Silk Road Odyssey, a Small Group Tour
The Silk Road is an ancient trade route linking China and Imperial Rome through Central Asia. Join us on Odyssey’s 29 day fully escorted small group to this exotic region. Few areas in the world remain as unexplored. And few offer such richness in terms of ancient and modern history, culture and scenic diversity, as Central Asia.
On this small group tour, we visit China, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, on an epic journey along the ancient Silk Road. Our tour begins in Beijing and concludes, after 29 memorable days, in Tashkent.
Although not directly connected with the Silk Route, Beijing is a convenient place to begin our tour. The city serves as an excellent introduction to China. Beijing was a strategic northern outpost of the Chinese Empire throughout much of its history. First settled more than 2,000 years ago, Beijing has been the capital of China for most of the last 700 years. Today, it is considered one of the world’s great cities.
Xi’an and Jiayuguan
From Beijing we fly to Xi’an, which was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and China’s earliest capital. It possesses the longest history of any of China’s cities. Our tour takes in the western termination point of the Great Wall at Jiayuguan, where sections have recently been restored. Another significant feature on this part of the Silk Road is the Cave Tombs. These tombs date back as early as the Wei Dynasty (4th century AD). Like many other ancient features along the Silk Road, these cave tombs have attracted the attention of archaeologists and scholars of religion, language, and culture.
The Northern Arm of the Silk Road:
After crossing the spectacular landscape of the southern Gobi Desert, we travel along the northern arm of the Silk Road to the region of Turfan. Here, we explored several archaeological sites. We then travel further west, into the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. In this arid far-western part of China, we visit the oasis centre of Kashgar. This city is famous for its multicultural communities and interesting landscapes. Afterward, we journey to Uzbekistan, where we stay in the fascinating Silk Road cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. Our final stop is Tashkent, where the tour concludes.
A Fully Escorted Adventure:
This small group tour explores how cultural influences from both east and west, north and south have shaped this region for over 2,000 years. As one of the world’s last travel frontiers, the Silk Road has great appeal to lovers of history and adventure.
We will be accompanied throughout the tour by an Odyssey Tour Leader. Moreover, in both China and Uzbekistan, there will be English-speaking National Guides throughout. In addition, local guides will be present along the way to assist in the interpretation and presentation of information. This tour is suited to the active senior, looking for something a little different.
For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.Tour Notes
- Shared compartments only available on the train.
Overview: On arrival in Beijing, make your own way to our hotel. We start our tour with an introductory meeting in the late afternoon, followed by a welcome dinner.
Our itinerary reveals all of the Imperial wonders of the great city of Beijing.
Accommodation: 3 nights at Penta Beijing Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we spend a full day visiting the Great Wall at Mutianyu with a return cable car ride, followed by a visit to the Avenue of Spirit Guardians at the Ming Tombs.
Accommodation: Penta Beijing Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today’s full-day field trip starts with an early morning visit to Tiananmen Square, followed by a walk through the “Gate of Heavenly Peace” to the Forbidden City. In the afternoon we enjoy the serenity of the lakeside Summer Palace. After dinner we will be taken to the Kung Fu Show, one of the most exciting evening entertainments in Beijing
Accommodation: Penta Beijing Hotel or similar.
Overview: This morning we visit the Temple of Heaven and have a walking exploration of the Hutongs. After lunch we transfer to the airport for our flight to Xi’an. We will be met in Xi’an and transferred to our hotel. The 12-metre-high, Ming dynasty city walls completely encircle the Old Town which is a living museum.
Accommodation: 3 nights at Titan Times Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we have a full-day field trip of historic Xi’an. The highlight of today’s tour will be visiting the 6,000 Terracotta Warriors who guard the tomb of Emperor Qin, famed as one of the world’s most remarkable archaeological finds. We also visit the Neolithic archaeological site of Banpo Village. Tonight we have a Tang Dynasty Show with a dumpling dinner.
Accommodation: Titan Times Hotel or similar.
Overview: We have a full-day tour to Big Wild Goose Pagoda, one of the loveliest and most photogenic temples in China, and walk the original City Wall which still surrounds the entire city. After this we will be taken on a walk in the artesian street. The walk will finish at the Forest of Steles Museum. We visit the Great Mosque – one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved Islamic mosques, and walk through the Old City Quarter outside the mosque, then visit the Drum Tower. Today’s sightseeing is concluded by visiting the Provincial Museum which is one of best museums displaying China’s ancient civilisation.
Accommodation: Titan Times Hotel or similar.
Overview: This morning we are transferred to the railway station for the train to Zhangye. Please note that this is a very busy terminus and you will need to be very careful with your luggage. We will arrive in Zhangye in the early morning and transfer directly to the hotel.
Accommodation: 1 night at Zhangye Huachen Hotel or similar.
Overview: After time to catch up on our sleep, freshen up, and have breakfast in the hotel, we depart for the colourful Danxia landform. Late afternoon we transfer to Jiayuguan.
