Get ready for a massive Overland adventure from the metropolitan mammoth of Beijing to Istanbul’s bustling bazaars. Travel through some of Asia’s most remote, wild and unique wildernesses along the legendary Silk Road from China. See Istanbul’s famous blue mosque; cross Iran’s’ remote desert landscapes as you travel to Tehran; pass through Uzbekistan’s soaring mountain vistas; tour Xi’an’s famous Terracotta Warriors; and discover secluded sections of the snaking Great Wall of China. From Beijing to Tehran and beyond, this adventure encompasses the very best of Central Asia and the Middle East. If you're longing for an epic overland odyssey, away from the tourist crowds, Beijing to Istanbul is just for you.

Start
Beijing, China
Finish
Istanbul, Turkey
Countries
China,
Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan,
Turkey,
Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan,
Iran
Themes
Overland
Code
KDOYC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 21
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip

Explore Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan as you travel from Beijing to Istanbul.


Highlights

  • Wander through Beijing’s’ Forbidden City
  • Explore the temple and pagoda studded Kongtong Mountain
  • Climb deserted sections of the Great Wall of China
  • See the Army of Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an
  • Climb deserted sections of the Great Wall of China
  • Admire the Buddhist art at the Mogao Caves
  • Cross the infamous Torugart Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China
  • See the dramatic glaciers adorning the Ala Archa Canyon
  • Admire quaint Karakol
  • Meet local shepherds on a yurt stay
  • Explore the historic town of Bukhara
  • Walk the ancient walls of Khiva
  • Discover the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand
  • Uncover hidden delights in Iran's capital, Tehran
  • Search out delicate silks in Yazd
  • Be mystified by the ancient Persian relics of Persepolis
  • Explore the sprawling Palace of Ishak Pasa
  • Discover the secrets of the Enchanted Valley
  • Explore the hub of East and West in Istanbul

