Chinese Silk Road Taklamakan Adventure

Chinese Silk Road Taklamakan Adventure

18 Days From



Chinese Silk Road Taklamakan Adventure

18 Days Starting in XI'AN and ending in KASHGAR

Visiting: Xi'an, Lanzhou, Xiahe County, Jiayuguan City, Dunhuang, Turpan, Kuqa, Xinjiang, Aksu Prefecture, Makit County, Kashgar Prefecture

Tour operator:

Wild Frontiers

Tour code:


Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 12

Physical rating:

Low, Low / Moderate

Age range:


Special diets catered:

Vegetarians, Please contact Wild Frontiers with any specific dietary requirements

Tour operated in:



Sightseeing, Trekking, Walking

Private Available:

Request A Private Tour

From: $5813 $5630 Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$183

NB: Prices correct on 24-Jun-2024 but subject to change.

This tour is no longer available, please see similar tours below or send an enquiry

Tour Overview

The Silk Road has long passed into lore and legend. Connecting China with the unknown lands to the west, it once spanned great swathes of Central Asia, crossing nearly 6,500 kilometres of burning deserts and high mountain passes. This exceptional adventure takes us through some of the most culturally and geographically diverse landscapes along the Chinese section of the Silk Road; travelling through the harsh Taklamakan Desert to pick up both the more regularly travelled northern route, as well as the less travelled southern section.We’ll begin in Xian, home to the fabulous Terracotta Warriors and the easternmost point of the Silk Road, before moving on to explore the ancient cities that lay along its course. Along the way we will visit Tibetan Monasteries and ancient ruins, take in the Great Wall at Jiayuguan and explore the ancient Buddhist caves at Dunhuang. We continue on to Turpan, one of the lowest points on earth, and famous for its backdrop of the Flaming Mountains. Our journey then continues through Kuqa to Makit for us to enjoy a desert experience.Our tour finishes in the fabled town of Kashgar – the meeting point of both northern and southern routes - and the end of this remarkable odyssey.


  • Follow the ancient trading outposts of China’s northern Silk Road

  • Join the morning Kora at the great Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of Labrang in Xiahe

  • Visit the Terracotta Army in Xi’an and the Great Wall at remote Jiayuguan

  • Camel ride into the desert to watch a Uighur folk music performance

  • See ancient Buddhist caves, including the UNESCO Mogao Caves of Dunhuang

  • Walk to Shipton’s Arch near Kashgar, the highest natural arch in the world


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Day 1 : Tour Starts In Xi'an

Location: Xi'an

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Grand Dynasty or similar

Meals Included: Dinner

Tour starts in Xian: After a quick freshen-up, you may wish to explore the local area and have lunch in one of the many restaurants before the tour starts this evening in the fabled city of Xi’an, once considered to be amongst the greatest cities in the world and the easternmost point of the Silk Road.

Day 2 : In Xi'an

Location: Xi'an

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Grand Dynasty or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We have the whole day to explore this ancient city today. We will take in the Wild Goose Pagoda, formerly the Temple of Great Maternal Grace, a well-preserved ancient building and a holy place for Buddhists. We’ll also head to the old town where we will be able to see the massive city walls, which are 14km in length and up to 12m high, enclosing the historic centre. We’ll wander through the narrow streets of the Muslim Quarter and visit the Great Mosque, one of the oldest, largest and best

Day 3 : Terracotta Army; Bullet Train To Lanzhou

Location: Lanzhou

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Legend or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

A highlight of any visit to Xi'an is a visit to see the Terracotta Warriors – one of the greatest archaeological finds of the last century. Amazingly nothing was known of the existence of the life-size soldiers of the Terracotta Army until a peasant digging a well in 1974 stumbled upon them. The Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di spent most of his life until his death in 210BC constructing his burial place, conscripting thousands of people to build his tomb and the terracotta army that would guard him in the afterlife. The underground battle formations of life-sized pottery warriors, archers, horses and chariots have been left in situ in three large excavated pits. Pit number one contains over 6000 soldiers, each with its own individual facial features, and pit number two contains almost a thousand warriors and half the number of horses (also life-size). Later in the day we’ll return to Xi'an to board an early evening bullet train heading west and arriving in Lanzhou where we’ll overnight.

Day 4 : Lanzhou - Xiahe

Location: Lanzhou, Xiahe County

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Nirvana or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

The capital of Gansu Province, Lanzhou was once an important link along the Northern Silk Road and a major crossing point of the Yellow River. Today it provides us with our gateway into the culturally rich landscapes of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Our first stop is at the Gansu Provincial Museum which exhibits over 350,000 artefacts of Buddisht Art, Fossils, Pottery and Silk Road Civilisation. We then continue on to Xiahe by road. Home to the famous Labrang Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, one of the largest outside Tibet, the town of Xiahe sits alongside the Daxia River, amidst a rural mountainous landscape populated largely by ethnic Tibetans.

