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Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar Overview
See Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan as you travel from Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar
Two massive continents, eight countries and one massive overland adventure - Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar really is the trip of a lifetime. Travel along pathways that were once trodden by some of history’s most influential rulers, from the ancient yet highly sophisticated Persians to Alexander the Great and the fearsome armies of Genghis Khan. Beginning in the spice-scented bazaars of Istanbul, this trip follows the legendary Silk Road through holy lands, remote mountain villages and cultured cities including lively Tehran, futuristic Ashgabat, sacred Samarkand and hedonistic Beijing, before crossing the mysterious Mongolian plains. Perfect for travellers wanting to get under the skin of Central Asia, this is the most extensive, off the beaten track, overland experience you will come across.
What's included in this trip
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Spend the night in a yurt near Song-Kol Lake and join in a game of ulak-tartysh.
Make tracks back to Bishkek, stopping to camp in the wilderness overnight.
Take time out in Bishek. Why not stroll through the city's markets and haggle for bargains. Alternatively, relaxing in an Oak Park cafe is another good option!
Make Kyrgyz friends on an authentic homestay experience in Kochkor.
Take a good book as today's lengthy border crossing meanders through the Torugart pass and into Kyrgyzstan, past rugged mountains and wild terrain.
The striking atmosphere of Kashgar provides a refreshing contrast to the past two days' travel. Soak up the exotic sights, sounds and smells of this unique destination.
Set off early to get to stunning Lake Karakol. Spend the day wallowing in the surrounds of this magnificent setting before spending the night in traditional yurts.
Travel to the westernmost end of China and visit Kashgar, an exotic fusion of Chinese, Uzbek and Kyrgyz. Wander the streets that weave through the old town and discover the markets and bazaars of this diverse city.
Leave Kashgar and head to the outskirts of the enormous Taklamakan Desert. Travelling into seemingly unchartered terrain, spend two days on an overland adventure.
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.
Escape the desert sands in the laidback town of Turpan. Explore the famous Jiahe ruins, visit the night market or perhaps soak up the lively energy among locals in the town square.
Continue the Overland adventure towards the ancient Silk Road town of Dunhuang. Spend the night wild camping beneath the desert stars.
Arrive in Dunhuang and relax in this Gansu oasis trading town. Visit the nearby Mogao Caves and discover their breathtaking Buddhist art.
Drive to Jiayuguan and discover deserted sections of the Great Wall.
At the crossroads of Qinghai and Gangsu, arrive at Liujiaxia. Visit the Bingling Si Buddhist grottoes to see intricate cliff-side carvings.
Travel to the Tibetan monastery town of Xiahe, often described as one of the most enchanting places to visit in China.
Make tracks to Lanzhou and relax beside the rushing waters of the Yellow River.
Overland to lovely Pingliang, located at the base of the verdant Kongtong Mountain. If feeling energetic, climb through five lush terraces to the scared site of Mount Kongtong, passing temples and shrines along the way.
Admire the 2,000-year-old army of Terracotta Warriors at the end of this journey from Kashgar to Xi'an.
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.
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.
After a pit stop at the grand temples of Zhongwei Gao Miao, enjoy fraternising with locals amid the ebb and flow of daily life in provincial China in the friendly city of Yinchuan.
Head to the Five Terrace Mountains, a focus for transnational pilgramage for Chinese, Tibetans, Mongols and Manchus alike. Many magnificent artworks are on show and powerful temples are scattered throughout the wilderness.
Marvel at the Hanging Monastery and explore the World Heritage-listed Yungang Grottoes.
Take a walk along the monumental Great Wall as it snakes its way through rolling hills as far as the eye can see.
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 Mongolian and Tibetan influences in local temples and monasteries.
End the tour by joining the buzzing hive that is Beijing. Visit the Forbidden City to admire imperial architecture or the sprawling Summer Palace on the banks of Kunming Lake.
Traverse overland through China's north-west on the long journey to the border town of Erlian.
Cross over into Mongolia and continue the journey over the tundra to Sainshand.
Visit the friendly Dechinchoinkhorlin Monastery, if time permits, on the long the journey towards Ulaanbaatar. Spend the night camping under Mongolian stars near Choir.
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