Tour Western China’s Silk Road
September 18 – October 4, 2018
Why take the Silk Road of China Tour?
- Led by Johan Elverskog, renowned specialist on Buddhism and Islam along the Silk Road
- Private tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Caves at Mogao in Dunhuang
- Three full days touring in Xi’an
- The Terracotta Warriors Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Kashgar’s Sunday Market
- Maximum 18 particpants
(click to enlarge)
The China Silk Road Daily Schedule
Day 1: Depart the USA
Day 2: Arrive into Xi’an, China and overnight for four nights.
Day 3: Xi’an: Terra Cotta Museum, Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, Xi’an City Walls
Day 4: Xi’an: Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Hanyang Tom.
Day 5: Xi’an: Shaanxi Historical Museum, Beilin Stele Museum, Great Mosque, Bell and Drum towers.
Day 6: Train to Lanzhou. Lanzhou Museum, White Pagoda. Overnight Gansu two nights.
Day 7: Boat to Bingling Grotto
Day 8: Fly to Dunhuang. Yumenguan Pass. Han Dynasty Great Wall. Overnight Dunhuang for two nights.
Day 9: Mogao Caves Private Tour.
Day 10: High speed train to Turpan. Overnight Turpan for two nights.
Day 11: Gaochang. Bezeklik Caves. Astana Tombs. Sugong Minaret. Jiaohe.
Day 12: Fly to Kashgar. Old Quarters and night market. Overnight Kashgar for three nights.
Day 13: Id Kha Mosque, Kashgar Sunday Market.
Day 14: Artux village and Sultan Bughra Khan Tomb. Apak Hoja Tomb.
Day 15: Fly to Urumqi. Grand Bazaar of Urumqi. Overnight Urumqi.
Day 16: Xinjiang Regional Museum. Fly to Xi’an. Overnight Xi’an Airport Hotel.
Day 17: Flight to the USA.
The name “Silk Road,” introduced to the intrepid traveler’s vocabulary over a century ago by the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin, conjures up images of desert caravans, lush oases, snow-capped mountains, and colorful markets where exotic goods change hands amid the cacophony of even more exotic languages. Where many destinations promise enchantment and adventure, travel on the Silk Road through China is one of the few that really delivers.
Co-sponsored with History News Network (HNN), Far Horizons offers an exciting 17-day tour along this most ancient of Eurasian trade routes. Traveling by plane, bus, boat, jeep, and high-speed train we will visit such legendary sites as the Thousand Buddha Caves of Dunhuang, where Chinese, Tibetan, Indian, and Mediterranean religion and art met and mixed in the first millennium AD; Xi’an and the army of life-size terracotta warriors; Kashgar, home of Central Asia’s most fabulous bazaar; and Bingling Grottos where statues and frescoes decorate caves created by Silk Road pilgrims more than 1,000 years ago. This tour is sure to be the trip of a lifetime.
Johan Elverskog is a world-renowned scholar of China and Inner Asia (especially Mongolia, Central Asia, Tibet and the Silk Road). He received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and his MA and PhD from Indiana University, Bloomington, and is currently Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University. He is the author and editor of seven books and numerous articles, all of which focus on the history of Inner Asia and include Uygur Buddhist Literature and the multiple award-winning Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. His work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Ford Research Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, among others. Dr. Elverskog specializes in the history of religions, especially their spread and interactions along the Silk Roads, and has been an invited speaker around the world. He speaks Tibetan, Mongolian, Uygur, and Chinese.
“I am fortunate to have been able to travel and study on two trips with Dr. Elverskog. The fact that Dr. Elverskog was the study leader assured me that this would be a worthwhile trip. Dr. Elverskog is approachable and made the effort to connect with each of us to raise our level of knowledge. Every effort was made to ensure that we were comfortable, safe, and Dr. Elverskog’s instruction elevated the tour to a learning experience that far exceeds the standard fare. At the end of the trip, Dr. Elverskog continued to educate us by providing us with additional resources to aid us in our ongoing study. Outstanding scholar and teacher..” – Frances Underwood
China Silk Road Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Depart San Francisco on a non-stop flight to Xi’an.
