Istanbul To Beijing
All content by Intrepid
Unravel the complex, curious and cultured kingdoms of the Middle East and Central Asia on a gigantic overland expedition through some of the most remote regions on the planet. Shuffle down the cobblestone streets of Istanbul before embarking on a voyage through windswept deserts and across jagged mountain ranges - stopping to visit thriving cities and tiny towns along the way. Follow the legendary Silk Road across Georgia’s remote landscapes to culture-rich Azerbaijan, pass through narrow valleys into Uzbekistan, eyeball the intriguing Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an and explore secluded sections of the colossal Great Wall. From Turkey to China, this overland odyssey leaves the tourist crowds behind and forges a path through some of the world’s most captivating destinations.
- Visit Istanbul and tour the Blue Mosque .
- Wander through Beijing’s’ Forbidden City.
- Discover the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand.
- Walk through Uzbekistan’s historic city of Bukhara.
- Visit Kyrgyzstan’s epic Song Kol Lake.
- Cross the infamous Torugart Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China.
- Climb deserted sections of the Great Wall of China.
- See the army of Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an.
Day 1 Istanbul
Be intrigued by eastern and western influences while exploring the cultures and traditions of the only city in the world that straddles two continents - Istanbul. Perhaps arrive early to delve into history of 2000-year-old this Turkish metropolis, and visit the cobbled Hippodrome, once the site of ancient chariot races, and the exquisite Blue Mosque, Istanbul's most recognisable landmark.
Day 2 Bush Camp
Enjoy a morning to explore more of Istanbul, before heading east in the early afternoon bound for Toz Golu. Set up camp and spend a glorious evening sleeping under the stars.
Days 3-4 Goreme
Make tracks to Goreme, located in the heart of Cappadocia. Marvel at the profusion of fairy chimneys, castles, columns and cones - soft volcanic rock that has eroded over time to form fantastical shapes. Visit cave churches and rock dwellings, and be enchanted on a guided tour of the magical valleys of Cappadocia.
Day 6 Sumela
After a morning on the road, stretch the legs in Sumela. Visit stunning Sumela Monastery, which clings spectacularly to a sheer cliff-face and is surrounded by evergreen forests, and admire the colourful 18th-century frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings.
Day 7 Batumi
Cross the border into Georgia and continue to the port town of Batumi. Wedged between the sea and green mist-enshrouded hills, Batumi's location on the Black Sea Coast gives it a resort-town atmosphere. Relax in this idyllic semitropical setting - grab an outdoor table at one of the many cafes and sip Turkish coffee while watching the ships come into port.
Day 8 Kutaisi
Travel to the historic town of Kutaisi, one of the cradles of Georgian civilisation. Explore medieval Bagrati Cathedral, situated on a high hill overlooking the town, before visiting the Gelati Monastery. Decorated with mosaics, wall paintings and intricate metal work, the monastery was once the academic, scientific and educational centre of ancient Georgia.
Day 9 Gori
Wander through the famous birthplace of Joseph Stalin - Gori. Learn about Stalinism on a guided tour of the Stalin Museum. View photographs, documents, furniture and gifts that together tell the story of the dictator's past.
Day 10 Kazbegi
Visit Kazbegi and relax amongst the hospitality of Georgian hosts at a traditional homestay. Rise early for a jaunt on foot through the countryside to visit the Tsminda Sameba Church.
Days 11-12 Tbilisi
Be dazzled by the mixture of European, Byzantine and Middle Eastern architecture that lines the streets of Tbilisi. On a guided tour of the Old Town, explore the National Museum, Metekhi Temple and the Sioni Cathedral.
Days 13-14 Telavi
Admire the picturesque Alazani Valley en route to Telavi, the centre of Georgia’s wine-growing region Kakheti. With each village producing a different variety of grape, there are wines to suit all tastes. Visit local wineries and witness time-old traditions such as grape harvest, wine-making and the keipi – a banquet feast held in the spring.
Day 15 Lagodekhi
Camp overnight in Lagodekhi, huddled at the base of the breathtaking Greater Caucasus Mountains.
