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Istanbul to Xi'an

  • Duration: 95 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Active/Adrenaline, Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites
  • Physical rating: Demanding
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Supplier Tour ID: EUXT1/201108
  • Starts: Istanbul, Turkey
  • Finishes: Xi'an, China
You will Visit
  • Istanbul
  • Göreme
  • Sumela
  • Batumi
  • Kutaisi
  • Gori
  • Mtskheta
  • Stepantsminda
  • Tbilisi
  • Telavi
  • Lagodekhi
  • Sheki
  • Gobustan
  • Baku
  • Caspian Sea
  • Turkmenbashi
  • Geok Tepe
  • Ashgabat
  • Darvaza
  • Kunye Urgench
  • Khiva
  • Bukhara
  • Nurata
  • Samarkand
  • Tashkent
  • Fergana Mountains
  • Fergana City
  • Fergana Valley
  • Arslanbob
  • Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
  • Song Köl Lake
  • Kochkor
  • Jeti Oguz Valley
  • Karakol
  • Chong Kemin Valley
  • Cholpon Ata
  • Bishkek
  • Tash Rabat
  • Kashgar
  • Lake Karakol
  • Aksu
  • Bayanbulak
  • Heavenly Lake
  • Turpan
  • Dunhuang
  • Jiayuguan
  • Zhangye
  • Liujiaxia
  • Xiahe
  • Bingling Si
  • Lanzhou
  • Pingliang
  • Xi'an
  • Qinghai Hu
  • Overnight Train to Lhasa
  • Lhasa
  • Gyantse
  • Shigatse
  • New Tingri
  • Rongbuk

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Istanbul

Border Information: if joining in Istanbul, you will most likely enter Turkey at Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IATA code: IST).

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - on arrival please look out for a note from your leader with more information about this important meeting. If you are travelling beyond Tbilisi, your tour leader will need to carefully check your visa situation for your entire trip.

The afternoon will be free to explore the many sights of the incredible exotic city of Istanbul, including the Grand Bazaar, the Bosphorus River and the phenomenal Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia!

In Istanbul we will stay in dorm accommodation in a fantastic hostel with good facilities, which is a 5 minute walk from the Blue Mosque.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Istanbul before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Istanbul.

*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

02

Day 2: Göreme

Today we start our journey with a full day's drive east to Göreme, a small enchanting town in the heart of the Cappadocia mountains.

In Göreme we will stay in a well-equipped hostel - please note that dorm beds are sometimes used here.

Estimated Drive Time - 10-11 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

03

Day 3-4: Göreme

We now have a 2 full days to explore Göreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia. There will be an opportunity for a magical optional balloon ride over the valley during our time here.

04

Day 5: Zara

Today we continue our journey east with a full day's drive towards the Sumela monastery.

We will break the journey with a wild camp near Zara or the village of Alucra.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

05

Day 6: Sumela

Today we will reach the awe-inpsiring Sumela Monastery near the town of Macka, which we will visit in the afternoon.

We will camp overnight in a campsite near Sumela if conditions allow. In cold weather we may opt to stay in a local hotel in Macka or Trabzon.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

06

Day 7: Batumi

Border Information: Exit Turkey at Sarp, enter Georgia at Sarpi.

This morning we will continue to the border and cross into Georgia, reaching the port town of Batumi.

In Batumi we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

07

Day 8: Kutaisi

After a relaxing morning, we leave the port town of Batumi behind us and make our way to the ancient town of Kutaisi. This afternoon we will visit the medieval Bragrati cathedral and the Gelati monastery.

In Kutaisi we will stay in a local hotel or a family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

08

Day 9: Gori

This morning is free to explore the charming town of Kutaisi. This afternoon we make our way to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin - here we will have an included guided tour of the city and the Stalin Museum. 

We will then continue on to the ancient UNESCO world heritage site of Mtskheta where we will stay overnight in a local guesthouse. 

