Welcome to Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Meet your tour guide and driver at the airport/train station, then transfer a short while to the downtown of Urumqi. Check in to your hotel. The rest time is free for you to relax. Feel free to ask for recommendations of places to go from your guide.
How to get to Urumqi? Currently, you can take flights to Urumqi from Beijing (about 4 hours), Xian (about 3.5 hours), Shanghai (about 5.5 hours), Guangzhou (about 5 hours), Chengdu (about 3.5 hours), etc., or high speed trains from Turpan (about 2 hours), Dunhuang (about 4.5 hours), Lanzhou (about 11 hours), Xining (about 9.5 hours), etc.
Free time idea: 1. Red Hill Park which is regarded as the symbol of Urumqi. It is the most popular place for the locals to relax and gather. For travelers, it is a great place to experience folk culture and local living style. Finding a higher location in the park, you are rewarded a pleasant panoramic view of Urumqi city; 2. Erdaoqiao Grand Bazaar, a great place to enjoy a leisure stroll and purchase some snacks, souvenirs, etc.
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 morning, you will drive about 3 hours (167 km) from Urumqi to the "fire land" – Turpan. It is China's hottest city that its highest temperature reaches about 50°C in summer. Besides, it is also an outpost on the Silk Road and a lot of cultural heritage sites can be explored.
As you reach Turpan, keep driving about 1 hour to Tuyu Valley along Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon, which condenses the essence of the landscape of Flaming Mountain - red sandstones looking like flaming fire, distinctive rocks showing the uncanny workmanship of nature and deep gorge with crisscross valleys.
The winding road 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. It holds a significant status in Buddhism and Islam. 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. Some villagers kindly ask the travelers to visit their vineyards and taste their fresh grapes or preserved fruits.
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, and 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 sunset over the ruins.
Accommodate in Turpan this night.
Warm Tips: 1. Turpan is known as the grape capital of China, and don't forget to taste the delicious grapes, drink the fruit juices and buy some dried grape seeds. 2. Be ready for the hot weather in Turpan, especially in summer, and it is advised to wear long-sleeves, sunhat, sunglasses, etc., drink more water.
After breakfast, you will firstly discover the brilliant project of Karez System. Together with the Great Wall and Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, 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 be melted from snow mountains of Tianshan range to desired farmlands on the desert area. Visiting Turpan Karez Museum, you will not only see the pictures and models detailing the history of Karez System, but also visit the real underground tunnels.
Next, turn to Turpan Museum, an informative museum with great collections as well as a good place to avoid summer heat. The first floor has the exhibits (like dinosaur fossils, terracotta figurines, clothing, utensils, weapons…) from prehistoric ages to Tang Dynasty (618 ~ 907) on the history of Turpan. There are also many Silk Road displays from which you will understand why Turpan plays a crucial role on the Silk Road for trading, water and agriculture. Getting to the second floor, you will be awed at the millennia-old mummies well-preserved as to how they were found in their tombs.
The rest time of today is to drive to Korla city at leisure. The drive journey costs around 5 hours with many opportunities to stop along the safe roads to rest and take photos. Stay overnight in Korla city.
Today after breakfast, drive about 300km (about 4 hours) to Kuqa which was an important historical city on the ancient Silk Road, and the capital of the Buddhist Kingdom of Kucha, the largest of the "Thirty-six Kingdoms of the Western Regions" in over 2000 years ago. Strategically located as the gateway to the middle routes of the Silk Road, Kuqa was the melting pot of different cultures. Before getting to Kuqa city, you will take a stop at Subash Ruins (World Heritage Site). About 1000 years ago, Buddhism ruled Kuqa area. Subash Ruins is one of the rare sites which have survived currently. Today visitors can still discover relic sites of Buddhist temples, pagodas, grottoes, etc.
After lunch, you are going to visit Kuqa Grand Mosque. It is one of the largest and most influential mosques in Xinjiang, next only to the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar. The archway, constructed by yellow bricks with decoration of beautiful carvings, is the most magnificent architecture in the mosque. Kuqa Grand Mosque also preserves the only surviving religious court of Muslim in Xinjiang. You can soak in the peaceful atmosphere and admire unique Islamic architecture here. Later, you will move to Kuqa Royal Palace (King Palace in Kuqa). It is the home to the last king of Kucha Kingdom who died in 2014. It is said his queen is still living in the palace. There is a small museum in the palace where visitors can learn about the history of the Kings of Kucha and their kingdoms. The most impressive exhibition is the unearthed head sculptures including European, Indian, Mongol, Russian, Chinese, etc. You can imagine how “international and popular” Kuqa was in the ancient time of Silk Road. The road where the palace is located on is named Linji Road. You can still find two City Walls of Qing Dynasty which was built to separate Han Chinese and Huihu Muslims – one is at the north 100m from the palace and another at the left corner of Linji Road.
