Classic China and Silk Road Tour
17-Day Private China Tour: Urumqi– Turpan– Dunhuang–Zhangye–Lanzhou–Pingyao–Xi'an–Beijing
Explore the cultural fusion of Urumqi and the ancient Silk Road city of Turpan. Marvel at the awe-inspiring Mogao Caves in Dunhuang and witness the extraordinary beauty of the rainbow-colored Danxia landforms in Zhangye. Immerse yourself in the historical wonders of Lanzhou and Xian, home to the Terracotta Army. Traverse the ancient streets of Pingyao, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before concluding your journey in the imperial grandeur of Beijing.
The itinerary below is only one possibility. Tips to tailor-make your trip are offered as inspiration. Send us details of your preferences and our travel experts will customize this trip to suit your interests, tastes, and budget.
Tour 'Wow' Points
Experience the Thrill of Riding a Camel Across the Singing Sand Mountains
Witness the Famous Rainbow Mountains in Zhangye
Find the Hidden Halls in the Forbidden City
Explore a Top-Ranked Section of the Great Wall
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Wow this tour was honestly the best tourI have ever taken! Our guide Simon Yao was simply superb! His English was excellent and he was very easy to talk to. He was personable and friendly but not overpowering or overbearing. Very knowledgeable about history. Thankfully the weather was good so we were not super hot !Finally at the wall we were amazed by it's beauty and grandeur. It really is something and pictures don't do it justice.more
Nov 2023, Annika M
Excellent two day visit to Great Wall
Our guide ‘Mark’ was incredible. So friendly, knowledgable and funny. The itinerary was perfect, we got to see two different parts of the Great Wall (one of which at night which was magical) and our hotel stay in Gubei was wonderful. Highly recommend to anybody visiting Beijingmore
Nov 2023, James_Wolstenholme
Great day out with Mark, thanks China Highlights!
We did a 1 day private tour with China Highlights to see Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Communication was great throughout - from trip planning/booking with Roger and from our guide Mark who contacted us the day before to confirm meet up time/location. Avoided a lot of the queues and definitely learned quite a bit of history from our guide Mark…thanks again! No language barriers/issues…highly recommended.more
Nov 2023, ykeezy
China Three (3) Cities Tours
To the tour guides, Ethan, Jason and Tony, you guys have made my visit an awesome and memorable experience. All the tour guides spoke english and communicated very effectively. They are knowledgeable about all the sites visited including, Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, Panda Breeding and Research Center, Leshan Giant Buddha, Hallelujah Mountains, Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon and Glass Bridge, and Tianmen Mountain. The tour guides ensured I got the most out of my time I stayed in the various cities Beijing, Chengdu and Zhangjiajie.more
Nov 2023, Kadar
13 days in China
We booked a 13 day’s tour of China with China Highlights. Our travel advisor, Ms Leah Zhou organised an itinerary that suited what we wanted. She was really helpful and patient will all our needs. Leah helped us organised our 30th Wedding Anniversary Dinner and my 60th Birthday celebration?? in Beijing. For this to be possible, she had to liaise with our guide in Beijing. The flowers and cake were a real surprise. My husband and I, were really touched at the good service provided by China Highlights and Ms Leah Zhou. Thank you China Highlights and Ms Leah Zhou for your constant care of your customers. I will certainly recommend China Highlights to my friends.more
Nov 2023, Eda Adams
Perfect Beijing experience
Covering all major sights our exploration of Beijing and surroundings was flawless guided by Lily, along with her knowledgeable and balanced information on Chinas culture and history. In particular, Lily was able to adjust the tour according to personal preferences, e.g. focus on photography, as well as suggesting additional activities like an impressive authentic artistic show. I highly recommend China Highlights as China tour operator and Lily Liu as excellent guide regarding the Beijing area.more
Nov 2023, Perfect Beijing experience
Anne and Bob’s tour of Beijing
We did the China Highlights tour of Beijing with our excellent guide Mark and his driver. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Beijing highlights including the Lama Temple, the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Lama Temple. The Summer Palace with the boat ride and the Garden of Virtue and Harmony were memorable also and the Mutianyu Great Wall was a highlight. We were impressed with Mark as a guide. He knew his history and he was kind and thoughtful. He took us to some excellent restaurants and we were introduced to some beautiful food. We enjoyed his company and will always remember him.more
Nov 2023, BendigoBob
Amazing Beijing Tour with Risa!
Risa gave us a wonderful tour of the city! She thoroughly explained the cultuaral importance of each exhibit while also educating us on the Chinese culture. Appreciated having this wonderful Beijing trip with Risa:)more
Nov 2023, Angelica M.
