Sumela Monastery | Turkey
FROM: R156,900 pp

Journey from Istanbul to Xi'an across the heart of Central Asia on this 89-day overland adventure which follows the ancient Silk Road. See the stunning landscape of Cappadocia, stay in an ancient caravanserai in Azerbaijan and marvel at Turkmenistan's bizarre capital of Ashgabat. Explore Soviet-style Tashkent in Uzbekistan, camp in traditional yurts in Kyrgyzstan and see the westerly most point of the Great Wall in China.

Prices & Dates

Trip Highlights

The Silk Road - Follow in the path of ancient merchants on the legendary Silk Road which weaves its way from Istanbul to Xian
Georgia - Explore highlights of delightful Tbilisi, admire the medieval cathedral in Kutaisi, visit the Vardzia Caves and relax in the port city of Batumi
Azerbaijan - Stay in an ancient Silk Road caravanserai, explore the traditional village of Lahij and discover the modern capital of Baku
Uzbekistan - Learn about the gruesome history of Bukhara, explore the heart of Timur's empire in Samarkand and wander around the Soviet city of Tashkent
China - Marvel at the westerly most point of the legendary Great Wall, cross the sprawling Taklamakan Desert, see the incredible Zhangye Rainbow Mountains and end your tour in Xi'an
Turkey - Discover the magically surreal landscape of Cappadocia, explore cultural Istanbul, pay your respects at the war memorials of Gallipoli and admire the stunning Sumela Monastery
Armenia - Relax on the shore of Lake Sevan, discover the ancient city of Yerevan and camp in the wild Armenian Highlands
Turkmenistan - See the highlights of the country's bizarre and futuristic capital Ashgabat, marvel at the Darvaza Gas Crater and cross the remote Karakum Desert
Kyrgyzstan - Hike in the Kyrgyz Fergana Valley, explore the relaxed capital of Bishkek, stay with a local family in Kochkor and camp in traditional Yurts on the shore of Song Kol Lake


53 breakfasts, 20 lunches and 28 dinners
19 nights camping (including 2 nights on campsites, 6 nights wild camping and 11 nights camping without facilities)
1 overnight ferry from Baku - Turkmenbashi
Services of two crew (drivers/tour leaders) and local guides along the way
Sightseeing as per itinerary
Visit to the Vardzia Caves in Georgia
A stay in the ancient Sheki caravanserai in Azerbaijan
Guided tour of Ashgabat and visit to the Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan
Eagle hunter demonstration and visit to Tash Rabat caravanserai in Kyrgyzstan
Guided tour of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang
Excursion to see the Terracotta Warriors near Xi’an
60 nights in hotels / hostels / guesthouses
4 nights camping in traditional yurts, 4 nights in a homestay
All necessary camping equipment (excluding sleeping bags)
Transportation in an overland expedition vehicle
Guided tour of Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus and Cappadocia
Visits to the Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery and Khor Virap Monastery in Armenia
Visit to Gobustan to see the petroglyphs and mud volcanoes
Guided tour of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan
Hike to Shipton’s Arch in Kashgar
Visit to the Great Wall and fortress at Jiayuguan

Not Included

International flights and visas
Sleeping bag and roll mat - please bring your own for camping
Tipping - an entirely personal gesture
Local Payment: $3160pp, paid in USD


Day 1

Welcome to Istanbul

Welcome to Istanbul and the beginning of your Silk Road adventure! There's a pre-departure Welcome Meeting at 10:00am and the afternoon is free to explore the city at leisure. Perhaps visit the striking Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia or the Grand Bazaar. Admire the Bosphorus River, which separates Europe from Asia.
Overnight: Istanbul

Day 2


Istanbul - Gallipoli. This morning we say goodbye to Istanbul and drive to the Gallipoli Peninsula. After lunch we take a guided tour to pay our respects at ANZAC Cove, an incredibly poignant place which saw one of the worst battles during WW1. We'll also visit a number of other significant WW1 battlefield sites and memorials that dot this region.
Overnight: Eceabat

Days 3-4

Troy, Selcuk & Ephesus

Gallipoli - Selcuk. On day 3 we board a ferry to cross the Dardenelles and head to Helsik for a tour of the fabled city of Troy, the ruins of which were uncovered in 1863. After our visit we continue to Selcuk, our home for the next two nights.