Day 2: Arrive into the ancient city of Xi’an, the last stop on the famed trade route of the Silk Road, that ancient braid of caravan trails stretching for more than 2,500 miles from China through Central Asia to the Mediterranean. For 1,120 years, Xi’an served as the seat of twelve imperial dynasties, including the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907), a time when the Silk Road was at its height. Dinner is on our own. Overnight for four nights in the Sofitel Xi’an Hotel.
Day 3: Begin today with a visit to the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, located in the outskirts of Xi’an. Here we gaze upon one of the most astounding archaeological finds of the 20th century, the famous army of life-sized terracotta warriors and horses guarding the resting place of China’s first emperor who died in 210 BC. The 30 feet tall, 6 mile long fortification, erected in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty and enclosing the old section of Xi’an, is the most complete ancient city wall in China. Every 400 feet along the battlements is an imposing tower so that any enemies trying to scale the wall could be seen by the guards. We will drive along this massive defense system before entering one of the imposing gates to enter the ancient city to see the imperial Bell and Drum Towers. (B/L/D)
Day 4: In the morning, we will venture into the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, significant to the city of Xi’an as the site of the old Han and Tang capital Chang’an. This Buddhist sanctuary was constructed during the Tang dynasty and originally was 15 stories tall but an earthquake in 1556 destroyed the top two floors. After lunch, we will drive 12 miles outside Xi’an to the Hanyang Tomb, the mausoleum of Emperor Liu Qi of the Han Dynasty, and his empress. The complex is also the final resting place of the officials of his court, along with royal members of his clan. Archaeological excavations may be seen in an underground exhibition hall and the open pits display more than 50,000 miniature terracotta figures reflecting the daily life of the Han emperor’s court. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Begin today in the huge Shaanxi Historical Museum, China’s first modern national museum. Then we will explore the many sites in Xi’an. The Forest of Stone Beilin Museum exhibits stone stelae and stone sculptures from past dynasties. The inscribed tablets displayed give hints on the religions, life style, and history of ancient times. The Great Mosque covers over 426,000 square feet and is the oldest and most renowned mosques in China. Although founded in 742, the majority of the existing Xi’an Great Mosque was constructed during the Ming Dynasty and further expanded in the Qing Dynasty. The Bell Tower stands in the geographical center of the Old City. As we drive by, we can catch a glimpse of the giant bell hung at the northwest corner. Our evening exploration is of the night market in the old Muslim quarter of the city. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Board our high-speed train for Lanzhou. Upon arrival and after lunch, visit the Gansu Provincial Museum. Among the more than 350,000 artifacts, the Flying Horse of Gansu has become an iconic emblem of China. The bronze masterpiece represents an ideal horse that can gallop so fast that it seems to outrun the wind. Then it’s on to the seven-story White Pagoda with images of Buddha on its eight sides. Overnight in the Soluxe Hotel in Gansu for two nights. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Our all day excursion takes us to Liujiaxia Reservoir where we board a boat to journey to Bingling, located in a canyon overlooking where the Yellow River once flowed. As Buddhists traveled from Central Asia along the Silk Road, they brought with them art styles from as far away as India. Statues and reliefs that date back more than 1,000 years were carved and painted by these pilgrims and can still be seen in the natural caves and grottos. Chiseled out of the cliff face and dominating the gorge is a 90 foot tall statue of Buddha, one of the largest in China surviving from the Tang Dynasty era. Return to Gansu with dinner on our own. (B/L)