Amazing Beijing Tour With Risa!
We were very kindly received in Beijing by our tour guide Risa. She gave us a very thorough tour of the city and showed us wonderful places, while also explaining the important history/culture of China! Very beautiful city filled with many things to do and full of culture! This was very well planned and made it very easy for us to visit the city and foreigners:) Thank you Risa!more
Nov 2023, Angelica M
Do Beijing like a local
They organised my trip very quickly and efficiently. On the day, Anna was very friendly to me, my mum and my baby. Very accommodating to our needs. The car was immaculately clean and very comfortable. We visited everything we initially wanted and more. Also, Anna took us to the best meal we had in China. It makes a difference to have a local choosing the dishes!more
Nov 2023, Natali A
Must-see Beijing sights in two days
Going on the guided tour gave me the opportunity to visit the main 'must-see' Beijing attractions in two days' time. Although I prefer to travel on my own, it simply would not have been possible for me to arrange tickets and figure out logistics to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and Great Wall with such a compressed schedule and short notice. My guide, Lucy, was very knowledgeable about Chinese history and cheerfully accompanied me through two grueling days. Traffic in and around Beijing is bad, and the sights are notnin walking distance from one another. Our driver, Li Li Mon, patiently fought the traffic allowing me to snooze in between the longmore
Nov 2023, Marcis J
China Highlights - Great Wall Mutianyu
I arranged a private tour with China Highlights to see the Great Wall, as I had a few hours to spare near Beijing. I was promptly collected, taken to the wall via comfortable car and escorted all the way by my allocated tour guide Jack. The day was highly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable, we walked 20 watchtowers across the Wall and then took the luge back down. The knowledge and history of the Great Wall was shared and Jack’s English was great. Fantastic day, thanks for your great hospitality, Jack!more
Nov 2023, Daniel White
Great Day in China!
The experience was great! Amazing learning about history and culture.Thanks for everything Lucy!more
Nov 2023, Evandro S
It was the best experience foi my whole life. Thanks a thousand to Lucy for all her assistente and knowledge regarding China. If you are planing to know China as native perspective do not think twice Luci is the best.more
Nov 2023, Evandro F
Amazing experience in Beijing
Spent 3 days in Beijing under China Highlights! Our tour guide Jennifer spoke excellent English and was very knowledgeable in Chinese history. Not only was she friendly, she was always on hand to help me with my heavy luggage. She also recommended us very good chinese restaurants for lunch and dinner. She went beyond her call of duties to make sure we had a enjoyable time in Beijing. China highlights also surprised me with a birthday cake on my birthday. Kimi Huang who was my consultant was ever ready to answer all my queries promptly. Thank you for making our trip a memorable one.more
Nov 2023, Delltravellor
Great Experience on Beijing Day Visit with tour guide Lucy Yubo
She took me on a side excursion to see the next door park where locals exercise and she took me yo some shops also to get hat and gloves for the cold. Our last stop was 978 Art Center which was super interesting. My day was relaxing, fun, and very special as I feel I learned something much about both China’s past and present. I highly recommend booking a tour to see Beijing in this way.more
Nov 2023, Nancy H
Memorable Beijing & Gubei with China Highlights
Jack as the tour guide is a good story teller. He is inquisitive. He knows when to leave us alone exploring the sights and pick out interest again with the historical facts and stories.Then, we explored Jinshanling that provides a balanced view between reconstructed and ruined walls. Finally, we explored the Forbidden City and The Summer Palace. In between, we enjoyed authentic Chinese cuisines which were delicious.more
Nov 2023, Dian W
Beijing 2 day tour
Spent 2 days in Beijing with Ethan as my guide and had a fantastic experience. Ethan is very knowledgeable, easy company and takes excellent photographs. The organisation was excellent as well including the driver for the tour as well the airport pick up.more
Nov 2023, Tam
My very first trip to Beijing
My guide Jack was excellent- very knowledgeable, organised, kind, helpful, and great English speaker. So I learned a lot about the fascinating history of China while enjoying breathtaking sceneries and monuments.more
Nov 2023, Amanda Barbosa
Two-Day Customized Beijing Trip
Our family had a two-day tour in Beijing, which Kimi customized for us. We went to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Qianmen Street, and the Temple of Heaven on the first day, and the Summer Palace and the Great Wall on the second day. Everything went perfectly thanks to our tour guide, Lucy. She was punctual, polite, respectful, knowledgeable, and good at English. The driver was also so nice. Highly recommend!more
Nov 2023, Sukjoon L
Itinerary Quick Look
Here is a suggested itinerary. We are happy to customize a tour according to your interests.