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

09

Day 10: Stepantsminda

This morning we will explore the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

This afternoon we have a beautiful drive to the spectacularly located town of Stepantsminda (formerly known as Kazbegi).

Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning, we will take a trek up to the Tsminda Sameba Church (the Church of the Holy Trinity), a beautiful small church nestled in the mountains.

In Stepantsminda we will stay in a local hotel or family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

10

Day 11: Tbilisi

Border Information: if joining in Tbilisi, you will most likely enter Georgia at Tbilisi International Airport (IATA code: TBS).

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 6:00pm - please meet at the joining hotel reception at this time. Please do not be alarmed if there is no note from you leader on arrival, as this is often a travelling day for the crew and they will not arrive until about 4:00pm. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Tbilisi before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Tbilisi.

In Tbilisi we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - any tobacco products are practically illegal in Turkmenistan, so please do not bring them or use them in Turkmenistan. Also please do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

11

Day 12: Tbilisi

Today we will visit the old town of Tbilisi and visit sites including the National Museum, Sioni Cathedral and the Metekhi Temple.

We will have a second night in our comfortable local hotel in Tbilisi.

12

Day 13: Telavi

This morning we will drive to the Alazani valley and on to Telavi, where we will base ourselves for 2 days to explore this fascinating region. We will have a free afternoon to explore the area on arrival.

In Telavi we will stay in a local family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

13

Day 14: Telavi

The area of Telavi is well known for its vineyards and wineries - there are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and every village has its own particular variety. We will visit some of the local vineyards today, where we can hopefully see some of the local traditions including grape harvesting and wine making, and enjoy some famous Georgian hospitality.

14

Day 15: Lagodekhi

Today we leave the wine region behind us as we make our way towards the Azerbaijan border. We will visit the Gremi citadel en route.

We will wild camp tonight, most likely in the Lagodehki National Park close to the Azeri border.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.

15

Day 16: Sheki

Border information: Exit Georgia at Ladodekhi, enter Azerbaijan at Balakan.

Today we cross the border to Azerbaijan and continue to the old town of Sheki, where we can visit the exquisite Khan's Palace.

In Sheki we will stay in a comfortable hotel built inside an old caravanserai.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

16

Day 17: Gobustan

Today we will continue our journey to Gobustan, near the coast of the Caspian Sea. Whilst here we will visit the ancient petroglyphs and the mud volcanoes that this area is famous for.

In Gobustan we will wild camp near the mud volcanoes.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

17

Day 18-20: Baku

This morning we have a short drive to the Azeri capital, Baku. During our time in Baku we will have free time to explore all the sights of the city and the surroundings.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.

Our itinerary in Baku and over the Caspian Sea must remain very flexible and is very much determined by sailing times of the local ferries. Please note that there is no regular schedule for the ferries, they are notoriously unpredictable, and information from the ferry operators regarding the sailing times constantly changes (or is non-existant) up until the point of departure. Maximum flexibility, open-mindedness and co-operation with your tour leaders are absolutely essential here! 

In Baku we will stay in a local hotel for as many nights as is needed until we finally depart on the ferry over the Caspian Sea.

18

Day 21: Caspian Sea

From Baku, we will take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan. The boat docks at the city of Turkmenbashi.

The ferry is a fantastic local experience, but please do not expect any luxury whatsoever! These ferries are budget vessels for the locals and cargo hauliers, and are not designed with tourists in mind. We must be prepared for very basic conditions and limited provisions on board.

Please also note that the time that the ferry takes to cross is also very unpredictable, as it is often forced to wait outside of the port in Turkmenbashi while they arrange the unloading of the cargo on the boat.

There will be basic cabins on the ferry overnight.

19

Day 22: Turkmenbashi

Border information: Exit Azerbaijan at Baku, enter Turkmenistan at Turkmenbashi.

Today we plan to disembark the Caspian ferry and enter Turkmenistan.

We will be either staying at a local hotel in Turkmenbashi or we will start our journey towards Ashgabat and wild camp en route.

