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The Terracotta Army, bazaars, oases...


Marco Polo's Silk Trade Route

13 Days 



From Beijing to Turpan and Xi'an Tour Overview

The allure of the Silk Road, sweeping east through the untamed beauty of Xinjiang to the ancient cities of China, has been captivating the imaginations of traders, scholars and travellers for millennia. The cities and oases dotted along the Silk Road have through thousands of years become melting pots of civilizations, where West and East converged brilliantly amidst the bustling bazaars, and has remained to this day a dazzling hubbub of architectures, languages, cuisines and histories. Silk Road Insight is not only an exclusive trip; it is an opportunity for you to step into a confluence of culture, commerce and ideas frozen in time while following in the footsteps of our ancestors, as they themselves discovered China thousands of years ago.

Starting with a comprehensive introduction to the key historical sights of Beijing, China’s modern capital steeped in history, your journey will continue in the new frontier of Xinjiang – a far-flung province of pristine beauty. Travelling via Urumqi, to the ancient oasis cities of Kashgar and Turpan, you will have a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the diverse patchwork of the province’s cultures and histories coming together under the shade of the cities’ vibrant markets and magnificent mosques. Following the Silk Road east to Dunhuang, one of its most important junctions and passing through Xi’an with its world famous Terracotta Army, our trip will culminate in Shanghai – a perfect closing memory for an unforgettable adventure

Insider Experiences & Highlights:

Tiananmen Square, The Gobi Desert, Beijing Opera, The Canals of Suzhou, The Forbidden City, the Tibetan Capital of Lhasa, Potala Palace, former residence of the Dalai Lama, the Mummies of Urumqi, the Mogao Caves, ancient Himalayan Monastaries, Shanghai's glamouress Tianzifang and Yuyuan Gardens, local cuisines and more.



We'll stay at the luxurious Langham Hotel in Shanghai, The Peninsular in Beijing, the Crowne Plaza in Xi'an and choose boutique and excellent standard local lodges in more remote areas. This is what we call mixing it 'local and luxury'.



Accomodation/Hotel, Private Driver Transfers, Private Tour Guides, Museum & Heritage Buildings Entrances, Culinary Excursions  with daily lunch and dinners whilst in Xinjiang and Gansu Province where we have selected restaurants highlighting excellent local cuisine.


Duration: 13 Days

 Day by Day: Desert train journeys, luxury hotels. Silke Route itinerary...

Day 01Welcome to Beijing! Check-in, local dining and sights

We'll welcome you at the airport and help you settle in to the luxury of the Peninsular Hotel in downtown Beijing and provide you a brief orientation. After a good night's sleep we'll start with an amazing overview and introduction to the most striking sights of Beijing.

Day 02 The Forbidden City, Peking Duck, Chinese Opera

Today you will see some of the most striking sights of Beijing. Starting at the imposing Tiananmen Square, the tour will pass through the iconic Tiananmen Gate and into the Forbidden City, home to the emperors of China's Ming and Qing Dynasties. After lunch you will visit the Temple of Heaven, where generations upon generations of Emperors came each year to intercede with the gods in the temple’s hallowed halls. In the evening you will be treated to a dinner of Peking Duck at the renowned century-old Quan Ju De restaurant followed by a performance of the magnificant Beijing Opera.

Day 03  The 'Mummies of Urumqi', the Uighur Culture & People

In the morning we will fly to Urumqi, where we will start with a tour through the maze of the city’s old streets before exploring the Xinjiang Museum. Established in 1953, this museum is dedicated to the fascinating history of the Uighur people and houses a trove of archaeological treasures which trace Silk Road’s long history and include intricate fabrics, stunning paintings and many other artifacts. Highlights include brocades from the Eastern Han period and rare silks of the Tang Dynasty while “Mummies of Urumqi” is considered to be one of the most dramatic and interesting exhibits in the museum. In the afternoon we will take a flight to Kashgar.

Day 04  Yarkent, Uighur Kingdoms, the Serikbuya Great Market

On the way to Yarkent, we will stop at the Serikbuya Great Market for a few hours, where you will have an opportunity to browse through stalls filled with local produce such as the famed atlas silk. The market at Serikbuya is the second largest in Xinjiang after Kashgar Sunday Market, but being in a much smaller town, it has an air of time-weathered charm. We will spend the rest of the day in Yarkent, once a capital of several Uighur Kingdoms; it has been an important stopover point on the Silk Road for more than 2000 years.




