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Bishkek to Xi'an

Asia is the continent where overlanding all started, and Dragoman has been the leading operator there since our first trucks went through in the 1980s - take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading into the wilds, well away from the usual tourist trail. Starting in the beautiful city of Bishkek, we journey through the remote and desolate mountains in the south of Kyrgyzstan and cross the Torugart Pass into the incredible country of China. We will visit the stunning Lake Karakol in the colossal Karakoram Mountains before heading to the fascinating city of Kashgar. From here we'll head through the isolated Taklamakan Desert and the oasis of Turpan to the incredible Buddha caves of Mogao in China's remote western provinces. We'll overland past the western end of the Great Wall of China to the Tibetan town of Xiahe, before descending past the Bingling Si Buddha caves and the temples of Mount Kongtong to arrive at the colossal historic city of Xi'an, home of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors. Join us on this unforgettable epic overlanding experience on the Silk Road!


Duration: 27 Days Guaranteed Departure: Yes
For lovers of: Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites Physical rating: Demanding
Accommodation standard:   Budget% Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
Your Guide: English speaking Tour code: 158124
Starts: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Finishes: Xi'an, China
You will Visit
  • Bishkek
  • Kochkor
  • Tash Rabat
  • Kashgar
  • Lake Karakol
  • Aksu
  • Bayanbulak
  • Heavenly Lake
  • Turpan
  • Dunhuang
  • Jiayuguan
  • Zhangye
  • Liujiaxia
  • Xiahe
  • Bingling Si
  • Lanzhou
  • Pingliang
  • Xi'an

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Bishkek

For everyone that is continuing with us to China, there will be quick pre-departure meeting at 10:00am in order to explain the next 6 days until Kashgar, and your leader will collect the kitty for this linking section.

The remainder of the day is free to explore the relaxed and atmospheric city of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Hotel for the night: Hotel Asia Mountains
Hotel Asia Mountains
1a Lineinaja St
Bishkek 720021
Kyrgyzstan
Tel: +996 312 694 075

02

Day 2: Kochkor

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

Please note that if the group has no new people joining in Bishkek, we may choose to stay instead in a guesthouse in the small town of Naryn (a further 2 hour drive beyond Kochkor). This is so that we don't repeat Kochkor unnecessarily and can have more time to explore the area of Tash Rabat the following day.

03

Day 3: Tash Rabat

Today we continue our journey south to Tash Rabat, once a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border. During our time here we will visit an ancient caravanserai and have some time to explore the surrounding area.

In Tash Rabat we will wild camp. In cold weather (or if simply the group prefers and there is availability), we may choose to stay in local nomadic yurts that are set up for guests near the caravanserai, sleeping 8-10 people per yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours (from Kochkor).

04

Day 4: Kashgar

Border information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Torugart, enter China at Torugart.

Today we will have a full day drive over the 3752m Torugart Pass, crossing into China and heading down to the Uighur city of Kashgar.

In Kashgar we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

05

Day 5: Lake Karakol

Today we will set off on a stunning journey along the Karakoram highway to Lake Karakol. The drive takes us up past some truly incredible mountain scenery and underneath a few 7000m peaks, including Mustagh Ata.

Near Lake Karakol we will stay in local nomadic yurts, sleeping 6-8 people per yurt. Provisions here are very basic, but the scenery is incredible and it is an interesting glimpse into the way of life of the local Uighurs.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

06

Day 6: Kashgar

This morning we will journey back along the beautiful mountain road to Kashgar.

The remainder of the day will be free to explore the old town.

In Kashgar we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

07

Day 7: Kashgar

Border Information: if joining in Kashgar, you will most likely enter China at Kashgar Airport (IATA code: KHG).

Welcome to Kashgar, one of the ancient trading posts on the Silk Route! If you are joining in Kashgar, you are free to explore the city, and there will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm. Please do not be alarmed if there is no welcome note at the hotel on your arrival, as this is often a travelling day for the tour leader and they will often arrive in Kashgar mid-afternoon.

If you are arriving by truck to Kashgar, we will drive from Lake Karakul and the Karakoram Highway back to the city, arriving mid afternoon.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Kashgar before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Kashgar.

In Kashgar we will stay in a hotel with good facilities.

08

Day 8-9: Kashgar

Today we will visit the animal market just outside of town, and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar.

The following day we will have a free day to explore the town, the central Id Kah Mosque and its surrounding square, while your crew finalise the customs procedures for our truck to continue further into China.

09

Day 10-11: Aksu

Our journey through China begins as we leave Kashgar and head east through the Taklamakan Desert! Our crossing of the desert usually takes 3 days/2 nights, and we plan to wild camp near Aksu on our first night and near Korla or Bayanbulak on our second.

Please note that occasionally the police insist that we do not camp in times of political tension - in this case we will stay in local hotels in the small towns en route.

Estimated Drive Times - 8-9 hours each day (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

10

Day 12-13: Heavenly Lake

Today we will complete our drive through the Taklamakan Desert and arrive at Heavenly Lake, a beautiful lake set in the Tian Shan mountains.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours.