Your private guide will be ready to meet and greet you at the arrival hall in Urumqi. A comfortable private car with an experienced driver will transfer you directly to your hotel. Your guide will help you to check-in.
Boat Cruise on Heavenly Lake: Experience a unique way to explore the stunning Heavenly Lake as you embark on a boat cruise. Glide across the pristine blue waters surrounded by steep forested hills, breathtaking meadows, and the majestic peaks of Heavenly Mountain. Sit back and relax as you immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of this remarkable natural wonder.
Heavenly Lake: Prepare to be amazed by the mesmerizing beauty of Heavenly Lake (Tian Chi), a picturesque mountain lake known for its pristine blue waters. The serene lake serves as a captivating contrast to the lush forested hills, expansive meadows, and snow-capped peaks of Heavenly Mountain in the backdrop. Enjoy leisurely walks, hop on an electric cart, take in the breathtaking views from a cable car, and embark on a memorable boat cruise across the shimmering lake.
Ruins of Jiaohe Ancient City: Explore the captivating ruins of Jiaohe Ancient City, originally built by the Cheshi people during the Qin Dynasty and later expanded in the Han Dynasty. Located in the Yarnaz Valley, just 8 km west of Turpan, this ancient city was carved out from the yellow-gray parched ground of a narrow island in a river. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including vineyards, orchards, desert, and mountains.
Karez Wells: Discover the remarkable Karez Wells irrigation system, considered one of China's great ancient projects. The Karez Wells Folk Garden and Museum, located 3 kilometers west of Turpan, provides insights into the fascinating history and construction of these wells. Underground channels connected the wells, allowing for the irrigation of the famous fruit and vineyards of this hot, dry desert region. Appreciate the importance of this ancient system that still functions today.
Suleiman Minaret: Marvel at the impressive Suleiman Minaret, also known as Sugong Tower. It is the largest ancient tower in Xinjiang and the country's sole ancient Islamic minaret. Situated 2 kilometers southeast of Turpan's center, this architectural gem is a testament to the region's rich history.
Local Family Visit: Experience the warm hospitality of the Uygur people during a visit to a local family's traditional house. Be treated to unique food and drinks, and gain insight into their daily life and customs. Respect the local customs and follow your tour guide's suggestions for an authentic and immersive experience.
Gaochang Ruins video: Explore the ancient Gaochang Ruins, an important Silk Road city founded in the first century B.C. Ascend for a panoramic view of the city's three parts: the exterior, interior, and palace cities. Despite being reclaimed by the desert, some ruins remain and evoke a sense of history.
Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves: Visit the impressive Bezeklik Caves, renowned for their rock-cut structures and murals. Located on the cliffs of the Flame Mountain, these caves offer a glimpse into the region's early history, although many of the paintings have been damaged.
Flaming Mountain video: Witness the stunning Flaming Mountains, known for their scorching heat and importance in Turpan's civilization. These iconic mountains, featured in legends like "Journey to the West," provide a dramatic backdrop. Visit stone reliefs depicting mythical characters and enjoy the vibrant colors during the best time to visit.
Tuyoq Village and Tuyugou Canyon: Discover the charming Tuyoq Village, with its vineyards and ancient mudbrick houses against the backdrop of the Flaming Mountains. Take a leisurely walk to ancient mountain-side caves with well-preserved frescoes showcasing Buddhist and Nestorian influences.
Singing Sand Mountains and Crescent Spring: Embark on a remarkable journey to the Singing Sand Mountains (Mingsha Shan) and Crescent Spring (Yueya Quan), located 6 km south of Dunhuang. Discover an oasis in the midst of the desert as you encounter Crescent Spring, named for its crescent-shaped lake nestled between towering sand dunes. Despite the arid surroundings, the pool remains a natural wonder, defying expectations.
Camel Trekking: Experience the thrill of riding a camel across the mesmerizing dunes of the Singing Sand Mountains. Delight in the picturesque undulations of golden sand against the vivid blue sky, immersing yourself in the ambiance of the ancient Silk Road. Venture off the camel and listen closely for the enchanting phenomenon of the "singing sand."
Mogao Caves: Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the Mogao Caves during a guided tour. The knowledgeable guide, fluent in English, German, French, and Japanese, will accompany you alongside fellow travelers. While around 30 caves are accessible to the public, the tour typically includes a selection of 10 caves that offer a representative glimpse into the site's overall magnificence. Please note that the specific caves visited will be determined by the guide.