Jiayuguan is a remote desert town famed as the site of the last Imperial fort on the Great Wall. Remarkably, the entire fortress is intact and its mighty walls soar up as if defying nature and the stark desert surroundings. As huge as the fort is, it is dwarfed by the snow-capped peaks of the Qilian Shan mountain range, which reaches a height of 5,547 metres.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Great Wall Hotel Jiayuguan or similar.
Overview: We spend the day exploring Jiayuguan, including the Great Wall Jiayuguan Pass, Overhanging Great Wall, and the Great Wall Museum.
Accommodation: Great Wall Hotel Jiayuguan or similar.
Overview: Today we travel by coach to the Dunhuang region, one of the most remote parts of China. It is in this region that the Great Wall finally peters out and vanishes into the dust of the Gansu Desert. En route to Dunhuang, we will stop and visit the legendary abandoned “Silver City,” created to appease an Emperor’s dream.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Grand Sun Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we cross the Gansu desert to the Mogao Grottoes. Begun in the 4th century, the 492 decorated caves contain 2,000 statues and 45,000 murals. They are the finest example of Buddhist cave art ever discovered. On the outskirts of town, where great desert sand dunes stand sentinel, the vigorous may climb to the peak for stunning views of both desert and town. This morning we visit the Mogao Grottoes. We also have a late afternoon visit to a local cotton farm.
Accommodation: Grand Sun Hotel or similar.
Overview: We have a morning visit to the Dunhuang Museum & Silk Factory, then after lunch we will have a tour to Crescent Spring & Singing Sands Mountain.
Accommodation: 1 night in soft sleeper cabin.
Overview: Today we have a full-day sightseeing tour including Flaming Mountain, Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, Gaochang ancient City, and Ancient Astana Tombs. Then after lunch we will visit Aydingkol Lake. This evening we will be treated to a Singing and Dancing Show.
Accommodation: 1 night at Houzhou Hotel, by Shuiyun Square or similar.
Overview: This morning we visit Grape Valley, the Sugong Minaret, and view the Karez Well ancient irrigation system. After lunch we transfer to Urumqi by coach, en route passing a large wind-powered power plant. Urumqi is the capital city of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, set within the Tian Shan Mountains.
Overview: Today we have an early-morning start for our full-day tour to Heavenly Lake (Boat Ride). Our coach travels 50 kilometres through the grazing lands of the Uighurs and Kazakhs. Their sheep, cattle, and horses never stray far from the yurts of these nomadic folk. We will see the impressive “Peak of God,” which soars 5,445 metres from the desert floor. Halfway up the mountain is the most beautiful of alpine lakes, the “Lake of Heaven,” fed by Mt. Bogda glacier and surrounded by pine and fir trees.
Overview: This morning is free to further explore Urumqi at leisure. This afternoon we will visit the Southern Mountain pastureland and take a horse and cart ride to the waterfall.
Overview: We transfer this morning to the airport for our flight to Kashgar. On arrival into Kashgar we will be taken on a sightseeing tour including the Sunday Grand Bazaar Markets (2 sections of daily commodities and the stock trading centre), a family visit for lunch, and then a walk through the Old City Quarter. After dinner we will be transferred back to the hotel.
Kashgar is a fabled city which, until recent years, was closed to Westerners. This exotic oasis town reeks of mystery and intrigue, and reminds one more of Casablanca or Marrakesh than any other Chinese town. It is a classic Moslem city of mosques, bazaars, minarets, camel trains, and desert nomads. The standard form of taxi is a donkey cart and as you lose yourself in the dusty, backstreet markets of the Old Quarter you will stumble across many a rare treasure for which you will have to bargain fiercely. Every Sunday, Kashgar hosts reputedly the world’s biggest market, when the desert nomads come to town to buy and sell. Have your camera ready!
Accommodation: 2 nights at Tianyuan International Hotel or similar.
Overview: We have a full-day sightseeing tour including the beautiful minaretted Abakhoja Tomb, the Grand Idkgah Mosque, and Arts & Crafts street. We also visit the Old Russian Embassy and the British Embassy. If time permits, we will take a drive out into the desert.
Accommodation: Tianyuan International Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we have long ride as we drive through the Torugart Pass and into Kyrgyzstan. We first travel in to Torugart Pass by coach and undertake Chinese border formalities. We then travel another 7 kilometres to the Kyrgyzstan border formalities point, before continuing along the uneven and bumpy road to Naryn. Please note that due to the poor conditions of this road we shall be using smaller vehicles for this section. During this trip we will pass many fields full of wild horses and have fantastic views of the Tian Shan Mountains. En route we will pause to view an old caravanserai, Tash Rabat. Tash Rabat is described as a 16th-century caravanserai, but many believe it may date back to the 9th or 10th centuries when Arabs penetrated into China via this route. Due to the nature of the terrain, there are no restrooms available en route to Naryn. However, when needed, our vehicles will pull over for toilet stops. On arrival in Naryn we will transfer to our hotel.
Accommodation: 1 night at Celestial Mountain Inn Naryn or similar.
