Following the Silk Road in China's Wild West
15 days from £5,995 per person
For many centuries, the Silk Road was the world's longest and most established trade route. Camel caravans strode through scorching deserts and towering mountain ranges while vibrant oasis towns sprung up to supply their needs. However, it was more than just goods that flowed along this vast web of cities spanning Asia. Ideas, culture, innovation, cuisine and religion also worked their way from East to West and vice versa.
Marco Polo travelled this route in the mid 13th-century and his stories of the exotic wonders he witnessed ignited a European fascination with the East that continues to this day. Xinjiang (literally meaning 'New Frontier' in Chinese) was one of the last additions to the Chinese empire and remains culturally distinct with the Muslim Uighur ethnicity still outnumbering the Han Chinese. The province is China's largest and a true crossroad melting pot sharing borders with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
This journey starts in Beijing with a few Han cultural highlights including the Forbidden City, the Great Wall and the Imperial Summer Palace. From the capital, you'll be whisked away to Turpan in the Taklamakan desert. This area is 200m below sea level, the furthest point on Earth from an ocean, and a strong cultural contrast from Beijing. Explore the ruins and ingenious irrigation systems of ancient, abandoned cities before watching the 'Flaming Mountains' glow a brilliantly vivid red at sunset.
Next stop is Kashgar where you'll wander the narrow alleyways of the mudbrick Old Town dotted with mosques and traditional bakeries. The area bursts frenetically to life once a week for the famous Sunday Market selling everything from grilled goat to exquisite handmade textiles. You'll feel transported out of China and back in time as you watch buyers animatedly haggle over two-humped Bactrian camels or sacks overflowing with colourful spices.
Before returning east, visit Dunhuang with it's grottoes full of ancient Buddhist carvings and manuscripts. The nearby Mingsha dunes were dubbed "The Rumbling Sands" by Marco Polo for the roaring sound they make when the wind blows.
End the tour with a journey back to modernity in the ultra stylish megalopolis of Shanghai. Stroll down the Bund to take in the grand late-colonial buildings and the glittering skyscrapers of Pudong towering above the Huang Po river. The fine dining, excellent shopping and memories of the 'Wild West' will have you clamouring to return.
This is purely a suggested itinerary so can be booked as it is, or used as a starting point for creating your own luxury tailor-made tour of China. If you'd like to see similar trips, take a look at our Epic Journey collection as well as our favourite Active and Family Holidays.
15 days from £5,995 per person
- Day 1 - In Transit
Overnight flight to Beijing
- Day 2 - Rosewood Beijing - Beijing
Visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City before taking a tour of Beijing's traditional Hutong neighbourhoods.
- Day 3 - Rosewood Beijing - Beijing
Visit the iconic Jinshanling section of the Great Wall and enjoy the views over a picnic lunch. In the afternoon, see Beijing's creative cutting edge on a tour of the 798 Art District.
- Day 4 - Rosewood Beijing - Beijing
Take a Taiji (Tai Chi) lesson with a master at the Temple of Heaven and visit the Summer Palace in the afternoon.
- Day 5 - Tu-Ha Petroleum Hotel - Turpan
Fly to Urumqi and drive to Turpan on the northern edge of the gaping Taklamakan desert
- Day 6 - Tu-Ha Petroleum Hotel - Turpan
Visit Jiaohe Old City and the Flaming Mountains described by Marco Polo.
- Day 7 - Radisson Blu, Kashgar - Kashgar
After viewing 4,000-year-old mummies in Xinjiang Museum, fly to Kashgar and enjoy dinner in a local Uighur restaurant.
- Day 8 - Radisson Blu, Kashgar - Kashgar
Day trip to Karakul Lake with its crystal clear waters and pristine surrounding scenery.
- Day 9 - Radisson Blu, Kashgar - Kashgar
Take a day tour of Kashgar's traditional Old Town and visit the renowned livestock market. Enjoy an evening meal with a local family.
- Day 10 - Silk Road Hotel - Dunhuang
Fly to Dunhuang and spend the afternoon at leisure.
- Day 11 - Silk Road Hotel - Dunhuang
Visit the "Roaring" Mingsha Dunes and the ancient Mogao Grottoes, also known of the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas
- Day 12 - The Peninsula Shanghai - Shanghai
Fly to Shanghai via Xi'An.
- Day 13 - The Peninsula Shanghai - Shanghai
Spend the day at leisure to explore Shanghai. Attend an evening performance of the renowned ERA acrobatics show.
- Day 14 - The Peninsula Shanghai - Shanghai
Full day of sightseeing.
- Day 15 - In Transit
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
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