On day 4 we enjoy a guided tour of the legendary ruins of Ephesus including the Temple of Serapis and the Great Theatre. Ephesus is considered one of the best preserved classical cities, which, at it's height of power, was a vast and prosperous city home to over 250,000 people. We'll also visit the Terrace Houses, showing the well preserved mosaics and paintings of the time.
Overnight: Selcuk

Day 5


Selcuk - Pamukkale. Today we drive inland to the small village of Pamukkale. There’s free time to take a relaxing dip in the mineral-rich hot springs and walk along the breathtaking travertines in this surreal landscape.
Overnight: Pamukkale  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 6-7

Olympos & Chimera Mountain

Pamukkale - Olympos. On day 6 we drive to the popular coastal town of Olympos. There’s free time to relax on the beach or explore the local area. The next day there's an optional sea kayaking adventure and in the evening you may opt to hike up Chimera Mountain. Marvel at the scenery and toast marshmallows on the natural fires which emerge from the rocks. A place of myth and legend, the never-ending fires are caused by gas rising up from below the ground and bursting into flame on contact with the outside air.
Overnight: Olympos

Day 8

Termessos & Egirdir

Olympos - Egirdir. Leaving Olympos, we travel north to Termessos. There's an included visit to the ruins of this Pisidian city before we continue towards Egirdir andf ind a suitable spot to wild camp.
Overnight: Egirdir  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 9-10

Magical Cappadocia

Egirdir - Goreme. On day 9 we drive to the enchanting town of Goreme. Nestled in the stunning Cappadocia mountains, this will be our base for exploring the unique region of subterranean churches and fortresses over the next two days. These fascinating settlements were hollowed out of the porous rocks over hundreds of years. Enjoy an included tour of the valley including the Kaymakli underground city and see the rock hewn churches of Ihlara. There's also the option of a magical hot air balloon ride over the valley and a tour of the rock monastery of Zelve.
Overnight: Goreme

Day 11


Goreme - Zara. Today we have a long drive towards the Sumela Monastery. We wild camp near Zara or the village of Alucra.
Overnight: Zara / Alucra  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12

Sumela Monastery

Zara - Sumela. Today we reach the incredible Sumela Monastery, which clings to the edge of a jagged cliff face at 1,200m. The monastery was founded in the year 368CE during the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. We visit the stunning site and marvel at the swirling mists and evergreen forests in the valley below.
Overnight: Sumela  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13


Sumela - Batumi (Georgia). Today we say goodbye to Turkey and cross into Georgia, then drive to the port city of Batumi for the night. Located on the Black Sea coast and nestled in rolling green hills, Batumi is a great place to relax, with numerous cafes where you can enjoy a coffee. There’s also an optional visit to the Batumi Archaeological Museum.
Overnight: Batumi  |  Breakfast

Day 14


Batumi - Kutaisi. Today we drive to the hospitable and ancient city of Kutaisi. This afternoon we explore the medieval Bagrati Cathedral, which was extensively restored over many decades after suffering heavy damage. These restoration works finished in 2012 meaning we can see the cathedral in all its glory. We also visit the Gelati Monastery and the Prometheus Cave, located just outside the city.
Overnight: Kutaisi  |  Breakfast, Dinner

Days 15-16

Exploring Tbilisi

Kutaisi - Tbilisi. On day 15 we drive to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi where we may be joined by other travellers for the next leg of our journey. The geographical position of Tbilisi gave it a lot of control over the Silk Road and made the city a historic regional superpower. On day 16 we explore highlights of the city and visit sites including the National Museum, impressive Sioni Cathedral and Metekhi Temple. Optional activities in Tbilisi include visits to the Museum of Soviet Occupation and the hilltop Narikala Fortress, which offers fantastic views of the city.
Overnight: Tbilisi   |  Breakfast x 2

