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16 Days Silk Road & Etzina Exploration

Destinations:Beijing, Xining, Xiahe, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, Etzina, Dunhuang, Turpan, Urumqi, Kashgar

from: US$2533
Tour Code: CITA-SR10
Summary: This tour travels the ancient Silk Road through China’s Ejina Region. We will visit watch towers guarding the Great Wall of China built by the Han emperors camp that are scattered throughout the area: The Black City of the Xi Xia Dynasty and reputed to be Marco Polo’s city of Etzina and the Mongol Ghost City of Khara Khoto.

Day 1

Beijing

Please arrange for your own international flight to get to Beijing. We will meet you at the Beijing international airport, transfer you to the hotel and check you in. Feel free to do a little exploration of Beijing at your leisure for the rest of the day. 

Day 2

Beijing
Tiananmen Square

After breakfast we will start with a visit to the Temple of Heaven. You will see local people practicing Tai Chi, as well as singing and practicing calligraphy in the neighboring park. We will later take a leisurely walk through Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City, and enjoy a panoramic view of Forbidden City form Jing-shan Hill. In the evening we will sample Peking Duck Dinner before a fantastic Kongfu Show.

The Temple of Heaven: Temple of Heaven, or Tiantan, is located in the southern part of Beijing, and has been one of the most sacred places for the whole country for more than five centuries. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to heaven, and is the largest one in Beijing among several royal altars to Heaven, Earth, Sun, Moon and other deities or symbolic forces of Nature.
Tiananmen Square: Located at the centre of Beijing, Tiananmen, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace, is the largest city public square in the world. It was originally built in 1651 and in the 1950s it was enlarged to its current size, four times the original. It has great cultural significance as it was the site of a number of important events in the Chinese history, including the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
Forbidden City: Located in the middle of Beijing, Forbidden City was the Chinese royal palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, with a history of around 600 years. Also called Palace Museum, the Forbidden City is recognized as the most magnificent and splendid palace complex in China and one of the five world-famous palaces, along with the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in England, the White House in United States, and the Kremlin in Russia.

Day 3

Beijing
Great Wall

In the morning we will visit the Great Wall and Ming Tomb. Then we will explore the alleyways, "Hutong", by riding on a traditional rickshaw to catch close-up glimpses of local life.

The Great Wall: This is one of the seven wonders of the world and the symbol of China. Badaling Great Wall, located 80km north-west of Beijing, is the most impressive and the most visited section of the Great Wall of China. Constructed in 1502 during the Ming Dynasty, the Badaling Great Wall once served as an important military fortification. Many leaders from China and around the world, like Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, had all visited this section of the wall.

The Ming Tombs: Also known as the “13 Tombs”, this is a collection of mausoleums of the 13 out of 17 of the Ming Dynasty emperors. The tomb that can be visited is that of Emperor Wanli, who reigned from 1537 to 1620, and his two empresses. Unearthed in 1956, this is literally an underground palace located 27m below ground surface.

Day 4

Beijing  Xining
Kumbum Monastery

After breakfast we will send you to the airport to fly to Xining Upon your arrival in Xining, we will visit the Kumbum Monastery (Ta'er si).

Kumbum Monastery: Located 26km south of the Xining city proper, the sacred Kumbum Monastery, or Ta'er Si, is the best of the sights in the Xining area. The ancient monastery, built during the 39th year (1560 AD) of the reign of emperor Jiajing of Ming Dynasty, boasts a Tibetan name, Kumbum, which means a grand place housing 100,000 Buddhas. The sight is most sacred due to the personages who have graced it with their presence. It was originally built upon the birth place of the founder of the Gelukpa Sect (Yellow Hat) of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsong Khapa. Two of his disciples from this region also went on to become famous in the Buddhist world, one becoming Dalai Lama, the other the Panchen Lama, both great living Buddhas. The present Dalai Lama, now in exile in India, also studied and lived here.

Day 5

Xining  Xiahe
Labrang Monastery

After breakfast we will drive to Xiahe to visit the Labrang Monastery and Songke Grassland.

