The Silk Road - Best Tours & Trips 2019
Few destinations in the world conjure up more dramatic or romantic images than the name “Silk Road.” That 4,000-mile-long network of ancient caravan trails was responsible for more than a flow of goods from China through India, Persia, Arabia, and Greece to the Roman and Byzantine empires and back. It also served as a bridge for an interchange of cultures, religions, and technologies for some 1,600 y ... Read More
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Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.
Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.
Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.
Price Per Day
Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.
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Rivers & Seas
Cities & Attractions
Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.
Flights & Transport
Continents & Regions
- The Silk Road Caravanserai of Tash Rabat
- Visiting with the nomads at Son Kul
- The Kashgar Sunday Market
- Travelling the Fergana Valley into Tajikistan
- The stunning sites of Samarkand, Khiva & Bukhara
- Follow the route of the ancient Silk Road, travelling in the footsteps of countless generations of nomads and traders
- Discover the unreal, rainbow-coloured landscape of Zhangye, a UNESCO site that looks like countless pots of bright paint have been spilled across sandstone mountains. You won't be able to put your camera away!
- Uncover the ‘other terracotta warriors’ in Xi’an’s Hanyangling Mausoleum, an authentic and more personal burial site that’s home to tens of thousands of buried pottery figures
- Experience the unique atmosphere of Kashgar’s Sunday Market
- Central Asia is a fascinating and unique mix of ancient Silk Road culture, Soviet influence and striving to redefine nations post independence. Geographically and for a time historically, it is the real centre of Asia.
- The much-photographed Registan in Samarkand is one of the true pinnacles of Islamic architecture. You'll be wowed by the scale, grandeur and beauty of the monuments to iconic figures such as Tamerlane and the Persian influenced madressas, mosques and mausoleums.
- Experience for yourself the legend that is Central Asian hospitality - there's really nothing like being welcomed into a local home or yurt for a meal, chatting with stall holders at bazaars or simply marvelling at the sights alongside locals.
- Kyrgyzstans mountains are its monuments and its majesty. The landscapes here will stay with you long after the journey is over.
- Marvel at the beautiful Song Kol Lake, where in mid-summer you may see flocks of sheep, goats and herds of horses watched over by nomadic herdsmen and their families.
- Stay overnight in a yurt lakeside and live like the locals have for centuries in these portable, felt lined traditional tents.
- Reflect on the important role horses have played in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic life style while witnessing horseback sports like odarysh (wrestling on horseback), tiyin-enish (where riders try to pick up coins at full gallop) or kok-baru (goat polo).
- ‘Door to Hell’ giant burning gas pit in Turkmenistan
- Islamic architecture and ruins along the great Silk Road
- Villages and lakes of the Fann and Tien Shan Mountains
- Post Soviet grand monuments
- History of traders, preachers and invaders
- 20th July 2019 departure: accompanied by photographer and National Geographic Explorer, George Kourounis
- Share tea with a sixth-generation ceramics master and enjoy a private exploration of his studio
- At the Bukhara Ark Citadel, a local specialist discusses archaeological excavations throughout the region
- Enjoy a performance of Kyrgyz Manas folk tradition in Bishkek
- Marvel at The Great Wall
- Explore Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and Summer Palace in Beijing
- Visit Xian and the famous Terracotta Warriors
- Cross the Torugart pass in the Tian Shan mountains on one of the world's most remote high altitude roads
- Take in the magnificent Labrang Monastery and Jiayuguan frontier fortress
- Venture to the Mogau Caves & Dunhuang
- Immerse yourself in the Sunday Markets in Kashgar
- Drive spectacular mountain scenery & visit the quaint town of Bishkek
- Journey to the fabled Silk Rd cities of Samarkand, Bukhara & Khiva
- See the stunning sights of Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara
- Enjoy Crossing the Oxus River
- Visit to archaeological sites of Merv & Gonur Depe
- Explore the bizarre sights of Ashgabat
- See the Darvaza gas crater, one of the “100 places to visit before you die”
- Iconic Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower in Baku
- 40,000-year-old engravings in Gobustan National Park
- Venture to Telavi, one of Georgia's most ancient cities
- Head just south of the Russian border for panoramic views of Mount Kazbek
- Georgian felt-making workshop
- Delve deeply into Soviet history at The Stalin Museum
- 3,000-year-old rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe
- Enjoy stunning views from the sacred pilgrimage site of Jvari Monastery
- Leisurely wander through the picturesque narrow streets of Tblisi’s old town
- The 'Pink City' of Yerevan
- Lake Sevan, the largest lake in the Caucasus
- The ruins of Zvartnotz Temple
- Pay your respects at the Armenian Genocide Museum
- Symphony of the Stones' at Garni
- Yerevan Brandy Factory tour and tasting
- Samarkand and Bukhara : two of the greatest cities on the Silk Road
- Almaty with its leafy streets and cafe culture
- Kyrgyzstan’s spectacular mountain scenery
- Issyk Kul Lake
- Visit UNESCO churches and fortresses in Georgia
- See Mount Ararat towering over Yerevan
- Explore spectacular monasteries in Armenia including Khor Virap
- Walk amongst the pre-Christian cave houses in Uplistsikhe
- Experience cafe culture in Tbilisi
- Have the option to add-on an Azerbaijan extension
- Follow the route of the ancient Silk Road, travelling in the footsteps of countless generations of nomads and traders
- Discover the unreal, ancient rainbow-coloured landscape of Zhangye, a UNESCO site that looks like countless pots of bright paint have been spilled across sandstone mountains. You won't be able to put your camera away!