Day 17

Dilijan National Park & Lake Sevan

Tbilisi - Dilijan National Park / Lake Sevan (Armenia). Today we cross into Armenia and drive through the lush forest landscape of Dilijan National Park. We’ll either set up camp in the national park or continue to Lake Sevan for the evening. This popular lake is surrounded by pebble beaches and towering mountain peaks, making it a wonderfully scenic place to spend the night.
Overnight: Dilijan NP or Lake Sevan  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 18-19


Dilijan National Park / Lake Sevan - Yerevan. On day 18 we drive to the ancient city of Yerevan - one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. We stop at the medieval Geghard Monastery en route. The monastery was carved out of the rock face of the Azat River Gorge. We also visit Garni Temple before arriving in Yerevan. Over the next two days there’s plenty of free time to wander the Soviet style streets or join optional activities such as a visit to the Ararat Brandy Museum.
Overnight: Yerevan

Day 20

Armenian Highlands

Yerevan - Armenian Highlands. Leaving Yerevan, we make a stop at the Khor Virap Monastery, located on a hilltop near the Turkish border. On a clear day there will be stunning views of the snow-capped Mt Ararat in the background. After making the most of this photo opportunity, we enjoy a scenic drive through the Armenian Highlands and wild camp in a suitable spot.
Overnight: Armenian Highlands  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 21

Vardzia Cave Monastery

Armenian Highlands - Vardzia (Georgia). Today we head north and cross back into Georgia. There will be time today or tomorrow morning to explore the impressive cave monastery at Vardzia. The monastery is carved into the side of a mountain and is surrounded by cliffs, canyons and gorges. It was once a giant underground city, built to protect medieval Georgians from the invading Mongol hordes. Today a handful of monks still reside here, and the bells ring every morning at 07:00. Tonight, we wild camp in the valley close to the caves.
Overnight: Vardzia  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 22


Vardzia - Mtskheta. If there wasn’t time yesterday, then we’ll visit the striking Vardzia Caves this morning. We then make our way to Borjomi National Park for a short hike through picturesque ancient forest and there’s an optional cable car ride up the mountain. Continuing to Mtskheta, there’s time for us to explore the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in this ancient city.
Overnight: Mtskheta   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 23


Mtskheta - Stepantsminda. Leaving Mtskheta, we travel to the town of Stepantsminda, renowned for its natural beauty. Either today or tomorrow we’ll trek up to Tsminda Sameba Church, perched on a stunningly photogenic hilltop with the towering Caucuses Mountains rising around it. There’s also an optional cooking class where you can learn to cook delicious kinkhalis (Georgian meatballs).
Overnight: Stepantsminda   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 24


Stepantsminda - Telavi. Today we drive through the Alazani Valley and arrive in Telavi, the capital of the wine-growing region of Kakheti. We’ll visit the 6th century Shaumta Monastery and see some of the many local vineyards.
Overnight: Telavi   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 25

Telavi wine tasting

We spend another day exploring Telavi today. Enjoy a tour of more of the town’s monasteries and visit some local vineyards. We also enjoy some of Georgia’s famous hospitality at a family run winery, where we’ll enjoy lunch and wine tasting.
Overnight: Telavi   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 26

Lagodekhi National Park

Telavi - Lagodekhi National Park. Today we head towards the Azerbaijani border and spend our last night in Georgia wild camping in Lagodekhi National Park. We visit the ancient Gremi Citadel en route and there’s an optional exploratory walk in the lush forests of the national park on arrival.
Overnight: Lagodekhi NP  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 27

Sheki & caravanserai stay

Lagodekhi National Park - Sheki (Azerbaijan). Say goodbye to Georgia as we enter Azerbaijan at Balakan. We travel to the old town of Sheki to visit the Khan’s Palace and then make our way to tonight's hotel. There’s a treat in store as our comfortable hotel has been built in one of the best-preserved caravanserais (roadside inns) on the entire Silk Road.
Overnight: Sheki (Caravanserai)