Turkemenistan Visa Note - as the timing of the Caspian ferry crossing can be very unpredictable, please get your Turkmenistan visa issued with at least 2 'flexible' days before the entry date listed on these notes. If you arrange the visa through The Visa Machine they will be aware of all the correct dates for your visa according to the date of your trip. Please see the detailed visa notes below.

20

Day 23: Geok Tepe

Today, if we are off the ferry in good time by this stage, we will continue our drive to the spectacular Kow Ata Underground Lake. We will have some time either this afternoon or tomorrow morning to explore this superb lake of naturally-heated clear water.

Tonight we will wild camp in the area of Kow Ata or Geok Tepe.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

21

Day 24: Ashgabat

This morning we have a short drive to Turkmenistan's bizarre modern capital, Ashgabat. This afternoon we will have some free time to explore.

In Ashgabat we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

22

Day 25: Ashgabat

Border Information: if joining in Ashgabat, you will most likely enter Turkmenistan at Ashgabat International Airport (IATA code: ASB).

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

After the meeting we will visit the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market. In the afternoon we will then have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Ashgabat before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Ashgabat. If arriving at Ashgabat airport you will also need to have a confirmed arrival transfer and representative from our local supplier to meet you at the airport. Please contact your sales agent for prices and to book. 

In Ashgabat we will stay in a decent quality local hotel.

*Important note - any tobacco products are practically illegal in Turkmenistan, so please do not bring them or use them in Turkmenistan. Also please do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

23

Day 26: Darvaza

Today we set off north from Ashgabat and head into the Karakum Desert. We will have an included side trip to the amazing flaming Darvaza Gas Crater (also known as the 'Door to Hell'!).

We will wild camp in the deserts near Darvaza Crater tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

24

Day 27: Kunye Urgench

Today we will continue our overland journey north across the Karakum. We will visit the Kunye Urgench ruins towards the end of the day.

We will wild camp in the deserts near Kunye Urgench tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

25

Day 28-29: Khiva

Border Information: Exit Turkmenistan at Shovot, enter Uzbekistan at Nijazov.

This morning we will visit the markets in the border town of Dashoguz, before driving across the border into Uzbekistan and continue to the beautiful historic town of Khiva. 

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

The following day we have a guided tour of the ancient city of Khiva during the morning. In the afternoon we will have plenty of free time to further explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town.

In Khiva we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

26

Day 30: Bukhara

Today we will have a full day's drive to the fascinating city of Bukhara, where will spend the next 3 nights.

In Bukhara we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.

27

Day 31-32: Bukhara

Today we will have a guided tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and the Ark Fortress.

On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore this incredible historic city and its surroundings.

28

Day 33: Nurata

Today we will drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert near the town of Nurata. In the afternoon we will have the opportunity to head out on an optional camel ride into the desert!

In the Kyzylkhum Desert we will stay in a desert yurt camp.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

29

Day 34: Samarkand

This morning we will spend some time exploring the Nurata Hills with the option of taking a dip in Lake Ajdar Kul. After lunch we will drive to Samarkand where we will stay for the next 3 nights.

In Samarkand we will stay in a good hotel on the outskirts of town.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

30

Day 35-36: Samarkand

Today we will have a guided tour of the incredible historic city of Samarkand and the surrounding area, including the Registan, Ulug Beg Observatory, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-I-Zinda.

On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore the beautiful city and its surroundings.

31

Day 37: Tashkent

This morning we will have a little more free time to explore more of Samarkand. After lunch we will drive to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.

In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

32

Day 38: Tashkent

Today we will have a free day to explore Tashkent.

33

Day 39: Tashkent

Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport (IATA code: TAS).

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

The rest of the day is free to explore the Uzbek capital.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Tashkent before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Tashkent.

