The Silk Road of China

Rail, Beijing to Kashgar

Image by G Adventures

Tour description provided by G Adventures

Geographically and culturally, Northwest China is about as far away from “traditional China” as you can get without crossing the border. The source of the Silk Road – the ancient trade route that helped create the modern world – is unlike anything you’ll find in Beijing or Xi'an, and this 18-day adventure crossing the country via rail takes you deep into the China few ever see. Otherworldly experiences abound, both on train and off: watch the sun rise over the dunes outside Dunhuang, explore the world of the Muslim Uyghurs, spend the night in traditional yurts near Urumqi, and venture into the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar. There’s more, of course, but we’ve got to keep a few secrets, right?

What’s included

  • Your Local Living Moment: Overnight in a Yurt, Heavenly Lake
  • Great Wall excursion and entrance (Beijing)
  • Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City guided tour
  • Terracotta Warriors tour (Xi'an)
  • Great Wall visit (Jiayuguan)
  • Mogao Grottoes (Dunhuang)
  • Turpan guided sightseeing tour
  • Yurt stay in the Tian Shan Mountains
  • Taklamakan Desert train
  • Hotan village and workshop tour by donkey cart
  • Kashgar orientation walk
  • Sunday bazaar and animal bazaar visit
  • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities


  • Walk along two sections of the great wall
  • Stare down the terracotta warriors
  • Learn about the uyghur culture
  • Stay in a traditional kazakh yurt
  • Bargain at kashgar's sunday bazaar


Day 1 Beijing There are activities planned until an evening welcome meeting and optional group dinner -- the famous Beijing Duck is on the menu. Included Activities: Arrival Day and Welcome Meeting
Day 2 Beijing (1B) Enjoy a guided tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. In the afternoon, options include shopping, taking a hutong tour, or visiting some city sights like the Summer Palace, Lama Temple, and Bell and Drum towers. Included Activities: Tiananmen Square Forbidden City Tour
Day 3 Beijing/Xi'an (1B) Visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. At the wall, climb to the top and explore a stretch by foot while taking in spectacular views as it winds along mountain ridges. This section also boasts a cable car and a luge slide. In the evening, take an overnight sleeper train to Xi'an. Included Activities: Great Wall Mutianyu Visit Transport: Drive through the city and countryside to reach the Great Wall's Mutianyu section. Take the same transportation back. Private Vehicle Basic overnight train (beds) (12.00-15.00 hours)
Day 4 Xi'an Arrive in Xi'an in the early morning and, after checking into the hotel, grab some breakfast and take an orientation walk. After, take a guided trip out to the Terracotta Warriors, a short drive away. Spend free time in the evening wandering the Muslim Quarter and shopping for souvenirs. Included Activities: Orientation Walk Terracotta Warriors Guided Tour
Day 5 Xi'an/Jiayuguan (1B) Enjoy a free day in Xi'an. Opt to visit the Great Mosque in the Muslim Quarter, ride a bike around the city walls, visit the Big Goose Pagoda, or do some shopping. In the evening, board a sleeper train for the overnight journey to Jiayuguan. Transport: Basic overnight train (beds) (18.50 hour(s), 1450km)
Day 6 Jiayuguan Located in the Gansu Province, Jiayuguan is famous for its location on the Silk Road and also for its post on the Great Wall. The westernmost section of the Great Wall, the Jiayuguan Pass, was built during the Ming Dynasty, along with the Overhanging Great Wall section. Included Activities: Jiayuguan Great Wall of China Visit
Day 7 Jiayuguan/Dunhuang (1B) Travel by express bus to Dunhuang, a major stop on the Silk Road. Enjoy a guided visit to the famous Mogao Grottoes, filled with Buddha statues, and learn about this important place. Spend a free afternoon wandering the town centre, shopping in the market, or visiting sights further afield. This is one of the loveliest cities in the region. Included Activities: Mogao Grottoes Visit Transport: First-class bus (5.00-6.00 hours, 370km)
Day 8 Dunhuang/Turpan (1B) Mingsha means "Singing or echoing sands", named for the sound of the wind blowing through the dunes. Arrive before sunrise to climb the massive dunes and watch the sun come up over the "desert". The sands turn from white to golden as the sun rises. Later, opt for a camel ride through the dunes in the early morning sun and choose to sled down one of the dunes. Head back to town for breakfast and a rest. In the afternoon, opt to spend more time in the city or visit a local village nearby. In the evening, board a sleeper train to Turpan, the first stop in the Xinjiang province. Transport: Private Vehicle (2.00 hour(s)) Basic overnight train (beds) (9.50 hour(s))
Day 9 Turpan Arrive at the train station and drive by private van (about 1 hr) to Turpan, the lowest point in Asia. Enjoy a city tour with a local guide and learn about this interesting desert city, the ancient Karez water system, and the culture of the Uyghur minority people. Included Activities: Turpan City Tour Transport: Private Vehicle (1.00 hour(s))
Day 10 Turpan The day is free to continue exploring. Sights in Turpan include the Emin Minaret, the city mosque, and the Turpan Museum. There is plenty to do outside the city centre; opt to visit the Jiaohe ruins and Flaming Mountains. Learn what makes this area different from the rest of China, starting with the time. Try your hand at tying a local headscarf in the distinct Uyghur fashion and indulge in some of the grapes grown in this region.
Day 11 Turpan/Heavenly Lake (1B, 1L, 1D) In the morning take a private van to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Province. From here, drive into the Tian Shan Mountains (Heavenly Mountains) for an overnight in a yurt with the local Kazakh minority people. This area looks more similar to the Swiss Alps, with towering snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes, than somewhere in the middle of China. Spend the day hiking, horseback riding, or just relaxing and soaking in the views. In the evening, tuck into the multi-share circular felt hut (yurt) and sleep like a local. Additional Notes: Keep in mind this area will have basic accommodations, meals, and bathroom facilities. Expect to share your yurt with other members of the group, all sleeping on mats and blankets around a central fireplace. Bathrooms are likely to be outhouses. The experience of staying in this beautiful location with these welcoming people will be well-worth the lack of amenities. Included Activities: Overnight in a Yurt Transport: Drive into the mountains via Urumqi. Private Vehicle (5.00 hour(s))
Day 12 Heavenly Lake/Urumqi (1B) Spend the morning enjoying nature before heading to Urumqi, the capital of the province. Transport: Private Vehicle (2.00 hour(s), 100km)
Day 13 Urumqi/Hotan (1B) Over the next two days, travel by train to Hotan, a small town in the Taklamakan Desert. Watch the scenery go by, make friends with the locals, and catch up on your reading. Transport: Basic overnight train (beds) (33.00 hour(s))
Day 14 Hotan (1B) Arrive in the evening to Hotan. Start exploring this small town. Transport: Local train
Day 15 Hotan (1B) With free time in the afternoon, tour the market or check out some abandoned ancient towns, the Yoktan or Melikawat ruins. Hotan is also known for its jade. Included Activities: Hotan Village Tour
Day 16 Hotan/Kashgar (1B) Enjoy one last train ride to Kashgar, arriving in the evening. Transport: Local train (12.00 hour(s))
Day 17 Kashgar (1B) Spend the rest of the day exploring the old town centre or the People's Square. Meet the group for an optional farewell dinner. Included Activities: Animal Market Sunday Bazaar Market
Day 18 Kashgar Depart at any time. Additional Notes: From Kashgar, there are flights to different regions of China. You can return to Beijing, continue on to Shanghai, Chengdu, or Hong Kong. Most flights connect in Urumqi.