The Great Silk Road Tour: from China to Central Asia

This outstanding trip combines four of the most important countries along the ancient Silk Road, not only to experience the history and culture but also to discover the landscape as well as the local people and their lifestyles. It is specially designed for Silk Road travelers.

Start your tour from Xi’an, the eastern end of the Silk Road, to the trading center of Kashgar in China, cross the Irkeshtam border to Kyrgyzstan and explore the handicrafts center, Osh, then continue to Uzbekistan and explore the splendor of Samarkand and Bukhara. Finally, travel to Turkmenistan and unveil the mysterious and historical Merv, one of the great emporiums of the Silk Road.

Journey Route

Tour Map

Highlights

  • Visit the Terracotta Army in Xi'an and make a terracotta warrior yourself.
  • Discover the much-photographed Rainbow Mountains in Zhangye.
  • Stay overnight in a local family's house in Osh and live like the locals.
  • Immerse yourself in the historical mosques, mausoleums, and madrasahs, and find out about their diverse culture.
  • Experience the unique atmosphere of the different local bazaars along the ancient Silk Road.

Itinerary in Detail

This sample itinerary is designed for reference. Follow our tailor-made guidelines to create your ideal Silk Road tour.

Day 1 Arrival in Xi’an (China)

Grand Noble Hotel (4-star) / Wyndham Grand Xian South (5-star)

After arriving in Xi’an, you will be met by your local guide and driver, who will drive you to your hotel and help you to check in. If you would like to explore the city in the rest of the day, your travel advisor and guide are ready to help with ideas for things to do.

Day 2 Xi’an Terracotta Army Tour

breakfast and lunch

Xi'an, as the eastern end of the Silk Road, is known for its history. It was an ancient capital city during 13 dynasties and is considered to be the cradle of Chinese civilization.

In the morning, you will visit the Terracotta Warriors and Horses. There, you will find an incredible army of over 7,000 soldiers, archers, horses, and chariots in full battle array in several large pits. You may have a few questions about how the warriors were made, what the most difficult step was, etc. You will have the opportunity to visit a workshop in a cave dwelling and learn how to make a terracotta warrior. You may get the answers to your questions once you have finished making your warrior.

After lunch, you will return to the city and visit Big Wild Goose Pagoda. It is part of the Silk Road route and was built to preserve the Buddhist materials that Xuanzang (Tripitaka) brought back from his epic journey to India.

The evening is free for you to explore as you please.

Terracotta Warriors and HorsesTerracotta Warriors and Horses

Day 3 Xi’an City Tour and a Flight to Zhangye

Tianyu International Hotel (4-star) / Zhangye Hotel (5-star)
breakfast and lunch

In the morning, you will visit Xi'an City Wall, which is one of the oldest and most complete city defenses in China. You can walk on the wall for a while or rent a bike to ride along it.  

Continue to visit the Great Mosque, which lies in the heart of Xi'an's Muslim Quarter. This Islamic mosque is still an active place of worship for the Hui descendants of Silk Road traders and travelers.

Spend some time in the Muslim Quarter - try some local food and buy some souvenirs before being driven to the airport for your flight to Zhangye.

Muslim Quarter Enjoy some local food in the Muslim Quarter

On arrival in Zhangye, your guide and driver will meet you at the airport and drive you to your hotel. If you need help exploring the city, we’re at your service.

Day 4 Zhangye’s Rainbow Mountains and a Bullet Train to Dunhuang

Dunhuang Hotel (4-star) / The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel (5-star)
breakfast and lunch

Zhangye was a key town on the Silk Road and has a long history. You will visit the colorful hills – Qicai Danxia landforms – in Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park. It is one of the best places for photographers and nature lovers to visit. Geologists call this area, which is very dry and has no vegetation, "window lattice and palace-shaped Danxia topography".

Qicai Danxia landforms Qicai Danxia landforms

Before transferring to the train station, you will have lunch in a local restaurant and visit the Giant Buddha Temple where you will admire China’s largest indoor reclining Buddha.

You will arrive in Dunhuang after experiencing a bullet train ride and then be driven to your hotel in Dunhuang.

Day 5 The Mogao Caves and Sand Dunes

breakfast and lunch

The ancient Silk Road routes from China passed to the north and south of the Taklamakan Desert and Dunhuang is perfectly located at the junction. It became a crossroad of the two major trade routes. Being an important trading post, Dunhuang is rich in historical sites, cultural heritage, and natural scenery.

In the morning, you will visit the Mogao Caves and enjoy the beautiful murals in about 10 caves. There, you will find an abundant amount of Buddhist manuscripts, wall paintings, and statues.