Day 8: Today’s flight takes us to the town of Dunhuang, a crucial junction of the Silk Road located at the edge of the Gobi desert. The Silk Route was dependent for its existence and survival upon a line of oases strategically sited along the edge of the forbidding Taklamakan Desert. This area was a center for East-West cultural and trade exchanges as early as the Han and Tang dynasties, and an astonishingly rich variety of cultural relics still remain. By the 4th century AD, the Silk Road had brought Dunhuang both commercial prosperity and a growing Buddhist community. In the afternoon, we will travel to Yumenguan Pass, or Jade Gate Pass, built by Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty (114 BC) as a protection from ongoing invasions by Xiongnu forces in the western region. We will see the remnants of formidable walls and beacon towers still standing and the new museum that contains artifacts of the era beautifully displayed. This was a vital strategic point through which passed heavily-laden camel caravans transporting rich fabrics, aromatic spices, and prized jade when traveling westward from Dunhuang to follow the southern route of the Silk Road into Central Asia. Overnight in the Hotel Silk Road Dunhuang for two nights. (B/L/D)
Day 9: By special arrangement, we will receive an intimate look at the Mogao caves, one of the most perfectly preserved of the world’s great religious sanctuaries and listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Here we are guests of the Dunhuang Academy. The director of the Academy and her staff will open some of the caves that are closed to the public and allow us to examine up close the spectacular murals lovingly painted on the walls and ceilings, most of which date from the 7th to the 11th centuries. In addition, three tombs dating from the 5th and 6th centuries are open to visitors. Filled with one of the most extensive and exquisite collections of Buddhist paintings and sculptures in the world, every surface of the walls and ceilings are covered with decorated stucco, meant to bless those departing on the next stage of their journey or to celebrate a successful return. Lunch is provided by our gracious hosts at Dunhuang Academy. (B/L/D)
Day 10: This morning is free to relax in our lovely hotel. In the afternoon we take the high-speed train along the edge of the Taklimakan Desert from Dunhuang to Turpan, a verdant oasis that sits almost 500 feet below sea level in the second lowest spot on earth. This sleepy desert town is shaded by poplar trees and grape arbors, and populated by Turkish-speaking Uighurs. Overnight for two nights at the Huozhou Hotel in Turpan. (B/L/D)
Day 11: Today’s all-day exploration takes us to several memorable sites. The Astana Tombs is a Tang-era burial ground where the royalty of the old kingdom of Gaochang were interred. Of the more than 1,000 tombs, only three are open. We will walk down a steep, narrow passage, at the bottom of which lies a small chamber with perfectly preserved mummies still on display. The walls of one chamber display murals depicting Jade Man, Gold Man, Stone Man and Wooden Man, said to symbolize Confucian virtues. We will also venture to Bezeklik Caves, a complex of rock-cut grottos dating from the 5th to 14th century. Covering many of the interiors are well-preserved multi-colored frescoes that have withstood the ravages of time, and some ceilings display paintings of the Buddha and are masterpieces of religious art. This afternoon, we will visit a local farm house where we will share in the bounty of the oasis with a tasting of the locally made wine. Then it’s on to Sugong Minaret, built in the mid-eighteenth century by the chief of Turpan Prefecture as a memorial to his father. The fortress of Jiaohe was built with rammed earth and bricks 2,300 years ago. Sited on top of a high plateau formed by two rivers, the beautiful city that existed here was destroyed by Genghis Khan. The size of the existing ruins indicates its great prosperity during the Tang dynasty and its significant role in the economic development of Western and Eastern countries. Tonight we dine among the remains of this once great city. (B/L/D)
Day 12: Turpan is irrigated by a vast system of hand-dug underground channels (called karezes) that funnel the melting snow of the Heavenly Mountains into the city. This 2,000-year-old irrigation system has kept the city alive while other desert boom towns have withered up and died. We will stop to learn how it works before driving from Turpan to Urumqi where we will board a flight to Kashgar. In the afternoon, we will walk through the Old Quarters of the city and explore the Night Market. Overnight for three nights in the Jinjiang Hotel in Kashgar. (B/L/D)
