynasties, Xian offers many wonderful historic sites and cultural experiences.

Cogao Caves

Dunhuang - the Most Important Post along the Silk Road: Appreciate the finest Buddhist art in the Oriental Louvre and the magic desert view with a never-dry lake!
As the westernmost city in the Hexi Corridor, Dunhuang held a strategic post along the Silk Road. With many goods, handicrafts, religions and cultures from central China and other regions in central Asia or Europe mixed here, it became a flouring trade and cultural center. Lots of historic relics are preserved in Dunhuang, including world-famous Mogao Grottoes.

Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar

Kashgar - the Convergence of North and South Route of the Silk Road: Get a memorable cultural and spiritual exploration in the essential part of Xinjiang!
Kashgar in Xinjiang is a must-be-visited site if you are seeking for the authentic Xinjiang atmosphere and the essence of the Silk Road culture. It is honored as the fusion of the Eastern and Western cultures, and various ethnic groups and different spiritual believes coexist here till now. In addition to cultural significance, an amazing plateau landscape can be viewed as well.

Grape Valley in Turpan

Turpan - A Veritable Oasis in the Desert: Discover the ancient city ruins, mysterious villages and sweet grapes in China’s most burning city!
Turpan is the hottest city in China, and its highest temperature can reach over 40 °C. However, it can easily enjoy coolness in the mud buildings or green vineyards because of the irrigating project of Karez System. There are also many historic sites in Turpan, from which travelers can take an insight into the brilliant culture of the Silk Road as well.

Jiayuguan Pass

Jiayuguan - Crucial Transportation Hub on the Silk Road: See the westernmost fortress of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty!
Jiayuguan is most famous for its fortress situated at the end of the portion of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty. Unlike other sections built with stones or bricks, Jiayuguan Great Wall was built with rammed earth. The yellow hue of the pass blends harmoniously with the surrounding desert. Till now, it is still a great stop between Zhangye and Dunhuang for travelers.

Zhangye National Geopark

Zhangye - Magical Rainbow Mountains: Be awed at the most spectacular Danxia Landform and Grottoes Temple Hanging on the Cliff!
Zhangye, literally translated as extending arm, excerpted from a phrase “to extend the arm of the country through to the Western Realm”. It is an important trade center holding a strategic position in the Hexi Corridor. Many historic sites can be found in Zhangye. Now, it is also attractive with its beautiful Rainbow Mountains in Danxia Geopark - colorful Zhangye Danxia.

Binhe Park of Lanzhou

Lanzhou - Transfer Center in Northwestern China: Enjoy an easy transfer to Lanzhou and start to discover the essence of the Silk Road!
Jiayuguan is most famous for its fortress situated at the end of the portion of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty. Unlike other sections built with stones or bricks, Jiayuguan Great Wall was built with rammed earth. The yellow hue of the pass blends harmoniously with the surrounding desert. Till now, it is still a great stop between Zhangye and Dunhuang for travelers.

Top Tourist Attractions to Visit in Silk Road

To enjoy best highlights in Silk Road, you shall not miss the No.1 Mogao Caves, It is a man-made wonder in Gobi desert, the brightest star on the ancient Silk Road, most brilliant treasure of Buddhist arts... Bet you'll be marveled at the fabulous Mingsha Mountain & Crescent Lake, different from other deserts, with singing sand dunes, clean and sweet spring in arms. It's beautiful oasis in the boundless deserts, Silk Road also has more many historical sites, like ruins of ancient cities, Buddhist grottoes, temples, tombs, palaces, thus have been preserved in the original state, and more natural and cultural wonders for your discover! Go and explore.>> Silk Road Tourist Attractions & Things to Do

Xian TerraCotta Warriors: Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum
excavated and exhibited in the Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum (Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors & Horses) is an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site which is also praised as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”. This archaeological site was covered in 1974 on the northeastern outskirts of Xian as the funeral troop of First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. Most known as one of the best showcases of the glorious civilization of ancient China, the Terracotta Warriors has about 8,000 life-size terracotta figures standing in different burial pits and guarding the emperor. The soldiers all have different faces and attires, their expressions, gestures and hair styles are incredibly detailed and vivid. They were colorized originally, but turned to earthy yellow when being exposed to the air. The Terracotta Warriors shows remarkable ancient wisdom, art and skill of Chinese people and a comprehensive battle command system of military organization with troops, horses, weapons and campsites. It’s one of the must-visit sites in Xian and on the Silk Road. More than 200 foreign leaders have visited Terracotta Warriors in Xian to see this magnificent ancient army.

