Get ready for a massive overland adventure from bustling Istanbul to Beijing’s metropolitan core. Travel through some of Asia’s most remote, wild and unique wildernesses along the legendary Silk Road into 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 arrive at secluded sections of the snaking Great Wall of China. From Turkey to Turkmenistan 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
Istanbul, Turkey
Finish
Beijing, China
Countries
China,
Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan,
Turkey,
Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan,
Iran
Themes
Overland
Code
KDOZC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 21
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip

See Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan as you travel from Istanbul to Beijing


Highlights

  • Visit Istanbul and tour the Blue Mosque
  • Walk through the Enchanted Valley
  • Explore the sprawling Ishak Pasa Palace
  • Travel to Tehran and explore hidden delights in Iran's capital
  • Discover the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand
  • Gaze up at the ancient walls surrounding Khiva
  • Walk through Uzbekistan’s historic city of Bukhara
  • Visit Kyrgyzstan’s epic Song Kol Lake
  • Hike through the Djety Oguz Valley
  • See the dramatic glaciers adorning the Ala Archa Canyon
  • Cross the infamous Torugart Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China
  • Climb deserted sections of the Great Wall of China
  • See the Army of Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an
  • Explore the temple and pagoda studded Kongtong Mountain
  • Wander through Beijing’s’ Forbidden City

Itinerary

Welcome to incredible Istanbul! Have your fortune told in the Taksim, bargain up a storm in the Grand Bazaar or admire the imposing Blue Mosque in this fascinating city.
Visit Turkey's salt lake, Tuz Golo, which provides 63% of Turkey's salt. Bush camp in the evening.
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.
Travel overland into Eastern Turkey via ancient trade routes. Camp under skies that have been gazed at for centuries by fellow travellers.
Visit Ishak Pasha Palace near Dogubayazit on the Iranian Border. The town of Dogubayazit is at the foot of Mount Ararat, reportedly where Noah's Ark came to rest after The Flood.
Enjoy the first night in Iran at Kandovan, an ancient village of caves built into the volcanic rock - and where locals still live.
Explore Zanjan's delightful bazaar and check out the beautiful handicrafts on sale here - perhaps answer the question: does a handcrafted rug fit in a backpack?
Travel to Tehran and be awed by this vibrant city where ancient meets modern. There is plenty of time here to explore the incredible Golestan Palace, the city's many fascinating museums and galleries, and to relax and chat with locals while watching this interesting part of the world go by.
Spend three days in this breathtaking city and take time trawling the souqs, bazaars, beautiful squares and blue tiled Mosques of Esfahan.
Explore the ancient ruins of Persepolis, Persia, and visit the stunning Islamic Shiraz - discovering its impressive citadel and mosques.
Feel transported back in time while staying in a traditional caravanserai in the Dasht-e Lut desert.
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.
Travel through the Dasht-e Kavir Desert, which lies in the middle of the Iranian plateau, to the tranquil oasis of Khoor.
Explore Iran's oldest surviving mosque - dating back to the 1st century - in Damghan.
Relax by Shirvan's Atrak River, which gives this small town a lush and peaceful feel.
Say goodbye to Iran and travel into Turkmenistan. Conclude the adventure among the futuristic architecture of Ashgabat.
Sleep under the stars in the Karakum Desert. See the spectacular fires of the Darvaza Gas Crater.
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.
Get to know Central Asia's holiest city, where the combination of buildings spanning a thousand years and a thoroughly lived-in Old Town help create the awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Spend a night in a yurt camp with the local nomads, sleeping among the dunes of the Red Desert.
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.
End your Samarkand and Tamerlane’s Testament adventure in the most modern of Uzbekistan’s cities. Visit Tashkent’s thriving Chorsu Bazaar to pick up Soviet-style souvenirs and admire the ornately decorated Kukeldash Medressa.
Make tracks into Kazakhstan and enjoy a night with a local family in Zhabagly before exploring the grasslands of Asku National Park. Kazakhstan's oldest national park is a scenic wonderland full of mountain lakes, rivers and glaciers, plus all sorts of unusual flora and fauna.
Soak up the relaxed charm of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital. Wander through its wide streets and admire its wealth of handsome houses.
Set off on a leisurely hike along Chong Kemin River - or if feeling adventurous, perhaps tackle one of the tough 4000m passes.
Head to Cholpon Ata, nestled on the shores of the vast and beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake.
Discover the remote, picturesque town of Karakol, complete with quaint tree-lined streets and colonial houses.
Admire the lofty sandstone cliffs in Djety Oguz Valley.
Mingle with friendly locals and relish Kyrgyz hospitality while enjoying a homestay in Kochkor.
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.
Relax on the final days in Bishek. Why not stroll through the city's markets and haggle for bargains. Alternatively, relaxing in an Oak Park cafe and reflecting on the adventure is another good option!
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.
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.
Relax beside the rushing waters of the Yellow River.
Camp beneath the stars.
Admire the 2,000-year-old army of Terracotta Warriors at the end of this journey from Kashgar to Xian.
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. And if the stars align, embark on an overnight camel safari on the fringes of the stunning Tengger Desert.
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.
Travel to the cultural centre of Hohhot, the gateway to Inner Mongolia. This busy ancient city gives off a laidback vibe making it the perfect place to reload before embarking on a Mongolian homestay. Yak butter tea, anyone?
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps go on a short trek along a stunning section of the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai.
Journey into the valley of the Changrui Mountains, where emperors and their concubines lay entombed at Qing Dongling. End the tour 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.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (11 nights), Camping (with facilities) (7 nights), Guesthouse (2 nights), Homestay (2 nights), Hostel (2 nights), Hotel (53 nights), Yurt (4 nights)
Included activites
  • Aksu-Zhabagly National Park
  • Ali Qapu Palace
  • Ashgabat - Sunday Market
  • Beijing - Forbidden City
  • Bukhara - Guided walking tour
  • Datong - Hanging Monastery
  • Datong - Yungang Grottoes
  • Entrance Jiayuguan fort
  • Esfahan walking tour
  • Goreme - Guided Goreme Valley tour
  • Great Wall, Entrance, Jinshanling section, Beijing
  • Guided tour of ancient ruins of Persepolis
  • Guided walking tour
  • Iman Mosque entrance and guided tour
  • Imperial City, entrance, Chengde
  • Ishak Pasha Palace
  • Jameh Mosque
  • Jeti-Oghuz - Hiking
  • Kochkor - Regional Museum
  • Kochkor - Women's Felt Co-op
  • Konye-Urgench - Ancient City ruins
  • Ming Tombs, entrance, Beijing
  • Pingliang - Kongtong Mountain
  • Samarkand - Guided city tour
  • Tehran walking tour
  • Visit to Lake Tuz
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour

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Important notes

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