Day 16 Sheki
Cross the border into Azerbaijan and travel to Sheki. Behold the richly decorated Khan's Palace and wander through the Museum of History, located in an architectural masterpiece. Spend the night in a converted caravanserai.
Day 17 Gobustan
After a long drive to Gobustan, check out the incredible rock art and mud volcanoes scattered throughout this ancient region.
Days 18-20 Baku
Sail by ferry across the Caspian Sea and enjoy two days to explore the rapidly changing Azeri capital Baku. Both chaotic and cosmospolitan, the city brims with elegant tree-fringed streets, leafy parks, lovely teahouses, buzzing pubs and World Heritage-listed medieval architecture – all of which make it ideal for exploration on foot.
Day 21 Overnight Ferry
Board an overnight ferry and travel across the Caspian Sea again to reach Turkmenistan.
Day 22 Turkmenbashi
Disembark in Turkmenbashi, named after the infamous dictator Turkmenbashi who renamed the international airport and several streets, schools and hotels in his honour.
Day 23 Geok Tepe
Explore Turkmenbashi before driving to the remarkable Kow Ata – a crystal-clear underground lake with a natural water temperature of 36°C.
Days 24-25 Ashgabat
Discover Turkmenistan’s bizarre modern capital – a strange mix of futuristic and outlandish buildings. Experience an explosion of colour and noise at the famous Ashgabat Sunday markets where merchants sell everything from camels and pigs to cars and ex-Soviet military paraphernalia.
Day 26 Darvaza
Sleep under the stars in the Karakum Desert. See the spectacular fires of the Darvaza Gas Crater.
Day 27 Bush Camp
Continue the Overland journey through the Karakum Desert, and take in the parched landscape of Asia's hottest desert.
Days 28-29 Khiva
Gaze up at the ancient walls surrounding Khiva and imagine how they once provided sanctuary for weary Silk Road travellers. Explore the historic and perfectly preserved Old Town, beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles.
Days 30-32 Bukhara
Get to know Central Asia's holiest city, where the combination of buildings spanning a thousand years and a thoroughly lived-in Old Town help create the awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Day 33 Nurata
Spend a night in a yurt camp with the local nomads, sleeping among the dunes of the Kyzylkhum Desert.
Days 34-36 Samarkand
Travel to one of Central Asia's most magical cities, Uzbekistan’s Samarkand. Discover the romance of the Silk Road in this perfectly preserved city full of exotic architecture and majestic buildings.
Days 37-39 Tashkent
Visit Tashkent’s thriving Chorsu Bazaar to pick up Soviet-style souvenirs and admire the ornately decorated Kukeldash Medressa.
Day 40 Kokand/Fergana City
Enter the Fergana Valley and see the palace of the former Khan of Kokand.
Day 41 Arslanbob
Make tracks across the Ferghana Valley into Kyrgyzstan.
Days 42-44 Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
Take a leisurely three day journey through the stunning mountains and national parks of Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley.
Days 45-46 Song-Kol Lake
Spend the night in a yurt near Song-Kol Lake and join in a game of ulak-tartysh.
Day 47 Kochkor
Mingle with friendly locals and relish Kyrgyz hospitality while enjoying a homestay in Kochkor.
Days 48-49 Djety Oguz Valley
Admire the lofty sandstone cliffs in Djety Oguz Valley.
Day 50 Karakol
Discover the remote, picturesque town of Karakol, complete with quaint tree-lined streets and colonial houses.
Days 51-52 Chong Kemin National Park
Set off on a leisurely hike along Chong Kemin River - or if feeling adventurous, perhaps tackle one of the tough 4000 m passes.
Days 53-54 Bishkek
Stroll through Bishkek's markets and haggle for bargains or relax in an Oak Park cafe and reflect on the adventure.
Day 55 Kochkor
Make Kyrgyz friends on an authentic homestay experience in Kochkor.
Day 56 Bush Camp
Take a good book as today's lengthy border crossing meanders through the Torugart pass and into Kyrgyzstan, past rugged mountains and wild terrain.
Day 57 Kashgar
The striking atmosphere of Kashgar provides a refreshing contrast to the past two days' travel. Soak up the exotic sights, sounds and smells of this unique destination.