In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

*Another important note - please be aware that all itineraries in Kyrgyzstan are highly weather-dependent. The itinerary described in these notes are a statement of best intention, but we must approach each trip in Kyrgyzstan with a large degree of flexibility, as our leaders and local guides will have to 'play things by ear' according to the local conditions and weather. In low season certain routes become impossible and it may become far too cold to camp - in all cases there are fantastic and well-tried alternatives in place which means we can always run an excellent and comprehensive trip here, but please do not treat the exact details of the itinerary listed here as gospel - thanks for your understanding!*

34

Day 40: Fergana Valley

This morning we travel in local transport over the Kamchik Pass to Kokand, where we will have the oppurtunity to visit the Khudayar Khan's Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey to Fergana. 

The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin us this evening in Fergana.

In Fergana we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

35

Day 41: Arslanbob

Border information: Exit Uzbekistan at Andijon, enter Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik.

This morning we leave Uzbekistan behind and make our way into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan! 

Once we have crossed the border we continue our journey to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley - if we are delayed at the border we may choose to stay in the closer town of Jalalabad instead.

In Arslanbob we will stay overnight in a local family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

36

Day 42-44: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley

We will spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning and remote Kyrgyz Fergana Valley, stopping often to admire the views and perhaps take some impromptu hikes in the hills and countryside.

During these days we plan to wild camp en route. Please note that trips running in low season (May to mid-June and October to November), we may not be able to camp if temperatures are too low, in which case we will stay in local guesthouses along the route instead.

Estimated Drive Times - 4-8 hours each day.

37

Day 45-46: Song Köl Lake

Today we complete the drive to the incredible Song Köl Lake, where we will spend the next two nights.

We will have free time here to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking and horse-riding.

At Song Köl we will stay in traditional felt yurts.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-8 hours.

Please note that trips during the low season will not be able to visit Song Köl Lake, as temperatures will be below freezing, the road will be snowed over, and there will be no yurts to stay in! Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Köl.

38

Day 47: Kochkor

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

39

Day 48-49: Jeti Oguz Valley

Today we drive along the southern shore of Lake Issyk Köl and up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti Oguz. En route we will have an included demonstation from a local 'eagle hunter'.

The next day we will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads!

In Jeti Oguz we will camp close to a local family yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

Please note that on trips in the low season we may not be able to camp in Jeti Oguz due to low temperatures. If this is the case, we will stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti Oguz Valley (allowing time for some day walks) and then move via a stunning and incredible drive up a mountain in a Russian 4x4 truck to Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development in a stunning alpine setting, staying in dormitory accommodation.

40

Day 50: Karakol

Today we will move on from Jeti Oguz or Altyn Arashan to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free afternoon to explore and relax!

In Karakol we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

41

Day 51-52: Chong Kemin Valley

Today we will drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk Köl and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata. We will then continue to the beautiful area of Chong Kemin where we will spend 2 nights.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

The next day we will have a free day to explore and hike in this stunning area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion!

In Chong Kemin we will wild camp. If it is too cold or simply preferred by the group, we may choose to camp in the grounds of a guesthouse in Ashu, a village in the Chong Kemin valley, where there could be the possibility to upgrade to rooms.

42

Day 53: Bishkek

Today we have a short drive to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, with the opportunity to visit the Burana Tower en route. We will have free time to relax and explore the city upon arrival.

In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

43

Day 54: Bishkek

For everyone that is continuing with us to China, there will be quick pre-departure meeting at 10:00am in order to explain the next 6 days until Kashgar, and your leader will collect the kitty for this linking section.

The remainder of the day is free to explore the relaxed and atmospheric city of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Hotel for the night: Hotel Asia Mountains
Hotel Asia Mountains
1a Lineinaja St
Bishkek 720021
Kyrgyzstan
Tel: +996 312 694 075

44

Day 55: Kochkor

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

Please note that if the group has no new people joining in Bishkek, we may choose to stay instead in a guesthouse in the small town of Naryn (a further 2 hour drive beyond Kochkor). This is so that we don't repeat Kochkor unnecessarily and can have more time to explore the area of Tash Rabat the following day.