Day 05  Qiltan Tombs, Yarkent Royal Graveyard, the Golden Mosque

Starting the day with a visit to the Altun Mosque (Golden Mosque), a magnificent three storied structure that was one of the key early Madrassas (Islamic schools) in Central Asia, we will walk to the beautiful building dedicated to the memory of Amannisahan - the most famous female musician in Uighur history. Next we will make a stop in the Yarkent Royal Graveyard, the last resting place of the 13 kings of Yarkent Kingdom, and head over to the Qiltan Tombs. We will have some time to stroll through Yarkent’s old town before heading back to Kashgar via Yengisar town, well-known for its hand-made knives.


Day 06  Lake Karakul and the gorges of Gez River

Setting off in the morning and heading for the border between China and Pakistan, we will arrive at Lake Karakul before lunch. Here you can enjoy a long stroll on the breathtaking shores of the lake while taking in the remarkable beauty of the virgin scenery and the panoramic view of the snow-capped mountain ranges. After a lunch beside the lake, we will drive along the picturesque Karakoram Highway which winds for several hours through the narrow gorges carved out by the Gez River offering spectacular views before returning to Kashgar.




Day 07  Kashgar, Id Kah Mosque, ethic Tajik, Uighur, Kyrgyz & Kazakh 

Our tour of Kashgar, a place where time stood still, will start in the city’s narrow lanes which evoke the atmosphere of Arabian Nights. Stopping in the Abak Hoja Tomb, the Id Kah Mosque and the old town, you will have a chance to try the local donkey cart taxi. Next, we will head to one of the most popular events in town which is the weekly Sunday Bazaar that draws a variety of ethnic groups like the Uighur, Tajik, Kyrgyz and Kazakh to the streets of Kashgar. Here you can enjoy mingling with the locals while sharpening your bargaining skills.




Day 08  Turpan Flamming Mountains, tombs of the Gobi Desert 

A morning flight takes you back to Urumqi and upon arrival a coach will take you to the town of Turpan, situated near the Turpan Depression – the second-lowest exposed point in the world. On your afternoon tour you will view the surreal Flaming Mountains, the crumbling remnants of the 9th Century Uighur Empire at Gaochang and a series of underground tombs named Astana Graves which are situated in the heart of the Gobi Desert. After dinner you can savour a performance of traditional music and dance performed by local artists.




Day 09 The ruins of Jiaohe, the Karez Wells & an overnight adventure

After breakfast, we will head to the ruins of Jiaohe which 1,600 years ago was a prosperous trading centre and a military stronghold that served as the western frontier barrier for many dynasties. Then we will visit the ancient Karez Wells – an ingenious underground irrigation system which has prevented Turpan from being absorbed by the desert. After lunch, we will visit Grape Valley where you can sample some of the most delicious fresh grapes and melons, as well as Turpan’s famed raisins. After dinner we will take an overnight train to Dunhuang.



Day 10 The Sighing Sand Dunes, Camel Back to the Mogao Caves 

Touring Dunhuang, once an important junction on the Silk Route, you will see both historical sites and spectacular natural scenes such as the Mingsha (Sighing) Sand Dunes. On windy days, the sand roars like thunder and can be heard in the city, giving the area its name. Following a short camel ride, we will head for the Mogao Caves. This Buddhist shrine is a depository of historical and cultural exchanges which took place over the course of a thousand years between China and is home to a considerable amount of Buddhist art.




Day 11 The Great Mosque, Shanxi Provincial Museum 

Following a short morning flight to Xian, we will book into the Kempinski Hotel then start the tour of the city at the Shanxi Provincial Museum which houses more than 370,000 relics including bronzes, terra cotta figures, gold and silver wares as well as murals; with some dating as far back as three thousand years. Next we will stop at the Great Mosque, the oldest and most well known mosque in China. One of five key Muslim sanctuaries in China, the Great Mosque in Xian is the only one open to visitors and as such offers a rare glimpse into the culture of Chinese Muslims.




