Journey Along the Silk Road
Follow the 2,000-year-old Silk Road through the ancient cities, Buddhist monasteries and bustling bazaars of western China which still throng with traders from across Asia.
From Xi’an, China’s ancient capital where the Chinese Empire was born, travel west to the monasteries of ‘Little Tibet’ in Xiahe. Continue to the desert oasis of Dunhuang and the Mogao Caves adorned with 1,500-year-old Buddhist statutes and frescoes. Travel onward to Ürümqi and Turpan in the lands of the Uyghur Muslims, and end in the city of Kashgar, the great Silk Road crossroads and gateway to Central Asia.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
In the morning, depart Sydney for Xi’an via Guangzhou on China Southern Airlines, arriving in the late evening. After arriving in Xi’an, transfer to your hotel.
Xi’an is the capital of China’s Shaanxi Province. Historically known as Chang’an, the city is the oldest of China’s Four Ancient Capitals, and served as capital city for 13 dynasties including the Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui and Tang Dynasties, from the 11th century BC to the mid-10th century AD. Its long history has left many fascinating historical sites and precious cultural relics. It was the birthplace of a united China and was known as the starting point (or terminus) of the Old Silk Road, linking China in the East with Europe in the West.
This morning, begin your exploration of Xi’an with an orientation tour and a walk on the ancient city wall, the largest and best-preserved in China. Built during the Ming Dynasty, the wall is surrounded by a moat and features corner towers and city entrance gates. Continue to the Stele Forest Museum (formerly a Confucian Temple). Enjoy a special welcome lunch with Joyce and fellow travellers, and after lunch take a walking tour of the Great Mosque, built in 742 AD.
Dinner this evening is in a restaurant in the market.
Depart for a full-day tour to the Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wild Goose Pagoda. The Terracotta Warriors – life-size figures of armoured warriors and horses arrayed in battle formation – are located near the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, who died in 209 BC. The main vault contains over 6,000 figures.
After lunch, visit the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist pagoda built in 652 during the Tang dynasty.
This morning, visit the Shaanxi Provincial History Museum, with its famous collection of cultural treasures.
Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before tonight’s Tang Dynasty dinner show, a performance of Chang’an music and dance which originated in the Tang Dynasty over a thousand years ago. It has been recreated according to various historical records as well as ancient art and relics discovered in Xi’an, the capital of the empire during the Tang Dynasty.
Depart from Xi’an on the bullet train bound for Tianshui. On arrival, enjoy lunch followed by a visit to the Temple of Fuxi, a large and well-preserved Ming Dynasty architectural complex built in the 15th century in tribute to the mythical Fuxi, one of the ‘Three Sovereigns’ of Chinese legend, who was credited with the creation of humanity, hunting, cooking and writing.
Following a talk by Joyce, visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Maijishan Grotto, one of the Four Grand Chinese Buddhist Grottos. Journey onwards to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, situated on the upper course of the Yellow River. The city is attractively situated between mountain ranges in the north and south, and the Yellow River flows through it from east to west. Arrive in the afternoon, and in the evening enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.
Today journey to Xiahe, stopping at the Liujiaxia reservoir for a motorboat ride to the Bingling Temple. Enjoy a picnic lunch and then continue to Xiahe, located at the northwest corner of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau with views over the broad green Sangke Grassland.
Discover the meeting point of various strands of Buddhist tradition in Xiahe, known as ‘Little Tibet’. Visit the Labrang Lamasery, one of the six main lamaseries of the Yellow Hat Sect of Buddhism and the largest Lamaism institute in the world. The Lamasery has a famously large collection of scriptures and other volumes.
Return to Lanzhou passing through the Muslim area, with over 100 mosques dotted throughout the landscape. En route, stop for lunch at a local restaurant and a visit to Hong Yuan Dagongbei, a local family cemetery complex, before continuing to Lanzhou.
This morning, begin with a visit to the Gansu Provincial Museum followed by lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon visit the White Pagoda Park, located atop the mountain of the same name. Enjoy views of the Yellow River and walk along the Zhongshan Bridge, which was the old crossing point for travellers and merchants who were heading north on the Silk Road.
Spend a morning at leisure before transferring to Lanzhou train station for the afternoon bullet train to Jiayuguan, an ancient Han Chinese outpost. The Great Wall once extended beyond Jiayuguan, but in 1372, during the first years of the Ming dynasty, a fortress was built in the city, and from then on Jiayuguan was considered both the western tip of the wall and the western tip of the empire.
Enjoy a morning tour of Jiayuguan, including visits to the Overhanging Great Wall, built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Great Wall Museum and the Jiayuguan Fort. Built in 1372, the fort was dubbed the “Impregnable Defile Under Heaven” and was the last major stronghold of the empire to the west.
Depart Jiayuguan bound for Dunhuang, en route visiting the Ancient Tombs of the Wei and Jin Dynasties, which are renowned as the largest subterranean art gallery in the world, with original wall paintings.
On arrival in Dunhuang, join Joyce for a lecture about the history and sights of the city. After dinner, enjoy a visit to the lively night market where an exotic range of souvenirs, including leather puppets, scroll paintings, jade items, antique coins and much more, is offered for sale, just as it has been for hundreds of years.
