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 Kyrgyzstan’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
Azerbaijan,
China,
Georgia,
Kyrgyzstan,
Turkey,
Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan
Themes
Overland
Code
KDOBC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 21
Carbon offset
3 280kg pp per trip

Take a Silk Road adventure from Xi’an to Istanbul


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
  • 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.
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.
Spend a leisurely three days journeying through the stunning mountains and lakes of Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley.
Make tracks across the Ferghana Valley to Arslanbob.
Enter Uzbekistan and see the palace of the former Khan of Kokand.
Arrive in Tashkent, 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.
Marvel at 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.
Travel to the spectacular Kow Ata underground lake. Take a walk around - and perhaps dip a foot into - the incongruously warm waters before continuing on and making camp for the night.
Continue the adventure by boarding an overnight freight ferry and travelling across the Caspian sea toward Azerbaijan. Rusty, rugged but full of memorable moments, this intrepid experience is grassroots adventuring at it's finest
Explore Azerbaijan's rapidly evolving capital. Stroll the Old Town for a hint of the regions medieval past, check out the cosmopolitan cafe culture and be romanced by the leafy parks on the seaside promenade.
Drop by the geologically themed town of Gobustan, known for it's rock art and mud volcanoes.
Continue to the cobblestone streets and forested hills of Sheki. Explore the exquisite Khan's Palace and the Museum of History for a solid dose of Silk Rd heritage.
Cross the border into Georgia and get acquainted by the lush surrounds of the Alazani valley.
Enter into Georgia's famed wine country and spend two days exploring the vineyard clad town of Talavi. Sample unique local drops, and keep an eye out for local traditions such as grape harvests and the keipi (banquet). Then, work off all that wine-tasting by taking a walk to the sixth century Shaumta Monastery, which is beautifully located on an isolated forest hilltop.
Tbilisi is one of Europe's most regal, yet largely under appreciated cities. Spend free time perusing the fine architecture, and perhaps climb to the top of Narikala Fortress for a view over the surrounding hills.
Another day, another glorious set of hillside scenery.With a name meaning 'hill', Gori was the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. History buffs will revel in a chance to visit to the Stalin museum, which houses artefacts that provide an insight into his early life.
Get a dose of Georgian history in Kutasi - one of the oldest cities in the world. Enjoy a guided walk around the ruins of Bragrati Cathedral before getting an unique insight into Georgian life by spending the night at the home of a local family.
Swap the hills for the Black Sea coast and explore the picturesque port town of Batumi. Perhaps settle in at a riverside cafe and sip a Turkish Coffee while watching the ships go by.
Cross the border to Turkey and climb into the incredible Sumela Monastry. Nestled high in the cliffs above the evergreen forests and rushing streams of Altindere National Park, this peaceful sanctuary is the perfect place to take some time out and breathe the fresh air of the Turkish countryside.
Continue to Zara and watch the changing landscapes of rural Turkey pass by.
Admire the otherworldly cone formations of Goreme, a truly unique location in the heart of Cappadocia. Perhaps enjoy a guided tour of the network of honeycombed caves that have formed an underground city, complete with churches and dwellings, or take to the skies on a hot air balloon to see this dramatic landscape from above.
Head west toward Istanbul, stopping to make camp for the night in the Turkish countryside.
Arrive in Istanbul, a city that has for centuries been the crossroads of the East and West. Take in the aromatic smells of the thousands of bazaars that line the streets, browse stunning islamic architecture and see why Istanbul is one of the world's most exotic, invigorating cities.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Overland vehicle, Overnight ferry
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (20 nights), Camping (with facilities) (3 nights), Guesthouse (3 nights), Homestay (6 nights), Hostel (1 night), Hotel (37 nights), Overnight ferry (1 night), Yurt (5 nights)
Included activites
  • Ashgabat - Sunday Market
  • Baku - Guided city tour
  • Bukhara - Guided city tour
  • Dunhuang - Mogao Caves
  • Entrance Jiayuguan fort
  • Geok-Depe - Kow Ata Underground Lake
  • Goreme - Guided Goreme Valley tour
  • Gori - Stalin Museum
  • Jeti-Oghuz - Hiking
  • Kashgar - Sunday & Animal Bazaars
  • Kazbegi - Tsminda Sameba Church
  • Khiva - Guided city tour
  • Kochkor - Regional Museum
  • Kochkor - Women's Felt Co-op
  • Kokand - Khan's Palace & Mosque
  • Konye-Urgench - Ancient City ruins
  • Liujiaxia - Bingling Si Caves
  • Pingliang - Kongtong Mountain
  • Qobustan - Mud volcanoes
  • Qobustan - Petroglyphs
  • Samarkand - Guided city tour
  • Sheki - Khan's Palace
  • Sheki - Museum of History
  • Sumela - Monastery
  • Telavi - Shuamta Monastery
  • Turpan - Jiaohe riuns
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour

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Notes

1. Some destinations visited on this trip do not have consulates in Australia and New Zealand. We recommend that travellers from these countries book the WESTBOUND itinerary of this trip where some visas can be obtained en route.
2. 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.
3. Combination trip. Please see Trip Notes (Important Notes) for more details.
4. 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.

Important notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trips 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