Labrang Monastery: The Labrang Monastery is located at the foot of the Phoenix Mountain, northwest of Xiahe County in Gannan Tibetan Nationality Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. As a propitious place in the hearts of the Tibetans, it stands by the Daxia River and faces the Dragon Mountain. A long time ago, this place was a boundless sea, which over time had turned into the present landscape. There is a beautiful legend that tells about how the Dragon Mountain, Phoenix Mountain, and the Daxia River were formed.

Songke Grassland: Lying at an average altitude of over 3,000m above sea level, the Songke Grassland is situated a short 14km from Xiahe. This vast expanse of grassy plains, covering an area of around 70 square kilometers, is a lonely, beautiful place that presents a nice change for those coming from the bustling cities, such as Chengdu or Lanzhou. There are only 4,000 Tibetan nomads left on the grasslands, and they graze yak herds and offer tourists the chance of a ride on their horses. Entertainment here varies according to your preference. Botanists and hikers will be happy to just set off into the rolling hills, but for those after a little more excitement, the horse rides, costing around RMB25, are good fun.
 

Day 6

Xiahe  Lanzhou  Jiayuguan
Water Wheel Park

After breakfast we will drive to Lanzhou. We will visit the Binglingsi Thousand Buddha Caves on the way to Lanzhou. Upon arriving in Lanzhou, we will visit the Yellow River Mother SculptureWater Wheel Park, if there is sufficient time. Then you will be transferred to the railway station to catch the train to Jiayuguan.

Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves: The Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves are on the cliff of Xiaojishi Hill. Located on a branch of Gansu part of the Silk Road, the Bingling Caves were started by Buddhist monks from as early as the West Jin Dynasty (265AD -316AD) although the official carving began in 420AD. Today there are 183 caves existing with 694 stone statues, 82 earth statues and murals of 900 square meters (9,688 square feet). Another pleasant surprise on your way to Bingling Caves is the beautiful Liujiaxia Reservoir. The crystal water lying among the yellow earth mountains is quite a sight. At the end of the Reservoir, the green water connects to the yellow water while the blue sky connects to the yellow earth. Perhaps this can only be experienced in Liujiaxia.
Yellow River Mother Sculpture: The Yellow River is revered by the Chinese as the mother of their civilisation. It runs right through Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province. The Yellow River Mother Sculpture is located on the south bank of Yellow River in the city of Lanzhou. The sculpture is 6 meters long and 2.6 meters in height, and weighs more than 40 tons. The sculpture comprises a mother and a baby, the mother with long hair, slim figure, lying on the undulating water looking happy and kind. Resting on her breast is a small child smiling naively. The Yellow River Mother Sculpture reflects the long history and culture of Gansu Province.
The Waterwheel Garden: The Waterwheel Garden was built in 1994, and is located on Binhe Middle Road in Lanzhou, Gansu Province. The garden covers an area of 1.45 hectares (3.58 acres) and is comprised of two waterwheels, a cofferdam, the recreation area and a water mill house.
 

Day 7

Jiayuguan  Ejina Qi
Khara-Koto

We will meet you at the train station, and then head to Ejina Qi to visit Khara-Koto.

Khara-koto: This city ruins site was first discovered by a Russian explorer named Botanin, who traveled through Inner-Mongolia in 1886. The site was then visited a second time by Tsogt Badmajapov, a Russian explorer who had continued the work of Nikolai Przhevalsky in Mongolia and Tibet after his Death. Badmajapov only performed initial surveys, after which in 1908 a Russian expedition was sent off to the East to find the ruined city and seek archeological remnants and relics. In 1909 AD, this expedition under the leadership of the Russian explorer Colonel Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov reached the ancient ruins and surveyed the site. Apart from the ancient walls of the fortified town, the scientists identified a sand buried Stupa, at some 400 meters outside of the City Walls opposite the Main Gate. Inside the Stupa lay a hidden treasure. Breaking inside Kozlov and companions found a large collection of scrolls, scriptures and art pieces.

Day 8

Ejina  Qi Boluosongzhi  Ejina Qi

After breakfast we will go by bus to visit Boluosongzhi, and return to Ejina Qi in the afternoon.

Day 9

Ejina Qi  Jiayuguan  Dunhuang
The Jiayuguan Pass

In the morning we will head to Jiayuguan by bus, and visit the Jiayuguan Passthe Great Wall on the Cliff. From there will drive to Dunhuang.