We will stay here for 2 nights, and will have many opportunities to relax in the incredible scenery and walk around the lake.

In Heavenly Lake we will stay in local yurts with very basic facilities.

11

Day 14-15: Turpan

Today we will travel to the oasis town of Turpan, where we stay for 2 days exploring the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins.

In Turpan we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

12

Day 16-17: Dunhuang

Today we will have an early start and a big drive to the city of Dunhuang.

Estimated Drive Time - 9-11 hours.

Please note that sometimes it may be preferred by the group and the leader to split this drive over 2 days, wild camping in between - in this case we will have 1 less night in Pingliang towards the end of the trip.

The following day we will have an included visit to the awe-inspiring Mogao Buddha Caves in the morning. We will then have a free afternoon to explore this amazing town and it’s surroundings - there are possibilities for camel rides along the sand dunes and bicycle rides out to the nearby White Goose Pagoda!

In Dunhuang we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

13

Day 18: Jiayuguan

Today we continue our journey with a drive to Jiayuguan, where we will have an included visit to the Jiayuguan Fort - the most western point of the Great Wall of China. Please note the Great Wall in this area is adobe, unlike the more famous stone sections further to the east.

We will wild camp near an adobe section of the Great Wall near Jiayuguan.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

14

Day 19: Zhangye

Today we will drive to the incredible Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains - we'll spend some time exploring the region before heading off to wild camp nearby.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

15

Day 20: Liujiaxia

Today we will drive onto the lower slopes of the remote Tibetan plateau and reach the small city of Liujiaxia. 

In Liujiaxia we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

16

Day 21-23: Xiahe

Today we set off to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe where we spend the next 3 nights. We will have an included visit to the incredible Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

The next few days are free to explore this beautiful town and surrounding grasslands. We can take a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants. There may also be a chance to go trekking, horse riding or exploring the surrounding grasslands, visiting Tibetan families and perhaps trying the local Yak butter tea.

In Xiahe we will stay in a local Tibetan-owned hotel.

17

Day 24: Lanzhou

Today we will leave Xiahe and head to the chaotic capital city of Gansu province, Lanzhou. We will have some free time this evening to explore the city.

In Lanzhou we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

18

Day 25-26: Pingliang

Today we will drive to the small town of Pingliang at the base of the Mount Kongtong, one of the holiest mountains in Chinese Taoism.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

The following day we will have an included visit to Mount Kongtong, and will have the full day to explore the temples and walk and explore the pilgrimage routes on the mountain. 

In Pingliang we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Please note that if the drive between Turpan and Dunhuang was split over 2 days, there will only be 1 night in Pingliang and a half-day exploration of Mount Kongtong.

19

Day 27: Xi'an

Today we will journey to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi province and the end of the 'Silk Road'! We will have a free afternoon to fully explore the city, it's famous walls, bell and drum towers, pagodas and Muslim Quarter.

In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

20

Day 28: Xi'an

Border Information: if finishing in Xi'an, you will most likely exit China at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA code: XIY).

This morning we head ouf Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour.

We will return to Xi'an for the afternoon, where we'll have a free afternoon to further explore this incredible city.

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Xi'an. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Stay at an overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village
    • See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here
    • Visit the ancient Silk Road caravanserai at Tash Rabat, close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border
    • Take in the spectacular mountain scenery on our drive along the Karakorum Highway to Lake Karakol
    • Stay overnight in a traditional yurt owned by Kyrgyz and Tajik families near the beautiful Lake Karakol, set amongst the 7500m-high mountains of the Tian Shan range
    • Explore Kashgar's vast Sunday market and the fascinating and atmospheric animal market
    • Enjoy a tranquil yurt stay at the beautiful Heavenly Lake
    • Explore the fascinating ruined natural fortress of Jiaohe, the seat of several rulers from 100BCE until it's eventual invasion by Genghis Khan
    • Learn about the Karez water system, the ingenious method of irrigating the area that was developed by the Han Dynasty and allowed Turpan to flourish as an oasis town
    • See the striking red sandstone landscape of the Flaming Mountains near Turpan
    • Explore the awe-inspiring Mogao Caves, a series of temples containing some of the finest Buddhist art spanning a period of a thousand years
    • Visit the magnificent Jiayuguan Fort, the Ming Dynasty fortress that marks the western end of the Great Wall of China
    • Explore the incredible and colourful natural phenomenon of the Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains
    • See the vast Buddha statue and the outstanding Buddhist cave sculptures at the fabulous Bingling Si gorge
    • Explore the stunningly beautiful Mount Kongtong, one of the sacred mountains of Chinese Taoism
    • Explore the world-famous site of the Terracotta Warriors, an army of 8000 life-size figures built to protect the Emporer Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife
    Tour Staff
    • 2 western crew, 1 local crew
    Accomodation
    • 26% Camping - 74% Hotels
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Tour Highlights:
  • History & Culture