45

Day 56: Tash Rabat

Today we continue our journey south to Tash Rabat, once a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border. During our time here we will visit an ancient caravanserai and have some time to explore the surrounding area.

In Tash Rabat we will wild camp. In cold weather (or if simply the group prefers and there is availability), we may choose to stay in local nomadic yurts that are set up for guests near the caravanserai, sleeping 8-10 people per yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours (from Kochkor).

46

Day 57: Kashgar

Border information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Torugart, enter China at Torugart.

Today we will have a full day drive over the 3752m Torugart Pass, crossing into China and heading down to the Uighur city of Kashgar.

In Kashgar we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

47

Day 58: Lake Karakol

Today we will set off on a stunning journey along the Karakoram highway to Lake Karakol. The drive takes us up past some truly incredible mountain scenery and underneath a few 7000m peaks, including Mustagh Ata.

Near Lake Karakol we will stay in local nomadic yurts, sleeping 6-8 people per yurt. Provisions here are very basic, but the scenery is incredible and it is an interesting glimpse into the way of life of the local Uighurs.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

48

Day 59: Kashgar

Border Information: if joining in Kashgar, you will most likely enter China at Kashgar Airport (IATA code: KHG).

Welcome to Kashgar, one of the ancient trading posts on the Silk Route! If you are joining in Kashgar, you are free to explore the city, and there will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm. Please do not be alarmed if there is no welcome note at the hotel on your arrival, as this is often a travelling day for the tour leader and they will often arrive in Kashgar mid-afternoon.

If you are arriving by truck to Kashgar, we will drive from Lake Karakul and the Karakoram Highway back to the city, arriving mid afternoon.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Kashgar before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Kashgar.

In Kashgar we will stay in a hotel with good facilities.

49

Day 60-61: Kashgar

Today we will visit the animal market just outside of town, and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar.

The following day we will have a free day to explore the town, the central Id Kah Mosque and its surrounding square, while your crew finalise the customs procedures for our truck to continue further into China.

50

Day 62-63: Aksu

Our journey through China begins as we leave Kashgar and head east through the Taklamakan Desert! Our crossing of the desert usually takes 3 days/2 nights, and we plan to wild camp near Aksu on our first night and near Korla or Bayanbulak on our second.

Please note that occasionally the police insist that we do not camp in times of political tension - in this case we will stay in local hotels in the small towns en route.

Estimated Drive Times - 8-9 hours each day (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

51

Day 64-65: Heavenly Lake

Today we will complete our drive through the Taklamakan Desert and arrive at Heavenly Lake, a beautiful lake set in the Tian Shan mountains.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours.

We will stay here for 2 nights, and will have many opportunities to relax in the incredible scenery and walk around the lake.

In Heavenly Lake we will stay in local yurts with very basic facilities.

52

Day 66-67: Turpan

Today we will travel to the oasis town of Turpan, where we stay for 2 days exploring the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins.

In Turpan we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

53

Day 68-69: Dunhuang

Today we will have an early start and a big drive to the city of Dunhuang.

Estimated Drive Time - 9-11 hours.

Please note that sometimes it may be preferred by the group and the leader to split this drive over 2 days, wild camping in between - in this case we will have 1 less night in Pingliang towards the end of the trip.

The following day we will have an included visit to the awe-inspiring Mogao Buddha Caves in the morning. We will then have a free afternoon to explore this amazing town and it’s surroundings - there are possibilities for camel rides along the sand dunes and bicycle rides out to the nearby White Goose Pagoda!

In Dunhuang we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

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Day 70: Jiayuguan

Today we continue our journey with a drive to Jiayuguan, where we will have an included visit to the Jiayuguan Fort - the most western point of the Great Wall of China. Please note the Great Wall in this area is adobe, unlike the more famous stone sections further to the east.