Enjoy your lunch in a local restaurant before being driven to the Singing Sand Dunes and the Crescent Spring. Ride a camel to reach the top of the sand dunes and enjoy the beautiful wavy shapes of the smooth yellow dunes against the clear blue sky. Imagine you are an ancient merchant riding a camel along the Silk Road. You will reach the oasis in the desert, a crescent-shaped spring, and enjoy the stunning views of the sunset in the desert.

Mogao Caves Beautiful murals and statues at Mogao Caves

Day 6 Free Morning in Dunhuang and a Bullet Train to Turpan

Shuangcheng Hotel (4-star)
breakfast

The morning is free for you to explore Dunhuang.

Later, you will be driven to Liuyuan Railway Station along the Gobi Desert where you will catch your bullet train to Turpan. On arrival, your Turpan guide and driver will take you to your hotel. Contact us or ask your guide for free time ideas.

Gobi Desert A running train through the Gobi Desert

Day 7 Turpan City Tour

breakfast and lunch

Turpan was another important trading post along the Silk Road, and it is known as China’s fruit basket.

You will visit the Emin Minaret, which stands by the Uyghur mosque. It is the tallest minaret in China and was built in honor of a general who served there, Emin Khoja. The minaret is especially beautiful in the morning with its shadow falling across the mosque.

Then, you will visit the Karez Well System and discover the ancient underground irrigation channels, which are still maintained and functioning today. It’s also a great place to escape from the heat of the sun.

Turpan is famous for growing grapes. Instead of going to the touristy Grape Valley, you will visit a local family-run vineyard to get an authentic experience. There, you can walk around the farm and talk to the local people to learn about their daily lifestyle.

The last stop for the day is a visit to the ancient city of Jiaohe, the capital of the former Cheshi State with a history of over 2,300 years. You can walk between some ruins and listen to your local guide talking about its history and location along the ancient Silk Road.

Ancient city of JiaoheRuins at Ancient city of Jiaohe

Day 8 Urumqi Tour and a Flight to Kashgar

Luxemon Qinibagh Hotel (4-star) / Radisson Blu Kashgar (5-star)
breakfast and lunch

You will be driven from Turpan to Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang. You will pass a big wind farm and enjoy seeing windmills in rows.

After lunch, you will visit Xinjiang Museum. You will enjoy a variety of artworks, crafts, and relics as well as the well-preserved collections of corpses, which have a history of over 4,000 years. Before being driven to the airport, stroll around and shop in Erdaoqiao Market, which is the biggest bazaar in Xinjiang selling various goods, such as folk costumes, ethnic caps, knives, jewelry, instruments, and carpets.

After arriving in Kashgar, your guide and driver will take you to your hotel so that you can check in.

Erdaoqiao MarketEnjoy the various goods at Erdaoqiao Market

Day 9 Kashgar City Tour

breakfast and lunch

Kashgar was the trading center and cultural exchange along the ancient Silk Road. Nowadays, Kashgar serves as a hub to Central and South Asia.

After breakfast, you will be driven to Abakh Khoja Tomb to visit the impressive buildings and gardens and learn about the Islamic Mazar (shrine) culture.

Then, you will visit the biggest mosque, the Id Kah Mosque, and walk along Handicrafts Street where you will find all types of handicrafts, including copper, metal, and porcelain.

The last stop for the day will be Kashgar Old City. Wander in the winding alleyways and discover the local people’s way of life. 

If you happen to visit Kashgar on a Sunday, you will have the chance to visit the Livestock Market (Sunday Market). It will be interesting to learn how the local people bargain and make deals. You will take a taxi there, accompanied by your guide.

Kashgar Old CityDiscover the Kashgar old city

Day 10 Kashgar to Sary-Tash via the Irkeshtam Pass (China/Kyrgyzstan)

Guest House
breakfast, lunch, and dinner

You will depart early in the morning and drive along the main artery of the ancient Silk Road to the Irkeshtam Pass (233KM) where you will say goodbye to your guide. The boundary pass formalities will take about 1½ hours.

Your guide and driver will meet you on the Kyrgyzstan side. You will be driven along the winding road of the high Pamirs and reach Sary-Tash (70KM). It is a small village but an important crossroads between Osh, Kashgar, Murghab, and Sary Mogol. From there, you can get a spectacular view of Lenin Peak.

You will stay in a local guesthouse overnight.

Day 11 Drive to Osh Along Two Mountain Passes

Eminjon's Family Guest House
breakfast, lunch, and dinner

After breakfast, you will be driven to Osh (186KM) through the picturesque mountain route. You will stop at Taldyk Pass, the Kyzyl-Suu River, and Chyiyrchyk Pass to take pictures and enjoy the breathtaking view of the mountains and rivers.

