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Follow in the footsteps of the merchants of old on this tour of the western China highlights of the ancient Silk Road. Experience the transition of cultures from the Buddhist influences in China to the Islamic city of Urumqi. Cross through the vast desert and visit the life-saving outposts where traders revived and shared tales of art, religion, culture and philosophy. An epic journey (made somewhat easier for us by planes and bullet trains!).

Day 1

XIAN

Fly from Ulaanbaatar to Xian via Beijing, arriving in the late evening.

Day 2

XIAN B,L

Explore the fabulous city wall (on bicycle if you wish), visit the famous Terracotta Warriors and the Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor.

Return to the hotel. The evening is free for you to dine on your own.

Day 3

DUNHUANG B,L

This morning visit the lesser known Han Yang Ling Museum, the burial place of a Han emperor, housing hundreds of two-thirds life size statues of armoured warrior figures with weapons, elegant palace maids with Han costumes and countless animals with vivid expressions – every bit as impressive as the Terracotta warriors

This afternoon fly to Dunhuang, once a major stop on the Silk Road.

Day 4

DUNHUANG B,L

Today visit Magao Caves. The grottos are set amidst towering mountainous sand dunes. They are also known as the Thousand Buddhist Grottos, are 1,000 metres long, and are filled with superb Buddhist art, dating from AD366. Over 45,000 square metres of frescos in nearly 500 caves record the life of the Buddha. They are one of the great sights of China.

After lunch, visit the Echo Sand Dunes and climb to the top to observe the natural wonder of a bubbling spring, which has formed Crescent Lake, an oasis in the desert. Be a daredevil and try your hand (or is it belly?) at dune surfing or take a camel ride.

Day 5

TURPAN B

Rocket through some of the harshest terrain in China, once dreaded by Silk Road traders, on the bullet train to Turpan – what an experience.

Ask our guides for advice on where to try local cuisine near the hotel for an authentic experience.

Day 6

URUMQI B,L

Today explore Jiaohe, the remains of a once flourishing garrison city on the Silk Road. Imagine walking down the central boulevard in ancient times, visiting government offices, the monastery, workshops and homes. It is hard to believe that in this desolate landscape there is fertile farmland where grapes are grown, Grape Valley! Visit the extraordinary ancient irrigation system at Karez, used to provide water to caravan traders and farmers.

This afternoon we take a coach to Urumqi, once a major hub on the Silk Road.

Tonight treat yourself to the adventure of dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 7

URUMQI B,L

Today enjoy Heavenly Lake, nestled at the foot of the snow-capped Tian Shan Mountains – this is truly beautiful. After lunch, return to Urumqi to visit the Xinjiang Museum, which houses ancient Caucasian mummies and artefacts from up to 4,000 years ago. Climb to the brick pagoda atop Red Hill Park to savour the panoramic view and watch locals enjoy the outdoors. Then wander through the Bazaar, admiring fresh local produce and handicrafts, and be entertained by musicians and street performers.

Enjoy a last dinner with your fellow travellers.

Day 8

B

Begin your homeward journey. Fly to Beijing.

Day 9

Transfer onto the early morning flight to Australia, arriving mid-afternoon.

Dr Gary Kilov (1:42)
Dr Asha Nair (1:31)
Dr Ralph Audehm (1:11)
Dr Diana Hart & Dr Roger Scurr (1:39)