Itinerary

Ni hao and welcome to China where a grand adventure awaits! Begin by joining the buzzing hive that is Beijing - a place where discovery and intrigue lie around every corner. Visit the Forbidden City to admire imperial architecture or the sprawling Summer Palace on the banks of Kunming Lake.
Journey into the valley of the Changrui Mountains, where emperors and their concubines lay entombed at Qing Dongling.
Take a walk along the monumental Great Wall as it snakes its way through rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Imagine the exhaustive effort of farmers and labourers who toiled for many generations to construct the Wall.
Stroll through the lush Shanzhuang gardens in the footsteps of past Emperors who holidayed here. Take in the rich heritage of Chengde by bicycle or admire the Mongolian and Tibetan influences in local temples and monasteries.
Marvel at the Hanging Monastery, delicately perched on a steep cliff face in Golden Dragon Gorge, and explore the World Heritage listed Yungang Grottoes, home to a staggering collection of over 50,000 statues and fascinating ancient rock art.
Travel to the cultural centre of Hohhot at the gateway to Inner Mongolia. This busy ancient city gives off a laidback vibe making it the perfect place for to reload before embarking on a Mongolian homestay. Yak butter tea, anyone?
After a pit stop at the grand temples of Zhongwei Gao Miao, enjoy fraternising with locals in the friendly city of Yinchuan, amid the ebb and flow of daily life in provincial China.
The reward for a morning of travel is letting off steam in Shapotou, where daredevils will delight in the dune sliding madness of this sandy wonderland. And if the stars align, embark on an overnight camel safari on the fringes of the stunning Tengger Desert.
Admire the view from atop the temple-studded Kongtong Mountain and enjoy the spoils of Gansu Province, which has a rich and colourful history as one of the important links on the ancient Silk Road.
Admire the 2,000-year-old army of Terracotta Warriors and explore significant cultural sites and museums both in and around Xi'an. Enjoy a plate of hand-pulled noodles as you watch the locals dance, eat and practice martial arts in South Park.
Overland through the province of Gansu to Pingliang, which sits at the edge of the beautiful Kongtong Mountain. Peruse the wonderful shops or climb the mountain for rewarding views.
Travel down the fertile Gansu Corridor, a rugged stretch of the famed Silk Route.
Travel to the Tibetan monastery town of Xiahe, often described as one of the most enchanting places to visit in China.
At the crossroads of Qinghai and Gangsu, arrive at Liujiaxia. Visit the Bingling Si Buddhist Grottoes to see intricate cliff-side carvings.
Continue the journey west towards Jiayuguan, where we set up camp en route.
Arrive in Jiayuguan after a full day of driving, and discover deserted sections of the Great Wall.
Arrive in Dunhuang and relax in this Gansu oasis trading town. Visit the nearby Mogao Caves and discover their breathtaking Buddhist art.
Continue the overland adventure towards the ancient oasis town of Turpan. Spend the night wild camping beneath the desert stars.
Escape the desert sands in the laidback town of Turpan.
Travel towards the Tian Shan mountain range, and arrive at the pristine Heavenly Lake. Located at the top of a mountain and in the middle of a desert, this is a remote spot, perfect for relaxation.
Head to the outskirts of the enormous Taklamakan Desert. Travel into seemingly unchartered terrain and begin two days on an overland adventure.
Arrive in Kashgar, an exotic fusion of Chinese, Uzbek and Kyrgyz cultures. Wander the streets that weave through the old town and discover the markets and bazaars of this diverse city before saying goodbye to this incredible part of the world.
Set off on a leisurely hike along Chong Kemin River. Or if feeling adventurous, perhaps tackle one of the tough 4000m passes.
Farewell the Kyrgyzstan mountains and head to Cholpon Ata, nestled on the shores of the vast and beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake.
Enjoy the remote, picturesque town of Karakol, complete with quaint tree-lined streets and colonial houses.
Hike through dramatic canyons and sandstone cliffs in Djety Oguz Valley.
Enjoy more traditional Kyrgyz hospitality on a homestay in Kochkor village.
Spend the night in a yurt and join in a game of ulak-tartysh.
Hit the road back to Bishkek, stopping to camp in the wilderness overnight.
Back in Bishkek, why not stretch the legs with a walk through Oak Park. Or perhaps just kick back in one of the park's open air cafes.
Make tracks into Kazakhstan and enjoy a night with a local family in Zhabagly. Explore the grasslands of Aksu National Park.
Arrive in Tashkent, the final stop on this tour. Shop for fresh produce at the Chorsu Bazaar and perhaps grab some Soviet paraphernalia from a market.
Travel to one of Central Asia's most magical cities, Uzbekistan’s Samarkand. Discover the romance of the Silk Road in this perfectly preserved city full of exotic architecture and majestic buildings.
Spend a night in a yurt camp with the local nomads, sleeping among the dunes of the Red Desert.
Get to know Central Asia's holiest city, where the combination of buildings spanning a thousand years and a thoroughly lived-in Old Town combine to create an awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Gaze up at the ancient walls surrounding Khiva and imagine how they once provided sanctuary for weary Silk Road travellers. Explore the historic and perfectly preserved Old Town, beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles.
Follow a local trading route through harsh desert sands, and meet the nomadic people who call this inhospitable region home.
Drive across the Karakum Desert. If time allows, see the amazing Darvaza Gas Crater.
Continue your adventure among the futuristic architecture of Ashgabat's skyline. Spy the world's largest hand-woven rug or learn about the city's traumatic history at the Earthquake Museum.
Make tracks towards the Iranian border today and explore Shirvan, nestled on the banks of Atrak River.
Take a walk around the ancient city of Damghan, perhaps stopping to visit one of the oldest mosques in the world - Jamrh.
Travel into the heart of the central Iranian desert and enjoy a homestay in the small village of Garmeh.
Wind through the old city of Yazd - reputedly one of the oldest towns in the world. Sign up for a scrub in a local hamam or sample some tasty Iranian cuisine.
Keep quiet at the Zoroastrian Tower of Silence before heading to the historical Zein-o-din Caravanserai.
Explore the magnificent ruins of Persepolis en route to Shiraz. Spend free time in town visiting magnificent mosques and mausoleums or shopping in the fabulous Vakil Bazaar.
With stately bridges, blue-tiled Islamic buildings and a gargantuan city square, Esfahan provides welcome splashes of lush colour after a few days in the dry countryside. Take in the splendour of this city by visiting ornate mosques and historic palaces.
Discover the capital of Iran, Tehran, a sprawling, fascinating and intoxicating place. Visit the impressive Golestan Palace or get lost in one of the Tehran's museums.
Camp in the wilds of this beautiful, mountainous region. Discover the unique rock formations in the enchanting Kandovan region.
Nestled at the foot of Turkey's highest peak, Dogubayazit has a romantic palace-fortress that is fascinating to explore.
Travel overland into Eastern Turkey via ancient trade routes. Explore the Enchanted Valley where cones of soft volcanic rock have been carved to create mystical churches and mysterious dwellings.
Discover Cappadocia's Goreme Valley and underground troglodyte cities, fairy chimneys and caves. Perhaps also enjoy a traditional Turkish bath or sip tea with locals in the quaint cafes of this fascinating area of Turkey.
Farewell the fairy chimneys of Goreme and travel to the beautiful salt lake, Tuz Golu.
Visit Istanbul's Grand Bazaar to hunt for a bargain, admire the Blue Mosque or the imposing Aya Sofya. On the cobblestone streets of this fascinating city is where the Turkic and Persian Splendours adventure comes to an end.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (19 nights), Camping (with facilities) (2 nights), Guesthouse (4 nights), Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (59 nights), Yurt (6 nights)
Included activites
  • Aksu-Zhabagly National Park
  • Ashgabat - Sunday Market
  • Beijing - Forbidden City
  • Bukhara - Guided city tour
  • Datong - Hanging Monastery
  • Datong - Yungang Grottoes
  • Dunhuang - Mogao Caves
  • Entrance Jiayuguan fort
  • Esfahan walking tour
  • Goreme - Guided Goreme Valley tour
  • Guided tour of ancient ruins of Persepolis
  • Imperial City, entrance, Chengde
  • Jeti-Oghuz - Hiking
  • Jinshanling - Great Wall
  • Kashgar - Sunday & Animal Bazaars
  • Khiva - Guided city tour
  • Kochkor - Regional Museum
  • Kochkor - Women's Felt Co-op
  • Konye-Urgench - Ancient City ruins
  • Liujiaxia - Bingling Si Caves
  • Ming Tombs, entrance, Beijing
  • Pingliang - Kongtong Mountain
  • Quingdongling Tombs, entrance, Beijing
  • Samarkand - Guided city tour
  • Tehran walking tour
  • Turpan - Jiaohe riuns
  • Visit to Lake Tuz
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour
  • Xumi Shan Grottoes, entrance, guyuan

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Important notes

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