Dunhuang Mural Research Institute and Mural Facsimile Experience: Enhance your visit to the breathtaking murals of the Mogao Caves with a special experience at the Dunhuang Mural Research Institute. Gain insights from an expert who will guide you through the appreciation and analysis of the murals. Then, choose a mural sample and create your own facsimile on a mud slab, using the same material found in the Mogao Caves. Take your masterpiece home as a cherished momento of your Mogao Cave adventure.
The Cliff-Side Great Wall: Witness a remarkable section of the Great Wall known as the Cliff-Side Great Wall, situated 11 km northwest of Jiayuguan city center and 7 km north of Jiayu Pass Fort. This particular section of the wall is built on a steep ridge with a gradient of 45 degrees, giving it the appearance of being suspended from the side of the mountain range. Its precarious positioning has earned it the nickname "the Suspended Wall". Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring engineering marvel of this unique part of the Great Wall.
Fresco Tombs of the Wei and Jing Dynasty: Venture into the northwestern Gobi desert, approximately 20 km from Jiayuguan City, between Xincheng Township of Jiayuguan City and Dingjiazha Township of Jiuquan City, to discover the fascinating Fresco Tombs of the Wei and Jing Dynasty. In this remote desert landscape, you will encounter approximately 1400 tombs from this ancient era. Marvel at the intricate murals and gain insights into the rich history and cultural significance of this burial site.
Jiayuguan Pass: Explore the renowned "First Pass Under Heaven" located at the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall. Jiayuguan Pass is not only the most magnificent pass but also the best-preserved among the thousand passes of the Great Wall. Positioned strategically in the Gansu corridor between two mountain ranges, this fort offers breathtaking views. Uncover the fascinating history of the world's longest wall at the adjacent Great Wall Museum, which houses a remarkable collection of artifacts.
Giant Buddha Temple: Located in the southwestern corner of Zhangye city, the Giant Buddha Temple (Dafo Si) houses China's largest indoor reclining Buddha. Explore the temple and witness the majesty of this magnificent statue that captures the essence of Chinese Buddhist art.
Wooden Tower of Sui Dynasty: Originally constructed during the Sui Dynasty and restored in 1926, the Wooden Tower is a nine-story architectural marvel reaching a height of approximately 40 meters. It stands as an outstanding example of wooden towers in China. This historical tower once served as a repository for valuable Buddhist relics.
Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park (Rainbow Mountains): Journey to Kangle Township, 40 km from Zhangye, to witness the awe-inspiring Danxia landforms at the Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, also known as the Rainbow Mountains. These unique geological formations, found only in the arid regions of Gansu and Qinghai provinces, present picturesque window lattice and palace structures. Delight in the vivid and vibrant colors of the Qicai Danxia Landforms, where the hilly terrain resembles rippling waves. The juxtaposition of multi-colored rock strata creates a breathtaking, imposing, and magnificent sight. Nature enthusiasts and photographers alike are drawn to this extraordinary landscape.
Waterwheel Garden: Explore the remarkable Waterwheel Garden, where giant steel and wooden waterwheels once served the crucial purpose of lifting water from the Yellow River to supply this arid region. Immerse yourself in the historical significance of these waterwheels and experience the unique opportunity to ride on a raft made of inflated sheepskins. Located on South Binhe East Road, on the opposite side of the river from White Pagoda Hill, this enchanting garden is just 1 km west of Zhongshan Bridge.
Yellow River Iron Bridge: Uncover the historical significance of the Yellow River Iron Bridge, originally built in 1372 and reconstructed with iron in 1909. Spanning approximately 200 meters, this engineering marvel was an impressive achievement during its time. Positioned at the base of White Pagoda Hill, the bridge is also known as Zhongshan Bridge.
Great Mosque: Immerse yourself in the vibrant Muslim quarter of Xian, near the city centre, where you'll find one of the largest Islamic mosques in China. The Great Mosque impresses visitors with its fusion of Chinese architecture and Islamic traditions. Its courtyards are meticulously aligned from east to west, facing Mecca. Marvel at the beautifully adorned pavilions, halls, and gateways, and experience the lively atmosphere of this active place of worship for the Hui descendants of Silk Road traders and travelers.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda: Discover the significance of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a prominent Buddhist site located within the charming grounds of the Da Ci'en Temple. This simple yet elegant brick pagoda was constructed in the 7th century to house Buddhist scriptures brought back from India by Xuanzang (also known as Tripitaka) during his epic journey. Explore the temple complex, which showcases impressive Buddhist statues and murals in its spacious halls.