We will wild camp near an adobe section of the Great Wall near Jiayuguan.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

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Day 71: Zhangye

Today we will drive to the incredible Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains - we'll spend some time exploring the region before heading off to wild camp nearby.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

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Day 72: Liujiaxia

Today we will drive onto the lower slopes of the remote Tibetan plateau and reach the small city of Liujiaxia. 

In Liujiaxia we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

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Day 73-75: Xiahe

Today we set off to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe where we spend the next 3 nights. We will have an included visit to the incredible Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

The next few days are free to explore this beautiful town and surrounding grasslands. We can take a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants. There may also be a chance to go trekking, horse riding or exploring the surrounding grasslands, visiting Tibetan families and perhaps trying the local Yak butter tea.

In Xiahe we will stay in a local Tibetan-owned hotel.

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Day 76: Lanzhou

Today we will leave Xiahe and head to the chaotic capital city of Gansu province, Lanzhou. We will have some free time this evening to explore the city.

In Lanzhou we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

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Day 77-78: Pingliang

Today we will drive to the small town of Pingliang at the base of the Mount Kongtong, one of the holiest mountains in Chinese Taoism.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

The following day we will have an included visit to Mount Kongtong, and will have the full day to explore the temples and walk and explore the pilgrimage routes on the mountain. 

In Pingliang we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Please note that if the drive between Turpan and Dunhuang was split over 2 days, there will only be 1 night in Pingliang and a half-day exploration of Mount Kongtong.

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Day 79: Xi'an

Today we will journey to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi province and the end of the 'Silk Road'! We will have a free afternoon to fully explore the city, it's famous walls, bell and drum towers, pagodas and Muslim Quarter.

In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

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Day 80: Xi'an

Border Information: if joining the trip in Xi'an, you will most likely enter China at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA code: XIY).

There will be a group meeting at 6:00pm in our hotel in Xi'an - please look for a note from your tour leader when you arrive at the hotel giving more details about this important meeting.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Xi'an before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Xi'an.

In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

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Day 81: Xi'an

Today we will head out for an included visit to the awe-inspiring world-famous Terracotta Warriors. We will have free time to independently explore the Xi'an on our return to the city.

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Day 82: Qinghai Hu

Today we will take a short local flight to the small city of Xining in China's mid-western Qinghai province. On arrival we will make a visit to the vast and starkly beautiful Qinghai Hu Lake. The population of this part of the Tibetan Plateau is thinly spread and mainly comprises of Kazakhs, Moguls and Hui.

We will stay in a local hotel in the city of Xining.

 

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Day 83: Overnight Train to Lhasa

Today we will board our overnight train to Lhasa - the train takes the 2000km-long Qinghai-Tibet railway, a masterpiece of railway engineering opened in 2006. The train takes us over the 5,072m Tanggula Pass (a crossing that makes the railway the highest in the world) on its spectacular and scenic journey across the mountains and the Tibetan Plateau, arriving in Lhasa the following day. Please note that there are several trains a day, so our departure and arrival times for the train journey will be flexible. 

Tonight we will have sleeper tickets on the train and will sleep on basic bunk beds on the train.

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Day 84: Lhasa

Today we will arrive in the famous and evocative city of Lhasa, the religious, cultural and economic centre of Tibet. We will have free time to independently explore the city and soak up its unique atmosphere on our arrival.

In Lhasa we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

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Day 85: Lhasa

Today we will have an included visit to the Jokhang Palace, located in the central Barkhor square and considered the holiest temple in all of Tibet. In the afternoon we will have an included visit to the Sera Monastery, one of the most important schools for the Gelug school of Buddhism. 

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Day 86: Lhasa

Today we will visit the world-famous Potala Palace, once the home of the Dalai Lama and an iconic symbol of Tibet. The rest of our time today will be free to independently explore the city and some of its other important Buddhist sites.

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Day 87: Gyantse

Today we will start our land journey through southern Tibet with a stunning drive over the Kampa La Pass (4,794m) to the historic town of Gyantse.