After arriving in Osh in the evening, you will be taken to your homestay where you will enjoy a local traditional dinner.

View on the wayEnjoy the views on the way from Sary-Tash to Osh

Day 12 Osh City Tour and Drive to Kokand (Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan)

Asmald Palace (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

Osh is the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan and was an ancient trading town and handicraft center on the Silk Road.

After breakfast, you will visit Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain (Solomon's Throne), a site of huge Islamic importance and the only World Heritage Site in Kyrgyzstan. From there, you will find caves and petroglyphs and have a panoramic view of Osh. Then, you will visit the National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex Sulayman and enjoy collections of archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, handicrafts, paintings, sculptures, and graphics. Afterward, you will visit Jayma Bazaar, the largest market in Central Asia, which has a history dating back to the ancient Silk Road period.

Local BazaarVisit the local bazaar

After lunch, you will be driven to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan border where the boundary formalities will take about 1½ hours. Then, you will continue to Kokand (218KM) through the Fergana Valley. If you are interested in silk, you can ask your guide to take you to Yodgorlik Silk Factory, located in Margilan, a 2,000-year-old city located along the Silk Road route. There, you will discover how silk is produced. This factory has preserved a manual method of silk production that was once was used during the Silk Road times.

Day 13 Kokand Tour and Drive to Tashkent

Wyndham Tashkent (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

Kokand was known for its endless traders arriving from Russia, China, and India. The traders sold spices, textiles, teas, and silk. This made Kokand the most important trade center in Uzbekistan along the ancient Silk Road.

In the morning, you will visit the 19th-century Palace of Khudayar Khan and learn about the history of the Kokand Khanate. Then, you will visit the Jami Mosque, which has a single minaret in the middle and 98 columns that were brought back from India, and Norbut-Biya Madrasah.

In the afternoon, you will be driven to Tashkent (235KM) through the Kamchik Pass. The rest of the day is free for you to explore as you please.

Palace of Khudayar KhaPalace of the last ruler of the Kokand Khanate, Khudayar Khan

Day 14 Tashkent City Tour and the Afrosiyob Train to Samarkand

Alexander Hotel (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, is a city mixed with modern and Soviet-era architecture.

You will start your Tashkent city tour by visiting the Old City of Tashkent. You will pass the Khast-Imam complex and Chorsu Bazaar with its blue dome. You will continue to the city center to visit Amir Timur Square and Independence Square.

In the late afternoon, you will be driven to the train station to take the high-speed train, Afrosiyob (18:50–21:00). When you arrive in Samarkand, you will be transferred to your hotel.

Tashkent Railway StationTashkent Railway Station

Day 15 Samarkand City Tour

breakfast and lunch

Samarkand is more like a cultural crossroad along the ancient Silk Road. The city is full of magnificent architectural monuments.

After breakfast, you will be driven to the city’s cultural center, the Registan Square, and visit the three madrasahs surrounding it. Next, you will visit a masterpiece of architecture, the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum, which is the final resting place of the Turco-Mongol emperor, Timur. Continue to visit the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, which is the largest Islamic mosque in Central Asia, and Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis, which is famous for its turquoise and blue mosaic-tiled mausoleums.

Shakhi-Zinda NecropolisThe blue mosaic-tiled Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis

Day 16 Samarkand to Bukhara via the Afrosiyob Train

Amelia Boutique Hotel (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

After an early breakfast, you will catch the high-speed Afrosiyob train (09:50–11:19) to Bukhara. Upon arrival at the train station in Bukhara, your guide and driver will transfer you to the old city area to start your visit.

First, you will visit a massive fortress, the Ark of Bukhara. You will enjoy a collection of museums and mosques there. Continue to visit Bolo Hauz Mosque, known for its skillful wood carvings and amazing ceiling paintings. You will visit a small brickwork building, the Samanid Mausoleum, and Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum to learn about the irrigation system used in ancient times.

Moschea Bolo-khauzThe vivid wood carvings and paintings at Moschea Bolo-khauz.

Day 17 Bukhara Walking Tour

breakfast and lunch

You will take a walking tour to further explore Bukhara. Starting from the Lyabi Khauz square, you will visit the nearby Nadir Divan-Beghi Madrasah, Divan-Beghi Khanaka,and Kukeldash Madrasah.

Then, you will pass by the trade route and visit Magok-i-Attari Mosque, an Islamic mosque built on an ancient Zoroastrian temple and older Buddhist temple. It is now a museum of carpets. You will spend some time at the Trading Domes, a shopping area highlighting what trade was like during the ancient Silk Road period.

Afterward, you will walk to Poi Kalan. You will visit the Islamic and oriental architectural structure, Mir-i Arab Madrasah, and the landmark of Bukhara - the Kalon Minaret.