Jiayuguan Pass: Jiayuguan Pass stands in the southwest part of Jiayuguan City, about 6 km away from downtown. The Ming Dynasty fort here guards the strategic pass, at the western end of the Great Wall – this was the last section built by the Ming Dynasty.  Construction of the fort was started in 1372 in the Ming Dynasty, and subsequently enlarged and strengthened, and was known as 'the strongest pass under heaven'. It is located in the Jiayu Highland, hence its name Jiayuguan. It is situated between the Wenshu and Heishan Mountains at the foot of Jiayuguan Hill of the Qilian Mountain range.

The Great Wall on the Cliff: The Suspended Wall is a part of the Great Wall of China. The wall here was built on the ridge with a gradient of 45 degrees. It is high in the air and it looks as if it fell down from the top of the hill. So people refer to this section of the Great Wall as the "Suspended Wall". The Suspended Wall, the extension of the walls at the Jiayuguan Pass towards the north, was an integral part of the ancient defense system at the Jiayuguan Pass.

Day 10

Dunhuang  Turpan 
Mogao Grottoes

After breakfast we will visit the famous Mogao Grottoes , Echoing-Sand Mountain and Crescent Lake. After that we will send you to the railway station to catch the train to Turpan.

Mogao Grottoes: The Mogao Grottoes, a shrine of Buddhist art treasures, is 25 km from downtown Dunhuang on the eastern slope of Mingsha Shan (Echoing Sand Mountain). A network of plank-reinforced roads plying north to south 1600 meters long lead to the cave openings, which are stacked five stories high, some reaching up to 50 meters. Incidentally, Mogao means high up in the desert. According to Tang Dynasty records, a monk had witnessed onsite a vision of thousand Buddhas under showers of golden rays. Thus inspired, he started the caves construction work that spanned a millennium, from the 4th to the 14th centuries. What remains today is truly awe inspiring, and is likely the world’s richest treasure house of Buddhist sutras, murals and sculptures. Please note that cameras are not allowed inside the grottoes.

Echoing-Sand Mountain and Crescent Lake: Together with the Crescent Spring and the Mogao Caves, the Echoing-Sand Mountain is the most popular tourist site in Dunhuang. Echoing-Sand Mountain, known as Mingsha Mountain to the Chinese, is 5 km to the south of Dunhuang and is famous for the constant sound of the moving sand. Legend has it that many years ago a horrific battle was fought here, and the sounds we hear today were the haunting cries of soldiers buried in the sand dunes. Situated within the Echoing-Sand Mountain Park, the Crescent Moon Lake is literally an oasis in the desert. The lake’s name derives from the crescent moon shape taken by the pool of spring water between two large sand dunes. Although the surrounding area is very dry, the pool surprisingly doesn’t dry up as one might expect.

Day 11

Turpan 
Astana Tombs

After checking into the hotel, we will visit Astana TombsTuyoq Valley and Bezeklik Grottoes.

Astana Tombs: This is the graveyard of the residents who lived in the Gaochang City in the Jin-Tang period. Between 1959 and 1975, a great number of cultural relics had been unearthed, including Chinese documents, textiles, epitaphs, coins, clay sculptures, pottery, wooden wares, silk-paintings, crops and foods, etc. The site is known as the Underground Museum.
Tuyoq Valley: This is a 12 km long primitive Uighur agricultural valley about 70 km from Turpan, with vineyards and fields in the northern and southern valleys and a narrow ravine that connects them. It is a Muslim religious pilgrimage site. The southern mouth of the valley has big Uighur mosques older than the Sugong Minaret and a cave thought by many to be described in the Koran. About a kilometer from the cave shrine is a group of grottoes that have some Buddhist and Nestorian artwork. These grottoes are said to date from the West Jin Dynasty (265AD-316AD), and are considered to be the earliest in Turpan. Most of the murals are damaged. Fortunately, 10 of the grottoes still have some of the preserved murals. These precious murals are very unique in style.
Bezeklik Grottoes: The Bezeklik Grottoes, or Thousand Buddha Caves, is a complex of Buddhist cave grottos dating from the 5th to 14th century between the cities of Turpan and Shanshan at the north-east of the Taklamakan Desert near the ancient ruins of Gaochang in the Mutou Valley. They are high on the cliffs of the west Mutou Valley under the Flaming Mountains, and most of the surviving caves date from the West Uyghur kingdom around the 10th to 13th centuries. There are 77 rock-cut caves at the site. Most have rectangular spaces with rounded arch ceilings often divided into four sections, each with a mural of the Buddha. The effect is of entire ceiling covers with hundreds of Buddha murals. Some murals show a large Buddha surrounded by other figures, including Turks, Indians and Europeans. Some of the murals are masterpieces of religious art.