Overview: This morning we drive via the picturesque Dolan Pass to Issyk Kul. Issyk Kul was a significant resting point on the northern branch of the Silk Road and Lake Issyk Kul is quite stunning. This afternoon we visit the Cholpan Ata bazaar and view rock drawings dating from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD. Later, we have an excursion to the Petroglyphs’ Museum which contains a number of prehistoric monumental structures and petroglyphs dating from the 2nd millennium BC up to the Middle Ages up to the 6th century.
Accommodation: 1 night stay at Royal Beach Resort or similar.
Overview: Today we have an early morning departure for Bishkek, the capital of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, located 200 kilometres to the west of Issyk Kul. En route, we pause at Burana, the ruins of a 9th – 11th century caravan town from the Karakhanid period. We will view the surviving Burana tower and the nearby archaeological museum. We arrive at Bishkek in time for a late lunch. After lunch, we have a short orientation to Bishkek – a modern city with vast squares, crowded bazaars, impressive administrative centres, and educational institutions. As the major industrial centre of the republic, Bishkek’s factories produce leather goods, agricultural machinery, and a variety of textiles. We will visit the History Museum and the Tsum (Soviet-period supermarket). Dinner will be at a local restaurant, accompanied by traditional music.
Accommodation: 1 night at Silk Road Lodge or similar.
Overview: We transfer to the airport for the flight to Tashkent. On arrival in Tashkent we will be taken on a city tour including the Underground Railway. After sightseeing we will be transferred to the airport for our flight to Bukhara. On arrival in Bukhara we will be transferred to our hotel. Dinner will be at a local restaurant.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Nodir Devo Begim or similar.
Overview: Our morning tour includes Lyabikhauz, Madrassah Nadirkhon Devanbegi, The Bazaar, Khanaga, Poi Kalon minaret and Mosque, and Madrassah Miri Arab. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. In the afternoon we will visit the Mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, Ark Fortress, Balakhauz mosque, Chasma Ayub, and the local bazaar. Outdoor dinner with light classical music will be at Modari Khan Madrassah.
Accommodation: Nodir Devo Begim or similar.
Overview: Today we will be transferred by bus to Samarkand. En route we will visit Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa, the Summer Palace of the Former Emir of Bukhara. We will then proceed to Gijduvan to see the traditional pottery works of Alisher. Lunch will be with Alisher’s family. On arrival in Samarkand we will be transferred to our hotel.
Accommodation: 3 nights at Registan Plaza Hotel or similar.
Overview: We have a morning tour including a visit to Registan Square to see the 3 beautiful Madrassahas, Bibi Khanum Mosque, the Silk Road Bazaar, and Shahi Zinda Necropolis. Lunch will be at the hotel and we have an afternoon visit to Afrosiab Museum and site, Ulugbek’s Observatory, and Gur Emir & the Mausoleum of Tamerlane. Dinner will be at a local restaurant.
Accommodation: Registan Plaza Hotel or similar.
Overview: Today we will enjoy an excursion to Shakre Sabz, the birthplace of Tamerlane. We will see the ruins of Ak Saray Palace, Dorus Tilavat Seminary, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Dorus Saidat, and the Friday Mosque. Lunch will be at a local restaurant and later in the afternoon we return to Samarkand. Dinner will be at the hotel.
Accommodation: Registan Plaza Hotel or similar.
Overview: We have free morning in Samarkand for personal sightseeing or shopping. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. This afternoon we will be transferred by bus to Tashkent. En route we will visit some village markets. On arrival in Tashkent we will be transferred to our hotel.
Accommodation: 2 nights at International Hotel or similar.
Overview: This morning we visit Hast Imam complex, Barak Khana, and the Tila Shaikh Mosque and archives. Later we proceed to Chorsu Bazaar, Kukeldesh Madrassah, and Akbar’s pottery museum and workshop. Then we visit the Friendship Square and Museum of Applied Arts. Lunch will be at the hotel. In the afternoon we will be taken to the Navoi Theatre and shall see the day’s performance. Tonight we will be treated to a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodation: International Hotel or similar.
Overview: We have a free morning in Tashkent before checking out of our hotel at noon. After checkout, we will be taken to lunch before an afternoon sightseeing tour of the Fine Arts Museum, Amir Timur Museum, and Amir Timur Park. Dinner will be at a local restaurant before our transfer to the airport.
What’s included in our Tour
- 27 nights of hotel accommodation.
- Rail travel in 4 berth compartments with shared facilities (1 night).
- Twin share accommodation with private facilities.
- 28 breakfasts, 28 lunches, and 29 dinners.
- Internal flight sectors are included as per itinerary.
- Touring in best available air-conditioned coaches.
- All transfers and porterage (1 bag per person) except in local airports where porterage is usually not available.
- Comprehensive sightseeing tours with English speaking guides, including all entrances fees throughout.
- Services of a Tour Leader.
What’s not included in our Tour
- International airfares and departure taxes.
- Items of a personal nature eg. Drinks, telephone calls.
- Comprehensive travel insurance.
- Chinese and Uzbekistan Visa fees – Odyssey will assist with the application process and requesting the Invitation Letter required for Uzbekistan visa.
- Cost of visas may be subject to currency adjustment – Odyssey Travel will be responsible for obtaining these on behalf of participants.
- Meals on the trains (but available for purchase).