The Gobi Desert - China


In Short


  • Day 1-3: Xian
  • Day 4-5: Lanzhou
  • Day 6-7: Jiayuguan
  • Day 8-9: Dunhuang
  • Day 10-12: Urumqui & Turpan
  • Day 13-15: Kashgar
  • Day 16: Shanghai


An Overview

The Silk Route brings images in our minds of camels loaded with bales of silk slowly making their way over a sea of sand under a relentless sun. The Silk Route was in fact a series of Silk Roads, or ways to get to Rome. And very few people did the whole route. Most merchants and traders only did one segment of any of those roads and moved goods back and forth. No matter what perception we have, there is absolutely no doubt this was one of the world’s most famous and amazing journeys ever designed. Si Fang’s itinerary is within China to start with. We have added some new areas explored recently and dug much deeper in areas we have been going regularly for the last five years.

Our hotels along the way are comfortable but a few are not as luxurious and to use the proverbial rating, we would categorize them as 3 to 4 stars in a few areas. But the experiences are out of this world!! From the underground tombs in Jiayuguan and the Mogao caves near Dunhuang, the Kashgar market, the Great Wall in the desert, the Uighurs and their incredible hospitality plus a few camels along the way, Si Fang can design an itinerary that will focus on art, music, food and a landscape you will not forget. Let us create an incredible adventure!


Contact us for a quote, all depending on guide services and group size, our departures are usually all-inclusive (except for international airfares) with domestic airfares, all meals, expert guides, transfers, taxes, entry fees and accommodation.

Day 1,2,3 Xian (3 Nights)

Once the terminal of the Silk Route and China’s capital, Xian is now a modern centre with a large Muslim community. Our focus for the first 3 days is to look at the many features relating to the Silk Route and how the city became the starting (or ending) point of the Silk Route. We will look at the Bell Tower which symbolized the start of the Route to the massive city Wall, one of the few remaining walls around the country, the Big Goose Pagoda which housed the famous library of Xuanzang, the modern Xian Museum and it’s private collections and visit a silk factory to understand the whole process of silk making and weaving practices.

Day 4 & 5, Lanzhou (2 Nights)

Lanzhou is actually the geometrical centre of China and was the first main terminal on the Silk Route. Between Xian and Lanzhou, basically all traders followed the same route. We spend time in the countryside looking at the Dongxiang Muslim minority and how they adapted centuries of agricultural techniques brought from India and Tibet growing potatoes on terraced fields and visit homes and markets. We also use Lanzhou as connecting point to Jiayuguan

Day 6 & 7 Jiayuguan (2 Nights)

The Jiayuguan Pass acted as a funnel and preparation point for the Silk Road merchants. Those facing west were getting ready for the infamous Gobi Desert, those arriving were ever so grateful to have survived the crossing. The city has a desert climate and combines amazing features including a section of the Great Wall, very different from the more popular one near Beijing, the Jiayuguan Pass situated in the middle of a narrow valley and the amazing Wei-Jin Caves combining over 1000 ancient tombs with murals dating back to the second century AD.

Day 8 & 9 Dunhuang (2 Nights)

From Jiayuguan, it is only a short flight to the desert town of Dunhuang. You now appreciate how big and diverse China is as we fly west, looking down at a sea of sand. Dunhuang was one of the oasis towns and is surrounded by gigantic sand dunes. We spend our first day in the desert exploring Han ruins and getting a closer understanding of desert life, we use 4 wheel drives but also camels and on foot. Our final day is spent visiting the gorgeous Mogao Caves, the biggest outdoor museum of Buddhist Art in the world with more than 700 caves built during the heyday of the Silk Route. Escorted by museum deputy director, we tour the museum including an intimate look at some behind the scenes restoration work.

Day 10,11 & 12, Urumqui & Turpan (3 Nights)

Although the provincial capital of Urumqui looks a lot like an old “Russian-style” outpost, we have found some gems in the capital including some great restaurants and a great western 4 star hotel. Urumqui is the perfect jumping off point for another amazing experience, the little village of Turpan. Turpan is the second lowest point on earth at 150m below sea level and has survived the harsh desert climate because of an incredible irrigation system. This in turn allows for a thriving grape growing oasis, quite a sight in the middle of the hottest place on earth. Our travellers have found walking through the fields and local markets a fantastic experience while being able to chat with villagers.

Day 13,14 & 15, Kashgar (3 Nights)

Kashgar is the final oasis stop along the Chinese portion of the Silk Route. Centuries of history still come alive in the city’s Old Town with narrow alleys where the smell of lamb kebabs competes with fresh bread. You will visit the world’s biggest outdoor market where camels are bought and exchanged and the outskirts of the city are fantastic to visit with poplar lined roads and quiet villages. Shopping for rugs in the local bazaar is quite an interesting exercise in bargaining skills. In Kashgar we feel Central Asia and one of the most remote outposts in China. Once again the desert is never far away.

Day 16, Shanghai (1 Night)

From Kashgar, we take a long journey back east and realize once again the incredible terrain merchants had to cross to seel their wares. Not only silk and spices but ideas, religions and ways of thinking travelled across the Silk Route. Perhaps finishing such a journey in Shanghai is a good way to realize how the world changes based on the idea of trade and exchange.

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