The rest time of today is to stroll leisurely in the Old City of Kuqa. It is a great place to experience local culture. The most featured area is Resitan Road which is the main avenue of the old city. Colorful fancy Uygur courtyards and shabby earth houses squeeze at the both sides of the road. Local markets sell articles of daily use as well as many local snacks and souvenirs.
Accommodate in Kuqa city.
Today you are going to explore Kuqa Grand Canyon, also known as Tianshan Mysterious Canyon. It is the no. 1 highlight of Kuqa that everyone shouldn’t miss. This national geopark is located in 72km north from Kuqa city. Take an excursion visit to Kizil Gaha Beacon. With a history over 1500 years, it doesn’t look grandiose, but may be the world’s oldest surviving beacon. Keeping driving to Kuqa Grand Canyon, you won’t get bored as you will make your way through many amazing landscapes of different landforms. Feel free to ask for stops at the safe places to take photos along the way.
Kuqa Grand Canyon is about 5km long, allowing a relaxing hike around 2 hours. It is a unique and scenic experience to walk on the river bed surrounded by towering woven shades of red sandstone. You need to activate your imagination to recognize all the mysterious figures as some cliffs are like elephant, dog, gate, etc. There are also enough shadow places to take rest if you visit the canyon in a sunny hot day. All these experiences make you feel yourself entering into a mysterious wonderland.
After the canyon hike, drive about 82 km (1.5 hours) to next site - Kizil Grottoes which is the most important Buddhist grottoes in Xinjiang. It is hard to believe that there is such a magnificent Buddhist site made by hundreds of Buddhist grottoes existing in Kuqa where Muslim has dominated everywhere. Actually, the fact is that over 1000 years ago, Kuqa and many areas in Xinjiang were ruled by Buddhist kingdoms. Being not as famous as Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, but Kizil Grottoes is even older, and has brilliant value for historical and cultural researches. It is praised as “the treasure house of art” because of its beautiful murals and grottoes architecture. Unfortunately, many of the murals have been destroyed by the anti-Buddhism movements in the history, and some murals were stolen by western explorers in the early 20th century. But with the explanation of the guides, one can still marvel at the greatness of the grottoes. Currently, only some featured grottoes are open for tourists. Many other grottoes are closed for protection. Bag, water, camera and lighters are not allowed to be brought into the grottoes.
Drive back to Kuqa for accommodation.
Today，you will drive about 660km (about 11 hours) to Minfeng County. Most part of the roads is located in Taklimakan Desert, the largest desert in China and the second-largest shifting desert in the world.
Taklimakan Desert is located in the center of Eurasia and surrounded by mountains on all sides. It is full of fantasy and mystery. The desert is about 1,000 kilometers long from east to west, 400 kilometers wide from north to south, and covers an area of 330,000 square kilometers, accounting for about 20% of the territory of Xinjiang. Here, the pyramid-shaped sand dunes stand 300 meters above the plain, and shift all the time. In the ancient time, Taklimakan Desert was known as the "Place of No Return". People believed once you get in, you'll never get out because the desert is so vast and harsh, which is the reason why even the Silk Road could only travel along the north and south edges of the desert. It was not until 1996 that the first road was successfully constructed in the Taklimakan Desert. To prevent the shifting sands from covering the highway, bushes and other vegetation were planted next to the highway to anchor the sand with their roots. This highway is a project of miracle in a desert that is constantly shifting. Since then, travelers no longer need to take the detour to travel from northern Xinjiang to southern Xinjiang, which is of great significance to promote tourism in the region. Driving on the desert road, you can see different kinds of unpredictable sand dunes, like giant dragons resting on the ground, honeycomb, feather, fish-scale sand dunes… You will also feel you are traveling back to the ancient time because Taklimakan Desert is full of incredible traces of civilization. In the history, many ancient civilizations have been deeply buried under the Taklimakan Desert, such as the famous Loulan, Xiaohe, Jingjue and so on. Archaeologists have discovered many ruins in the desert and unearthed many precious cultural relics. Some of the relics are displayed in the Xinjiang Regional Museum and Hotan Museum.
Please note there is no developed attraction along the desert highway. Driving through the desert is the biggest experience. Your guide and driver will arrange stops to stretch your lets and enjoy desert views at safe places. If you take this tour during late October ~ early November, a special visit to Luntai Populus Euphratica Forest Park where you can enjoy the most ancient and primitive Populus euphratica turning into a golden world.
After arriving at Minfeng, check in to your hotel in the county. The rest time is free for you to relax.