Day 28

Lahij Village

Sheki - Lahij. Today we drive to Lahij, an ancient settlement in the mountains which is famous for its coppersmiths and production of arms. Our campsite for tonight has facilities available.
Overnight: Lahij  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 29

Gobustan & Baku

Lahij - Gobustan - Baku. Today we journey to Gobustan, near the Caspian Sea coast. Here we’ll see the ancient petroglyphs (rock art) of people, animals and constellations. We also see the region’s famous mud volcanoes.

Continue to Baku, the bustling coastal capital of Azerbaijan. Following the discovery of oil, Baku has emerged as a force on the global scene and in recent years has played host to sporting events including an annual Formula One Grand Prix and the 2019 Europa League final. The metropolis also has an intriguing contrast of the ancient and the modern, having first been settled in Roman times. On arrival in the city there is plenty of free time to explore.
Overnight: Baku

Day 30

Free time in Baku

There will be a group meeting at 10:00 this morning to explain the next leg of our adventure in Turkmenistan. At some point in the next couple of days we’ll take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan. However, the ferry timetable is notoriously unpredictable so our itinerary will have to be extremely flexible over the next few days. Please see the trip notes for more details. In the meantime, relax in vibrant Baku and explore as you please.
Overnight: Baku

Day 31

Caspian Sea crossing

Baku - Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan). We board our local ferry across the Caspian Sea. This is a fantastic experience but don’t expect too much luxury, the ferry is designed for locals, not for travellers. There will generally only be seats available for the overnight crossing.
Overnight: Caspian Sea ferry

Day 32


Docking at Turkmenbashi we will either stay in a local hotel or begin our journey across the country towards Ashgabat, finding a suitable spot to wild camp en route.
Overnight: Turkmenbashi OR Wild Camping

Days 33-34


Turkmenbashi - Ashgabat. There’s a long drive on day 33 before we arrive in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s modern and bizarre capital city. Most of the city was destroyed in an earthquake in 1948 and has subsequently been rebuilt on a large scale. The city is home to many futuristic buildings such as the unusual Turkmenistan Tower and there are numerous golden statues of the President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. On day 34 there’s an included minibus tour of the city and we may be joined by new travellers in Ashgabat for the next leg of our journey.
Overnight: Ashgabat   |  Breakfast x 2

Day 35

Darvaza - The Door to Hell

Ashgabat - Darvaza Gas Crater. Today we leave Ashgabat and head into the Karakum Desert. There’s an included visit to see the flaming Darvaza Gas Crater, known locally as the Door to Hell. The site was created accidentally in 1971 when Soviet oil drillers released gas into the atmosphere, causing the ground to collapse. This formed the crater, and the Soviets then set fire to the gas in order to burn it all off. There turned out to be much more than they thought, and its been burning away ever since. The whole site will remind you of a volcano and is a truly mesmerising site. We wild camp near the crater tonight.
Overnight: Darvaza  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 36

The ruins of Kunye Urgench

Darvaza Gas Crater - Kunye Urgench. We continue our overland journey across the Karakum Desert today. There will be a stop to explore the ruins of Kunye Urgench, once a major city on the Silk Road. The site was first settled in the 5th century due to its location on the shores of the Amu Daria River and even survived the 1221 invasion of Genghis Khan - it was finally abandoned in 1378. Surviving ruins include the towering 60m high Kutlug-Timur Minaret, the highest in Central Asia. We’ll wild camp in the desert near to the city tonight.
Overnight: Kunye Urgench  |  Breakfast, Lunch

Days 37-38


Kunye Urgench - Dashoguz - Khiva (Uzbekistan). On day 37 we visit the market in the border town of Dashoguz and cross into Uzbekistan. We continue to the city of Khiva, where much of the ancient architecture is still intact including the original city walls. Enjoy a guided tour on day 38 to see highlights including the beautiful turquoise Kalta Minor Minaret, the blue palace of Tash Khovli and the 12th century Kukhna Ark fortress. We also visit the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa museum and the incredible Juma Mosque.
Overnight: Khiva   |  Breakfast x 2