- Learn about the rapid development happening in western China as you travel between ancient regional centres and modern cities.
- Ride a camel across the sand dunes in Dunhuang in search of Crescent Lake, a desert oasis that has to be seen to be believed.
- Visit the frontier town of Kashgar and take in the animal market before sipping tea at a 100-year-old tea house.
- Explore the famous Mogao Caves, which have been called home by Buddhist monks since the fourth century AD.
- Views of Lake Issyk-Kul and Aka-Kul
- Hike through 6 different gorges, including the famously beautiful Jety-Oguz Canyon
- Chance to bathe in Altyn Arashan hot springs
- Discover Bishkek, Burana Tower and the Cholpon-Ata Petroglyphs
- Panoramic views from Telety Pass (3,800m)
- Learn how to make traditional 'lagman' noodles in a family home in Karakol
- Daywalk to the foot of Karakol Peak, the highest in the Terskey Ala-Too Range
- 4,000 miles along the Silk Road between Moscow and Beijing, with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan
- Ride camels in the Gobi Desert, marvel at the Terracotta Warriors, and soak up Islamic architecture in Khiva
- Opt for an abridged 13-day trip aboard the Golden Eagle from Moscow to Almaty (or reverse)
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Top The Silk Road Experiences
- Hanging out in Xi’an with the vast terra cotta army, one of the most remarkable and memorable sights in the world.
- Meeting and mingling with people in remote western China who look and dress differently than the great majority of their fellow countrymen.
- Experiencing highlights of far-flung cities and towns along the route, many of which once served as caravan stops.
- Venturing beyond China to legendary Silk Road cities such as Tashkent , Samarkand and Bukhara and central Asian countries such as Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
The Silk Road Trip Reviews
45 The Silk Road Tour Reviews - Summary 98% Recommend
The Silk Road Tours and Travel Guide
The Silk Road Attractions & Landmarks Guide
The Silk Road in China
The three main fabled Silk Road routes first gained importance during the early Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), as traders began the westward journey from the ancient Chinese capital of Chang'an (present day Xi'an).
The Silk Road then lasted as a major trading thoroughfare for some 1,600 years, until the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty that had been established by Kublai Khan in the 14th century.
While the name was derived from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk which was highly prized by people in the west, many other goods flowed in both directions. From China came tea, porcelain, lacquer ware, jade, bronze objects and iron. The camel caravans returning from the West carried fruit and seeds, glass bottles, gold, ivory, and carpets and other woven items.
Culturally, the Silk Road spread Buddhism to western China and centuries later helped spread Islam throughout central Asia.
Travelers who follow the legendary route through China today are introduced to parts of the country that are far different from the attractions of major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and from people who for the most part share the same ethnic background.
While about 93 percent of Chinese belong to the Han ethnic group, most of the rest are members of 56 separate minorities. The western region of China through which the Silk Road passes (Xinjiang Province) is home to 13 of them, and introductions to their lifestyles can be a high point of a visit there.
The path of the Silk Road leads to and through small oasis towns and villages and crosses rolling grasslands and sparsely inhabited sun-baked deserts punctuated by high mountains. Today’s travelers find themselves in a world of onion-domed mosques, bazaars, embroidered caps and languages far different from Mandarin or Cantonese.
The Uyghur (pronounced wee-grr) minority group is the largest in western China. It consists of mostly Sunni Muslim Turkic-speaking people.
Xi’an (formerly Chang’an) was the capital of China for nearly 1,200 years, and is the burial place of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC). His mausoleum, which took 38 years to complete, is home to a virtual army of more than 7,000 terra cotta warriors, along with horses, chariots and weapons, which were buried to accompany the emperor and guard him in the next life.
Arranged in battle formations much as the imperial guard would be during the ruler's lifetime, this vast underground army represents one of the most significant archeological finds of modern times.
In 2014, the Chang’an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk Road was designated as a World Heritage Site.
Other Attractions in Xi’an
The collections at the Provincial History Museum are as beautiful as they are intriguing. Fragments of silk from the Han Dynasty serve as reminders of how the trade route got its name. Gold, silver and bronze artifacts represent items that were carried back to China from the west.
Of special interest are black-faced figures that demonstrate early contact with the African continent.
More Sights along China’s Silk Road
The Mogao Caves near Dunhuang, which were dug into limestone cliffs over a period of 1,000 years beginning in 366 AD, contain one of the most outstanding collections of Buddhist art in the world.
Despite its location in a stretch of barren terrain, Turpan (also known as Turfan) is known for an underground irrigation system built 20 centuries ago that provided water for growing grain, cotton, grapes and Hami melons, which still are prized for their fragrance and flavor.
In Kashgar, tucked into the extreme western end of China, colorful bazaars serve as reminders of its past as a transportation and trading center. As they have for many centuries, weekly markets still teem with people selling and buying everything from sheep and donkeys to barbequed meat and steamed dumplings.
The Silk Road actually developed into many routes, including northern routes that passed through several of the “Stans” – most notably Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan -- and some southern routes that passed through Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, the Caucuses, and Arabia.
The major northern route includes the legendary Uzbek cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent. Deserts, caves replete with Buddhist art, ancient villages and streets, mosques and madrasahs mark the route.
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