You will stop at Chor Minor to take some pictures on the way back to your hotel. Different from other mosques, which normally have one minaret, this is an oddity in Bukhara as it has four minarets of different shapes.

BukharaA panoramic view of Bukhara

Day 18 Bukhara–Farap–Turkmenabat–Mary (Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan)

Hotel Mary
breakfast and lunch

After breakfast, you will be driven to the Farap border post (123KM) with a stop at the Chor-Bakr necropolis. It is a peaceful and sacred place with the necropolis of family tombs and courtyards enclosed within walls.

It might take about 2 hours to complete the boundary formalities and cross the 1.5-kilometer neutral zone (transportation is not available) to meet your Turkmen guide. Then, you will be taken to Turkmenabat for lunch. Afterward, you will be driven to Mary (270KM) for your overnight stay.

Day 19 Ancient Merv Tour and a Flight to Ashgabat

Yyldyz Hotel (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

After breakfast, you will be driven to Merv (30KM) for sightseeing.

Merv is a World Heritage Site. It was a major center of international trade and crafts on the Silk Road and is home to numerous walled structures from various periods.

The ancient Merv is comprised of four sections: Erk Kala (6th century BC), Gyaur Kala (3rd century BC), Sultan Kala (8 - 11th century AD), and Abdullah Khan Kala (15th century AD). You will visit the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar who was the last ruler of the great Seljuk Empire, the Great Kyz Kala and Little Kyz Kala, and the Mausoleum of Mohammed ibn Zeid.

After the tour, you will take an evening flight (18:10 - 18:50) to Ashgabat and be transferred to your hotel for your overnight stay.

Kyz KalaKyz Kala

Day 20 Ashgabat City Tour

Shuangcheng Hotel (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan, a city with white marble buildings and grandiose national monuments.

In the morning, you will visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Parthian Fortresses of Nisa (21KM). This archaeological site was one of the earliest and most important cities of the Parthian Empire. Use your imagination to see what the site would have looked like before Genghis Khan destroyed it. Learn about the history of Turkmenistan from your guide.  

You will return to the city for lunch and then visit the Gypjak Mosque, the Ashgabat National Museum of History, the Arch of Neutrality, and Independence Park.

Gypjak MosqueGypjak Mosque

Day 21Departure

breakfast

After checking out from your hotel, you will be driven to Ashgabat International Airport to take your flight back home.

Asia Highlights Handpicked Hotels

We have selected hotels with different styles and for different budgets. Let us know your preferences and we will help you find the right one.

Amelia Boutique Hotel
BukharaAmelia Boutique Hotel
  • Perfect location in the old town 
  • Unique decoration in each room
  • Very helpful staff and cheap laundry

Journey Information

  • About food The restaurants you will be eating at in Central Asia have been carefully chosen after our seasonal inspections. You may find both local people and tourists dining in those restaurants. The restaurants have adopted versions of the local cuisine, retaining the flavor but made less heavy to avoid stomach issues and diarrhea.
  • Visa Requirements Kyrgyzstan: Citizens of most Western countries do not require a visa when visiting for up to 30 days. Uzbekistan: Citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and all EU countries can stay in Uzbekistan for up to 30 days. US citizens can obtain an e-visa through the official website and get a single-entry visa for a stay of up to 30 days.
    Turkmenistan: Citizens of all countries require a visa to visit Turkmenistan. To obtain a tourist visa for Turkmenistan, all foreign nationals must supply an invitation letter issued by a travel agency licensed in Turkmenistan. Asia Highlights can provide you with an official invitation letter. It takes a minimum of 20 days to receive a Turkmenistan visa.
    For more information about a visa application, please contact your travel consultant.  
  • Extending Your Great Silk Road Trip Khiva in Uzbekistan was another significant trading post on the Silk Road. It is also called an open-air museum with over 54 historical and architectural monuments in the city. Extend your tour by 2 days to include one more site in your memorable Silk Road tour.

Local Guide

local guide
Having a private guide and an itinerary allows visitors not only to see as many attractions as possible, but also to learn about them from a local. Guides can also teach travelers about important features of visiting the ancient Silk Road and show you all the important sites.

Private Transportation

private transportation
When with a private tour, customers will travel in a prearranged chauffeured car. This means that you won't have to worry about catching the train on time or getting off at the correct stop.
 

What our clients say about us

My wife and I booked a private tour with Asian Highlights and they arranged a phenomenal vacation for us. Albee Ning was our Travel Agent and she took care of everything for us and did a phenomenal job... It was the perfect vacation and they handled every detail for us from meet and greet services at each airport, baggage handling, private tour guides and drivers at each location, good restaurants, and fantastic hotels throughout... Read more