Day 5 : In Xiahe

Location: Xiahe County

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Nirvana or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

One of the six great monasteries belonging to the Geluk (Yellow Hat) school of Tibetan Buddhism, Labrang Monastery was founded in 1790 by the first Jamyang Zhaqypa, Ngawang Tsondru. Situated at the intersection of four major Asian cultures - Tibetan, Mongolian, Han Chinese and Chinese Muslim, during the 20th century it was one of the largest Buddhist monastic universities in the world. Located at the foot of the Phoenix Mountain, the monastery boasts a collection of Buddha statues that number in their tens of thousands and is still an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists across the region, with the largest number of monks in residence outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. We’ll have the whole day to explore this fascinating place as well as the nearby Sangke Grasslands.

Day 6 : Xiahe - Lanzhou; Overnight Train To Jiayuguan

Location: Xiahe County, Lanzhou

Accommodation: Overnight Train

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Returning to Lanzhou today, we catch the onward train to Jiayuguan, where we will find the first pass at the western end of the Great Wall. Before taking our train we will pay a visit to the Binglingshi Caves on the Yellow River, which have Buddhist carvings dating back over 1500 years. The overnight journey will be in soft sleeper class compartments, arriving in the city of Jiayuguan early tomorrow morning.

Day 7 : Arrive Jiayuguan

Location: Jiayuguan City

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Jiayuguan International or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Arriving in Jiayuguan early this morning, we transfer to the hotel first to check in, after which the rest of the morning is free to relax at leisure. Later we’ll drive out of the city to visit the Overhanging Wall, located just a short distance to the northwest of the city’s famous fort. Located at the foot of the Black Mountains, this section of wall forms part of the defensive ramparts that once protected the extreme western edge of China. A mix of partially restored fragments and original wall, today it provides an excellent venue for a walk, providing some stunning views out across the barren emptiness of the surrounding countryside. We’ll also visit the Wei-Jin tombs that date back to 220-420 AD. Inside the tombs we can see some of the original wall paintings, depicting various social activities such as fishing, farming, hunting and drinking, including a very controversial depiction of ancient Chinese using knives and forks.

Day 8 : Jiayuguan - Dunhuang

Location: Jiayuguan City, Dunhuang

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Silk Road Dunhuang or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Jiayuguan marked the western end of the Great Wall and today it is still a symbol of the western boundaries of China. It is located at the end of a strip of land known as the Hexi Corridor. In ancient times Jiayuguan was known as the 'mouth' of China while the Hexi Corridor was referred to as the 'throat'. Jiayuguan Fort is one of the quintessential images of western China and was built in 1372 to guard the pass between the snow-capped Qilian Shan and Hei Shan peaks. It is a splendid construction and has been considered the last outpost of the Chinese Empire since the days of the Han Dynasty, when the Great Wall reached as far as the Yumen Pass, about 90km northwest of Dunhuang, our next destination.

Day 9 : In & Around Dunhuang

Location: Dunhuang

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Silk Road Dunhuang or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Dunhuang was once a very important staging point, and the last stop for the camel caravans before the gruelling journey through the desert. It was from here that the Silk Road divided into its northern and southern routes. Dunhuang's fame, however, is largely due to the Mogao Grottoes, which are one of the world's richest treasure troves of Buddhist manuscripts, wall paintings and statues known as the Thousand Buddha Caves. The site was first carved out of the cliffs in 366 AD, with more caves being hewn out of the rock up until the 14th century. The honeycomb of caves runs along the cliff face and contains some 2,415 coloured clay sculptures and more than 45,000 square metres of mural paintings. Many of these were paid for by pious travellers facing the perilous journey across the vast desert, or as thanks upon their safe return to Dunhuang. The colours have remained lively due to the extremely dry climate, but natural and electric light and the humidity caused by the breath of thousands of visitors is slowly fading the precious art, and some of the caves are periodically closed. About 25-40 caves are open to the public at any one time and although guides carry a torch, it is also a good idea to take your own.

Day 10 : In & Around Dunhuang; Afternoon Train To Turpan

Location: Dunhuang, Turpan

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Houzhou or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Early in the morning we’ll head out to a wonderfully iconic spot – the singing sand dunes of Crescent Moon Lake. Here we can climb to the top of the enormous dunes for amazing views of the crystal-clear spring hidden amongst the sands, and enjoy the stunning views of the sunrise in the desert. We then return to the hotel to freshen up and have a leisurely morning. After having an early lunch in town, we will transfer to nearby Liuyuan to catch a train to Turpan where we stay the night.

