- China Tours +
- Create My Trip
- Destinations +
- Travel Guide +
- China Visas
- The Great Wall of China
- China’s Top 10 Attractions
- Giant Pandas
- The Terracotta Army
- Best of China
- Culture +
- Asia Tours
- Day Tours
One of the first things that comes to mind when talking about traveling in and around China is its ancient Silk Road.
The modern day adventurous individual pegs this as one of key items in their bucket list. We at China Highlights present here the top ten historical, practical, cultural, and some little known things you should know in order to have the best travels along the famed route.
For over 2,000 years, traders carried products — mainly silk, hence the name — through China's Gansu Corridor to the countries in the West and East. The Silk Road is not just one road but a set of routes that enabled trade between China, India, Turkey, Arabia, Europe, Persia and more territories.
The total length of the Silk Road has been estimated at 7,000 km (4,350 miles), spanning the Asian continent, mostly through China.
In addition to Silk, the other key Chinese products that found their way to the rest of the world were Jade and Tea. The Silk Road also contributed greatly to the growth of Buddhism.
The Han Dynasty was responsible for the brth of the Silk Road (206 BC to 220 AD). The succeeding Tang Dynasty saw this route at its prosperous best, being the Golden Age of trade development (618 AD to 907 AD). This route ended with the Yuan Dynasty under the Mongols toward the end of the fourteenth century (1271 AD to 1368 AD). This route gained its name by a German geographer, Ferdinand von Richthofen.
You can read more on the history of this iconic route here.
There were innumerable traders, travelers and nomads who used this route but some prominent travelers include Marco Polo — the well known Venetian traveler; Ban Chao — a very famous and successful military leader and diplomat of the Han Dynasty; Ban Yong — Ban Chao's son who was also a successful military general; and Xuanzang — a prominent monk responsible for spreading Buddhism as well as introducing the world with Chinese culture.
Right from the mountain peaks near Kashgar to the Flaming Mountains and hot deserts of Xinjiang, to the high mountain lakes and meadows around Urumqi and its Grand Bazaar for shopping. Not to miss the parks, mountains and grasslands around the Gansu Corridor, the Yellow River and its sights, and the large city of Xi'an with their fantastic Terracotta Army and ancient mausoleums.
Understandably, this is a challenging route that passes through some of the most difficult terrains and climates. The varying landscapes make it important for sufficient planning and preparation to be made in advance.
Adventurous travelers are guaranteed a trip of a lifetime, complete with sand dunes in fiery deserts, camel rides, treks along steep mountains, Buddhist caves, caravan lifestyles, lakes, ancient forts, lively bazaars and more!
There are several key destinations for travelers to start or include in their itinerary. From east to west:
There is a lot of variety in food along the way. The most popular are the local raisins, cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, dairy and fruit products in Xinjiang, the Muslim beef noodle soup in Lanzhou, rou jia mo (like hamburgers) and Uighur shish kabobs in Xi'an, Nang (Uighur bread), milk tea. Do not miss the traditional Muslim Yoghurt of Kashgar, roasted juicy skewers of meats and the various kinds of Muslim rice dishes along the way.
Souvenirs and local products include rugs, carpets, souvenirs, textiles, dried fruit and delicacies for friends back home, Chinese paintings, ceramics, silk, local alcohol.
The Silk Road requires a more thoughtful approach when it comes to planning out the trip, and research is important.
This part of China, given the landscape and remoteness, is one of the least connected regions, which adds to the adventure. Getting in is fairly simple, you can fly into Urumqi or Xi’an or Beijing to start your journey. You can take the trains to travel from Beijing through Xi’an and Lanzhou, to Urumqi.
Having a knowledgeable guide along will be most helpful so that you can travel smoothly and get glimpses into local life.
Buses are available for less accessible spots. Expect cars or mini-vans on hire which make transport more convenient if not much more comfortable.
Accommodation options range from expensive hotels to guesthouses in the cities (Turpan, Xi’an, Dunhuang, Lanzhou, Urumqi). In the remote parts of this route, you can expect lodges and local home-stays which would be modest but comfortable. We have guides to ensure your stay is safe, comfortable, enjoyable and affordable.
Not many are aware, but China’s Silk Route goes through Turpan, which is a must see itself as a famous Oasis Town. Turpan is home to grape valleys which make it a prolific wine making region in China. Sipping some fresh wine in the deserts of China would make this an experience never to be forgotten.
China as a whole is officially on the same time zone. However, when you get to the remote parts of the Silk Road, don’t be taken aback if you find train schedules working at a different timing. Xinjiang time is 2 hours behind Beijing Standard time.
Similarly, Mandarin is spoken and understood across the majority of Silk Road, but as you move towards the north west, you will come across local dialects including Uighur, Mongolian and Tibetan languages.
At China Highlights, we have Silk Road experts who can create the perfect trip for you for you for a rich experience and memories. Here's why you should choose us.
You could peek into our Silk Road Tours to help shape your own trip of the Silk Road.
If you want something very personalized, we have just the service for you – Create your own trip.