In the morning, visit the Mogao Caves, constructed over the course of a millennium from the 4th to the 14th centuries. The caves hold the world’s richest treasure house of Buddhist sutras, murals and sculptures. Continue to the Dunhuang Museum, where the exhibits include some of the Tibetan and Chinese scriptures unearthed from Cave No. 17 at Mogao and sacrificial objects from the Han to Tang dynasties.
In the afternoon, visit the Crescent Lake and the Singing Sand Dunes which are considered the meeting place of the sand and the oasis.
Enjoy a relaxed morning at leisure, and then in the afternoon travel by bullet train to Turpan. Turpan has long been a fertile oasis with water provided by a system of underground channels known as karez, and was an important trade centre located along the Silk Road’s northern route. Check in to the hotel and enjoy a talk by Joyce, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
Spend a full day exploring Turpan, visiting the Jiaohe ruins, the Karez Well System and the Emin Minaret. The Karez Well System consists of vertical tunnels connecting the wells of the region, and is considered one of the three great ancient projects in China. The Emin Minaret was built in 1777 to commemorate the ruler of Turfan, Emin Khoja, who successfully suppressed an armed rebellion.
Take a full-day excursion to the ancient city of Gaochang, the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, and the Flaming Mountains. Gaochang, meaning ‘King City’, was built in the 1st century BC and abandoned in the 15th century AD. It was occupied at the same time as the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, a series of rock-cut grottos decorated with murals of the Buddha.
Enjoy lunch in Toyuq, a village which maintains the proud Uyghur culture and is nestled at the foot of the Flaming Mountains.
In the morning, travel from Turpan to Ürümqi. After arriving in the city of Ürümqi, take a coach tour in the afternoon including a visit to the Xinjiang Regional Museum, home to some of the area’s most famous and controversial artefacts, the Xinjiang Mummies, argued by some to constitute evidence of the early presence of Caucasian peoples in the area.
Enjoy a full-day excursion to the Heavenly Lake, located 1,900 metres above sea level. A small, deep-blue lake surrounded by fir tree-covered hills, Heavenly Lake is graced with a scattering of yurts (circular tents) along its shores, pitched by the hardy Kazak people who inhabit the surrounding mountains.
Transfer to Ürümqi airport for a morning flight to Kashgar.
Even in the 21st century, the name of Kashgar still invokes images of a remote desert oasis – swarthy brigands, exotic bazaars and colourful silks marking the city where the sun sets on China and rises on Central Asia. Late in the afternoon, enjoy an orientation talk by Joyce, followed by dinner.
Enjoy a full-day tour of Kashgar. Begin with a visit to Abakh Khoja Tomb, one of the best-preserved Islamic architectural complexes of Central Asia. Enjoy a stroll through the old town and visit the handicraft street. Following lunch, visit the Idkar Mosque and Square.
Begin the day with a visit to the Sunday livestock market, where interested travellers can pick up a bargain on a Cashmere goat or a Bactrian camel. After lunch, visit the Sunday Bazaar, which swells the city’s population by some 50,000 people each week. Nomads arrive in their donkey carts, often causing traffic jams, and large numbers of tribal peoples come to trade, all proudly sporting their distinctive costumes and headgear.
Check out from the hotel and transfer to Kashgar airport for a domestic flight to Guangzhou, connecting with a China Southern Airlines overnight flight back to Australia.
Arrive in Sydney on the morning of Tuesday 30 October 2018.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Business class surcharge
Final payment due
07 August 2018
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
This tour requires a good level of fitness and a sense of adventure. The tour includes the exploration of remote areas of China with basic tourist infrastructure.
Dietary requirements such as vegetarian or gluten free diets cannot be catered for on this trip.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders require a visa for China. Renaissance Tours will assist tour members in obtaining their visa prior to departure from Australia.
Tour prices includes
- Accommodation in centrally located hotels with private facilities and breakfast daily (B) (Breakfast is a mix of Western buffet, Western-Chinese buffet or local dishes served to the table)
- Economy Class flights from Sydney to Xi’an (via Shanghai) and from Shanghai to Sydney on China Southern Airlines (23 kg luggage allowance), including transfers on either side
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure if travelling on group flights
- Bullet Train: First Class seats on bullet train from Xi’an to Tianshui, from Lanzhou to Jiayuguan, and from Dunhuang to Turpan
- Domestic flight from Ürümqi to Kashgar (20 kg luggage allowance)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader throughout
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
- Visas for China
Tour prices do not include
- Hotel/airport transfers on tour arrival and departure if not travelling on group flights
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone calls, laundry, taxis etc.
- Airport porterage
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Your hotels (best available in smaller towns)
Xi’an – Sofitel Rennin Square
Tianshui – Golden Sun Hotel
Lanzhou – Legend Hotel Lanzhou
Xiahe – Xiahe Labrang Civil Aviation Hotel
Jiayuguan – Plaza Holiday Inn Hotel
Dunhuang – Grand Sun Hotel
Turpan – Tuha Petroleum Hotel
Ürümqi – Southern Airlines Pearl Hotel
Kashgar – Yue Xing Jingjiang International Hotel
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted