Take a Silk Road adventure from Xi’an to Istanbul

Get ready for a massive Overland adventure from the metropolitan core of Xi'an, China, to the bustling streets of Istanbul city. Travel through some of the planet's most remote, wild and uniquely beautiful wildernesses along the legendary Silk Road. See the flaming mountains of the oasis town of Turpan, pitch a tent beneath the stars in the Karakum Desert, step back in time sleeping in an ancient caravanserai and tour Iran’s dramatic mountain-scapes. This adventure will take you through the pages of time and introduce you to the friendly and hospitable locals who call these rugged lands home. If you're longing for an epic Overland odyssey, away from the tourist crowds and through some of the world's last wild terrains, then this epic journey is just for you.

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


Highlights

  • See Xi’an’s impressive Terracotta Warriors
  • Wander the streets of enchanting Xiahe
  • Relax by the deep blue waters of Heavenly Lake
  • Purchase Soviet paraphernalia in Bishkek
  • Hike through the incredible canyons of the Djety Oguz Valley
  • Hike through the incredible canyons of the Djety Oguz Valley
  • Marvel at the evocative architecture of Samarkand
  • Spend the night with Uzbek locals on a homestay in a desert yurt camp
  • Witness a field of fire at the Darvaza Gas Crater
  • Explore Persepolis’s magnificent ruins
  • Visit the magical Golestan Palace in Tehran
  • Tour the underground houses of Goreme
  • Be mesmerised by Istanbul’s Blue Mosque

Itinerary

Begin this journey from Xi'an to Kashgar by visiting a 2,000-year-old army of Terracotta Warriors, built to protect an emperor.
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.
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.
Wander 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) (18 nights), Camping (with facilities) (3 nights), Guesthouse (4 nights), Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (44 nights), Yurt (5 nights)
Included activities
  • Aksu-Zhabagly National Park
  • Ashgabat - Sunday Market
  • Bukhara - Guided city tour
  • Dunhuang - Mogao Caves
  • Entrance Jiayuguan fort
  • Esfahan walking tour
  • Goreme - Guided Goreme Valley tour
  • Guided tour of ancient ruins of Persepolis
  • Jeti-Oghuz - Hiking
  • 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
  • Pingliang - Kongtong Mountain
  • Samarkand - Guided city tour
  • Tehran walking tour
  • Turpan - Jiaohe riuns
  • Visit to Lake Tuz
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour

Dates

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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