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Tian Shan, Taklamakan & Lower Tibet

This 27 day overland tour journeys from Xi'an to Bishkek through China, Kyrgyzstan

  • Duration: 27 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure:
  • For lovers of: Active/Adrenaline, Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites
  • Physical rating: Demanding
  • Supplier Tour ID: EEX1/158124
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Starts: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • Finishes: Xi'an, China
  • Age requirement: 18 +
You will Visit
  • Bishkek
  • Kochkor
  • Tash Rabat
  • Kashgar
  • Aksu
  • Bayanbulak
  • Heavenly Lake
  • Turpan
  • Dunhuang
  • Jiayuguan
  • Zhangye
  • Liujiaxia
  • Xiahe
  • Bingling Si
  • Lanzhou
  • Pingliang
  • Xi'an



Day 1: 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
Tel: +996 312 694 075


Day 2: 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.


Day 3: 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).


Day 4: 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.


Day 5: Kashgar

Today we will have free time to explore the city of Kashgar and partake in any optional activities

Tonight we will stay in a good quality hotel


Day 6: 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.

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.


Day 7-8: Kashgar

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

We will also have an included visit to Shiptons Arch - the largest natural arch in the world!

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.


Day 9-10: 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 stay in local hotels 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!).


Day 11-12: 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.


Day 13-14: 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.


Day 15-16: 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.


Day 17: 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.


Day 18: 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.


Day 19: 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.


Day 20-22: 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.


Day 23: 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.


Day 24-25: 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.


Day 26: 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.


Day 27: Xi'an

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

This morning we head ouf Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour.

We will return to Xi'an for the afternoon, where we'll have a free afternoon to further explore this incredible city.

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Xi'an. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Sales Team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

    • 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
    • Hike up to Shiptons Arch - the largest natural arch in the world
    • Explore Kashgar's Sunday market and Animal market
    • Enjoy a day to walk around Heavely Lake, or maybe take the boat out onto the water
    • 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
    Tour Staff
    • 2 Dragoman crew, Local guides where necessary, 1 local crew in certain areas
    • 10% Camping - 90% Hotels
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