Journey Along the Silk Road
Navigate the fabled trading thoroughfare of the Silk Road, journeying from China’s ancient capital of Xi’an through the dramatic landscapes and bazaars to Dunhuang.
From Xi’an, the ancient capital of Imperial China, head west to the monasteries of ‘Little Tibet’ in Xiahe and then to Jiayuguan, the outpost which marks the western end of the Great Wall of China. Continue to the desert oasis of Dunhuang and discover the 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues and frescoes of the Mogao Caves.
Along the journey, explore the monuments, marketplaces and trading posts in which goods were traded on the way to the great crossroads of 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.
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested China Southern flights to Xi’an via Guangzhou.
Arrive in Xi’an in the late evening and transfer to the hotel. (Transfer included in the tour price)
After a welcome briefing and talk by Joyce, begin your exploration of Xi’an with a walk on the ancient city wall, the largest and best-preserved in China. Built during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, the wall is surrounded by a moat and features corner towers and city entrance gates. Continue to the Stele Forest Museum, a collection of stone calligraphy steles and sculptures housed inside a former Confucian Temple.
Enjoy a special welcome lunch with Joyce and fellow travellers, before a walking tour of the city, including a visit to the Great Mosque, the largest mosque in China, built in 742CE, and the nearby markets.
This morning depart the hotel for a tour of the Terracotta Warriors. The Terracotta Warriors – an army of 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 a unified China, who died in 210BCE. The vault contains over 8,000 individual figures, and each one is a near unique combination of facial features, height, hairstyle and uniform according to rank.
After lunch, continue to the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, a 7-storey Buddhist pagoda built in 652 during the reign of the Tang Dynasty. After visiting the pagoda, return to the hotel for an evening at leisure.
This morning, visit the Shaanxi Provincial History Museum, one of the first major state museums in China, which is home to more than 370,000 cultural treasures, including murals, paintings, ceramics and coins, which reveal the rich past of this historic province.
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 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 site 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. This ancient Buddhist grotto consists of a series of natural caves and caverns along the Yellow River which have been decorated with sacred relief sculptures. Founded around the 5th century at the end of the Western Qin period, more than 700 statues have survived, including the giant Maitreya Buddha, which is over 27m tall.
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.
Xiahe, often known as ‘Little Tibet’, is a significant meeting point for a number of Buddhist traditions in China and home to the Labrang Lamasery – the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside the Tibetan autonomous region. Visit Labrang, one of the six main lamaseries (monastic religious centres) of the Gelug School of Buddhism and the largest Lamaism institute in the world. The Lamasery has a famously large collection of scriptures and other volumes.
Return to the hotel and enjoy an afternoon at leisure; dinner is in the hotel’s restaurant.
Check out of the hotel and depart for Lanzhou. En route, stop at Ba Fang Shi San Hang, an area of eight religious streets and thirteen Lanes formed around the eight mosques of Linxia.
Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant in Linxia.
Arrive in Lanzhou in the late afternoon and enjoy dinner at a nearby restaurant.
This morning, begin with a visit to the Gansu Provincial Museum. The museum has two main sections – history and natural science – and its collection includes permanent exhibitions of Buddhist art, painted pottery, Silk Road civilization, fossils and palaeontology.
After lunch, transfer to the White Pagoda Park, located atop the mountain of the same name. The beautiful, 7-storey pagoda features depictions of Buddha on each side, and legend has it was originally constructed by a Tibetan monk travelling through Lanzhou on his way to meet the Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan in the 13th century. 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.
This morning by take the bullet train from Lanzhou to Jiayuguan. Sometimes known as the ‘mouth’ of China, the Jiayuguan Pass was an essential point along the Silk Road where the Great Wall marked the end of imperial China and the beginning of the West.
On arrival in Jiayuguan transfer to the ancient Tombs of the Wei and Jin dynasties. The largest subterranean art gallery in the world, over 1,000 ancient tombs house a multitude of colourful murals, all constructed during the 3rd-5th centuries CE.
Dinner this evening is in the hotel’s restaurant.
This morning enjoy a talk by Joyce then visit Jiayuguan Fortress, a stronghold known as the “Impregnable Defile Under Heaven” which marked the western-most reaches of imperial China at the end of the Great Wall. Built in 1372 during the Ming Dynasty, the fortress is the most intact of the military passes remaining along the Great Wall. After lunch, transfer to the Overhanging Great Wall, a section of the wall north of Jiayuguan Fortress which was built in the Ming Dynasty and provides spectacular views of the surrounding Gobi Desert.
Return to the hotel in the afternoon.
Depart Jiayuguan bound for Dunhuang. In the evening, 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 Grotto, also known as the ‘Cave of the Thousand Buddhas’, which was constructed over the course of a millennium from the 4th to the 14th centuries. The caves hold the world’s richest treasure trove of Buddhist sutras, murals and sculptures. Continue to the Dunhuang Museum, where the permanent exhibits include some of the priceless Tibetan and Chinese manuscripts unearthed at the hidden Library Cave of Mogao, ritual objects from the Han to Tang dynasties, and archaeological material revealing the history of the province.
This evening, join Joyce and fellow travellers for a special farewell dinner in a nearby restaurant.
Check out of the hotel and transfer to Dunhuang Airport (included in tour price), for flights returning to Australia and New Zealand.
Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Dunhuang Airport.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.
Final payment due
07 August 2020
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 and services.
Dietary requirements such as vegetarian or gluten-free diets cannot be catered for on this tour. Please seek advice about your level of fitness required to undertake this tour.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders require a visa for China. The visa will be obtained by Renaissance Tours and is included in the tour price.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4-and 5-star hotels (or best available) with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), local beers and soft drinks with dinners
- Talks with your tour leader, Joyce Morgan
- First Class seats on bullet train from Xi’an to Tianshui and from Lanzhou to Jiayuguan
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Airport/hotel transfers on tour arrival and departure
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
- Visa for China
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Xi’an – Sofitel Xi’an on Remin Square*****
Tianshui – Golden Sunshine Hotel****
Lanzhou – Crowne Plaza*****
Xiahe – Xiahe Tianzhu International Hotel****
Jiayuguan – Jiayuguan Nuojin Hotel****
Dunhuang – Grand Sun Hotel****
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.