Days 39-41

Exploring Bukhara

Khiva - Bukhara. On day 39 we have a full day’s drive to the fascinating city of Bukhara, our home for the next three nights. Enjoy a guided tour of the city the next day including the sprawling Kalon Mosque, Ismail Samani Mausoleum and the Kalyan Minaret - known as Death Tower due to its historical use as a place of execution.

There’s free time on day 41, which you may wish to spend exploring the gruesome Zindon Prison. Here you can see torture chambers, dungeons and the infamous bug pit. Prisoners would be held here, and scorpions, lice and rodents would be emptied onto their heads.
Overnight: Bukhara

Day 42

Nurata & Desert camp

Bukhara - Nurata. Today we drive into the remote Kyzylkhum Desert near the town of Nurata. There’s an optional camel ride across the rolling sand dunes before we get to stay in a traditional Yurt camp in the desert itself.
Overnight: Nurata   |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 43


Nurata - Samarkand. Today we spend some time exploring the Nurata Hills and you can opt for a dip in the refreshing waters of Lake Ajdar Kul. This afternoon we drive to our hotel in Samarkand, our home for the next three nights. Samarkand was the birthplace of the legendary warlord Timur and is perhaps the most romantic of the Silk Road cities, with beautiful domes and minarets dotting the skyline.
Overnight: Samarkand  |  Breakfast

Days 44-45

Discover Samarkand

On day 44 there’s a guided tour of Samarkand. Discover highlights of the Uzbek city including the stunning Registan Plaza - once the heart of the ancient city. We also see the Ulug Beg Observatory and the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, the former jewel in Timur’s empire. Day 45 is free to relax in the city or join some of the optional activities on offer including an excursion to the ancient city of Shakhrisabz.
Overnight: Samarkand   |  Breakfast x 2

Days 46-48


Samarkand - Tashkent. On day 46 we drive to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. The city is a fascinating contrast to many other Silk Road cities. Whilst Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and others have retained much of their ancient architecture and atmosphere, Tashkent is very much a Soviet city. Clean and modern, it’s a very interesting place to visit. We have two full free days to explore the city and may be joined by new travellers to explore Kyrgyzstan on the next part of our trip.

Please note: The next leg of our journey is subject to change dependent on the weather conditions in Kyrgyzstan. Refer to the trip notes for more details.
Overnight: Tashkent   |  Breakfast x 3

Day 49

Fergana Valley

Tashkent - Kokand - Fergana. Today we travel in local transport over the Kamchik Pass to Kokand. Here we visit the ornately decorated Khudayar Khan’s Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory. We then continue through rolling mountains and stunning scenery to Fergana. We’ll be reunited with our overland truck, which has to pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers.
Overnight: Fergana   |  Breakfast

Days 50-51


Fergana - Arslanbob (Kyrgyzstan). Today we say goodbye to Uzbekistan and enter Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik. Depending on how long the border crossing takes, we will either stay at the border town of Jalalabad or drive to Arslanbob where we stay in a local family-run guesthouse. Day 51 is free to explore, or if we prefer, we may begin our journey into the Kyrgyz Fergana Valley in which case we wild camp on day 51.
Overnight: Arslanbob   |  Breakfast x 2

Days 52-53

The stunning Kyrgyz Fergana Valley

Arslanbob - Kyrgyz Fergana Valley. For the next two days we explore the remote but beautiful Kyrgyz Fergana Valley. We make frequent photo stops and there’s time for some impromptu hikes in this off the beaten track part of the world. Soak up the mountain views and admire the pristine scenery. We’ll camp if possible but in low season it may be too cold - if this is the case then we’ll stay in local guesthouses along the route.
Overnight: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley  |  Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2