Dunhuang Mogao Caves: - the Greatest Hoard of Buddhist Arts
carved on the cliffs of Mingsha Mountain in the southeast of Dunhuang City, is another brilliant UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site on the Silk Road. It’s the top of China’s Four Greatest Buddhist Grottoes and the largest and best-preserved Buddhist art treasury in the world with the title of “the Louvre of the East”. In the 235 Buddhist cave, there are more than 2000 well-preserved exquisite painted sculptures and 45,000-square-kilometer delicate murals and some Buddhist Sutras. In different caves, you can admire various Buddhist statues and paintings created in different dynasties, symbolizing different Buddhist contents and arts. They are fantastic examples of Buddhist culture and history in China, that perfectly recorded the spread of Buddhism in China and the successful fusion of religious arts and Chinese traditions.

Luoyang Longmen Grottoes: Masterpiece of Chinese Stone Carving
Longmen Grottoes is one of the Four Greatest Buddhist Grottoes in China and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage property. It has the largest number and scale of stone carvings in the world that earns itself the best work of Chinese stone carving art. On the riverside steep cliffs, more than 2000 Buddhist caves and a hundred thousand statues are scattered. The site was said to be excavated in the Northern Wei Dynasty (end of 5th century), thrived in the Tang Dynasty and declined in the late Qing Dynasty, spanning almost 1,400 years, the longest in the world. As a masterpiece of Buddhist spread and fusion, Longmen Grottoes stands out as the only example of Buddhist grottoes carved by real royal figures. The giant Vairocana Buddha, noted as “the Oriental Mona Lisa”, is a work based on the appearance of Express Wu Zetian. Through the colors of some Buddhist statues that have faded, their life-like looks and rich and elegant Buddhist factors still shine and display cultural exchange between the west and the east.

Tianshui Maijishan Grottoes: Buddhist Treasure Well-preserved on Maiji Mountain Cliff
together with Longmen Grottoes, Yungang Grottoes and Dunhuang Groggoes, are known as the "Four Greatest Grottoes in China." Caves were chiseled on a hill shaped like a stack of wheat. The ancient artisans carved more than 7800 Buddhist statues with different colors and sizes. The largest statue, Dongyan Giant Buddha, has a height of 15.8 meters.
Maijishan Grottoes chiseled on a wheat stack-shaped hill in Tianshui is another member of the Four Greatest Buddhist Grottoes in China as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Because the place held a strategic location on the ancient Silk Road, Buddhist caves here were influenced by both western countries and central China, and naturally formed a unique art style of sculptures and murals. Carved in the later Qin Dynasty, Maijishan Grottoes experienced a long-period construction history until the Qing Dynasty for about 1,600 years. Now there are 222 caves, nearly 4,000 Buddhist sculptures and a thousand square meters paintings remain on the steep hill. The large amount of clay figurines gets Maijishan Grottoes name of “Oriental Sculpture Gallery”. It’s an interesting trip to climb up along the hanging wooden paths to appreciate different kinds of Buddhist clay sculptures and learn splendid Buddhist art, architecture and culture of ancient times.

Qinghai Lake: China's Largest Inland Lake with Natural Beauty
Located in the northeast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Qinghai Lake, (Kokonor Lake means blue sea in Tibetan and Mongol), is the largest saltwater lake in inland China. As one of the most popular natural tourist destinations with the very most beautiful natural scenery in northwest China’s Silk Road regions, Qinghai Lake presents a superb landscape of peaceful pure blue water, magnificent snowy mountains afar, vast grasslands and lovely golden sea of rape flowers by lake. Erlangjian Scenic Area is the core area in Qinghai Lake where you can walk around, make a boat ride and a biking trip to enjoy the natural beauty of Qinghai Lake. When rape flowers blossom on the shores from mid-June to August during summer, Qinghai Lake enters the most beautiful moment and the peak season. Cycling races around the lake are held annually in summer as well.

Turpan Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves: Distributed on a cliff at the foot of Flaming Mountains and located about 38 km (50 minutes’ drive) from Turpan city, Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves is one of the major Buddhist grottoes in Xinjiang and a vital historic recorder of Buddhist history on the ancient Silk Road. Bezelkik Caves started carving from the mid-5th century during the Gaochang Kingdom, and went through Tang and other dynasties for nearly 700 years. It served as the religious center of Gaochang Kimgdim for quite a long time. After Islamism spread into Turpan and the political center changed, Buddhism and Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves gradually declined. However, the prosperous Buddhist art and culture has been partly preserved in Bezeklik Caves. Among all the Buddhist caves of Gaochang Kingdom, Bezeklik Caves remains the largest number of caves (83 caves) and richest murals (over 1200-square meter wall paintings). The surviving murals still have bright colors and abundant contents, revealing extraordinary Buddhist arts, old techniques and a wonderful mixture of different cultures. Cave No. 18, 29 and 48 are the oldest ones built during the later Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589). Cave No.20 painted a portrait of the King and Queen of Gaochang Kingdom. Cave No. 38 displays the living scene of the ancient Manichean.