Muslim Quarter: Experience the vibrant ambiance of the Muslim Quarter, situated just 100 meters west of the Bell Tower in downtown Xi'an. Stroll along the 500-meter-long avenue, adorned with bluestone pavement, and encounter an array of unique stalls, souvenir shops, cafes, and bars predominantly operated by the local Muslim community. Engage with the bustling atmosphere and embrace the opportunity to explore and shop while immersing yourself in the diverse cultural offerings.
Terracotta Warriors Experience: Unlock the secrets of the Terracotta Warriors, a must-see attraction in Xi'an. Discover fascinating stories behind these remarkable ancient warriors and their creation by Emperor Qinshihuang's craftsmen. Visit a local cave dwelling to see skilled artisans crafting clay warriors and try your hand at making your own. This unique experience offers a deeper understanding of these extraordinary artifacts.
Xian City Wall Bike Ride: Explore the well-preserved Xian City Wall, one of China's oldest and largest defense systems. Pedal along the 13.74 km perimeter on a bike, taking in panoramic views. If weather conditions are unfavorable, we'll visit the Bell Tower instead. Bike rental fees are included, and your guide can assist you in navigating the wall. Enjoy this memorable adventure through ancient history.
Pingyao Ancient Town Exploration: Discover the well-preserved Pingyao Ancient Town, one of China's best-preserved ancient towns. Inside the Ming Dynasty city walls, you'll find beautifully preserved buildings from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Take a leisurely walk or rent a bike to explore. Immerse yourself in traditional Chinese arts like paper cutting and lacquerware production. In the evening, enjoy the town's serene beauty with glowing lanterns and unwind at the local bars.
Summer Palace and Garden of Virtue and Harmony: Experience the grandeur of the Summer Palace, China's largest and best-preserved royal park. Located 9 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of downtown Beijing, this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases exceptional horticulture and stunning scenery. Take in the natural beauty and cultural significance as you walk through the park for approximately 2 hours (2 kilometers).
Temple of Heaven: Explore the historic Temple of Heaven, a complex of Taoist buildings from the Ming dynasty. Emperors came here to pray for good harvests, and the park is now a vibrant gathering place for locals practicing tai chi and exercising. Enjoy an easy-paced 1-1.5 hour walk (1.5 kilometers) through the serene park.
Mutianyu Great Wall with Cable Car: Visit the picturesque Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, famous for its well-preserved architecture. Take advantage of a round-trip cable car to effortlessly ascend and descend instead of climbing stairs. After your guide provides an introduction, explore the Wall freely. Hike the scenic "golden route" between watchtowers 14 and 23, considered the most beautiful portion of the Great Wall. This 2-hour adventure concludes with a bus transfer back to our vehicle.
Wangfujing Night Market: Indulge in the vibrant atmosphere of Wangfujing Night Market, where dozens of stalls offer a variety of street food. Sample common treats like dumplings, noodles, and fresh strawberry kabobs, or be adventurous and try exotic delicacies such as silk worms, scorpions, starfish, and centipedes. Rest assured that the food is safe to try, providing a unique culinary experience.
Hutong Tour with Rickshaw Ride (including Bell Tower or Drum Tower): Delve into the historic Hutong neighborhood, a maze of narrow alleyways lined with traditional courtyard houses. Hop on a rickshaw for a one-hour tour, weaving through the alleys and gaining insights into the local way of life. Visit a local family to discover the different courtyards' thresholds and explore notable sites like the Bell Tower or Drum Tower.
Forbidden City Emperor's Tour: Uncover the secrets of the Forbidden City, the world's largest imperial palace. Home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, it dates back to 1420. Unlike other group tours, our Emperor's Tour takes you to 12 carefully selected places, offering deeper insights into the lives of Ming and Qing emperors and concubines. Explore its rich history, architecture, and art alongside your knowledgeable guide during this approximately 2-hour walk (2 kilometers) through the palace.
Tiananmen Square: Experience the grandeur of Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in Beijing. This iconic square holds profound cultural significance and has been witness to pivotal events in Chinese history. Marvel at the majestic surroundings, including the Heavenly Gate, museums, government buildings, and Chairman Mao's Mausoleum, as you spend approximately 30 minutes immersing yourself in China's national pride.
- Private air-conditioned business car with big windows and ample space
- English speaking local guide
- Activities, hotels, and meals listed in the itinerary
- 24/7 helpline for while you are traveling
Tour code: cht-cx-37