Days 54-55

Shimmering Song Kol Lake

On day 54 we arrive at Song Kol Lake, a large alpine lake in the Song Kol Valley. We spend the next two days lakeside, staying in traditional felt yurts, meeting nomadic farmers and enjoying optional hikes and horse-riding excursions in the area. If travelling in low season, then the lake will be inaccessible and too cold to camp at, so we’ll stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kol instead.
Overnight: Song Kol Lake   |  Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2

Day 56

Kochkor village homestay

Song Kol Lake - Kochkor. Today we drive to the village of Kochkor, where we’ll stay in a family-run guesthouse. Learn about the traditional way of life in Kyrgyzstan from the local family we stay with. We also visit the museum and a felt making cooperative which produces shyrdaks - the felt carpets that Kyrgyzstan is known for. There’s an optional excursion to see a concert of Kyrgyz folk music and to learn how to erect a yurt.
Overnight: Kochkor   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Days 57-58

Jeti Oguz

Kochkor - Jeti Oguz. On day 57 we drive to the shore of Lake Issyk Kol and up into the mountains of the Jeti Oguz region. There’s a demonstration from a local eagle hunter and day 58 is free to take in the incredible scenery. Opt for a horse-riding trip with local nomads or discover the striking red sandstone rock formations of Jeti Oguz Gorge independently. We’ll camp without facilities in the area.
Overnight: Jeti Oguz  |  Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2

Day 59


Jeti Oguz - Karakol. Today we have a relatively short drive to the Russian-style town of Karakol. The afternoon is free to explore independently - perhaps visit the Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral or relax in the hotel.
Overnight: Karakol  |  Breakfast

Days 60-61

Exploring the Chong Kemin Valley

Karakol - Chong Kemin. On day 60 we drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk Kol, a popular holiday destination for the locals. The naturally thermal lake never freezes despite the chilly Kyrgyz weather. We visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata and spend the rest of today and day 61 exploring the region.

The Chong Kemin Valley is surrounded by the towering peaks of the Tian Shan mountain range and is renowned for its wildlife and natural beauty. We’ll camp in the area and there’s optional white-water rafting and horse-riding during our stay.
Overnight: Chong Kemin  |  Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2

Days 62-63


Chong Kemin - Bishkek. On day 62 we drive to the relaxed capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek. We’ll stop at the Burana Tower en route and there’s plenty of free time to explore. Perhaps head out to Ala-Too Square - the central point of the city or relax in a cafe on the tree-lined Freedom Avenue. There’s an optional excursion to the State Historical Museum during our stay.
Overnight: Bishkek  |  Breakfast x 2

Day 64

Return to Kochkor

Bishkek - Kochkor or Naryn. The itinerary for today is interchangeable. If a number of new travellers join our tour in Bishkek then we’ll return to the village of Kochkor, where there will be time to relax and join any optional activities you may have missed first time round. If our group remains the same then we’ll drive beyond the village to the town of Naryn, so that we avoid unnecessarily repeating our itinerary.
Overnight: Kochkor OR Naryn  |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 65

Tash Rabat

Kochkor or Naryn - Tash Rabat. Today we drive to Tash Rabat, an extremely well-preserved caravanserai, which was once a crucial stopover for merchants on the Silk Road. Lying close to the border with China, its position near the Torugart Pass means it also benefits from wonderful mountain views. We’ll visit the caravanserai and camp tonight in traditional yurts.
Overnight: Tash Rabat  |  Breakfast

Days 66-70

Kashgar – Welcome to China

Tash Rabat - Kashgar (China). On day 66 we leave Kyrgyzstan and cross into China to begin the final stretch of our adventure. We arrive in Kashgar and there's plenty of free time over the next few days to explore this remote western outpost. Wander through the ethnically diverse old town to see blacksmiths, cobblers and other ancient crafts still being practiced using traditional methods.