Day 13: Begin the day in the 15th century Id Kah Mosque located in the center of Kashgar. This magnificent structure was built in typical Uighur architectural style and is the largest mosque in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and one of the largest in China. We will walk the streets of the Arts and Crafts section of town and stop to hear a rhythmic performance in a musical instrument shop. Our afternoon will be spent in Kashgar’s Sunday bazaar. Well known as one of the great markets of Central Asia, it is a delightful mélange of sounds, sights, and smells. Here colorful Uighurs hawk their wares in an exotic scene of handicrafts, fabrics and rugs, and food and spices. The livestock market is not to be missed as we witness the raucous and competitive trading of sheep, cows, goats, camels, horses, and donkeys. (B/L/D)
Day 14: We will adventure outside Kashgar to Artux village to view the Tomb of Sultan Sutuq Bughra Khan, who in 934, was one of the first Turkic rulers to convert to Islam. Mid-day, we will stop in a fig garden with the opportunity to taste the fruits and local wines of this oasis town. In the afternoon, visit the tomb of Apak Hoja, built in 1640 and the largest Islamic mausoleum in China. The building is lovely with a dome that sparkles with shiny green glazed tiles. (B/L/D)
Day 15:Our morning flight takes us to Urumqi, a city nestled in the mountains on the fringe of this beautifully desolate region. After lunch we will wander through Urumqi’s bustling bazaar, getting a glimpse of true local life. Meet tonight for our final gala dinner together. Overnight at the Grand Mercure Hotel, Urumqi. (B/L/D)
Day 16: This morning will be spent in the Xinjiang Regional Museum to view the fine collection of relics from Astana and other excavations of the area. We will gather for lunch, our final meal together, in one of Urumqi’s excellent restaurants. An afternoon flight will take us to back to Xi’an. Transfer to the Regal Airport Hotel for one night. Conveniently located in Xi’an Xianyang International Airport, Regal Airport Hotel, Xi’an is the only hotel in Xi’an directly connected by a link bridge to the airport. The hotel offers a wide range of Cantonese, Western and international cuisines for dinner on our own tonight. (B/L)
Day 17: Transfer to Xi’an International Airport for return flight to the USA. (B)
China Silk Road Tour Cost
$9,695.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes four domestic flights in China; two high-speed trains; all hotels; meals as noted in the brochure; gratuities to guides and drivers; entry fees; and land transportation.
Cost Does Not Include: International airfare to/from Xi’an, China; The donation check for $150.00 to a project we designate; passport or visa fees (approximately $275 per person); airport taxes; food, alcoholic beverages and other drinks not on the regular menu; laundry; excess baggage charges; telephone, fax or email charges; or other items of a personal nature.
Single Supplement: $995.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural projects and museums we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities. We ask that each participant write a check in the amount of $150.00 to the noteworthy project we designate. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable. We will be designating a donation project for this trip shortly.
A deposit of $500.00 is required along with your completed and signed registration form. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellation and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 90 days before departure will result in an administrative fee of $300.00 per person. Cancellations received less than 90 days before departure will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the tour, we will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation protection.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations and transportation schedules may occur. A flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
If you do not fly on the group flights, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Travel in this Part of the World
This trip is for the adventurer! We will often travel through unpredictable territory with a will of its own. If its itinerary changes… so does ours! We will journey into the remote areas of western China where the hotels and transportation may not be up to our standards. Changes in both accommodations and flight times may occur, and there may be times when no bellhops are available. During several days we will be walking over uneven terrain for a mile or more. We will be traveling into the desert in September but temperatures may remain high. A good book to read while riding the train and waiting in airports, a flexible attitude, team spirit and a good sense of humor are helpful! If you have any concerns about your ability, please feel free to call the Far Horizons staff with any questions you might have.
THIS TRIP IS LIMITED TO 18 PARTICIPANTS