Today after breakfast, drive about 300 km (5~6 hours) to Hotan, the capital city of Hotan Prefecture at the southwestern edge of Taklimakan Desert. It is a beautiful oasis city strategically located at the junction of the Southern branch of the ancient Silk Road. It was one of the places where not only goods, but also science, religions and philosophies were exchanged in the ancient Silk Road time. Hotan abounds in jades and carpets. Today, Hotan is one of the biggest cities in Xinjiang with co-existence of modernity and old-time tradition and ruins.
After arriving at Hotan, you will go to visit Hotan Museum. It is an informative museum to learn about the longlasting history and culture of Hotan region as well as Silk Road. The best exhibitions are the unearthed relics of Niya Site, Northern Tombs, Yuetegan Site and other in total of over 30 historical sites, including ceramics, Jewries, stoneware, rock-painting, ancient coins, bamboo slip writings, brocades, flannelette blankets, Buddhist sculptures, etc. The ages of some relics can be traced back to the Neolithic Age and Bronze Age. This museum also helps you know better about the process of Hotan Buddhist kingdom being replaced by Muslim kingdoms in the history. You will then visit a local family workshop to see how Hotan’s specialty – Hotan Carpets are traditionally made. Hotan is praised as “the cradle of Chinese carpet”. There were freestanding textile machines and a complete production process in Hotan in the early Han Dynasty. Its textile technique was later introduced to Iran, and spread to more countries in the world. In Tang Dynasty, Hotan carpets were sold abroad in Tibet, India, Persia and many Arab countries. Why the carpets of Hotan are so popular? The biggest reason is the carpets are made of quality wool produced by Hotan sheep whose furs are neither too thick nor too thin so that the carpets can be soft, elastic, not shed and fading.
The rest time of today is free for you to relax in Hotan city. You can go to explore the old streets, local market, etc. on your own.
Today, drive about 500 km (about 7~8 hours) along the southern Silk Road to Kashgar, the religious center of Xinjiang. From the window, you can see many small oasis towns and villages as well as wild deserts and hard lands. Since the most part of the road is enclosing highway, there is no excursion trip available, but there will be rest areas for stretching legs and toilets on route.
You will arrive at Kashgar in the afternoon. The rest time is free for you to recover from the long driving and former travel.
After breakfast, go to visit the famous Kashgar Bazaar which is huge, busy, crowded, amazing, chaotic, interesting and colorful. Bazaar, in Uygur, means the 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 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, camel, horse, cow and donkey will be driven by the Uyghur farmers and herders to squeeze through the gates of the bazaars for trade.
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.
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.
Today, you are going to visit the famous Karakul Lake which is about 190km/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 time. After lunch, throw yourself into the breathtaking scenery of the lake and its surrounding. With an altitude of 3600m, 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 (7546m), Kongur Tagh (7649m) and Kongur Tiube (7530m). 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.
Keep driving about 1 hour to Tashkurgan. Have a good rest in this beautiful Tajik town.
This morning, it is strongly recommended to get up early to watch the pink and golden dawn light of sunrise shining on the Stone City and surrounding snow mountains. What a peaceful and beautiful scene for really nice photography.
After breakfast, you are going to visit the legendary Stone City, also known as Tashkurgan Fort, which has stood on the hill at the northeast side of the county for nearly 2000 years. It is one of the World Four Stone Cities with great architecture value. Puli Kingdom, one of the 36 Kingdoms in Western Regions, also set its capital here. Unfortunately, most of the architectures have been destroyed by wars and natural erosion. Currently, only about 100,000 m2 of ruins survived including city, temple and residential houses of Tang Dynasty and government office of Qing Dynasty. For travelers, it is a fantastic experience to stand on the city ruin, experience the vicissitudes of the ancient city and imagine the ancient merchants, travelers, churchmen from West and East met here, or the king of the city looked upon the vast land and his people from the high castle. The fortress at the same time is a perfect sightseeing platform from which you can stretch your horizon to far grassland and desert, also admire nearby dominating snow mountains including the majestic Muztagh Ata. Under the foot of the Stone City lies the beautiful Alaer Golden Grassland. Walk leisurely on the plank roads to enjoy the spectacular long-distance views. Just as its name implies, the grassland turns to a golden world when the sunrises and sunsets come. It’s also beautiful in the morning especially when you frame the grassland with the stone city and surrounding snow mountains. Nourished by the Tashkurgan River, Alaer Golden Grassland is an important pasture for local nomads.
Lastly, you will leave Tashkurgan and drive back to Kashgar city. Accommodate in Kashgar city.
Today is free until your tour guide and driver escort you to catch your flight/train to the next destination. Your memorable Xinjiang Silk Road tour ends.
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;
Necessary vehicle transfers as listed in the itinerary;
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;
Recommended optional activities;
Excess Baggage Charges;
Optional tips to guides, drivers, etc.
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