On day 69 we visit the animal market and the sprawling Sunday Bazaar. There’s also an included visit to Shipton’s Arch, which is the largest natural arch on the globe. Optional activities in Kashgar include a visit to the Id Kah Mosque and the Silk Road Museum where you can learn more about the diverse history of this part of the world.
Overnight: Kashgar

Days 71-72

The Taklamakan Desert

Kashgar - Aksu - Korle. On day 71 we leave Kashgar and begin our drive through the 250,000 square kilometre Taklamakan Desert. Some Uyghur sources claim that the name “Taklamakan” translates to “once you get in, you'll never get out” due to the size and remoteness of this vast wilderness. It was a major obstacle for ancient travellers on the Silk Road, but thanks to a Chinese highway through the desert, the route will be less hazardous for us. During our crossing of the desert, we’ll stay in local hotels en route.
Overnight: Aksu (1), Korle (1)  |  Breakfast x 2

Days 73-74

Urumqi & Heavenly Lake

Korle - Urumqi. Today we complete our drive through the Taklamakan Desert and arrive in Urumqi, the capital of the province of Xinjiang. We’ll spend two nights here and during our stay we visit the nearby Heavenly Lake. This dazzling lake is surrounded by mountains and is one of the most beautiful spots in the region. There will be opportunities for walking in the area and boating on the lake.
Overnight: Urumqi

Days 75-76


Urumqi - Turpan. On day 75 we arrive in the Turpan Basin, the hottest place in China. Average temperatures in summer can easily reach over 30° Celsius but the lack of humidity makes the heat bearable. The oasis town of Turpan was a crucial stop for traders on the Silk Road to rest and resupply their caravans.

During our stay in Turpan we visit the ruins of Jiaohe - a 2nd century fortress and city. We also discover the ingenious irrigation system that allowed Turpan to flourish as a trading town despite the hostile climate. Optional activities in the area include an excursion to see the Emin Minaret, which is the tallest minaret in China. You can also opt to visit the ancient Silk Road trading city of Gaochang.
Overnight: Turpan

Days 77-78

Discovering Dunhuang

Turpan - Dunhuang. On day 77 we have a long drive to the city of Dunhuang. The next day there’s an included visit to the incredible Mogao Buddha Caves. This gigantic complex of caves contains thousands of examples of Buddhist art, spanning a 1,000-year period from the 4th to the 14th centuries AD. During our stay in Dunhuang you can opt for a camel ride to the nearby Crescent Moon Lake.

Please note: If preferred by the group, we may split the long drive (9-11 hours) on day 77 into two, wild camping in-between. This will mean reducing the number of days we spend in Pingliang towards the end of our trip.
Overnight: Dunhuang

Day 79

Jiayuguan & The Great Wall

Dunhuang - Jiayuguan. Today we drive to Jiayuguan for an included visit to Jiayuguan Fort. This impressive fortress marks the western starting point for the legendary Great Wall of China. Construction on this mudbrick section of the wall began in 1372 CE and took around 170 years to complete. The fort is well preserved with watchtowers and imposing defensive walls. After our visit we camp near a section of the wall.
Overnight: Jiayuguan  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 80

Zhangye Rainbow Mountains

Jiayuguan - Zhangye. Today we drive to the breathtaking Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains. This incredible mountain range has earned its name because of the colours of the rocks in the area. Tectonic movement has led to the deposits of sandstone and minerals over the last 24 million years and the layer cake of rocks has been sculpted beautifully by erosion. Marvel at hills and ravines of red, yellow, blue and green. Tonight, we’ll camp nearby.
Overnight: Zhangye Mountains  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 81


Zhangye - Liujiaxia. Today we have a long drive onto the lower slopes of the remote Tibetan plateau before we reach our hotel for the night in the small city of Liujiaxia.
Overnight: Liujiaxia

Days 82-84

Bingling Si Caves & Xiahe

Liujiaxia - Xiahe. On day 82 we visit the famous Bingling Si Caves, located along the Yellow River. The main attraction of the site is the centrepiece Maitreya Buddha statue. This 27m-tall statue is dug into the cliff. However, there are over 180 caves and more than 700 statues at the site in total.

