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

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.

Beijing, China
Istanbul, Turkey
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 21
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


  • 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


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.
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.
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.
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.
A famous pilgrimage site, Wutai Shan is believed to be the earthly abode of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri. Visit sacred temples, go hiking or simply soak up the serene atmosphere in a local cafe.
Stroll the ancient, and well preserved streets on Pingyao. This Han Chinese walled city is designed in the traditional bagua (octagonal) layout with architecture dating back centuries.
Visit the incredible cave houses of Lijiashan - built over 500 years ago - and spend the night in a cave room.
Get an insight into China's communist beginnings with a visit to Yan'an, once the Chinese Communist Party's headquarters during the 1930s and 40s
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 early to get to stunning Lake Karakol. Spend the day wallowing in the surrounds of this magnificent setting.
Hike the lakeside mountains or ride the perimeter of the lake on horseback to wear yourself out before the drive back to Kashgar. Take time out in comfort this evening to relax and recuperate.
Take a good book as today's lengthy border crossing meanders through the Torugart pass and into Kyrgyzstan.
Spend some time getting to know the locals of Kochkor with a traditional Kyrgyz homestay and experience a glimpse of daily life.
Driving into the capital city, explore the crowded bazaars and vast bustling squares of this modern city.
Set off on a leisurely hike along Chong Kemin River. Or if feeling adventurous, perhaps tackle one of the tough 4000 m 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 Kara-kol, 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.
Stay in traditional yurt accommodation and experience nomad life in the lush pastures surrounding the beautiful Song-Kol Lake.
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, before exploring the grasslands of Asku 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


Overland vehicle
Bush camp (no facilities) (18 nights), Camping (with facilities) (3 nights), Cave house (1 night), Guesthouse (4 nights), Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (60 nights), Yurt (5 nights)
Included activities
  • Aksu-Zhabagly National Park
  • Ashgabat - Sunday Market
  • Beijing - Forbidden City
  • Bukhara - Guided city tour
  • Chengde - Bisu Shanzhuang
  • Chengde - Puning Temple
  • Datong - Hanging Monastery
  • Dunhuang - Mogao Caves
  • Entrance Jiayuguan fort
  • Esfahan walking tour
  • Goreme - Guided Goreme Valley tour
  • Guided tour of ancient ruins of Persepolis
  • 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
  • Lijiashan - Black Dragon Temple
  • Liujiaxia - Bingling Si Caves
  • Pingliang - Kongtong Mountain
  • Samarkand - Guided city tour
  • Tehran walking tour
  • Turpan - Jiaohe riuns
  • Visit to Lake Tuz
  • Wutai Shan - Taihui Temple Cluster
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour
  • Yan'an - Revolution Museum & CCP Headquarters site


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Important notes

1. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.
2. Due to a British government travel warning, from September 2012 this itinerary will no longer be able to visit Iran. It will instead travel from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and then through Georgia to Turkey. Passengers already booked to travel in 2012 have been notified. The new itinerary for 2013 will be published by November.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes