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26/07/2013

Trace along Marco Polo's Silk Road

  • Journey to the past as you visit the Xinjiang Regional Museum, seeing treasures and artifacts from the Silk Road
  • Explore the oasis towns that dot the Taklamakan Desert, visiting local family workshops that make carpets, silk items, and other exquisite handicrafts
  • Visit the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves, containing impressive Buddhist grottoes and carvings, dating back to the third century AD

 

Over a period of eight days we retrace a section of the legendary Silk Road (also very famous today and attracts tourists for Silk Road tour), traveling along dusty desert roads and visiting ancient towns immortalized in the accounts of the great Italian traveler, Marco Polo. On our journey, we get a taste of the harsh conditions faced by early merchants and monks who depended on the Silk Road for trade and communication between Europe and Asia. We also gain an appreciation for the oasis settlements that sprung up across the desert, providing a vital backbone for trade and the spread of religion, science, and technology to China and the rest of the region. All the while, we take in the glorious scents and flavors of the vibrant Central Asian culture that lies at the heart of Xinjiang.

 

 

We begin our journey in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, where we visit the Xinjiang Regional Museum (an optional attraction for travel to China) before flying to Kashgar, the final settlement in China before the Silk Road crosses into Central Asia. Kashgar's ancient alleys and colorful markets still bustle with activity, a reminder of the city's role as an important trade center on the Silk Road. In between perusing the markets, we visit the Id Kah Mosque, the largest mosque in all of China, where more than 10,000 worshippers gather during Friday prayers. From Kashgar, we start the long road trip to Khotan, a key oasis town known throughout Central Asia for its beautifully handcrafted silks. Along the way, we take time to appreciate the surrounding desert scenery by riding camel and enjoying a pleasant evening dinner amidst the sand dunes. Our journey slowly comes to an end as we arrive in Khotan. This city has historically been regarded for its high quality jade, silk, and carpets. We take an opportunity to visit the local handicraft workshops that produce these prized treasures, and afterwards begin our journey into the Taklamakan.

 

For an entire day, we submerse ourselves in the awesome and relentless isolation of the desert. Weather permitting, in the evening we setup camp under the desert night sky, and, as we warm ourselves around a campfire, experience the vast and uncompromising wilderness around us. After this brief night of desert living, we journey on to the remote town of Kucha, a seldom visited oasis town that was formerly the center of Buddhist civilization in the Tarim Basin. Here we visit the ruins of an ancient capital and the resplendent Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves (Although it is not as famous as Mogao Cave, Yungang Gottoes and Longmen Grottoes, it is the earliese grottoes in China and worth your top China tours), an impressive collection of priceless religious artifacts that bears testament to the once dominant role Buddhism played on the Silk Road.

 

 

Featured Trip Plan:

 

Day 1: Arrive in Urumqi; Xinjiang Regional Museum; fly to and overnight in Kashgar

 

Day 2: Sunday livestock bazaar, Id Kah mosque, evening Uighur/Tajik dance performance

 

Day 3: Drive to Khotan, visit oasis towns en route; camel ride and desert dinner; overnight in Khotan

 

Day 4: Carpet and silk workshops; drive to Tazhong; overnight camp in desert (summer only)

 

Day 5: Drive to Kucha; overnight in Kucha

 

Day 6: Kucha bazaar; Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves; free-roam nearby countryside

 

Day 7: Drive to Subashi ruins (old Kucha); fly to and overnight Urumqi

 

Day 8: Depart for airport, end of journey.

 

Although the Silk Road is wane now, attractions along the route still make contribution to top China tours.

 

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