Day 58 Karakol
Set off early to get to stunning Lake Karakol. Spend the day wallowing in the surrounds of this magnificent setting before spending the night in traditional yurts.
Days 59-61 Kashgar
Traditionally an important trading city along the Silk Road, Kashgar is still at the crossroads of trade due to its location in the heart of Central Asia.
Days 62-63 Bush Camp
The Taklamakan Desert covers an immense area of northwest China and while a treacherous part of the Silk Road journey, stunning sunsets and sunrises have long enthralled travellers.
Days 64-65 Heavenly Lake
With the bluest of blue waters, tiered mountains of green and white, and soft, billowy clouds moving across the sky, no wonder this is called Heavenly Lake.
Days 66-67 Turpan
Once an important staging post on the Silk Road, Turpan is an attractive town famous for its vineyards, stone fruits, melons and the nearby Flaming Mountains.
Day 68 Bush Camp
Continue the Overland adventure towards the ancient Silk Road town of Dunhuang. Spend the night wild camping beneath the desert stars.
Days 69-70 Dunhuang
Once an important stop on the Silk Road and a city of incredible historical and cultural riches, Dunhuang is a spectacular desert oasis.
Days 71-72 Bush Camp/Great Wall
Home to a 14th-century fort and a well-preserved part of the Great Wall, Jiayuguan is a legendary part of the Silk Road marking the line between China and barbarity.
Days 73-74 Liujiaxia
Liujiaxia lies along the Yellow River and is known for its hydroelectric power station and close proximity to the intriguing Bingling Si Caves.
Days 75-76 Xiahe
The colours of Tibet can be seen on the streets of Xiahe, a celebrated town for Tibetans due to the Labrang Monastery and its stunning surrounding landscapes.
Day 77 Lanzhou
With the Yellow River running through the city, Lanzhou has a number of interesting mosques, temples, parks and museums to visit.
Day 78 Pingliang
Pingliang is a city in China's Gansu Province that is overlooked by the beautiful and sacred Kongtong Mountains.
Days 79-81 Xi'an
As the start of the ancient trading route the Silk Road and an imperial centre for 2,000 years, Xi'an has a fascinating history and rich cultural sites to discover.
Days 82-83 Yan'An
Yan'An was where Mao's Long March ended in 1935, and was the Communist Party's base until 1948 - it's also filled with cultural sites and nature to enjoy.
Day 84 Lijiashan
With cave dwellings adorning the hills around Lijiashan, this fascinating town is a definite highlight of any trip to China.
Days 85-86 Pingyao
Walking through the beautifully preserved streets of Pingyao is like stepping back into Imperial China with red lanterns lighting streets, imposing city walls and traditional buildings at every turn.
Days 87-88 Wutai Shan
Wutai Shan is also called 'Five Plateau Mountain', and is home to the Bodhisattva of wisdom and harbours some of China's most sacred monasteries and temples.
Days 89-90 Datong
Bordering Inner Mongolia, Datong is a coal rich city that founded in 200BC and is the gateway to the incredible Yungang Grottoes and Hanging Monastery.
Day 91 Jinshanling
Jinshanling is a mountainous area with an attractive section of the Great Wall, which zigzags up the steep terrain and straddles peaks like a suspension bridge.
Days 92-93 Chengde
Sitting pretty in the mountains, Chengde is a breath of fresh air, especially the enchanting Mountain Resort which is a former royal summer residence.
Days 94-96 Beijing
Beijing has a long and colourful history and this rapidly modernising city is an amazing whirl of ancient sites, modern buildings, bicycles, people, shops and eateries.
Maximum of 19 travellers per group
Bush camp (no facilities), Camping (with facilities), Cave house, Guesthouse, Homestay, Hostel, Hotel, Yurt
1. Some destinations visited on this trip do not have consulates in Australia and New Zealand. We recommend that travellers from these countries book the WESTBOUND itinerary of this trip where some visas can be obtained en route.2. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.3. Combination trip. Please see Trip Notes (Important Notes) for more details.4. Due to a British government travel warning, from September 2012 this itinerary will no longer be able to visit Iran. It will instead travel from Turkey to Georgia and then through Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan.