I have always been fascinated by the ancient Silk Road and their history so I finally joined Chan Brother Tours in June (13days 12 night), summer this year. The tour including two provinces in China; Gansu & Northern Xinjiang.
Ancient Silk Road are long travel routes (40,000 miles) covering more than 40 countries. Our tour with Chan Brother Tour is only covering China portion, not including Ancient Silk Road from other countries such as India, Central Asia, and the West.
When we talk about Ancient Silk Road, we think of camel, desert, silk, Uyghurs minority, Buddhist Grottoes, Muslim Minarets and many more. It is the world’s most significant trade route that connected East & West for thousands of years.
This itinerary will tell you :
- How to prepare for ancient Silk Road China & what to expect
- History & fact of each city
- Cultural show review in Dunhuang & Xinjiang
- Food guide for Gansu & Xinjiang
- China High-Speed Rail review
- Xinjiang minorities & culture
- Xinjiang Minerals resources
- Xinjiang security conditions & checks
- Xinjiang Urumqi Diwopu Airport review
- Hotel review for Gansu & Xinjiang
- Souvenir review – What to buy in Gansu & Xinjiang
- Toilet Review in Silk Road China
- How not to fall sick in Silk Road China
1. Silk Road China – GANSU & XINJIANG: What to expect & prepare for this Amazing Race!
We have traveled over 4000 km of Silk Road China with buses & bullet train. In my blog (click above) you will find things you need to know before traveling to Silk Road China, what to expect and preparation, including food, weather, toilets facilities, hotel, transport and tour guides.
2. GANSU: Wuwei – Leitai
The first thing you will notice in Leitai Wuwei is the Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕. Do look carefully at the hoof of the horse. The horse is only balanced with one hoof which rests without pressure on a flying swallow. The Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕 is GANSU icon and you get to see it at Lanzhou Airport too.
3. GANSU: LV Zhou Holiday Hotel Review
Zhangye LV Zhou Holiday Hotel is newly opened in 2015, so the hotel is still very new. Outside the hotel, there are many restaurants and supermarkets, so it is very convenient if you are looking for something to eat. The hotel room is spacious and equipped with beautiful wooden carved lacquer furniture, the toilet and shower are separated with a glass door which makes the bathroom very neat. Overall I am happy with my stay in Zhangye LV Zhou Holiday Hotel.
4. GANSU: Marco Polo in Zhangye City and Zhangye Cuisine
Zhangye city/张掖 is one of the important city marked along Silk Road China. It is located geographically at the crossroad of Silk Road, middle of Hexi corridor. It is a famous commercial port on the ancient Silk Road and one of the biggest international trade market. Marco Polo stayed in Zhangye for about one year.
5. GANSU: Zhangye – Dafo/ Big Buddha Temple
The temple is called Dafo/Big Buddha because inside the temple there is a sleeping Buddha which is also the largest in Asia built around 1100 in wooden frame and clay outside.
The one thing you should notice carefully is the Dafo/Big Buddha face expression and the outfit. It is quite bizarre to see the artisan did such a wonderful job many thousand years ago even though they have not seen Buddha personally but still able to depict the Buddha expression so well. A very peaceful look of Buddha at the reclining position. Photography is not allowed to protect the original color from fading.
6. GANSU: Zhangye – Danxia Mountain, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Zhangye Daxia is famous for its rainbow-colored mountains, the several hundred meters tall Danxia in Zhangye is the result of deposits of sandstone and other minerals that occurred over many thousand years ago.
7. GANSU: Jiayuguan Great Wall – Top 10 things to see
Another important landmark in Silk Road China is Jiayuguan Fort, also known as Jiayuguan Great Wall. It is considered to be the ending point of the great wall. Many foreign tourists did not know about Jiayuguan Great Wall compare to famous Beijing Great Wall. Jiayuguan Pass is another place to see the great wall of China.
8. GANSU: Jiayuguan Hotel & Gansu Souvenir; The Luminous Cup Review – 葡萄美酒夜光杯!
The Jiayuguan Hotel is conveniently located in the downtown of Jiayuguan city. The room is up to our standard and the breakfast buffet has wide-spread of choice.
The luminous cup in Gansu is one of the top souvenirs you may like to bring home. It is made of jade and it is named because it sparkles when filling with alcohol and placed under the moonlight.
9. GANSU: Dunhuang – Echoing Sand Mountains & Crescent Moon Lake 鸣沙山月牙泉 13 Things you need to know before visiting
Mingshashan Mountain / Echoing Sand Mountains & Yueyaguan / Cresent Moon Lake is the highlight in Dunhuang Silk Road.
One of the must do in Mingshashan Mountain is to go up to the top of the sand dunes and check out the jaw-dropping view from the top. You get to see the whole oasis from the top of the sand dunes.
My second favorite was the camel ride in the desert. It helps me to understand how tough ancient traders travel from one sand dunes to another in such harsh weather.
10. GANSU: Dunhuang City & Food Review
In Dunhuang city, there is the iconic sculpture, Fetian – the flying Apsara who played the “pipa” at her back,反弹琵琶 a unique dance moved found in walls of Magao Grottoes.
The number one dish I can remember from the food in Dunhuang is – Camel Hoof. In ancient time, only the Emperors were able to taste this dish.
11. GANSU: Legend of Dunhuang Show – ‘Silk Road, Flower Rain’ 丝路花雨
One of the must-watch show in Dunhuang Silk Road is ‘Silk Road, Flower Rain’丝路花雨. They called it China’s Swan Lake because it is an ancient silk road classic and as good as Swan Lake. World-class performances which have been performed in more than 40 countries around the globe since its debut in 1979.
12. GANSU: Sun Grand Hotel Dunhuang Review & Guazhou /瓜州 Melon Tasting in Gansu
The Sun Grand Hotel is conveniently located in downtown Dunhuang, an easy 5-minute walk to the night markets, restaurants, and supermarkets. The hotel lobby is looking very grand and lots of beautiful decorations with Dunhuang Feitian 飞天 & Buddha paintings themed from Magao Caves. I noticed there are Japanese tourists staying in this hotel so you can tell this hotel aren’t too bad and considered one of the good hotels in Dunhuang.
Guazhou 瓜州 is translated as ‘Melon State’, about 1 hour and 20 mins from Dunhuang. While in Guazhou, one thing not to be missed is melon tasting as this place is named after their sweet melon.
13. GANSU: Mogao Caves of Dunhuang 敦煌莫高窟 – Silk Road Gem
There are 735 caves and 492 of which have murals that are still well-preserved but we only visited a few of them, less than 10. These caves containing a colossal of murals and over 2,000 painted sculptures. Each cave is locked and only the expert guide has the keys to open the door of the caves and explain all the details of the murals and sculptures with a mini torch.
14. GANSU -> XINJIANG: China High-Speed Rail Experience – From Dunhuang to Turpan in Xinjiang
The facilities in the high-speed rail were well equipped with clean toilets and free drinking hot water, which surprised me. I have tried Japan Bullet train – the Shinkansen but I think China’s high-speed trains were not going to lose to Japan, with its 15,000 miles network is the most extensive in the world. China’s high-speed trains were also the fastest and newest. Click on the above link to read what to watch out when you are catching the high-speed train in China.
XINJIANG: Turpan – Flaming Mountains, Journey to the West 西游记火焰山
There are not many things in the Flaming Mountains site, the only interesting thing is the world largest thermometer which looks like the Monkey King’s weapon – Ruyi Jingu Bang. You do feel the intense heat in Flaming Mountain, the temperature can go up to 80’c as this is the largest, driest and hottest desert in China.
15. XINJIANG: Turpan Karez Well – 2000 Years Old Water System
It is really ingenious for the ancient people to invent the irrigation system back 2000 years ago and turning parts of this hot desert in Turpan into lush greenery. Karez system brings life to Turpan. The museum is small but to see the irrigation system with your own eyes is pretty amazing. It is an educational tour for me.
16. XINJIANG: Turpan – Emin Minaret, Uyghur Islamic Architecture
The Emin Minaret is a blending Uyghur architecture and history with Islamic traditions. The tower is made of wood, mud, and brick and also the tallest minaret in Xinjiang. I find it interesting to see the mixture of Chinese and Islamic architecture in China.
17. XINJIANG: Turpan – Grape Valley 吐鲁番葡萄沟
You can actually see grapes vineyards everywhere in Turpan Xinjiang, not just in the Grapes Valley. You will learn that people in Xinjiang prefer the green than the red one.
18. XINJIANG: Turpan: Uyghur village – Experience Uyghur Culture & Raisin Tasting
It was a good experience to have a house visit to Uyghur home and learn about raisin in Turpan Xinjiang. You also get entertained well by the young Uyghur man especially with his cute accent and his funny dance – how an Uyghur man proposes to a lady.
19. XINJIANG: Turpan – Jiaohe Ruin, World Largest Ruins 交河故城
Jiaohe ruins is located along the Silk Road and it is the best preserved ancient city in the world, also a Unesco World Heritage Site. Pretty amazing to see the whole city is made of earth, just like Tatooine city in Star Wars.
20. XINJIANG: Turpan – Maxirap le Grand Large Hotel & Xinjiang Food Review
Maxirap le Grand Large Hotel is located outskirt of Turpan City. There are no interesting shops to visit if you want to walk around at night as the hotel is only surrounded by big vineyards. The facilities of the hotel are moderate and not luxury, be mentally prepared. The Uyghur dinner at the hotel was delicious and interesting especially the moment the whole roasted lamb was pushed into our room by the Uyghur ladies.
21. XINJIANG: Dabancheng Town – “The girl from Dabancheng” Town 达坂城的姑娘
I have heard the folk song since I was a little girl, 达坂城的姑娘 – “The girl from Dabancheng”. Finally, I got the chance to pass by Dabancheng from Turpan to Urumqi. Are the girls pretty in Dabancheng? You have to find out yourself 🙂
22. XINJIANG: Heavenly Lake of Tianshan -Top 14 things to do! 新疆天山天池
Heavenly Lake of Tianshan has amazing scenery, the super calm lake is located at 2000 m high which never get flooded or dried up so far. The snow-cape mountains in the background made me wonder if I was in Swiss Alps and the serene alpine lake made me think of Lake District in the UK. But the loud mainland Chinese troop of tourists made me realized I am in China.
23. XINJIANG: Urumqi – Fire Mountain & Coal Factory / Huoshaoshan 新疆火烧山
We did not really walk into the Fire Mountain but just had a brief stop. Took a few pictures across the street. Opposite of the Fire Mountain is the coal factory. Glad I have seen one of the coal factories as Xinjiang is famous for its natural resources.
Fire Mountain is different from Turpan’s Flaming Mountain. Flaming Mountain is famous for its high temperature (up to 80’c) and it’s “Journey to the West story” but Fire Mountain is famous for its mountain color, that is reddish. If you look around you see no other colors than reddish.
24. XINJIANG: Buerqin – Little Russian Town 新疆布尔津
When you entered the Buerqin town, you feel the strong influence of Russian as the landscape here built in Russian style. Glad to learn about Buerqin county and how Russian used to occupy this land due to the metal industries in Northern Xinjiang China many decades ago.
25. XINJIANG: 5 Colored Beach – Wu Chai Tan, Top 5 things you need to know! 新疆五彩滩
Wuchaitan is located in Burqin County, located in the northernmost part of Xinjiang. The colorful Beach is a famous attraction on the Irtysh River in Burqin County, about 24 km from Buerqin city. What makes Wuchaitan/Five Colored Beach different is there is a river flowing throw and it is called Irtysh River, the only river in China that flow into the Arctic Ocean.
26. XINJIANG: Jiadengyu Glassland – Learn about the Kazakh minority 贾登峪 & 哈萨克毡房
Situated at an altitude of 1600 m, Jiadengyu is the gateway to Kanas Lake. It is also the base of Kanas tourism reception. Tourists usually stay here because there is no accommodation in Kanas. Glad I have experienced the Jiadengyu grassland with the view of Altay mountains. The layers of mountains, blue sky, white clouds, green forest, and Kazakh yurts blend a picturesque scenery of Xinjiang.
27. XINJIANG: Jiadengyu – Hongfu Lake Kanas Resort Aletai Hotel Review, European Getaway
Most of the buildings here are resort which built in European style. This place attracted many mainland local Chinese tourists. You may have to compete with the mainland Chinese in the buffet restaurant for the food
28. XINJIANG: Kanas Lake – Top 20 things to know! 新疆喀纳斯
For me, Kanas Reserve is better than Switzerland Alps, because over here you have the additional elements eg, the minorities culture such as Kazakhs & Mongolian who lives in the Altay Mountains region.
29. XINJIANG: Kanas, Hemu Village 新疆禾木村
Hemu Village is where Tuwa minority lives. The Tuwa minority (2,000 left in China) are believed to be the descendant of Genghis Khan Troop. It’s said that the Tuwas were originated from the old or wounded soldiers abandoned by Genghis Khan when he led his people to conquer the West Region.
30. XINJIANG: Urho – Ghost City & Karamay Oilfield 新疆魔鬼城 & 克拉玛依油田
It is named after “Ghost City” due to frequent strong winds whistle and howl plus the flying sand create the mysterious yardang landform and caused various formations. It gets more famous after a few Chinese movies were shot here, one of them is “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”.