Day 11 : In & Around Turpan; Overnight Train To Kuqa

Location: Turpan, Kuqa, Xinjiang

Accommodation: Overnight Train

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Turpan is one of the lowest places on earth, where rain never falls and summers can be scorching hot. It was once an important staging post on the Silk Road and its large oasis produces the best grapes in China. Here we can see the ancient karez system of irrigation whereby the melted snow from the surrounding mountains is brought down to the town in underground channels, all dug by hand and stretching some 3000km. This is similar to the Arab falaj system or the Iranian qanat. We’ll also visit the 18th Century Emin Minaret built in Afghani style. During our time here we’ll visit the fascinating ghost city of Jiaohe, the ancient capital of the Jushi people, a city founded in the 2nd century BC but abandoned in 14th century AD, following its destruction by the Mongols. It stands on an isolated plateau and has a haunting silhouette and atmosphere. Among the ruins are remains of a large Buddhist stupa and headless stucco figures are set in niches adorning the central part of the main temple. From here we take our final overnight train all the way out of Gansu Province into Xinjiang, once known as Chinese Turkestan.

Day 12 : In & Around Kuqa

Location: Kuqa, Xinjiang

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Lidu or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we arrive in the Uighur town of Kuqa, part of an ancient Buddhist kingdom that was located along a branch of the Silk Route that ran across the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert. Birthplace of the 4th Century linguist Kumarajiva, one of Chinese Buddhism’s most revered scholars, it prospered from the wealth of the trade caravans. Huge monasteries were built here and during the Tang dynasty it was one of the ‘Four Garrisons’ of An-hsi, the ‘pacified west’. The extensive ruins of the ancient capital (Subash) lie to the north of modern Kuqa. On arrival we’ll make a tour of the city, taking in the 2nd and 3rd Century ruins of Subash, as well as parts of the old town.

Day 13 : Kuqa To Aksu

Location: Kuqa, Xinjiang, Aksu Prefecture

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hongfu Jinlan or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Leaving Kuqa this morning we head west towards the famous Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves. Dating back to the 5th and 6th Centuries, this remarkable series of caves are said to be the earliest major Buddhist cave complex in China, older even than those at Mogao. Filled with frescoes and sculptures, the caves have been linked to the ancient Tocharian Kingdom and of the original 235 caves, some 135 remain still relatively intact. After our visit we then continue on to the oasis city of Aksu on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin. Lying at the crossroads of trade routes, the city was fought over for centuries by the Chinese Tang, the Tibetan Tufan and the Uighurs, before falling to the forces of Genghis Khan in 1208.

Day 14 : Aksu - Makit

Location: Aksu Prefecture, Makit County

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Makit or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Leaving early this morning, we take the Taklamakan desert road to Makit County, situated amongst one of the most arid and desolate climates anywhere on earth. The Taklamakan covers an area of some 337,000 square kilometres and translates as ‘The Desert of Death’ or ‘The Point of no Return’. One of the highlights of our journey, today’s drive takes us through just a small portion of this incredible landscape, offering a chance to experience for ourselves something of the harsh reality that faced the caravans of old as they made their way towards the markets of Yarkent and Kashgar. We will explore Kumikisa Village and then take our own ‘ships of the desert’ – the camel – and ride into the desert to enjoy the remote beauty of this area.

Day 15 : Makit - Kashgar

Location: Makit County, Kashgar Prefecture

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Qinibagh or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast we will continue across the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar, an oasis city with approximately 500,000 residents. Kashgar’s Old Town is a traditional Islamic city, though much of it has sadly now been destroyed by the Chinese. Kashgar sits today, as it has done for centuries, at a major crossroads of trade routes. We will of course see the somewhat controversial statue of Chairman Mao in the city centre, as well as visiting the green-tiled Abak Hoja tomb in the quiet suburbs. We visit the huge Id Kah Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Central Asia, is located in the heart of the city. There will be ample time for personal exploration of this ancient Silk Road city.

Day 16 : In Kashgar

Location: Kashgar Prefecture

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Qinibagh or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we will leave this bustling city for a few hours and head towards the Irkeshtam pass to visit Shipton’s Arch. This amazing natural rock arch is named after Eric Shipton, who served as the British consul in Kashgar in the 1940s. He visited the arch in 1947 and wrote about it in his book, Mountains of Tartary. Shipton’s Arch is often considered to be the highest in the world, though its exact height depends on how it’s measured. For many years, Shipton’s Arch was forgotten by the outside world, though it was brought back to the world’s attention in May 2000 with a National Geographic expedition. We will hike up the gorge and then climb to the arch, where we will be rewarded with spectacular views across the Tien Shen mountains.