We continue to the town of Xiahe, our base for the next few days. Xiahe is a very rural town and is populated largely by native Tibetans. There’s plenty of time to explore the town - take a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery, a popular pilgrimage destination for many Tibetans. You can also opt for a day trip into the Sangke or Ganjia grasslands on the lower Tibetan plateau.
Overnight: Xiahe

Day 85


Xiahe - Lanzhou. Leaving Xiahe, we head to the bustling city of Lanzhou. There’s free time this evening to discover the city independently.
Overnight: Lanzhou

Days 86-87


Lanzhou - Pingliang. On day 86 we drive to Pingliang, at the base of Mt Kongtong. The mountain is one of the holiest in Chinese Taoism and we have plenty of time to explore the temples and pilgrimage routes with a full day included excursion. The rest of our stay in Pingliang is free to relax or explore.

Please note: If the drive between Turpan and Dunhuang was split over two days, there will only be 1 night in Pingliang and a half-day exploration of Mount Kongtong.
Overnight: Pingliang

Day 88


Pingliang - Xi’an. Day 88 sees us travel to Xi’an, our final destination and the end of the Silk Road. On arrival, the rest of the day is free to explore the city independently.
Overnight: Xi'an   |  Breakfast

Day 89

Terracotta Warriors

Today our mammoth adventure comes to an end. We’ve followed in the footsteps of ancient merchants on the Silk Road and discovered an off the beaten track part of the world. There's time for an included visit to the incredible Terracotta Warriors in the morning. This sculpted army, 7-000 strong, was built to protect Emperor Qin Shihuang in the afterlife in around 210BC. After our visit, you say goodbye to your crew and overland truck.

If you wish, book a few extra nights accommodation in Xi’an to explore this fascinating city and join some of our optional activities including a cycle ride on the City Walls or a tour of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

Is This Trip Right For Me?

Overlanding is not a style of travel that will suit everyone so please carefully read the Trip Notes before selecting this tour and be realistic about your ability and desire to join such a trip. If you’re the adventurous type who’d rather spend a night wild camping in the wilderness than luxuriating in a boutique hotel, then overlanding is for you. You just need the right attitude, an open mind, and a desire to participate fully in the trip.

Overland travelling can be demanding and physically challenging. On your trip you’ll travel in a purpose-built expedition vehicle on an off-the-beaten-track adventure along rugged roads, sometimes across vast distances and at high altitude. You will find the drive times noted on the Trip Notes.

On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger, these are full participation trips and everyone gets involved and pitches in! You will also be expected to erect your own tent and help with camp chores including cooking meals for the group on a rota basis. Like all great adventures, the more you put in the more you'll get out!

The type, variety and standard of accommodation can vary greatly from very basic rooms without electricity or running water to comfortable hotels with good facilities. Generally in hotels most rooms will be twin-share, but some may be triple/quad-share. Hostels and yurts are nearly always multi-share and may be mixed sex.

The campsites we use range from basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and a bar. On occasions we wild camp with no facilities, which means there are no toilets - just the vast expanse of the great outdoors and a shovel!

Our overland journeys are designed to offer freedom, and many of our routes have a large degree of flexibility rather than a strict hour-by-hour or even day-by-day itinerary. We intend to follow the planned route but exact night stops and inclusions cannot be guaranteed and it sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our planned itinerary.

Silk Road Encompassed is an amazing journey for those who love getting off the beaten track, discovering history and remarkable ways of life. This is a journey for the curious. You will stay in good hotels, hostels and homestays with some wild camping. It's an easy lifestyle but be prepared for the extremes of climate and the trip can be physically challenging.

In Brief

April & June 2020
Hotel Rating
Simple hotels, guesthouses & camping
Local Payment
$3160pp, paid in USD
Tour Guide
Escorted by a tour leader
Breakfast: 53, Lunch: 20, Dinner: 28
Sunset painting the sky orange in Istanbul
Click to play videoCyclists on the old city walls in Xian
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