Kashgar Id Kah Mosque: Xinjiang's Religious Center & the Largest Mosque in China
Built in 1442, Id Kah Mosque is the biggest mosque in Xinjiang and China. The mosque is an outstanding Uyghur traditional architectural complex showing both unique ethnic styles and strong religious characters. Id Kah Square outside is a big public place for recreation, where many local old men and children like to enjoy sunbath and leisure time. The front gate of Id Kah Mosque is elegant and impressive with light yellow color and Islamic symbolic towers. The inner part is a quiet and pretty courtyard with lecture halls and prayer halls. Religious decorations are wildly used. Every day, there are lots of pilgrims worshipping in the mosque and the scene is surprisingly spectacular during holy Islamic festivals like the Eid ul-Fitr (End of Ramadan), Eid ul-Adha.

Zhangye Danxia Geopark: Amazing Rainbow Mountains in China
Northwest China is full of natural wonders and Zhangye Danxia Landform, the very famous Rainbow Mountains, is one of the most famous and amazing examples. Formed by various natural forces, Zhangye Danxia Landform presents a breathtaking landscape with boundless hills in iridescent colors. They’re superlative geological miracles and an impressive visual feast of nature. In the two scenic areas - Colorful Danxia and Binggou Danxia of Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park, you will get great chances to view Danxia hills in different colors and shapes. When walking and looking at these multi-colored Danxia mountains, you will feel like entering a real fairyland.

Jiayuguan Pass: - the Greatest Pass of China Great Wall
located about 20 minutes’ drive (8 km) from Jiayuguan City, the middle of Hexi Corridor, is the west starting point of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty and China’s largest remaining Great Wall pass and frontier. Jiayuguan Pass was constructed in 1372 AD during the Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty. The pass connects the Overhanging Great Wall in the north and the First Mound in the south, once served as a throat transit of Central China and the Western Regions on the Silk Road. As a crucial frontier, Jiayuguan Pass is made up of three parts- outer city, inner city and moat and battle field. Time flies. A visit to Jiayuguan Pass helps you imagine the ancient battlefield and enjoy the grand vision of the Qilian Mountains behind it.


Best Times to Visit Silk Road

The ancient Silk Road starts from Xi'an in the East and goes West to the Pamir Plateau. Since the Western Han Dynasty, it has been the main way to link trade and cultural exchanges between the East and the West. It is also a well-known world heritage site, Zhang Qian, Xuanzang, Marco Polo and other cultural celebrities were born on this road, but also left behind Baima Temple, Jiayuguan pass, Yangguan pass, Mogao Grottoes, Gaochang Ruins and other cultural relics with a long history, as well as Zhangye Danxia Landform, Echoing sand Mountain and Crescent Lake, Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang Tianshan Mountain, Pamir Plateau and other magnificent and magical natural scenery. Every spring to Autumn is the best time to Silk Road.

Plan your Silk Road Tour

Major Destinations to Go: Xian, Luoyang, Dunhuang, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Lanzhou, Qinghai, Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar, Kucha, Hotan, Tianshui, Ningxia...

Top Tourist Attractions to Visit: Xian Terracotta Warriors, Dunhuang Mogao Caves, Zhangye Danxia Landform - Rainbow Mountains, Qinghai Lake, Heavenly Lake, Jiaohe Ancient City, Kashgar Old Town, Karakul Lake...

Best Time to Go: Generally, months from April to October are the best time, because the temperature is moderate and pleasant, the weather is good and the natural scenery is the most beautiful during this period.

 

The ancient Silk Road is a long tourist travel route involving lots of Chinese destinations, mostly located in Northwest China. A Silk Road travel can be flexibly customized according to travelers’ length of vacations, departure city, individual preferences and budget. It can take a few days to a few weeks and months.

Travelers with 7 ~ 8 days can visit more Silk Road destinations. You can explore the Hexi Corridor with neighboring Qinghai, enjoy beautiful Qinghai Lake and other stunning landscapes and cultures, or travel farther to Xinjiang, unveil the mysterious Western Regions in top destinations - Turpan, Urumqi and Kashgar. Depending on your pace, you can even take some side trips, such as travelling to Karakul Lake from Kashgar.

holiday of 10 ~ 15 days and a longer length is suitable to cover major destinations along the Silk Road in China. You can flexibly arrange an itinerary based on your interests. The most classic Silk Road tour covers Xian, main destinations in Hexi Corridor and Xinjiang, and takes just 10 days. Qinghai and Ningxia are popular regions for an in-depth Silk Road adventure. If time allows, you can visit the holy land of Tibet (Lhasa, Shigatse, Mount Everest, Mt.Kailash...) which has impressive Buddhist and Tibetan culture and plateau vista, and other destinations in China to experience the vast and diversity of China.

TTC has served thousands of customers to discover the nature, culture and history of China. With our one-to-one trip planning help, considerate and professional services of tour guide, accommodation, tickets and transfer arrangement, your Silk Road travel will go smooth and conveniently with better travel experiences. You can choose from our most popular Silk Road tour packages below, or contact us to customize an ideal one by yourself.

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