Day 17 : In Kashgar

Location: Kashgar Prefecture

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Qinibagh or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we will visit the famous Yakshambe Bazaar, or the Sunday Market as it’s otherwise known. Here we spend the morning watching the locals trade everything from woodwork and iron wear to sheep, donkeys, cattle, horses and camels. The afternoon will be free to explore the city or maybe take a cup of tea in one of the old chaikhanas, watching the locals going about their everyday lives in the street markets.In the evening we will regroup to head out for our final night in China.

Day 18 : Tour Ends In Kashgar

Location: Kashgar Prefecture

Meals Included: Breakfast

The tour ends after breakfast.

What's Included


    17 x Breakfasts, 16 x Lunches, 17 x Dinners


    On this tour we will use minibuses & trains.


    Maximum: 12


    Contributions to carbon offset & tree planting projects for all bookings


    The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate


    All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary


    Low / Moderate


    All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

What's Not Included

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour
ationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatoryTips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documentsInternational .Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UKAirport .Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights.Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs


Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour 

For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for China.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Key Aspects to Consider

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as many of the activities are optional. However, please note that although this is not a physically demanding trip, it is a BIG journey including two overnight train journeys and as such can be tiring.

Check out our Q&As

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?


  • What is the maximum group size?


  • Do you require a visa for this holiday?

    For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for China.

    Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    We have a complete Covid-19 hub here:

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Over 70% of passengers on our group tours are solo adventurers. Unlike many tour operators, we don’t believe in charging solo travellers a premium, so if you are happy to share a room with a fellow traveller of the same sex, you will pay exactly the same as a couple..Occasionally you may even end up with your own room. You can travel as a single traveller on any of our holidays, from our escorte

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?


  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Since 2002

  • Do I need to be double-vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel with you?

    In most cases, yes. Not only are many destinations making double-vaccination a requirement of entry to the country and/or access to restaurants, museums etc., but additionally on all our group tours for the foreseeable future, for everyone’s peace of mind, we are asking that all clients be double vaccinated.

Reviews from travellers on this tour

Amanda Hadfield  

Amanda Hadfield

This trip really gets to the heart of the Silk Roa

This trip really gets to the heart of the Silk Road, with wonderful, stunning and fascinating sights to see - some seen by only a few Westerners.

Sheila Elliott  

Sheila Elliott

The highlights were numerous

The highlights were numerous

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Oct 03, 2025 - Oct 20, 2025
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Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$183

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  • Free Date Changes

    Wild Frontiers allows you to make 2 free date changes, as long as the change is made at least 90 days before the start of the tour.

  • Low Deposit

    Wild Frontiers requires a minimum deposit of 200 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 70 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of wild frontiers charges.

    Up to 71 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 51 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

  • Wild Frontiers' COVID Promise

    You will have the right to transfer without any transfer fee, from any of our trips at ANY time if your trip is not Covid Viable (see below).*
    We will not ask you to pay your final balance if your trip is not yet Covid Viable.
    If your trip is not Covid Viable, by 30 days prior to departure at the latest, we will cancel your holiday and you can either transfer your funds to another departure or have a refund.**

    We will only consider a trip Covid Viable*** if pre-departure it meets all of the following criteria:

    There is no national lockdown or ban on foreign travel for the period when your trip is due to depart.
    Destinations on the tour must not be on the UK’s Red List. ****
    No destinations visited on the tour have in place any significant COVID-19 restrictions for travellers.
    Tourist visas (if required) are available.
    There is reliable airline access to/from the start/end of the trip.
    Following an assessment by both Wild Frontiers and our local partners we are confident that your trip is able to run in both a safe and enjoyable manner.*****

    ** If you were originally booked to travel before 30 April 2020 and transferred to a later date, or if you have a tailor-made booking, there may be some irrecoverable costs which we cannot refund. Please speak to us and we will be able to advise you if this is the case for your booking.
    ***Since our HQ is in London, Covid Viable status for our Group Tours will be assessed on UK-based travellers. However we are fully aware that many of our clients live in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and beyond. As such, when we deem a trip to now be Covid Viable, everyone booked will have a chance to review their own personal situation before deciding whether or not to remain booked on the trip. Anyone wishing to, will have the option to transfer without fees to another trip at this time. For tailor made bookings, we may also able to consider additional countries’ travel advice when deciding if a trip is Viable. Please discuss this with us at the time of booking.
    **** This relates to bookings from UK clients only. We may operate trips to destinations which the British FCDO advise against travel for Covid reasons. If this is the case, anyone wishing to will have the option to cancel with a refund or transfer to another trip. In some cases we may choose to offer a tour to a Red destination but these will be at both clients’ and Wild Frontiers’ discretion and will be subject to alternative conditions to be discussed on an ad hoc basis.
    *****If a destination, that we have deemed to be Covid Viable, subsequently fails any aspect of the criteria for two consecutive weeks, you will have the right under our Covid Promise to transfer without any fees.

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