31. XINJIANG: Karamay, Richest City & Bo Da Yin Du Hotel Review 克拉玛依 & 博达银都酒店
Which are the richest cities in China? Most people would think of Beijing or Shanghai? No, the richest city in China is Karamay in Xinjiang China. Karamay in Uyghur language means “black oil”.
You will notice Karamay people are living a good life and good welfare, obviously benefit from the oilfield industry. Transportation such as bus conditions is good.
32. XINJIANG: Urumqi – Ancient Ecological Park boost Akhal-teke Horse 汗血宝马
There are several interesting things found in Xinjiang Ancient Ecological Park, such as million years Woods & Black Iron Meteoric from space & Akhal-teke Horse Base camp where you can see these precious horses in different colors in the shining coat. Akhal-teke horses /汗血宝马 do look different from ordinary horses. You learn a lot about ancient horse culture in this park. (Below picture show “wild horse” which are more precious than Akhal-teke!)
33. XINJIANG: Urumqi – International Grand Bazaar, top 10 things to buy!
The Urumqi Grand Bazaar is similar to the Istanbul Marrakech Bazaar. The good thing to explore Urumqi International Grand Bazaar is you get to see everything here. Great place for you to get your exotic souvenirs back home. The shops are quite repetitive and selling the same stuff everywhere. I find the things sold here are more expensive than other places in Xinjiang, such as Turpan. I suggest you to start getting your souvenirs during your tour in Xinjiang and don’t wait for your last stop in Urumqi. If you missed out the souvenirs you wanted to buy during your trip in Xinjiang, you can always buy it here, just that the price may cost higher. Urumqi usually is the last stop before tourists depart back home.
34. XINJIANG: Urumqi – Cultural Show @ International Grand Bazaar 絲綢之路 千年印象
“Millennium Impression of the Silk Road” is highly recommended as this is a buffet cum colorful performance show. Come early to enjoy the buffet spread before the show started. Once the show starts it is harder to eat as the light gets dimmed and also you will be too occupied with the stunning performance.
35. XINJIANG: Urumqi – Shop like a local in the downtown
Don’t under-estimate Urumqi city, the living standard & consumption level are high. Food and things sold here aren’t cheap. Similar to the Singapore price. Great stroll in the local supermarket to find out what is the living standard like in Urumqi and what kind of food local bring home to cook.
36. Xinjiang: Urumqi – Hoi Tak Hotel & Nearby Restaurant Review
Hok Tak Hotel Xinjiang is well located in the heart of downtown Urumqi. There are plenty of restaurants and shopping nearby. The People’s Park is located right opposite Hoi Tak Hotel Xinjiang. I strongly recommend you to wake up earlier to check on the People’s Square to see the grannies dances and exercise.
37. XINJIANG: Urumqi – Diwopu Airport Review (乌鲁木齐地窝铺国际机场)
Urumqi Diwopu Airport is not as small as I expected. On the contrary, the airport is very modern and extremely efficient. Urumqi Diwopu Airport has 3 Terminals in total and a new Terminal 4 is in under construction.
Nothing much to shop in the airport, best is getting all your souvenirs outside. If possible bring your own snacks as food and coffee are all over-priced inside the airport.
Additional for Beijing since we missed our flights to Lanzhou, we had a half-day tour check out the unexpected sites we visited here:
38. Beijing Bird Nest
The outside of the Bird’s Nest looks stunning even in the day time. If you have extra time to spend, you may want to visit the interior but you need to pay to get it.
In addition, you can also take your swimsuit with you to swim in the Water Cube swimming pool or play in the water park.
39. Beijing Airport Review
Beijing Capital International Airport is huge and the custom is tight. Such items as lithium battery,(the extra batteries), mobile charger are forbidden in checked baggage, they can only be carried as hand luggage. The rated energy of each battery should not exceed 100wh. The batteries between 100wh and 160wh must get the permission of the air company; each passenger is allowed to take at most two spare batteries.
Final thoughts :
There are 37 blogs here regarding the trip to ancient Silk Road China and Xinjiang. These blogs will tell you what to expect & tips in each city along ancient Silk Road. It took me more than 3 months to write, hope you enjoy reading them. Just click on the link of each underline blog if you wish to know more these cities. Anyone who is planning ancient Silk Road China would find this travel guide very useful.
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I absolutely adore the amount of detail and care you have put into this post. Thank you so much for all of your amazing advice 🙂
What a beautiful city! I would love to visit The Great Wall! I love how detailed this is.
The Great Wall show here is in Gansu province, a different part of Great Wall of China. Most foreigners visit the Great Wall in Beijing and not many people know Jiayuguan Pass. Over here in Jiayuguan you have more photo opportunities as tourists are lesser and th e view is as stunning.