Day 12 The UNESCO listed Terracotta Army, Shanghai Nights

Enjoy your morning’s sightseeing of what has been called the 8th Wonder of the World – the Terracotta Army. Dating from 210 BC and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, the Terracotta Army is an unparalleled collection of incredibly well restored and intricate terracotta sculptures of soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons. After lunch, we will visit the Bell Tower, which is considered to be in the best preserved and most well-known in China, followed by the Big Wild Goose Pagoda – a relic of Buddhism built in 652. In the evening, we will fly to Shanghai, the largest and most prosperous metropolis in China, known as the Paris of the East and book into the Four Seasons Hotel.

Day 13 The Bund, Boutiques & noodle bars of Asia's new glamour city

The morning tour starts in the historic district of Shanghai and must-see place for all visitors to Shanghai known as the Bund, where great foreign commercial houses and banks built their imposing offices before 1930s. No tour of Shanghai would be complete without a stroll along Nanjing Road. Located in the city centre, it is the main shopping street of Shanghai and is at the top of the list of the most luxurious and busiest streets of the world. In the afternoon, a member of our staff will arrange any necessary transfers and will see you off at the airport.


Further Details: Accommodation, food, weather, inclusions ...



On this exciting journey we have chosen leading luxury and reliable executive standard hotels in the major cities. From The Langham in Shanghai, The Peninsular in Beijing and The Crowne Plaza in Xi'an,  and, good, clean, reliable boutique local hotels in the village and more remote regions. These include the Tianyuan International, the Grand Sun and Yarkent Hotels in Kashgar, Turpan and and Yarket respectively. Following our travel ethos - we mix luxury and local for real experiences with a touch of style.

Images scroll left and right.

Culinary Delights:


Xinjiang roast lamb is as famous as roast duck is in Beijing and crispy suckling pig is in Guangzhou. Ethnic groups in Xinjiang generally have different cooking and eating methods. Han people in Xinjiang use chopsticks while Kazakhs eat with their hands. Ceremonial foods for certain groups include horse milk for the Kyrgyz and sheep entrails for the Xibe. Dishes of the Dongxiang people are prominent in Xinjiang-style restaurants including noodles boiled in thick lamb stew and tasty steamed twisted rolls.


Uyghur-style breakfast is tea with home-baked bread, yogurt, olives, honey, raisins, and almonds. Uyghurs like to treat guests with tea, naan and fruit before main dishes are served.


Beijing and Shanghai are major global cities with vibrant culinary scenes, if you're missing French or Italian styled cooking the Fairmont, Kempinski and Four Seasons Hotels have exceptional restaurants and cafes.


What to pack? What's the weather like?


Situated deep in the interior of Asia and unreached by air currents from the oceans, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has a  continental climate, with fluctuating temperatures between day and night, abundant sunshine, intense evaporation and little precipitation. We encourage you to pack clothing you can layer to allow you to adjust to changing climates.

What's Included: 

All hotel accommodation based on double occupancy. Brilliant hotels known for luxury, charm, hospitality and uniqueness are a hallmark of Variarts itineraries. Fly into town, unwind and know you'll be staying at the best places with truly great value offered via the tours. Every night you spend with us is included in the price of your trip.
All meals as indicated in the itinerary, highlighting the local cuisine including local beer or wine (as selected by VariArts local guides). We include meals where it makes sense, yet we understand that going off on your own to make a great discovery is rewarding, too!
All special events and private tours. Our guides will do whatever it takes to make your trip hassle free. They are equipped with cellphones and on call 24/7. They also happen to be friendly, highly informed, fun ... and they really care you get the most out of each trip! 
Services of professional local guides and other staff. Each morning, our guides brief you on the day’s options. We do this one-on-one, so you never get the feeling you’re involved in anything touristy.
Admission charges to all places and activities mentioned in the itinerary.
All transportation from rendezvous to drop-off.
All baggage transportation. Your baggage is transported from one hotel to the next. This is done by local handlers so the guides are free to concentrate on you.
Extra support. Each trip offers the opportunity to dine or lunch independently from the group…and we’ll happily make arrangements for you.
The VariArts difference - it may be intangible but years of experience and exhaustive research on the ground; local knowhow and the countless personal relationships we’ve cultivated which make for a seamless care free travel experience.

Book Now: Make a reservation, find out more! ...

Curated travel, local experts, the most interesting hotels from boutique and chic to 5 star international luxury standards, amazing culinary experiences, experiences you won’t find in any guidebook ... yes ... we're experts and you are in great hands! Start now and reserve your holiday, just ask us:
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