In Gyantse we will stay in a friendly local hotel.

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Day 88: Shigatse

This morning we will have an included visit to the Palcho Monastery in Gyantse before continuing our journey to Shigatse, Tibet's second largest city. On arrival in Shigatse we will have an included visit to the Tashilhunpo Monastery.

In Shigatse we will stay in a friendly local hotel.

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Day 89: New Tingri

Today we continue our journey with a drive over some more high mountain passes to reach New Tingri (also known as Shegar), where we will meet the junction for the road to Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side. This is usually a fairly long day's drive, but the stunning views and scenery make this one of the world's most visually fantastic journeys!

In New Tingri we will stay in a local guesthouse.

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Day 90: Rongbuk

From New Tingri we make the journey to the Rongbuk Monastery and Everest Base Camp.

The drive is not an easy one, passing over another 5,200m pass, but the views are sensational and (weather permitting) we should have excellent views of Mount Everest.

Once we have reached the Rongbuk Monastery, it is about a 2 hour walk further to Everest Base Camp (please note that this is the Base Camp from the northern Tibetan side, not the famous southern equivalent on the Nepalese side that lends its name to the popular trek).

We will usually camp here in Tibetan tents which take six to eight people.

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Day 91: New Tingri

Today we will spend some more time exploring the Everest Base Camp area before returning to New Tingri for the night.

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Day 92: Shigatse

Today we will return to the city of Shigatse. If time allows we may be able to detour to visit the 11th-Century Sakti Monastery, the centre of the once-dominant Sakti school of Buddhism.

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Day 93: Lhasa

Today we will return to Tibet's capital, Lhasa.

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Day 94: Xi'an

Today we will board an internal flight back to our starting point of Xi'an, where we will have free time to explore on arrival.