Just what I was looking for before traveling there. Thanks for all the details.
I would love to visit The Great Wall.. May be someday….!!
Such a great and a detailed post. This could ve very useful for a great travel in China.
This looks like an amazing trip!
I really enjoyed going through this post. Beautifully detailed and stunning pictures. Would love to plan this trip someday.
Oh wow China looks BEAUTIFUL! I have yet to visit and hope to use this itinerary if I ever do.
I wish I could be able to travel all the time its been so long. I hope to visit some day.
So much great information and detail…China certainly is an amazing place to visit!
These places sound great! I didn’t realize there was so much to do Iin China!
That must have been such an incredible journey back thousands of years. I would love to see it now.
Thankfully many of the silk road ruins are still well maintained. Glad I was able to see the Jiaohe ruins 2000 years ago.
I hope to someday have the opportunity to travel here one day!! Looks beautiful!
Thank you so much for this comprehensive itinerary! I have been looking at exploring the silk route and this is a great variety of activities. Thank you!
I hope you find this Silk Road guide useful.
The Silk Road is one of the great migratory routes of the world that i would like to explore one day. Looks like an interesting part of China.
Yes, Silk Road also help to exchange goods and cultures between the east and west.
Wow you have the whole experience inside and out for a traveler. Very informative better then google!
I love all the information that you have provided! I think that these places look so much fun to visit!
What an amazing trip! I would love to go here and see al this.
It looks amazingly beautiful. I am gonna add it to my travel bucket list.these pictures are very good gives so much information about place.
I love looking at your pictures. It makes me feel like I’m right there.
Thanks for such a detailed guide! looks like an interesting region of the China to explore. I’ve still never been but hopefully I’ll make it there soon!
this was so informative! perfect resource for future travelers!
This was a very in depth post. I learned a lot. I will be bookmarking this post to go back and re-read. I did not even know you could still take that route.
Thanks for your comment. I hope you find it useful when you do Ancient Silk Road and Xinjiang China.
Xinjiang is a lesser traveled province loved how you presented it and brought a new light to travel in china.
Xinjiang is more for advance travellers who has been to China multiple times. Most first timer would go visit Beijing (Great Wall) or Xi’an – (the Terrocatta Army).
This is a very detailed and thorough itinerary. I am not much of a traveler but my daughers are, and china is on their bucket list. I will pass along this post for them.
I hope your daughter will find them useful when she explore China.
This is a very detailed guide, omg, I have never been to China but I would love to do it someday, I know where to come for information.
Thank you for your comment. This Ancient China Silk Road guide took me more than 3 months to compile and write them, in total there are 38 blogs including the summary itinerary. I hope it work as a guide for travelers who wish to do Silk Road adventure, what to expect and how to prepare for this journey.
Wow, I think it would be a chance of a lifetime to visit China. I’d start at Zhangye Daxia. Those mountains are gorgoeus and I love being close to nature.
The Zhangye Danxia is majestic and imposing landform, what I like most about it is the unique shapes of the mountain & the multi-color stones because of the abundant minerals lying underground. The whole place is well protected and only the eco-friendly internal buses are operating there, private cars or buses needed to park outside the park. The whole place is clean and neat to walk around, didnt spot a single trash.
I have read your amazing adventure on the Silk road in your blog and I think it is such a fantastic trip ! You definitely convinced me to put it in my wishlist for travel!
Thanks for your comment. Ancient silk road is truly an adventure in a lifetime.
I would love to visit China someday. What an awesome adventure to experience!
Wow, I never thought there is this kind of place in China. Amazing! By the way, how did you do your photo watermarks? I’d love to have my own too.
I would love to do this trip! Oh my, I wonder how long I should stay in China and how much I should budget for a family of 4. Love your outfits, too!
Thanks for your questions. I joined Chan Brother, a reliable local tour from Singapore. We have about 30 pax departing together with a local tour leader. The cost for an adult is about slightly over USD$2200 which include air fare, hotel, transfer (bus & bullet train), sites entrance tickets and food. The 2 cultural shows tickets are not included, (about USD 50-60 each)
I have never been to China but it’s been on my wish list for so long. So many beautiful countries to see.
China is so huge, imagine it is the Eastern and Western Europe. I have been to China several times and still have plenty to learn about and many places and provinces not yet explored.
This is bloody amazing! Awesome to see, I’ve always wanted to go on a silk road trip out West and wow, your trip has it all! Thanks for sharing 🙂