Day 12

Turpan  Kuqa
Jiaohe Ruins

After breakfast we will visit Jiaohe Ruins, Karez Irrigation SystemSugong Minaret, and then catch the soft sleeper train to Kuqa.

Jiaohe Ancient City Ruins: The city's name means 'River City'. It was founded during the first century BC and abandoned during the 15th century. It is located atop a steep cliff on a leaf-shaped plateau between two deep river valleys in the Yarnaz valley 10 km to the west of Turpan City. It runs northwest to southeast, 1760 meters long and 300 meters across at the widest part. The ruins include city gates, streets and lanes, government office, temples, domestic houses, cave houses, wells, and an underground temple. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Silk Road Sites.
Karez Irrigation System: The ancient Karez Irrigation System, which is still used today, is a unique irrigation system in Turpan. It takes advantage of the slopes, draws the underground water to flow by itself to irrigate farmland. It consists of four parts: vertical wells, underground channels, ground canals, and small reservoirs.
Sugong Minaret: Located in Mura Village 2km to the east of the city of Turpan, the minaret tower was built in the 41st year of the long reign of Qianlong Emperor during the Qing Dynasty. It is the embodiment of the ancient architectural arts of the Uighur people. The body of the tower is cylindroid in shape, built with bricks arranged in various symmetrical patterns on the outer wall. The tower has 14 windows and a spiral staircase inside going to the top.
 

Day 13

Kuqa  Kashgar
Kizil Grottoes

We will meet you at the train station, and then proceed to visit the Subashi Ruins and Kizil Grottoes. After that we will send you to the train station to take the soft sleeper train to Kashgar.

Subashi Ruins: Located 23 kilometers northwest of Kuqa County, Xinjiang Province are the ruins of the Subashi Temple. The Ruins are divided by Kuqa River into eastern and western areas. These large area ruins reflect the temple's past brilliance. Subashi Temple was a Buddhism temple, which was built in the first century and reached its peak during the sixth to the eighth centuries in the Sui and Tang dynasties. In the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), the hierarch Xuanzang was attracted by the splendor of the temple and the popularity of Buddhism in this area, and stayed here for more than 2 months on his way to India to get Buddhist sutra.
Kizil Grottoes: The grottoes were excavated on the cliff of Qul-tagh Mountain by the Muzart River. As the earliest grottoes in Xinjiang, they were also the earliest ones in China. The contents of these paintings are very rich, including jataka stories, Buddha’s life story and the stories about karma.

Day 14

Kashgar 
Apak Hoja Tomb

Upon arrival in Kashgar we will visit the Id Kah Mosque ,Apak Hoja Tomb and the Old Town.

Id Kah Mosque: This is the largest mosque in China, and the most famous mosque in Xinjiang. The construction of the mosque started in the middle of the 15th century, and the mosque has gradually developed to its present size. The buildings of Id Kah Mosque look magnificent and solemn, and display the artistic styles of Islamic mosque architecture. The Mosque has an area of about 16,800 square meters, consisting of the Pray Hall, the Koran teaching Hall, the Corridor, the Arches and other buildings attaching to it. The Pray Hall of the mosque, which can hold 4,000 prayers, is supported by 140 carved wooden pillars.
Apakh Hoja Tomb: This Mazar is the holiest place in Xinjiang for the Muslims, and an architectural treasure. Built in 1640, it is reminiscent of the Central Asian artistic style of Samarkand or Isfahan. The site is also known as the Xiang Fei (Fragrant Concubine) Tomb in memory of Abakh Khoja's granddaughter, Iparhan, who was the Fragrant Concubine of Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty. A handsome blue-and-white tiled gate leads into the compound, which includes a small religious school and the Abakh Khoja family tomb. The latter is domed and faced with muti-color tiles. It is the most complete Islamic tomb dating from the beginning of the Qing Dynasty.
Old Town: Kashgar is an ancient city, and in walking the streets of its Old Town, one gets the sense of what this legendary Central Asian hub was like in the days when the Silk Road was at its zenith. 500-year old remnants of the city wall, narrow lanes and colorful multi-ethnic crowds combine to make Kashgar’s historic district a highlight of any visit to the city. Visit the small alleys to look at the characteristic Uygur residences. You will experience and enjoy the culture and history that has been retained in the small alleys and deep courtyards. In the alleys on platforms beside the residence you could marvel at the even more ancient primitive workshops for hand-made earthenware. Some 17 or 18 antique workshops have been restored.

Day 15

Kashgar  Urumqi
 Sunday Bazaar

After breakfast we will visit the Kashgar Sunday Bazaar, and then take the flight to Urumqi, where we will visit the Xinjiang International Bazaar upon arrival.

Sunday Bazaar: This is called “Sunday” bazaar but it is open daily, even though it is busiest on Sundays. Streets near this big market are jammed with farmers and buyers arriving by donkey cart, truck, bicycle, horseback, ute, motobike, or on foot, with their animals. It is loud, lively and cheerful as they arrive, eat breakfast, set up their animals and check out the action. Cattle, sheep (they definitely look different), goats, donkeys, horses have their own sections. Sellers show off their animals as “good eaters” (most go as livestock, not meat). The entire experience is fascinating and fun.

Erdaoqiao & International Bazaar: Here you will find a bustling market filled with fruits, clothing, crafts, knives, carpets, and almost anything that you can imagine. This is the largest bazaar in Urumqi, and is a place most welcomed by tourists, especially the ladies who will find they can buy some traditional Yugur cosmetics. On Sunday, there are more stalls and more goods to buy than any other day. The old streets around the bazaar are particularly worth seeing.

Day 16

Urumqi your destination
Xinjiang Museum

After breakfast we will visit the Xinjiang Museum, after which we will send you to the airport for the flight to your destination.

Xinjiang Museum: The Xinjiang Regional Museum is a large integrated museum and a centre for the collection and study of cultural relics in Xinjiang.  The museum was built in 1953, featuring Uighur ethnic internal decor style and has an exhibition hall covering an area of about 7,800 square meters. There are more than 50,000 pieces of various kinds of cultural relics stored in the museum, among them are the ancient mummies represented by the “Loulan Beauty”, manuscripts in Chinese, Karosthi, Qiuci, Yanji, Tibetan, Uighurian and other characters prevailing in ancient western regions of China, as well as silk, wool, cotton and hemp fabrics and folk raiment, etc., all items of great intrigue. The 'Loulan beauty' mummy in particular is a well preserved mummy from 4000 years ago. It still has a reddish brown skin, thick eyelashes, charming large eyes, and long hair.

 

Travel in party of Superior Class
★★★★★
Deluxe Class
★★★★
Tourist Class
★★★
2-5 persons N $ 3816 $ 3566
6-9 persons N $ 3133 $ 2883
10 persons & above N $ 2783 $ 2533
Single room Supplement N $ 717 $ 490

Service included:

√ Entrance fees
√ Breakfast in the hotel
√ Personal Guide & Driver + Private car / van for Private Transfers & sightseeing
√ Hotels (twin share bases) as listed in the itinerary .
√ Domestic flights or trains as listed in the itinerary
   Train (soft sleeper): Lanzhou to Jiayuguan. Dunhuang to Turpan, Turpan to Kucha, Kucha to Kashgar
   Flights with tax: Beijing to Xining, Kashgar to Urumqi
√ Service Charge & Government Taxes .
√ Luggage Transfers between airports and hotels
√ Government letter for visa support

Service excluded:

* All the lunches and dinners, breakfast on the train
* Personal expenses. such as laudentry and tips to the guide and driver
* other activities such as boating, camel riding ect
Contact Center

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