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Day 95: Xi'an

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Explore the Early Christian underground cities of Derinkuyu or Kaymaklı, used as a hiding place from persecutions for centuries
    • Walk through the beautiful ancient valley of Ihlara, containing the beautiful rock-hewn churches built by the Cappadocian Greeks during the Byzantine era
    • Exploration of the Black Sea mountain monastery at Sumela
    • Explore the colossal and awe-inspiring Prometheus Caves near Kutaisi
    • Learn about the early life of Joseph Stalin, one of the 20th century's most infamous world leaders, at his birthplace in Gori
    • Hike to beautiful 14th-century Gergeti Trinity Church, set in the stunning mountains above Stepantsminda
    • Head out on Telavi's 'Big Day Out' - a tour of the town's monasteries, bee-keepers and textile-weavers, followed by lunch and wine tasting at a local family-run winery
    • Overnight in an atmospheric converted Caravanserai at Sheiki
    • Explore the exquisite Palace of the Sheki Khans, built in 1797
    • Day trip to Gobustan to see the mud volcanoes and the petroglyphs
    • Explore the mysterious and iconic Maiden's Tower in Baku's Old Town
    • Guided trip around old town Baku including the Maiden Tower & Shirvan Shakh Palace
    • Learn all about the Shirvan Muslim history of Baku at the Palace of the Shirvanshahs
    • Cross the Caspian Sea on a local transporter ferry between Baku and Turkmenbashi
    • Explore Turkmenistan's unique underground lake at Kow Ata and swim in waters naturally heated to around 36°C
    • Explore, shop and haggle at the vast Tolkuchka Sunday Market
    • Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city
    • See the bizarre and incredible burning gas crater at Darvasa, popularly known as the 'Door to Hell'
    • Overland into the green Oxus Valley to the ancient ruined city of Kunye Urgench
    • See the beautiful turquoise Kalta Minor Minaret, one of the iconic symbols of Khiva
    • Visit the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa, a museum dedicated to the Khan that surrendered to the Russians in 1873
    • Explore the incredibly photogenic blue palace of Tash Khovli in Khiva
    • Learn all about the Khoezm culture and handicrafts at the Islam Hodja Madrassa, Khiva's newest monument
    • Explore the incredible Juma Mosque and the 12th century fortress of the Kukhna Ark
    • Visit the mausoleum of Pahlavon Mohammed, the legendary 14th-century poet, philosopher, wrestler, and patron saint of Khiva
    • Visit the magnificent 16th-centrury architectural ensemble surrounding the Lyab-i Hauz ponds, once the city's principal source of water
    • Explore the city's oldest Islamic monument, the 10th-century mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, the founder of the Samanid Dynasty
    • Explore the colossal Kalon Mosque and Minaret, which has survived without restoration for 850 years and impressed Genghis Khan so much that he ordered the building to be spared
    • Discover the ruins of the ancient 5th-century fortress of the Bukhara Ark
    • Overnight in the Kyzylkum Desert staying in yurts
    • Visit the Guri-Amir Mausoleum, the final resting place of the Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur
    • Explore the stunning plaza of The Registan, a world-famous and iconic symbol of Central Asia
    • Learn about the area's scientific heritage with a visit to the 15th-century Ulug Beg Observatory, once the finest observatory in the Islamic world
    • Discover the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, once one of the largest mosques in the world and the jewel in Timur's empire
    • See the beautiful and moving ancient mausoleum of Shah-I-Zinda
    • Get off the beaten track with 3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan
    • Experience the daily life of the Kyrgyz mountain shepherds
    • Overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village
    • See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here
    • See an incredible demonstration from a traditional eagle hunter near Kochkor
    • Trek into the wilds of the Jeti-Oghuz Gorge on the edge of the Tian Shan mountains
    • Get off the beaten track with 3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan
    • Tourist time: pedalos, sand, sun. On Lake Issyk-Kul, it?s a time warp
    • Overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village
    • See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here
    • Visit the ancient Silk Road caravanserai at Tash Rabat, close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border
    • Take in the spectacular mountain scenery on our drive along the Karakorum Highway to Lake Karakol
    • Stay overnight in a traditional yurt owned by Kyrgyz and Tajik families near the beautiful Lake Karakol, set amongst the 7500m-high mountains of the Tian Shan range
    • Explore Kashgar's Sunday market and Animal market
    • Enjoy a tranquil yurt stay at the beautiful Heavenly Lake
    • Exploration of the oasis and the Jiaohe ruins at Turpan
    • Learn about the Karez water system, the ingenious method of irrigating the area that was developed by the Han Dynasty and allowed Turpan to flourish as an oasis town
    • See the striking red sandstone landscape of the Flaming Mountains near Turpan
    • Guided tour of the Mogao caves, Dunhuang
    • Journey down the Gansu Corridor to Jiayuguan Fort, our first stop at the Great Wall
    • Explore the incredible and colourful natural phenomenon of the Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains
    • See the vast Buddha statue and the outstanding Buddhist cave sculptures at the fabulous Bingling Si gorge
    • Explore the stunningly beautiful Mt. Kongtong and its temples
    • Explore the world-famous site of the Terracotta Warriors, an army of 8000 life-size figures built to protect the Emporer Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife
    • Journey west through the lower realms of the Tibetan Plateau to the remote Qinghai Lake
    • Explore the Jokhang Temple, the centrepiece of Lhasa and the most sacred and important temple in Tibet
    • Visit the stunning Sera Monatery, and witness one of the fascinating debating sessions between the monks
    • Take a guided tour of the incredble Potala Palace, the former winter residence of the Dalai Lama and the most famous symbol of Tibet
    • Visit to the stunning town of Gyantse and Baiju Monastery
    • Stopover in Shigatse and visit to Tashilhunpo Monastery
    • Overnight at Everest Base Camp, crossing Tibetan passes of 5200 metres en route
    Accomodation
    • 20% Camping - 80% Hotels
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Tour Highlights:
  • Adventure Activities
  • History & Culture